Countering Rising Islamophobia
Since 9/11 questions about Islam, its nature, its' distinctive identity, its' potential threat to the West have seized center stage in intellectual and political debates and discussions. Worldwide fears and misconceptions, combined with lack of credible information, continue to create climate of fear and hostility. This is partly the fault of the media and partly the inability of the Muslims to effectively engage with the process of correcting the misconceptions on both sides." Why do they hate us"? Is a question that is being asked on either side?
Many Americans view Islam as a violent, misogynistic religion and wonder if every Muslim secretly wishes to destroy the U.S. According to the Pew research center 46% of Americans believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its' believers. Many Muslims living in America feel the scorn of prejudice and racism upon them. Numerous incidences of bias and violence against Muslims in this country have been documented by Civil Rights Groups and Muslim Organizations. The Global conflicts raging mainly in Muslim Lands are a continuous source of fuel to this fire of mutual hatred. It is no surprise therefore that "Islamophobia" is a very real entity. What is disturbing is how pervasive it has become; existing at all levels of society it is now a part of the discourse in framing Governmental policies here and abroad.
Not too long ago the Pope expressed his views regarding Turkey's bid for admission to the European Union. He was of the opinion that this would change the "Christian" character of Europe!! More recently a Bishop from Spain has expressed his fear that Islam may again establish and prevail in Andalusia. On to Africa where the Episcopal Bishop in Kenya has been opposing the idea of ordaining Gay priests. He of course may have enough scriptural support for his argument and yet to further fortify his position he has to bring Islam into the fray; he is concerned that in allowing this to happen the Church will loose many of its' followers to Islam! All of this is besides the daily onslaught from the pulpit in this country by the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham to name a few.
It isn't enough that this fear has remained a part of Historical legacy in the religious pronouncements, but what is remarkable is how it currently dominates the Socio-Political discourse. In U.S. and Europe new laws are being enacted under the umbrella of Security concerns. The Patriot act and other legislations like wiretapping are impacting on the Civil Liberties of all Americans but the brunt of this has to be borne by the American Muslims and others who look different or have different sounding names.
Although many may believe that "political correctness" inhibits them from questioning or discussing Islam and its' practices yet this inhibition is only a myth. The Pope, the Pulpit, the Politicians and the Pundits, all seem now to express this fear openly.
The recent uproar over the oath of office for newly elected first American Muslim to the Congress Keith Ellison further highlights the dimensions of Islamophobia. He wanted to take his oath of office on the Quran, much to the loud objections of people like Dennis Prager a talk radio talk-show host, along with some other media personalities. Even more disturbing was Virginia Congressman Virgil Good's views in this regard. He expressed great concern that this may all be the beginning for the Muslims to take over United States! In his fear of Muslims and Islam he a Congressman chose to overlook the Constitutional protection for all individuals to practice their religion freely!
The Los Angeles Human Relations Council recently decided to award an activist who heads a major Muslim organization and is involved in the interfaith group activities. Originally from Egypt he was associated with Muslin Brotherhood but for the last 40 years that he has been in this country and has been active in building bridges between different communities. The council after nominating him for the award came under pressure from groups which demanded that he be not the recipient. They carried out a campaign to associate him with preaching of hatred. With increasing pressure the council finally put this matter to vote ending up giving the award. However the vote in the council was 7 absentees while only 4 voted for giving the award. In a similar incidence a northern California Muslim activist nominated for an award was initially supported by Senator Barbara Boxer. She has now decided to withdraw her support to the nomination on the ground that he is connected with a national organization that has in its leadership position people who are allegedly connected with Hamas.
The Muslim community in Katy, a small town in Texas decided to build a Mosque. They purchased land for the purpose and went through the process of hearing with the City Council etc. As the news got around there were those who objected to having a Muslim Mosque in their neighborhood. This is not unusual American Muslims in other cities have faced similar resistance not too infrequently. As the discussions continued in Katy between the two groups, a person who owned the land next to the site where the Mosque is to be built announced that he has decided to start a pig farm next to the Mosque; he even offered generously to have a community picnic on his land and serve barbeque hot-dogs! Muslims are forbidden to eat Pork and have an inherent aversion to any thing related to the Pig.
All of the above is to highlight how real the problem is. Indeed with the continuation of wars, occupation and unresolved conflicts in Muslim Lands, one can predict that the fear of Islam and Muslims will only increase. In a world of anger and violence as it seems now there has to be a break from the traditional "us versus them" approach. The recycling of historical animosity from the Crusades to the post-cold war demonization of Islam as the enemy must end. This is not going to be easy. The trend in the media is to project all issues whether political or social through the frame of conflict between Islam and the West. This must be challenged by all. The media, the politicians, and the people all share the responsibility to foster social cohesion and peace.
Muslims have their work cutout specially those who live in freedom and are educated. Despite their current predicament of being under suspicion only because of attachment to their Faith they must rise to the occasion. It is their responsibility to reject the message of the extremists whose worldview and actions are not only a serious affront to Islam but also to the peace and stability of this world. The key question that they must tackle is one of control-control of interpretation of the Quran and the authentic teachings of Islam. In other words who decides, by what process and in what context, which reading or text to promote? Presently the control is with those who lack any experience in pluralism and see the world in Manichean paradigm. In this struggle within Islam which is mainly about power and not faith lies one of the root causes of the violence sectarian and otherwise. By engaging with this important question the Muslims here can lead the way in stemming the rising tide of Islamophobia.
Dr. Nazir Khaja, is the Chairman of Islamic Information Service based in California., U.S.A. He can be reached at [email protected]
1- there is no mention of how to deal with it
2- Islamphobia is not only due to ignorance but Hate and this is the most dangerour part ..
3- The best solution to islamphobia is Legal courses despite its expensive path .. and of course economic solutions ' such as boycott ' the most effective solution .. and stop playing the 'victim'
Where have you been the last 4 years. What have you done to condemn American terrorism in Iraq?
Where is the outrage ?
Why has the muslim world not voiced outrage at the atrocities of the radical muslims.
I for one am totally frustrated at both the US govt and the muslim hierarchy.
In the US, we have two political parties that have no interest in helping or serving the common person. Their hate for the opposing party has overtaken their will to serve the best interests of those that have elected them.
The Muslim world seems to be living with eyes closed at what is happening in the world. Conversly we as americans are livng our biased lives in relative harmony.
The world must stand together to fight evil.
Evil on both sides.............
I sincerely hope it can happen before it is too late to save humanity.
Religion is a very personal belief.....
Too bad we can't realize that all have different beliefs based on social and cultural differences.
Some day, we will all realize that there is one "supreme creator" and that supreme creator is not happy at what is going on in the world.
It seems that religion was created by man in order to obtain a political tool ot control the masses.............
That is so sad.
what we should continue to do to bring the truth to be known by
the majority peace loving people of the world and remove the
misconception about Islam. Negative media projection has blinded
folded the peace loving people of the world.
i would suggest not to be apologetic to a people who lost all their conscience, compassion and feelings for people of poor countries. they are doing every kind of injustice to all the poor nations, and expecting all people to bow to their power. what if someone decide not to bow to them? they are criminal? I would say they have much more dignity than those bowing to the power of atomic bomb or missile or whatever power they may have. some leaders of muslims countires are always trying to please blair or bush with hope that they may help them out from their misery, while truth is they only wants oil, and have nothing to do with the common peoples betterment. they dont care if some poor people are dying or not. what those stupid political leaders of so-called muslim countries expect from the war-mongers like bush-blair?
My suggestions for muslim borthers, not to feel guilty for the crime which you have not committed. Why should we be so eager to mingle with others while others are always abusing us, leave no stone unturned to prove how bad muslims are?? its a pity brother!