By A. Akbar Muhammad
Dec 3, 2009
(FinalCall.com) - In recent days, there have been a number of articles cantered on the tragic killing of 13 military personnel at Fort Hood in Texas allegedly by an Army major and psychiatrist. This tragedy brought pain, hurt, and shame to the American people and in particular the military establishment. My heart goes out for those families who suffered through this tragedy and buried their loved ones. Everyone, including the president, is searching for a reason behind Major Nidal Malik Hasan's alleged actions. Critics have blamed Major Hasan's religion for the crime he is accused of committing.
But in order to understand what is, we must draw from the lessons of history and look back at how we arrived to where we are today. We are in a time when Muslims are Fighting for The Soul of Their Faith as they are being demoralized from every corner of the world. This has put many Muslims in the fight mode to intellectually defend their faith.
According to scholars, there are 1.4 to 1.6 billion Muslims in the world with nearly 10 million Muslims in America.
On President Barack Obama's recent trip to the Far East, it is interesting that he didn't visit Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population; nor did he travel to the Philippines where there are 7 to 10 million Muslims who have struggled for nearly 40 years, to receive due recognition that includes political and economic attention to Mindanao, located in the southern Philippines.
I am sure that President Obama desired to visit Indonesia, where he grew up as a boy, but because of the present climate, he may have seen it necessary to avoid those two countries. I, as millions of other Muslims, also feel the prevailing poisonous atmosphere against Islam as some Muslims are sticking their heads in the sand and dismissing what is happening in the Muslim world, maintaining the problem is the “extremists.”
These extremists do not represent what we are about as Muslims, but we must be honest with ourselves, and not turn a blind eye to what we see.
From the time President George Bush decided to launch his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—arguing America must wipe out the terrorists there or we would be fighting them at home—Muslims in America have been under suspicion and persecution.
Leading up to Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he dispatched a team to Hollywood, soliciting its help to shape public opinion of the wars. Several movies were made such as “The Last King of Scotland,” starring Forrest Whitaker. This movie would take a whole article to analyze, but I will briefly say it was one of the worst distortions of history and the image of former Uganda President Idi Amin. Then adding insult to injury, Forrest Whitaker won an Academy Award.
Most people who sat through the movie didn't see it as a fictionalized account of Amin's life. He was presented as uneducated, ruthless and a barbaric leader of an African nation who not only killed his own people, but murdered his wives as well. However, it was a fact that Amin was loved and respected by millions of his people as evident that when he died, the masses showed up at his funeral when he was brought back to Uganda to be buried.
Though Hollywood never mentioned Amin was a Muslim, it threw another dagger in the heart of Muslims and how people perceive Islam. Another movie titled “The Kingdom,” featuring actor Jamie Foxx, was a propaganda film designed to criminalize Muslims by depicting a tragedy about American residents bombed in Saudi Arabia. However, more painful was the ending of the picture, when the grandson of Hamza the bomb maker, was asked by his mother, what did your grandfather say to you when he was dying, after being shot? The grandson responded, “He said, kill them all.”
As this propaganda continues, it is interesting three years before 9/11, there was the picture “Siege” featuring Denzel Washington. This particular movie is a prime example of what kind of thinking is floating in America on how to possibly handle Muslims by repeating the history of World War II, when an estimated 120,000 innocent Japanese people were detained in American concentration camps because of their nationality. They were seen as a threat to America, which was engaging in a war against Japan. Many people denied this was possible in America. It is probable that this is what many Jews said in 1933 when Hitler emerged as the Chancellor of Germany.
There was a debate on the BBC concerning whether America should let Muslims remain in the military as part of their armed forces. The debate asked can Muslims be trusted. The Obama administration realized they have this dilemma on their hands and have appointed Farah Pandith as the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities.
I surmised that President Obama understood when he assumed office that one of the greatest tasks before him was to redirect the American public's misperception about Muslims. I have not heard on the right wing stations the debate I recently heard in London on BBC. The debate questioned whether Muslims can serve in the U.S. military, and be deployed in Islamic countries to kill other Muslims whether they are Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or seen as extremists and worthy of death.
The U.S. military has bombed Muslim villages in order to destroy the compounds of extremists, killing innocent men, women and children, and used rape as a way to interrogate suspected terrorists as was done in Iraq.
Young men and women, who are not politically astute in the military, are sent into a war zone having no knowledge of the customs and belief systems of the people and then committing heinous acts such as the rape of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl. A young U.S. soldier raped her, killed her and then burned her body.
Another example is Fallujah, where the soldiers attacked a mosque. Upon entering the mosque, they found an old man wounded—and it is the custom in the Muslim world that the older Muslims spend time in the mosque praying. An American soldier said “this one is still alive” and proceeded to kill the old man, which was caught on video tape and played to the world. These attitudes and problems are what President Obama inherited.
I must give President Obama respect. He began his administration trying to reach out to the Muslim world and changing America's image. In his inauguration speech, he mentioned Muslims. He went to Turkey and reached out to the Muslim world. He gave a major speech in Cairo directed to the Muslim world, and he delivered a major speech in Accra, Ghana, where he also acknowledged Muslims.
As Muslims in America, we must band together over the issues we are challenged with. Many of us are profiled, singled out and even abused but we keep quiet. The abuse is also in the form of right wing publications such as “Muslim Mafia,” a book that attacks the character of Imam Siraj Wahhaj, the Amir of the Muslim Alliance in North America.
Furthermore, these distorted books are purposely being printed and distributed—as pointed out by the Libyan leader, Brother Muammar Gadhafi who addressed the World Islamic Peoples Leadership Conference, where Minister Louis Farrakhan and his delegation were present. These publications have altered facts about Islam and some are also printing portions of the Holy Quran while leaving other portions out; such as “Furquan Al-Haqq” and “The Prophet of Doom,” referring to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Instead of Muslims spending time talking about differences or arguing over who is the better Muslim, we should come together and lift our voices in unity against those who attack us with distorted facts and misinformation about our faith.
When we travel in and out of America on a business trip, a vacation, or a religious conference, we are singled out and questioned. Our privacy is violated as if we have no rights. Our computers are examined, chips are taken out of our cell phones to be downloaded, our business cards are copied, our mail is opened, and we are interrogated as if we are enemies of America.
As I wrote in one of my past articles, how is it that these officers, who are still carrying out the policies implemented by the Bush administration, have become specialists in how to lose friends and make enemies? This is an area that the Obama administration must focus on, otherwise many of the Muslims in America will become alienated from the country of their birth.
The killing of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah outside of Detroit is a prime example of how things can go completely wrong and deadly force was used, when in my opinion, there was another way to handle those circumstances. The largest group of converts to Islam remains the Black American community and many of our brothers and sisters, who are introduced to Islam in correctional facilities, are beginning to suffer for their acceptance of Islam.
Perhaps what is needed, in the penal institutions, police forces, correctional offices, FBI, Homeland Security and the military, is sensitivity training and general educational classes about Muslim beliefs and culture. If not, the popular belief will be that all Muslims are potential enemies of America and dangerous. There are many Islamic groups and organizations that are trying to educate the public about what Muslims believe and what their faith represents.
Because of the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social networks, many Muslims now get their information through these mediums without meeting one another.
It has reached the point that the enemies of Islam are saying you don't have to go to the mosque, you can pray at home. However, in our tradition, Muslims seek to be together—it is a part of our faith.
Many Muslims, Imams, Sheikhs and Ministers are so concerned about the government agents in their mosques that they compromise the freedom to speak what is on their minds and the truth of what we believe.
Some Muslims have backed away from practicing charity from fear of being accused of contributing to so-called terrorist organizations. We have enough cases of entrapment that caused distrust and suspicion in the Muslim communities across America.
But we must be strong enough to Fight for The Soul of Islam and not allow the enemies of Islam to use a tactic as old as warfare itself; it's called divide and conquer.