There is a new breed of Islam bashers that were at one point part of the Muslim community itself. Muslims already have to contend with people like Daniel Pipes making statements such as "Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene ... All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most".
Now beyond Daniel Pipes, Muslims are seeing a new stream of attacks against their faith by individuals that were born Muslim and being promoted by media.
These particular bashers have chosen to take on the literary world with recent publications by Canadian Journalist Irshad Manji and Ohio based author Ibn Warraq. Mr. Warraq, a self proclaimed former Muslim has authored four books in recent years that promote anti-Islamic rhetoric by citing incorrect traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and citing Quranic verses out of context. In his book Why I am Not a Muslim, he states "People generally convert to Islam only in terror, quest for power, or to avoid heavy taxation, or to escape humiliation, or because of infatuation with a Muslim woman." A funny statement to make in the United States where many people have converted to Islam without terror. Becoming a Muslim may grant a person a considerable amount of struggle but not power.
First time Muslim author, Manji has been receiving mass media attention for her book, the Trouble with Islam. It has been reviewed by over thirty prominent United States newspapers and magazines and become a best seller in the United States and Canada. It's contents are an open letter to Muslims and Non-Muslims on why Islam needs to be reformed. In one section she writes, "First and foremost, being self-critical means coming clean about the nasty side of the Koran, and how it informs terrorism." She fails however to point out where in the Koran terrorism is mentioned.
Although I completely respect freedom of speech, I must ask what is the point of all of this? Do these Muslim bashers want us all to convert out of Islam? Do they want the whole world to hate Islam? The answer in my view is that they want Muslims and the rest of humanity to renounce the religion and in their delusion hope to extinguish the light of Islam from the world.
Muslims are used to attacks by non-Muslims but with people like Manji, and Warraq it is different because it is completely hypocritical. They would like to be respected for leaving Islam or in Manji's case "reforming Islam", but they refuse to give the same respect to Muslims to practice their faith as they choose, without the constant condemnation and criticism. These authors state that they should be given the right to interpret religion as they wish yet; they criticize Muslims for practicing their religion as they want to. The bottom line is tolerance is a two way street, and there should be tolerance for those who choose to practice religion and those who do not.
The abandonment of tolerance will only lead to hatred and crime. The FBI reports that hate crimes against people who appear to be Muslim increased more than 1,500 percent in 2001. As a staff member of a Muslim non-profit organization I receive daily hate emails that contain profanity towards Muslims and Allah, which is simply the Arabic word for God.
It has become the norm and acceptable by society to stigmatize Muslims as it was at one time, to stigmatize African Americans and Jews.
Most immigrant Muslims came to America to pursue a better life for themselves and their children. Freedom of religion is part of that better life.
One must wonder the motive of these new Islam bashers. Are they just trying to make a quick buck or do they simply want to annihilate Islam. Either way, the bigotry needs to stop because it might just be another book on the shelves to most Americans but to Muslims, these books threaten their identity in a society that prides it self in tolerance and pluralism.
Nahal Ameri is the Community Relations Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council
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