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Muslims and Islamophobia ( 21 May 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islamaphobes Are Not Ignorant; They Just Choose To Ignore Facts In A Debate Over Islam

By Chris Ingram

 May 20, 2012

I received a large volume of comments from my column last week, "The enemy isn't Islam" (Other Views, May 15). The comments tended to be either very supportive of my position or strongly against it, with nothing in the middle.

Hugh in Tampa, a former captain in the U.S. Navy, said he spent six years working in the Middle East and has "experienced Islam firsthand." He said, "Beheading and stoning is not only recommended in the Quran for certain behaviors, it is common practice in some Islamic countries. If you think the actions of the radical Islamic leaders is anything other than war on non-Islamic religions then you need to read the Quran."

Without knowing it, Hugh makes my point for me: The actions of radical leaders don't mean all Muslims are terrorists. These radical leaders don't represent all Muslims anymore than the KKK — the goals of which include an intent to "re-establish Protestant Christian values in America by any means possible" — represents all Christians.

Many readers took issue with the pejorative term "knuckle draggers" that I used to describe those who protested against Hassan Shibly, who spoke about Islam at Steinbrenner High School. Never mind the protestors have slandered Shibly by calling him a terrorist — I'm sure he'd swap that term for knuckle dragger. I have spoken with Shibly several times, and I have researched the facts surrounding the government's labeling of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Shibly leads its local office) and the Islamic Society of North America, and do not believe that he or either of those groups support terrorism.

The knuckles of Shibly's critics may not literally drag to the ground, but they are certainly ignorant to the facts.

Several months ago I invited one of the local leaders opposed to Shibly to appear on a radio show. He agreed to be a guest but quickly changed his mind when I told him Shibly would also be on the show — though not at the same time. He told me he didn't know enough about the issue to talk about it in such a public format. I suggested to him that before he goes labeling someone a terrorist, next time he should understand the facts better. He then asked me to lie for him about why he couldn't be on the show, instead of telling the truth about his not having enough information to comfortably discuss the matter in a public format.

Many readers fixated on uncivilized things they believe to be in the Quran; these same readers conveniently overlook contradictions and incivility within their own religions. Cynthia posted on Facebook: "Therefore, stonings, beheadings, female genital mutilation, pedophilia, thighing, necrophilia, bestiality, dismemberment of hands & feet, hanging of homosexuals, whipping, caning, taqiyya (lying), Kitman (deception), are all condoned [by the Quran]."

While many of these examples occur in Islamic as well as non-Islamic countries, I don't know of a credible religious leader anywhere who condones them. Unfortunately, history is replete with examples of organized religions that have engaged in the very activities (or similar ones) Cynthia suggests are somehow unique to Islam.

A few people wrote that they are outraged that America has never received an apology for the 9-11 attacks. This was perhaps the most perplexing of all. Who should apologize, Osama bin Laden? A leader of a Muslim state? Bin Laden is dead. He's the one an apology should have come from. A state that happens to be Muslim but did no wrong has nothing to apologize for.

I also received a healthy number of comments from people who were in agreement with me. Gary, a Christian, Republican and investment banker said, "[Your column], in my opinion, was the best you've ever written. Fear is gripping our nation from so many fronts it is difficult for many to understand what is fact or fiction. Thanks for writing something that brings some common sense and perspective to the forefront."

There is a lot of fear, leading to a lot of hate, and a lot of unfair attacks on anyone who is Muslim. This is hardly the Christian thing to do, and it is in no way patriotic. But it appears I am wrong about one thing: The Islamaphobes aren't ignorant; they just choose to believe only what they want to believe and let the facts be damned.

Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and analyst for Bay News 9.