Responding to Islamophobia

Aslam Abdallah, Ph.D, Board Member of MCA

Islam bashing, Islamophobia and Hate Islam are a deliberate campaign led by some journalists, religious fanatics and liberal as well as conservative commentators. They want to denounce Islam as a barbaric religion promoting violence and hatred against non Muslims. Ironically, the campaign is centered in a country where Muslims have been the most peaceful citizens for the last several centuries despite the fact that they were subject to all sorts of persecution. African Muslim slaves were forced to convert to Christianity and many of them were killed for refusing to succumb to the wishes of their masters. Yet, none of the descendents of those persecuted Muslims ever indulged in reciprocating the acts of barbarism, their forefathers had undergone. Since September 11, the peaceful community of Muslim Americans has been subject to all kinds of accusation and persecution. According to an estimate, more than 70,000 Muslim households have been visited by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies since September 11, more than one million have been subject to profiling and more than 30,000 have been detained under some pretext. In the media, some 80,000 articles and programs have been presented against Islam. Islam bashers, on an average, spend approximately 6 hours daily on radio or television attacking Islam.

Moreover, more than a million Muslim men, women, children or those who look like Muslims such as Sikhs or the Hispanics have been subject to verbal and in some cases physical abuse in the last six years. The burning or bombing of mosques and attacks on Muslim homes are an ongoing part of this persecution. This is happening despite the fact that since September 11, Muslims have organized more than 3,000 interfaith forums denouncing terrorism and loudly condemning groups such as al Qaeda. In fact during the last 66 months, in more than 2,000 places of worship where Friday prayers are held regularly, Muslim religious scholars and leaders have spoken against violence and terrorism at least 10 times a year, on an average. In other words, every year, Muslim leaders in more than 2,000 places of worship have spoken at least 20,000 times in a year on issues such as appreciating the founding principals of America, and unjustified terrorism and violence against Americans.

Yet the Islamophobes are not willing to see any of this as something positive. Rather they use any incident anywhere in the world to denounce Islam and question the patriotism and loyalty of Muslims Americans. Who are those people leading this crusade? What is their agenda and how should Muslims respond to that? Those who are leading the Islamophobic campaign comprise of three main groups, ultra conservative religious leaders, ultra liberals and literalists who take every word of the Old Testament about Jerusalem and other holy sites within its vicinity as cast in concrete. Ultra conservative religious groups include right wing evangelists who view not only Islam but any other religion as a manifestation of the satanic will. They view everyone who is not like them a pagan and consigned to hell fire and they deem it necessary to denounce Islam and other religions as barbaric or satanic. They are heavenly financed by some of the most successful businessmen including those who are in oil and diamond industries.

Ultra liberals view Islam and any other religion as the greatest impediment to modern capitalist market economy. They view religion and its institutions as traditions of the past that have no relevance in our modern world. They denounce Islam as a religion that still believes that God is uneditable and His words unchangeable. The third group consists of those who believe that what was compiled by scholars under the instructions of King James in the form of Old Testament are divine words that must be implemented. In this respect, they view the Holy Land between the Nile and Euphrates belonging to those who were once chosen by God. They believe that those who speak against Jewish Zionism are cursed by the divine and they believe that the mission of all those who believe in the Old Testament is to ensure that that Holy land is restored to Jews so that God’s will is done. They see Islam as a competitor in this land grab movement. They denounce Islam for rejecting the claim of Jews as chosen people and they view Palestinians as children of Satan spoiling the divine plan in the Middle East. If one looks at the background of all those who are in the forefront of this Islamophobic campaign, one can categorize them in one of the three camps. Their agenda is simple. To influence public opinion and increase the number of those who think like them. Obviously, they believe that at present they don’t have a majority behind them. Hence, they spend more than six hours a day in preaching the doctrine of hatred against Islam. How should Muslims respond the campaign? One simple way is to expose those who are making this propaganda and counter them loudly. This is some what defensive and it would not serve any purpose. In this shouting match, the truth will be drowned and no one would be able to hear the other. At present almost every Muslim organization is involved in this approach. Let us get even with those Islamiphobes.

Let us show them our real worth and lets us prove to them that we will not sit quiet in the wake of this nonsense. This is what most Muslim groups and leaders have been heard saying in the United States. In fact, based on this approach, many organizations have developed a strategy that would match the venom with venom. How effective this approach might be? This is subject to discussion. Ironically much of what these Islamiphobes are saying is based on what they have heard some individual Muslim saying or they have taken out of context from some Islamic book. For instance, they have routinely attacked the Quran describing it as a book that promotes violence against women. Many of these people referred to the recently concluded case in Germany where a judge acquitted a Muslim man of beating his wife because, according to him, “the religious text of Muslims allows men to beat their wives”. Majority of Muslims would not accept this interpretation of the Quran. Majority of them would describe such a practice loathsome and majority of them would view this sort of ruling contrary to the spirit of Islam.

However, this perspective of the majority has not been made public. It is not known to many including Muslims. Thus the practice of confronting Islamophobia without first addressing issues raised by them might backfire and cause more damage to Islam in the long run. Muslims must develop a sound strategy to deal with this situation and cases of anti-Islamic attitude. One must have to admit at the outset that no matter what Muslims do or say, there will always be some elements who will be anti-Islamic as has been predicted by the divine the Quran. The forces of evil would also be there to force Muslims deviate from the right path and to create doubts in the minds of neutrals about the validity of the divine message. So as Muslims, we must be prepared to face opposition regardless of what we say and do. Secondly, rather than responding back to the hate mongers, Muslim organizations should develop a grass roots effort to communicate with average people in schools, places of work and places of worship where they talk about issues which create suspicious in the minds of others about Islam. Thirdly, Muslims must engage in social welfare programs that would present an image different than what many Americans have become used to watch on television, an image where Muslims are seen as angry, irate mob intent on Perhaps the best investment at this time is to engage in projects and programs that are people oriented and that project the humanitarian face of Islam.

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