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Muslims and Islamophobia

Sure you might carry another article that counters Swamy’s article, and that might salvage the situation a bit, but it can’t undo the damage. The damage is that these kind of xenophobic views have now got respectability by getting carried in the DNA. I request you to issue an apology in your newspaper for carrying such an extremely offensive piece, so that people know such extreme views cannot be tolerated. —Vinay Sreenivasa, Bangalore.

There’s no crude bomb planted in any market which can hurt this country more than a few published opinions like Swamy’s. Apart from reflecting an ignorant, head-butting, childish worldview, it is an incitement to violence and generalised reprisals against a force (the “Muslim agenda at large”) that does not exist. I’m not really disappointed in Swamy — everyone knows what to expect of him — but your decision to publish him is the real betrayal of your role in a city experiencing crisis and fear. —Raghu Karnad, Editor, Time Out, Delhi.

 

Right Wing Watch flags the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer's column, in which he describes Anders Breivik's manifesto as "accurate," even though he doesn't agree with massacring people. Although Fischer devotes most of his column to denouncing the idea that Breivik is a Christian, he does write: Much of his analysis of cultural trends in Europe and the danger created by Islamic immigration and inflitration is accurate. But clear thinking Westerners and every Christian I know believes these problems can be solved through public policy rather than mass murder. -- Sarah Posner(Photo:American Family Association Monogram)

 

The perpetrator was a white Norwegian fanatic, a Christian, who for years has been planning these attacks which claimed the innocent lives of more than 90 people. Anders Behring Breivik felt no remorse and admitted to the crimes adding that he wanted to spark a revolution against multiculturalism in his country, specifically against Muslim immigrants and the spread of Islam in Europe. The twin attacks raise a number of key issues which will continue to overshadow public debate in most European countries and elsewhere. The link between terrorism and Islam goes beyond the foolish reaction of some in the Western media. It has become inherent in many Western societies where Islamophobia is on the rise, especially after the 9/11 attacks in New York and the 7/7 bombings in London. Similar terrorist attacks in Madrid in March 2004 were also blamed, although no direct link was established, to Al-Qaeda. As a result it became acceptable to associate Muslims with terror resulting in abhorrent practices such as racial profiling in the US and others. -- Osama al Sharif

 

When asked about the basis of his assertion about Islam being decidedly the perfect religion, and the fact that followers of other religions would be making comparable assertions, Zakir Naik conveniently invalidated the question by making a reference to Qu’ran which he said categorically and conclusively justified his assertions. He also added that secular nations were essentially confused about religious and ideological convictions. It was this lack of sufficient confidence in their own faith that non-Islamic countries permitted the practice of all religions. That such a choice might have involved the issue of tolerance and encouragement of cultural diversity, as an extension of a human being’s inalienable democratic rights, clearly didn’t occur to the barbaric propagandist. -- The Sojourner

Photo: Zakir Naik


The tide of Islamophobia is running strongly on the European right at the moment. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been trumpeting the failure of multiculturalism for the past six months, and British Prime Minister David Cameron recently added his voice to the chorus. It is only a cynical political stratagem, but it could have real consequences. Left to their own devices, the various immigrant groups in these countries, including the Muslim groups, will assimilate into the general society in a couple of generations, as immigrants generally do. You can accelerate the process a little with the right government policies, but not much. -- GWYNNE DYER

The aim is to establish Islamist political domination, resulting in an ideal Islamic state. The Islamists believe that all lands belong to Allah anyway, and the promotion of sharia law is seen as a means to cleanse the pagan lands so that the ideal Islamic state can be realised. Islamists have made quite clear their goals, and Sookhdeo cites a number of these. For example, Egyptian Muslim preacher ‘Amr Khalid said his back in 2008: “The Muslims keep having children, while the Europeans do not – this means that within 20 years the Muslims will be the majority.” And many non-Muslims agree. -- Bill Muehlenberg

…..incubating the negative feelings of Islamophobia leading to discrimination on religious grounds. The profiling of Muslims at state level proliferate extremism and violence. The propagation of WMDs, to induce mass fear, doctoring of information, bypassing of UN and invasion of Iraq, massive and indiscriminate use of uranium depleted munitions and abuse of human rights in Falujah ,Abu Gharib, rendition centers around the globe, ransacking relief flotilla, are all acts of extreme nature. It breads violence and the society gets adapted to the violence without any discrimination. -- Retd. Brig.Said Nazir Mohmand

Millions of American Muslims, who see no contradiction between being American and being Muslim, are working hard to bridge this gap. It is therefore not surprising that they have become the target of attacks by those who would rather burn bridges than build them, and the subject of recent congressional hearings exploring their ‘radicalisation’. What myths are behind the entrenched beliefs that Muslims simply do not belong in the US and that they threaten its security? 1. American Muslims are foreigners. Islam was in America even before there was a US. But Muslims didn’t peaceably emigrate - slave-traders brought them here. Historians estimate that up to 30 per cent of enslaved blacks were Muslims. West African prince Abdul Rahman, freed by president John Quincy Adams in 1828 after 40 years in captivity, was only one of many African Muslims kidnapped and sold into servitude in the New World. In early America, Muslim names could be found in reports of runaway slaves as well as among rosters of soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Muslims fought to preserve American independence in the War of 1812 and for the Union in the Civil War. And more than a century later, thousands of African Americans, including Cassius Clay and Malcolm Little, converted to Islam. Currently, there are two Muslim members of Congress and thousands of Muslims on active duty in the armed forces. Sure, some Muslim soldiers may have been born elsewhere, but if you wear the uniform of the US and are willing to die for this country, can you really be considered a foreigner? -- Faisal Abdul Rauf

Oklahoma lawmakers may have overreached by seeking constitutional changes, but more than a dozen other states are considering similar kinds of anti-Islamic legislation. In February, legislators in Tennessee put forward a bill that would simply outlaw Sharia and make “material support” for it punishable by 15 years in prison. Critics argued that even benign activities like weddings at a mosque or bringing food to a potluck could be classified as a felony. In March, legislators amended the proposed bill to remove all references to Islam, Muslims or Sharia. In its broadest sense, Sharia is a system of laws based on the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad—the Sunnah and Hadith. It is not codified and is practiced according to how Muslim scholars interpret the law. However, it has been characterized much more insidiously by members of the Tennessee legislature. Among other things, the drafting legislators wrote, “Sharia … includes a war doctrine known as jihad,” and “the unchanging and ultimate aim of jihad is the imposition of Sharia on all states and nations, including the United States and this state … through violence and criminal activity.” Essentially, the legislation described Sharia law as a terrorist manifesto. -- SALIM MUWAKKIL

Surely, threats by radical Muslims are real. Everybody, including Muslim Americans, should make every effort to prevent terrorist attacks from happening.  And yes, some Muslim Americans retain exclusivist perceptions about “the other”. But, are most American Muslims radicals? If you believe America is the land of liberty and most Muslim Americans are radicals, what does that really mean? Is there such a thing as a moderate Muslim? If not, then are Muslims the enemy? Isn’t this exactly the same reasoning used by al-Qaeda from the opposite direction? As shown by public reaction to the hearings, most Americans are sympathetic to Islam, but some groups are still pushing Islamophobia into the mainstream. Remember, as institutionalized hatred, Islamophobia has become a cultural product that is transferable across time, space and even generations.  When people let bigots lead ignorant masses in times of crisis, as repeatedly shown in history, institutionalized hatred can be an especially deadly weapon for a powerful tyrant to push powerless others to the brink of extinction. Remember the Christian Inquisition, the Holocaust and other genocides? -- A Report, The Jakarta Post

 

We should be concerned about the hearings and pray that Mr. King would be honest, sincere and fair. We hope he will not destroy the fabric of our Nation and pit one American against the other.   King’s hearing is reflective of sheer political desperation. The right-wing Republicans rode in with thumping majority in mid term elections, and now their goal is to win the senate and the white house, this hearing is to augment that process.   They do not have an honest reason to win in 2012, so they manufacture “Sharia”, “Caliphate” and other devils.  They frighten the crap out of constipated men and women and guarantee them that they will defend their rights and keep the bogeymen out.  In reality nothing really will change; no one gets hired or sees the prosperity. We hope that Americans will not be duped into believing a win against the imaginary non-existent enemy. -- Mike Ghouse

The work we have been doing over the last six years at Faith Matters, an organization dedicated to creating community cohesion among faith communities in the United Kingdom, suggests that Warsi is right – about both anti-Muslim sentiment and the U.K.’s history of integration. We have heard openly anti-Muslim sentiment in some communities. When we publish research materials on the Muslim community, we regularly receive correspondence from people who spout some of the worst stereotypes about Muslims…. The diversity of Muslim communities, whether of thought, practice or background, means that such elements need to be promoted and disseminated in advertising campaigns, through the press and through social media. We must not underestimate the power of social media in creating grassroots ideas and perceptions. -- Fiyaz Mughal

Many Muslims in this country and around the world are actually opposed to the wearing of the burqa and to all forms of veiling. Conversely, some of those who choose to wear the burqa are not Muslims! There are orthodox Jewish women in Israel, for instance, who wear it today, and certainly if you go back in history you will find that Christians from the Church Fathers onwards were very much in favour of the practice of veiling! This all makes the issue of the burqa a complex one. And I know that every complex problem has a simple answer, but I know too that the simple answer is invariably the wrong answer, and nowhere is this more true than with regards to this case. -- David B. Smith

The moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party could not be any more evident than in its continued support for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid as majority leader despite his decision to join the bigoted and Islamophobic campaign against the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center in New York, arguing that it “should be built somewhere else.”

This was also an apparent effort to embarrass President Barack Obama – who, in a rare example of showing some spine in the face of right-wing attacks – defended the First Amendment rights of the Muslim group. According to the president, Muslim Americans have “the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances.” Despite the efforts of New York’s Republican mayor and the large number of 9/11 families and the city’s Christian and Jewish leaders who have defended the project, the senator representing a state nearly 3,000 miles away apparently believes he knows better…

Indeed, Reid’s Islamophobia and bigotry toward Muslims has been evident for years. For example, he was a leader among the right-wing minority of Congressional Democrats who supported President George W. Bush’s contention that the United States somehow has the right to invade Muslim countries rich in hydrocarbon resources on the far side of the world, even if they pose no threat to us. In order to convince the public to support such an illegal war, Reid teamed up with the Bush administration, prominent neo-conservatives, Fox News, and some dubious Iraqi exiles in making a series of false allegations regarding Iraq’s military capability. -- Stephen Zunes

The recent surge of Islamophobia in the United States has drawn strength from several extraordinary substitutions. A clearly Christian president has become Muslim in the minds of a significant number of Americans. The thoughtful Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan has become a closet fundamentalist in the writings of Paul Berman and others. And an Islamic center in lower Manhattan, organized by proponents of interfaith dialogue, has become an extremist “mosque at Ground Zero” in the TV appearances, political speeches, and Internet sputterings of a determined clique of right-wing activists....

With their irrational fear of spiders, arachnophobes are scared of both harmless daddy longlegs and poisonous brown recluse spiders. In extreme cases, an arachnophobe can break out in a sweat while merely looking at photos of spiders. It is, of course, reasonable to steer clear of black widows. What makes a legitimate fear into an irrational phobia, however, is the tendency to lump all of any group, spiders or humans, into one lethal category and then to exaggerate how threatening they are. Spider bites, after all, are responsible for at most a handful of deaths a year in the United States....

Irrational fears are often rooted in our dimly remembered childhoods. Our irrational fear of Islam similarly seems to stem from events that happened in the early days of Christendom. Three myths inherited from the era of the Crusades constitute the core of Islamophobia today: Muslims are inherently violent, Muslims want to take over the world, and Muslims can’t be trusted.

The myth of Islam as a “religion of the sword” was a staple of Crusader literature and art. In fact, the atrocities committed by Muslim leaders and armies -- and there were some -- rarely rivaled the slaughters of the Crusaders, who retook Jerusalem in 1099 in a veritable bloodbath. -- John Feffer

Mr Woolas was accused of fighting a “dirty and dishonest” campaign full of “lies, smears and totally false allegations”. Mr Watkins’s lawyers argued that: “Mr Woolas, believing that he was going to lose the election, resorted to terrifying white voters into believing that there was an extremist militant Muslim element in Oldham, who were in cahoots with Mr Watkins. He wished to convey the message that a vote for Mr Watkins was a vote for extremists.”

Emails between members of Mr Woolas’s campaign team, obtained by Mr Watkins’s lawyers, detail their alleged plans to claim falsely that Mr Watkins supported Islamic extremists and was “prepared to condone death threats” against Mr Woolas to secure their vote. -- Martin Beckford and Peter Hutchison

 

Most Westerners cannot understand what it is in Islam that is so irresistible to their sons and daughters who embrace it; most Western politicians simply do not know what to do with the millions of Muslims who now live in their countries and who refuse to live like them – that is, they do not "integrate" and dissolve; no matter how much these politicians wish them to do so. Thus the latest tirade from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is neither surprising nor unexpected.

She told her party's youth-wing at a conference on October 16, 2010: "The approach of saying, 'Well, let's just go for a multicultural society, let's coexist and enjoy each other,' this very approach has failed, absolutely failed," she said, meaning thereby that Germany's roughly 4 million Muslims, who make up the largest Muslim population in western Europe, are a headache for her and other politicians who simply do not know what to do with these Muslims. -- Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Even as its leader Geert Wilders is being tried for inciting hatred, he is shamelessly wooed by the Liberals and the Christian Democrats to prop up a minority coalition government. In return, they are willing to pay the price he is demanding: a ban on burqa and stringent curbs on immigration. No wonder, Mr. Wilders boasted that the development was a sign of a “new wind” blowing in the Netherlands and proof that voters supported his party's determination to stop “Islamisation” of the country.

Immigrants like Mr. Benali say they find their country's transformation from a haven of tolerance and multiculturalism into a hothouse of prejudice and social tensions shocking. “In the 1980s, this message [‘stop Islamisation'] would have made people laugh, but not now. Look around. In Sweden, the debate around Islam and migration is growing in urgency. And Islam is just a particularly toxic element in the anti-immigrant movement. Nicolas Sarkozy, who is part Jewish, is throwing out the Roma. In Germany, the country of the Holocaust, a former head of the Bundesbank, Thilo Sarazzin, is making a plea for reducing working class immigrants because of their low IQ. The idea that Europe is being kidnapped by an ever-growing non-western population is creating fear and populist parties are winning,” Mr. Benali warned, writing in The Observer. Tellingly, the article was headed: “I migrated to Europe with hope. Now I feel nothing but dread.” In Sweden, hitherto seen as an “oasis of civility and openness,” the “neo-Nazi” Sweden Democrats party (SD) has, for the first time, won seats in Parliament in a development that has shocked liberals. The country's political map is being redrawn in a way few Swedes could have once imagined. -- Hasan Suroor

Followers of these movements against Irish, Germans, Italians, Chinese and other immigrants were mostly decent, well-meaning people trying to protect their country. But they were manipulated by demagogues playing upon their fears — the 19th- and 20th-century equivalents of Glenn Beck. Most Americans stayed on the sidelines during these spasms of bigotry, and only a small number of hoodlums killed or tormented Catholics, Mormons or others. But the assaults were possible because so many middle-of-the-road Americans were ambivalent....

Perhaps the closest parallel to today’s hysteria about Islam is the 19th-century fear spread by the Know Nothing movement about “the Catholic menace.” One book warned that Catholicism was “the primary source” of all of America’s misfortunes, and there were whispering campaigns that presidents including Martin Van Buren and William McKinley were secretly working with the pope. Does that sound familiar? Critics warned that the pope was plotting to snatch the Mississippi Valley and secretly conspiring to overthrow American democracy. “Rome looks with wistful eye to domination of this broad land, a magnificent seat for a sovereign pontiff,” one writer cautioned. -- Nicholas D. Kristof

AS CONTROVERSY over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” in Lower Manhattan takes up more and more airtime in the US, the arguments deployed by both sides have become ever more narrow. On the one hand, those defending the proposed Islamic centre talk about the threat of anti-Muslim prejudice to constitutional freedoms, while at the same time endangering efforts to promote the kind of “moderate” Islam represented by its director, a New Age sufi called Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. On the other hand, pleas for Muslims and all those backing the project to heed American “sensitivities” are coupled with dark hints about Rauf’s true intentions, sources of funding and indeed the problem represented by Islam itself in the West. Although this public debate generates an enormous number of new facts, interpretations and other details every day, these are all squeezed into a shrinking circuit of concepts and categories, very few of which are able to address the controversy’s larger and more lasting implications.-- Faisal Devji

The word “Islamophobia” began to appear only in the 1980s. While it is a  recently coined term, it refers to a history of fear and hatred of Muslims in the West that has had a long time to become implanted in our collective psyche. Its roots can be traced to the fourth century when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. After suffering centuries of bloody persecution under pagan Roman authority, Christians suddenly became privileged citizens of the empire. Many leaders of the Church considered the sea-change a divine sign of the absolute truth of their religion, that historical success proves theological truth. It was a zero-sum view of the world: “Truth is with us. All else is falsehood.” --  Reuven Firestone

Let's just be frank. The demonization of Islam as a religion and of its adherents as individuals has reached the level of hysteria within the United States. Although the fear of Muslims is usually cloaked in condescension or indignation, the source of this most recent version of bigotry is transparent and utterly predictable. There must be a nameless, faceless, sinister "other" upon whom we can hang our deepest anxieties and frustrations as a people. This kind of paranoia is not unique, but as its perpetrators on right-wing radio, FOX "News" and the far-right blogosphere can attest, it still works like a charm. -- Cynthia Boaz

Neil Berry is right to fear for his country, particularly its Muslim residents “the upshot of a fresh outbreak of Islamist violence in Britain at a time of acute unease.” In an article posted below, courtesy Khaleej Times, he writes: “Increasingly, young British Muslims have felt that they are being systematically targeted by the security services, and the introduction of spy cameras can only sharpen their sense of Britain as a police state with contempt for Muslim civil liberties. ... it is possible to feel that British state’s discriminatory approach to dealing with the threat of Islamic terrorism is in danger of defeating its own object by exacerbating Muslim alienation and inciting the very Islamic radicalism it is meant to pre-empt.”

British government’s approach may be discriminatory and faulty but what is most worrisome is that Berry has nothing to say about the attitude of the British Muslims themselves. Barring some individuals they are doing next to nothing to fight Islamic radicalism and forestall the next 7/7 whose fallout they should know would decidedly be worse than that of the original incident. They have not yet even accepted the fact that it is they, who acted as the original incubator of Islamic radicalism in late 1970s and ‘80s and so need to do something to stem the rot. Indeed they owe it not only to themselves but to the world at large. Originally inspired by Saudi-exported Petro-dollar Islam and then by Pakistani military dictator General Ziaul Haq’s “Nizam-e-Mustafa”, they organised meetings and international conferences, even so-called Muslim parliaments, to host militants and radicals from around the world to instigate their own youth to take to extremism and obscurantism. Omar Bakri Muhammad-led Al-Muhajiroun could not have succeeded in alienating an entire generation of Muslim youths from the mainstream of British society without popular support from British Muslims themselves.

Media and civil society’s job doesn’t finish with criticising the government of the day: they should also point to the follies and worse of the citizenry, more so in a democracy, in which politicians many a time desist from doing the right thing to curry favour with their vote-banks. British governments, both labour and conservative, have been guilty on this count. Islamic radicalism could probably have been nipped in the bud had they acted in 1970s and ‘80s. By 17 August 1988, the date on which Pakistan President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq passed away, it was already too late. Al-Muhajiroun was proscribed under the UK Terrorism Act 2000 only as recently as 14 January 2010, though an intention to ban was announced in August 2005. Some other similar organisations were banned in 1906. London woke up from its sweet slumber only when the group organised its notorious conference "The Magnificent 19", praising the September 11, 2001 attacks. Bakri himself was allowed to spread his poison till 12 August 2005.

David Cameron’s government may be following a policy that could be “exacerbating Muslim alienation and inciting the very Islamic radicalism it is meant to pre-empt”. But the alienation and radicalism themselves are the British Muslims’ own creation. The very idea of “pre-empting” them now is laughable. Apparently Berry has not lived in the United Kingdom or probably on this planet for several decades. Or do the journalists too have a constituency to appease?

Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam

 

The image of Rima Fakih, the first Muslim Miss USA, blowing kisses into the air last Sunday has knocked the wind out of the sails of many an Islamophobe and Islamist alike. Isn’t she supposed to be wearing a burqa? Isn’t she supposed to be blowing bombs? And most importantly, isn’t she supposed to be aching for felafel rather than pizza?

Fakih’s blatant betrayal of the stereotypes, the supposed-to-be’s, has sparked bewilderment on the blogosphere. Islamophobes view it as the clearest evidence yet of the liberal/Islamic conspiracy to take over the US, while Islamists are dismayed by the extent to which Satanic influences have profanated the piety of Muslims, particularly those who have made the West their home. -- Saif Shahin

Photo: Miss USA Rima Fakih

Editor, NewAgeIslam.com, Sultan Shahin's oral statement to the current Thirteenth session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 16 March, 2010:

 

I would like to confine myself to reflecting on the problems of religious minorities, particularly Muslim minorities who are facing xenophobia and related forms of intolerance today in an atmosphere of widespread Islamophobia. We Muslims are also complaining of an attempt to encourage Islamophobia. The French ban on veils and Swiss ban on minarets has further vitiated the atmosphere. We do not know for sure how much of this is deliberate as a sort of anti-Islam crusade as we Muslims allege and how much is a paranoid reaction to growing radicalism, extremism and exclusivism in Islamic societies.

 

But I find a note of introspection on the part of us Muslims and Muslim governments completely missing in the continuing debate. I intend to do precisely that today. While we Muslims demand, and rightly so, the freedom to freely practise and propagate our religion in the non-Muslim majority countries, we do not seem to worry about the plight of religious minorities living in Muslim-majority lands.

 

Contribution of Petrodollar Islam

That Muslim societies in general have radicalised over the last decades cannot be denied. This has been a direct result of tens of billions of petrodollars having been spent in promoting a rigid, obscurantist, desiccated version of Islam, shorn of all its beauty and bounty. Preachers of what I can only call “petrodollar Islam” have gone around the world asking Muslims to develop a separate identity that distinguishes them not only in the practice of Islamic prayer rituals but also looks and apparel. The phenomenal rise in Muslim women wearing hijab and an assortment of veils or men growing what is called an Islamic beard is no accident.

Discrimination against religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries has grown. Anti-blasphemy laws, for instance, have been routinely used to harass and commit acts of violence against religious minorities. The Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, mentioned the case of Christians and the minority Muslim sect of Ahmadis who are continually harassed on baseless allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan despite the government’s stated commitment to fulfil its international obligations. -- Sultan Shahin

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