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Muslims and Islamophobia ( 15 Nov 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Fort Hood Fallout: Muslim Soldiers Profess Love For America Amidst Growing Islamophobia

Muslim soldiers: We love America, Troops speak out in the wake of base attack By Niraj Warikoo

What Does the Koran Say About Muslim Soldiers? by Aziz Poonawalla

A nation in fear of being seen as anti-Muslim By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Don't tiptoe around the words `Muslim' and `terrorism' By Frida Ghitis

We need to talk about Islam, now by Carol Hun



Muslim soldiers: We love America Troops speak out in the wake of base attack

By Niraj Warikoo

Nov. 15, 2009


When Nader Alsafari of Dearborn was sent to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006 to fight with the U.S. Marines, some of his fellow Muslims at a local mosque weren't pleased because they felt it was an unjust war.

"Most of them didn't like it," Alsafari, 23, recalled last week. "They'd be like, 'You should try to get out.' ... They were thinking, we were just going to go and kill innocent people."

But Alsafari -- like other Muslims -- saw himself performing his duty as an American. There are some 3,500 declared Muslims in the U.S. military. And they're in the spotlight after the Nov. 5 shootings at a military base in Ft. Hood, Texas. The suspect, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, is an Arab-American Muslim.

Caught between two worlds, they're trying to carve out their own identity during a time of war when some are questioning their loyalty.

A director with a conservative Christian group says Muslims should be banned from serving. And amid the many Muslim leaders who denounced the Ft. Hood shootings were a few who praised Hasan, saying his actions were Islamic.

But Muslim veterans strongly reject the extremists on both sides.

"We love this country," said Shelton Hasan, 54, of Detroit, an Army veteran, "and want to protect it like anyone else."

Muslim troops aim to build trust in U.S. military

When Jamal Baadani, a native of Dearborn and U.S. Marine, was visiting his nephew a few years ago, he noticed the 5-year-old boy didn't want to play with him as usual.

"What's the matter?" Baadani said he remembers asking him.

"You kill Arabs," replied the boy, apparently repeating what he heard adults around him utter.

It was a cold reminder to Baadani that some in Arab-American and Muslim communities are reluctant to have their children serve in the U.S. armed forces, partly because they would have to fight fellow Muslims.

But that attitude pushed Baadani to continue his effort to bridge the gap between the military and his community. He founded the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military, APAAM, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His mission was to help educate people about the importance of serving your country.

It wasn't always easy. Baadani started out going door to door in Dearborn dressed in his Marine uniform. Some ignored him, others gave him concerned looks, but slowly, he earned their trust, paving the way for the military and other federal agencies to actively engage Middle Eastern communities.

Today, the U.S. military has robust programs -- especially in the Army and National Guard -- that try to recruit Muslims and Arab Americans.

"The military has done a tremendous job to reach out," said 1st Sgt. Baadani, 45, now a Marine reservist who lives in Virginia. "The U.S. Army really respects our community and goes above and beyond to understand our community."

There are about 3,500 Arab Americans in the U.S. armed forces, both Christian and Muslim. And there are about 3,500 Muslims of various backgrounds -- Arab, Pakistani, African American, among them -- who serve. They make up a small percentage of the 1.4 million members of the U.S. military. But as the U.S. military engages in a wide swath of the Muslim world -- from east Africa to the Middle East to central Asia -- their views and language skills are needed more than ever.

At home, some Muslims who serve face pressure from family or their peers about fighting against Muslims in other parts of the world. And after the Nov. 5 shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas, by a Muslim major, they face scrutiny from some who are questioning their loyalty to the United States. And so they are caught between two worlds, trying to carve out their own identity during a time of war.

"We're getting so much criticism from our own community for serving," Baadani said. "The No. 1 question I used to get was, 'Why do you want to serve a government that's going to kill your own kind?' "

Baadani's response was:

"The U.S. military did not go over there to kill your kind. They went over there to attack a threat that came to this country to attack us."

Moreover, Baadani stresses the importance of duty, of serving your country, even if you happen to disagree with the policies of an elected official. That sense of patriotism was seen last week inside Masjid Wali Muhammad, a mosque in Detroit that has the oldest African-American congregation of any Islamic center in Michigan. With a backdrop of U.S. flags and a picture of Islam's holy book, the Quran, the mosque held a Veterans Day celebration that was a vivid illustration of how Muslim veterans reconcile their two worlds.

The mosque had planned for a Veterans Day event before the Ft. Hood shootings, given that many of its members are U.S. veterans. Many of them had converted to Islam during the 1950s and 1960s, a time of racial and political change that compelled some African Americans to explore different religions and belief systems. At times, that clashed with the U.S. military, most notably in the case of champion boxer Muhammad Ali who -- after converting to Islam in 1964 -- refused to join the Army to fight in Vietnam. Ali had joined the Nation of Islam whose leader, Elijah Muhammad urged members of his black nationalist group not to serve in the U.S. military.

"Why am I going to fight over there for freedoms that you deny me here?" was the attitude among some at the time, said Ajib Rashadeen, 66, of Detroit, a veteran of the Army.

But those views softened over time with racial progress and the new leadership of the Nation of Islam upon Muhammad's death in 1975. Many of the veterans at the Detroit mosque were followers of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, who replaced Muhammad, became an orthodox Muslim and said it was OK for Muslims to fight for the United States.

The new leadership allowed them to see that there was no conflict between being good Muslims and good American soldiers.

In March 2003, Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a Muslim, killed two of his fellow 101st Airborne soldiers and wounded 14 in a grenade attack near the start of the Iraq war; afterward, he reportedly said he feared Americans were going to kill and rape Muslims.

Muslim veterans say they're horrified by such violence.

"Islam has nothing to do with that," said Abdul Ali Sharrieff, 82, of Detroit, a Marine veteran. "Islam doesn't preach that."

Abdul (Ace) Montaser, 27, of Brighton agrees. Today a DJ with WKQI-FM (95.5), Montaser was with the Marines for six years, serving in Iraq in 2003.

Born to the son of Yemeni immigrants, Montaser said he was taught to respect all cultures and faiths.

While in Iraq, Montaser felt he was part of an important mission to stop a deadly dictator and help free a country. But at the same time, he said, he was reluctant to kill anyone, Muslim or not.

"Islam is a peaceful religion," he said. But there are some Muslim extremists who "have their own political agenda and use religion as an excuse ... because the religion doesn't preach killing."

There have been reports that the Ft. Hood shooting suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, had expressed concerns about Muslims in the U.S. military going abroad to fight other Muslims in what some of them see as unjust wars.

Local Muslim veterans said his analysis was misguided because Muslims, like any other group, can break laws.

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What Does the Koran Say About Muslim Soldiers?

By Aziz Poonawalla

November 13, 2009

Since Islam is a creed rather than an ethnic background, one can reasonably ask whether there is any conflict with the demands of identity between faith and service. n the wake of the Ft. Hood shootings by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an uncomfortable and unjust spotlight has been trained on Muslim-American soldiers serving in the armed forces. To be blunt, their loyalties are being questioned, with some conservatives arguing that Muslims should be barred outright from serving in the military, invoking the analogy to World War II that we did not commission "Japanese nationalists or Nazis." The implicit premise is of course that an ordinary Muslim soldier is akin to a Nazi in terms of ideological loyalty. In truth, however, ordinary Germans and Japanese Americans did indeed serve in World War II with honor and distinction -- just as Muslim-Americans serve today.

However, as Islam is a creed rather than an ethnic background, one can reasonably ask whether there is any conflict with the demands of identity between faith and service. The concept of "Ummah," or community of believers, is one nearly every Muslim believes in a symbolic sense, though I question its pragmatic meaning. Much like the term, "the West", the Ummah is amorphous and has no formal authority. Muslims in Xianjing province and in Hawaii (and all Muslims in between) have default membership in the Ummah by virtue of shared faith, but to what extent do Muslims, so far separated, actually communicate or interact in any meaningful sense? How can such a vast entity have any cohesion? The sole occassion where the concept of Ummah has any genuine meaning is during the Hajj, where Muslims from every corner of the globe unite in pursuit of piety and prayer. But this too, is fleeting. Muslims who sat side-by-side in front of the Kaaba during Hajj share a bond of experience, but after Hajj ends they go back to being cardiologists in Los Angeles or street sweepers in Bangladesh and that bond is, for all intents and purposes, severed.

The Koran, however, is clear -- Muslims should not kill other Muslims. There are three verses in particular, [4.92-93] and [17.33],

[4:92] Never should a believer kill a believer; but (If it so happens) by mistake, (Compensation is due): If one (so) kills a believer, it is ordained that he should free a believing slave, and pay compensation to the deceased's family, unless they remit it freely. If the deceased belonged to a people at war with you, and he was a believer, the freeing of a believing slave (Is enough). If he belonged to a people with whom ye have treaty of Mutual alliance, compensation should be paid to his family, and a believing slave be freed. For those who find this beyond their means, (is prescribed) a fast for two months running: by way of repentance to Allah: for Allah hath all knowledge and all wisdom.

[4:93] If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (For ever): And the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him.[17:33] Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law).

Verse [4.93] is often quoted without [4.92] as essential context, and taking the two together there does seem to be an exception for a "people at war with you" as long as the soldier does pay penance. It is quite possible for a soldier to invoke [4.92] as permiting them to kill Muslims in the line of duty of those Muslims were at war with the U.S. One could argue that [4.93] explicitly threatens you with hell if you kill a Muslim, but that reading is only supported if you ignore the immediately preceding verse. My own take -- and I am not a scholar -- is that [4.93] applies to those cases not covered by [4.92]. And let's also note that "a believer" can also mean Jews and Christians, as explicitly stated in the Constitution of Medina by the Prophet SAW himself.


A Nation In Fear Of Being Seen As Anti-Muslim

November 15 2009

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Plenty of people could have stopped Malik Hasan but they were too scared to do so, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

THERE'S a climate of fear in the US among the military, law-enforcers, policy-makers, the media, opinion-formers and many ordinary citizens. A major cause is the intimidating Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is dedicated to Muslim empowerment, receives substantial funding from Arab governments and has been accused by federal prosecutors of funnelling money to Hamas.

So effective and ruthless is CAIR that anyone in authority worries before doing anything that can be misrepresented as anti-Muslim and lead to lawsuits citing religious or racial discrimination.

There were plenty of people who might have prevented the psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan from murdering 12 soldiers and a policeman, but were too scared to do so. FBI operatives, for instance, knew he was exchanging chummy emails with the al Qaeda supporter Anwar al Awlaki, who had been an imam at a Virginia mosque which Hasan attended and who fled to the Yemen after 9/11 because the FBI were investigating his close links with two of the hijackers.

There were the fellow-worshippers at the Muslim Community Centre in Maryland who were perturbed by Hasan's hatred of his country, his rigid Islamic fundamentalism and his insistence that jihad was not about inner spiritual struggle but the killing of those who were a threat to Islam.

Then there were the senior army doctors who 18 months ago sat through a long PowerPoint presentation from Hasan called The Koranic world view as it relates to Muslims in the US Military, in which he called for Muslims to be released from the army as conscientious objectors rather than fight against their co-religionists; he explained that "fighting to establish an Islamic state to please Allah, even by force, is condoned by Islam". After worried discussions, nothing happened. Army psychiatrists concerned about Hasan's increasing preoccupation with religion and war sent him to a university lecture series on Islam and the Middle East .

And how has the army responded to the massacre?

"As horrific as this tragedy was," said the Chief of Staff General George Casey, "if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse." Well, I don't think the relatives of the dead are likely to agree. Worship of diversity, fundamentalist political correctness and terror of being accused of Islamphobia has obscured the simple truth that the US army is no place for anyone who believes the Koran should be interpreted literally.

Commentators sought PC reasons for Hasan's homicidal spree. He had had a breakdown because of the dreadful stories his work required him to listen to: this was probably, said one, a "seemingly disproportionate response" to anti-Muslim comments from colleagues and tales of bad things that had happened to Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. That he was being sent to Afghanistan, was scared and just wanted to get out of the army was a common view.

Sadly, despite President Obama's claim that what happened at Fort Hood was "incomprehensible", it's easy to understand: the accumulated evidence is that Hasan was an Islamist fruitcake who swallowed the whole, unexpurgated and unmodernised Koran, right down to the paradise that awaits those who kill and are killed for Allah, which is why he was shouting Allahu Akbar ('God is great') as he shot his comrades.

There have been other dodgy Muslim fundamentalists in the United States army, including Sergeant Hasan Karim Akbar, who in 2003 murdered two soldiers and wounded 14, but -- with CAIR in mind -- the army continues to run from anything that can be described as religious profiling.

A good example of how CAIR has put the fear of Allah into American society is the case of the flying imams. Three years ago, at Minneapolis airport, some passengers and crew on US Airways Flight 300 were alarmed by six imams whose suspicious behaviour included praying loudly, changing seats and two of them demanding seatbelt extensions which they did not use; an Arabic-speaker on the flight heard two of them mention Osama bin Laden and condemn America for "killing Saddam". They were removed from the flight by airport police, detained, questioned and released.

CAIR backed the imams' claim that they had suffered from religious discrimination and underwrote their lawsuits against the airline, the law-enforcers and unnamed passengers who had reported them to the crew. Congress banned the suing of airline passengers who report on suspicious activity, but after a bizarre judicial ruling that no competent law enforcer could have thought their treatment reasonable, the airline and the law-enforcers settled out of court last month. The consequences for airline security are terrifying.

Rather surprisingly, a few days ago the American government had the guts to seize mosques and property owned by a group it claims are a front for the Iranian government. This, said CAIR ominously, "may send a negative message to Muslims worldwide."

The hope is that it may send the positive message that enough is enough.


Don't tiptoe around the words `Muslim' and `terrorism'

November 15. 2009

By Frida Ghitis

On the evening after Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot 43 people at the Fort Hood military base, CNN's Larry King Live invited the TV psychologist known chummily as Dr. Phil to help the audience understand what might have motivated Hasan to open fire, killing 12 of his fellow soldiers and one civilian and injuring 30 others. Dr Phil enlightened viewers with pseudo-scientific speculation about how war stress would cause someone to ``snap.''

President Obama urged Americans not to rush to judgment before we had the facts, but most of the non-right-wing media did exactly that, all but settling on a diagnosis for Hasan, an army psychiatrist, as the victim of stress acquired by listening to the terrible stories told by his patients and worrying about his own deployment.

Treading lightly

You could almost see the discomfort on television anchors' faces when the name ``Hasan'' emerged. It was time to tread lightly. Responsible journalists wanted to avoid even contemplating the possibility that this was an act of terrorism by a radical Muslim.

The word ``Muslim,'' when uttered at all, was used to explain that Hasan had been victimized by anti-Muslim slurs.

The word ``terrorism'' was almost completely absent as the motivation for the killings became the main story in the country for several days.

The truth, however, is that it was not unreasonable to at least consider that the attacker might have been following the violent dictates of a most extreme form of Islamic Jihad. Surely the idea crossed the minds of those watching Dr. Phil or reading the hundreds of articles published in the wake of the shooting, explaining post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), combat stress and the perils of treating emotionally wounded soldiers.

The otherwise-reponsible media outlets wanted to avoid triggering a backlash against Muslims, so they ignored the proverbial elephant in the living room. That eroded their credibility.

As evidence mounted that Hasan might be a religious fanatic and was in frequent contact with a radical cleric connected to al Qaeda, pop psychology still filled the airwaves. On National Public Radio, we heard it explained that Hasan, ``short and a little chubby,'' might be one of those ``who have a sexual-romantic incompetence, [and] redirect their masculinity.''

The circumstances called for addressing the ideology of violent political and religious extremism. But that topic proved much too uncomfortable. If the attack had happened in a Muslim country, the local population would have immediately known the likely motivation, and would have talked about it openly.

In this country, however, mainstream and progressive media yielded a legitimate topic of discussion to the very people who would incite anti-Muslim sentiment.

Instead of a pop-psychologist, or perhaps in addition to mental-health professionals, they should have interviewed moderate Muslims and experts in radical ideology. They could have noted the undeniable fact that an overwhelming majority of Muslims, far in excess of 99 percent, are not terrorists or prone to terrorism.

But at the same time, they would have acknowledged that a large proportion of terrorist attacks are, in fact, carried out by Muslim extremists. And that most of their victims, civilians killed with awful frequency in places such as Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia and other Muslim-majority countries, are also Muslims.

Instead of helping shed light, an over-cautious western media and their well-heeled interviewees took off in a direction they found more comfortable, expounding on the trauma caused by war.

Making war the culprit

They made war itself the perpetrator of this terrible crime, avoiding what the facts now increasingly point to: that the alleged killer was likely driven by extremist Islamic ideology, the very ideology the United States is now fighting in what used to be called ``the war on terror.''

Islamic extremism is, in fact the enemy. And it is the enemy of hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world who want to live lives free of violence and repression. There are scores of Muslim organizations in all continents fighting for democratic values. It is not anti-Muslim to see that the Hasan massacre could offer further proof of how dangerous this ideology is and how important for moderate Muslims to defeat their extremist brethren.

Many Muslims eagerly want to debate the issue. It is they who have the most at stake. But the U.S. and European media find the subject awkward and remain reluctant to look at it squarely.

Well-meaning journalists think they are doing Muslims a favor by staying away from the topic. The same is true for politicians who would rather avoid the word terrorism or the killer's religion when describing this act. What they are doing is letting others hijack the conversation and shape the debate. That does no one a favor.

Frida Ghitis writes about world affairs.


We need to talk about Islam, now

November 15 2009

Our concern for the rights of others may be eroding the foundations on which our democracy is based, writes Carol Hun

ALL the documentaries in recent weeks celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall have given us a reason to celebrate the fact that, regardless of our present travails, we live in the free West where the rights of the individual will always triumph over the ideology of the group. Ding, dong, the Witch is dead.

Also, 20 years ago, Professor Francis Fukuyama, in a fit of optimism, sensationally declared that the fall of communism signified the Hegelian idea of "The End of History and the Last Man". He believed that the ideological conflicts of the world had been largely resolved and yes, folks, we had a winner -- Western-style liberal democracy.

'History', however, didn't read Fukuyama's book and continued to trundle along, "one damn thing after another", and Fukuyama has since changed his opinions.

It was inevitable really, because the same year which saw the fall of communism was the year in which the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his Fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

Certainly, the controversy over the publication of the Satanic Verses was a pivotal moment in the forging of British -- and European -- Muslim identity and its increasingly extreme political agenda. We in the liberal West don't like to admit this.

Actually we don't like to concede that's there's any sort of war going on, cultural, religious or otherwise -- leave that to the Americans and their oil-fuelled jingoism, their wars against terror and their need to feel that they are still 'policing' the world.

We Europeans are far too sophisticated to indulge in arguments over religious or cultural matters. We believe in free speech -- except when righteous people complain that is, then we bring in blasphemy laws to soothe those who are so easily offended by the peacefully expressed opinions of others.

The problem is that our concern for the rights of others seems to be eroding our own rights and the very basis of European democracy.

In 2006, Ali Selim, the secretary general of the Irish Council of Imams, said that if there were ever a Muslim majority in Ireland, Sharia law -- the strict Muslim code that governs every area of life, from prayers to style of dress, to the minimal rights of women -- should be introduced. We all laughed and thought the man was daft. As he himself admitted, a Muslim majority in Ireland was hardly likely. But minorities have rights too, you know, so nobody made much of a fuss.

Then, in 2007, the British Policy Exchange published findings of a survey which suggested that 37 per cent of Muslims aged 16-25 would prefer to live under Sharia law. And in 2008, Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said that the adoption of some aspects of Sharia law in Britain seemed "unavoidable".

He added: "As a matter of fact, certain conditions of Sharia law are already recognised in our society and under our law, so it's not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system."

Is this taking the rights of the community, of 'minorities' a little too far? What about the rights of the individuals who live in Britain and elsewhere in Europe but are forced to abide by a legal system that actively discriminates against them (women and gay people) and against the law of the land?

During an inter-faith meeting in Turkey some years ago, a Catholic bishop recounted how an Islamic cleric told the crowd: "Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you. Thanks to our Islamic laws, we will conquer you." Reaction? Zilch. Just imagine the outcry if the Pope came out with something like that.

It's not politically correct to admit -- or even discuss -- the fact that the West is facing one of the greatest challenges to its traditions of plurality, democracy, freedom of speech and expression.

Instead we call it "multiculturalism" or "cultural relativism" and applaud it, as if tolerating unfair, inequitable and in some cases downright barbaric 'traditions' is somehow a noble, righteous cause. It's not. It's a deliberate and cowardly attempt to ignore what is going on right under our noses in case we may be branded racist, sectarian or worse.

Immigration can be a very good thing. Religious diversity can greatly enhance a nation. But only if cultural and religious practices are kept within the private sphere. And only if these practices do not go against the law of the land. This would seem to be self-evident, but in Europe 'multiculturalism' seems to have developed into a blind tolerance toward any culture and faith -- depriving many people, specifically women, of their human rights.

In 2004, Italian author Oriana Fallaci wrote The Rage and the Pride, in which she criticised both Muslims (bent, according to her, on conquering the West and annihilating its culture) and Europeans (described as spoiled, hypocritical and blind to the moral threat represented by Islamic expansion).

A few years later she wrote a follow-up, The Force of Reason. It's a wonder she had the courage to do this as, in the introduction, she recounts the intellectual lynching she was subjected to following the publication of her first book.

According to Fallaci, the politically correct establishment, or "modern inquisition", keeps individuals in fear of expressing what they believe.

"If you are a Westerner and you say that your civilisation is superior, the most developed that this planet has ever seen, you go to the stake.

"But if you are a son of Allah, or one of their collaborationists, and you say that Islam has always been a superior civilisation, a ray of light . . . nobody touches you. Nobody sues you. Nobody condemns you." Here Fallaci hit the nail on the head, but she was vilified for saying what people refuse to listen to.

America has never been pro-assimilation when it comes to cultural traditions, but Europe, perhaps in part because of her colonial history, has. Consequently we have a problem where the 'rights' of cultural groups are upheld to the disadvantage of individuals within those groups. So what we've ended up with is a Europe where polygamy is illegal, but some men, because of their cultural heritage, still manage to keep house with a variety of 'wives'.

We have a Europe that espouses universalist ideals of human dignity, yet there are areas where women can be 'legally' subjected to violence within marriage. A Europe where people who write books, draw pictures or make films that 'cause offence' can be justifiable targets of abuse, violence, and worse.

Is this what Archbishop Rowan had in mind when he spoke of the inevitability of accepting certain parts of Sharia law? I hope not.

But such namby-pamby PC fear dressed up as rational- minded 'tolerance' might be the reason that that's what we've ended up with. We can sit smugly in front of our TV sets and congratulate ourselves on 'the opening up of the East in 1989', when what we really need to do is open up our minds to the real threat of misguided multi-culturalism.

We should have started the discussion about assimilation of minorities years ago, before the winds of radical Islam began to blow. We didn't. Let's hope it's not too late now.

Sunday Independent