Rout Out Islamophobia!

Emir Abd el-Kader’s seal

Once again the media broadcast another alarming headline about an American community protesting the construction of a mosque based on a fear of “creeping shariah.” With many people not even believing in God, one would think it more productive to work on the large percentage of people that do not even believe in God Almighty. …ditto for the guy who passed me a scrappy note from a Bible institute about “What Every Muslim Should Know” while shopping for window treatments in JCPenney! Dude, I already know about Jesus and the miracle of the virgin birth. That is Islam too.

Over the years I have witnessed episodes that really did not register consternation over Islamophobia, but I suppose the cumulative effect IS stirring up my concern because of the uptick in incidents leading toward the presidential election. In fact, according to a presentation made at the ISNA Education Forum last Spring by Purdue University students Amina Shareef and Adrien Chauvet, titled Disrupting Islamophobia, it is specifically political situations that have historically and consistently been correlated to the fear or discrimination that characterizes Islamophobia. Furthermore, it is perpetrated by mis-education and historical amnesia. There are organizations who benefit from casting Muslims as “the other,” and they are heavily backed with finance and influential connections.  Even the mainstream Republican party is served by fortifying the “us versus them” stance, in spite of the fact that ideologically many business minded Muslims identify with being Republican (click on the hyperlinks for some interesting perspectives).

Yet, Muslims have an obligation to stand up and not be complacent. That is why I’m writing this, because we have to let people know the truth and stand up for what is right. Shareef and Chauvet quoted that 44% of Americans polled would support government curtailment of Muslim civil liberties, according to research quoted by CAIR and Cornell University (2011), but that may be because 60% of Americans have never met a Muslim (Care2Causes Editors). In this vacuum of experience, people tend to buy in to what authoritative figures and organizations purport, and it is exactly those well financed, highly organized entities who have been so deviously deceptive and influential that anti-shariah laws exist in 23 states. This is laughable, as shariah has never posed any threat to civil law, and even in Islamic societies, it is civil law that prevails.

To counter the supposed threat and hopefully put to rest the allegation that “to be a good Muslim, you have to hate,” I encourage foremost that critics actually read and study the Holy Qur’an. Be mindful that the original is in Arabic, a language still extant and very rich in meaning; but since most Americans are not versed in any foreign language, they need to rely on translations. Not all translations are necessarily true too, as there are those with malevolent intentions. My best advice is to use several, and preferably ones who have translated and given some interpretive footnotes (tafseer) by a Muslim. There have been several Islamophobes who take verses out of context and fail to relate the relevant circumstances which transpired at the time of some of the revelations.

To clarify, the Holy Qur’an is originally a series, not chronologically arranged, of recitations that were transmuted into a corpus. The verses often came to address specific events that gave guidance to the recipients at that time, around 1400 years ago. However, much of the guidance is still relevant today to those seeking and choosing to follow, and anyone who believes can be considered a Muslim. It is not based on race, nationality, just acceptance that God is god, and that Mohammad is a prophet of God, as was Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Lot, and many others, including Adam.

Muslims have, like most groups, some virtuous members and some who give a bad image due to misdeeds and variances in interpretations. That can be said for many other religious, political, and ethnic members, but Islam purports noble values that are in alignment with the upbringing I always had as an American. These held the importance of respect for parents and authority, honesty, cleanliness, hard work, charity, scholarship, family obligations and neighborliness, as well as honor and humility before God and man. Sadly, our country is losing the preservation and recognition of the importance of these attributes, but there is still hope. I’m pleased to note that my sons’ high school advocates the motto: Respect, Responsibility, and Engagement. This overarching theme encourages them to make the best of the education and opportunities for growth offered. Traditionally, Muslims have held values in high esteem, similar to values we in America have assimilated from democracy and the concept of a republic. The lack of democracy in Muslim lands today is derived from colonialism, but as we see from the Arab Spring, times are changing.

John W. Kiser immortalized and shared the rich history of Emir Abd el-Kader, who has a town named in Iowa in respect for him http://www.truejihad.com/. I just love what one student wrote after reading Kiser’s book, “Abdelkader’s life embodied the words of the Qur’an 5:7, ‘Let not your hatred of other men turn you away from Justice. Be just…that is closer to piety.’ — Madi Johansen, Decorah Iowa.” There are many families in Iowa who have long standing roots in America, and they are Muslim of Arab descent. There is also evidence that some African Americans who were brought to this land as slaves were Muslim and forcibly made to adopt Christianity in order to live.

The current issue of Islamic Horizons features “What Happened to Islamophobia” by Meha Ahmad that cites that Muslims want just what every other American wants. What was interesting was what was NOT chosen as high priorities for Muslim Americans, namely Islamophobia. It wasn’t even on the list, but Foreign policy was #6 and Religious freedom was #9. Immigration reform, economy, and the environment were priorities, and these are similar areas of concern for Latinos and other ethnic groups as well. Americans stand united on many issues, but these do nothing for the agenda of the Islamophobes. Their power comes from divisiveness, the trumping up of a fabricated threat. It serves a purpose to help close ranks and give status to those who want to keep Muslims from becoming enfranchised, trusted, and becoming a force to influence just regard for those everyday folks.

The wool has been pulled over the eyes of many people, and they have no way of knowing anything different until more Americans and Muslim Americans become better educated, more willing to open up to participate and work together within our society, and to simply give more effort to correct misconceptions gently, patiently, and consistently.

Shareef and Chauvet offered the following resources which you may find useful:

A. History of Muslim-Christian Encounters.

1. Geaves, R., Gabriel, T., Haddad, Y. and Smith, J. (eds.) Islam and the West Post 9/11. : Ashgate, 2004.
2. Haddad, Y., Smith, J. I., and Moore, K. (eds.) Muslim Women in America, Gender, Islam, and Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
3. Haddad, Y. and Haddad, W. Z. (eds.) Christian-Muslim Encounters. Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1995.
4. Watt, W. M. Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions. London: Routledge, 1991.
5. Watt, W. M. The Majesty That Was Islam: The Islamic World, 661-1100. New York: Praeger, 1974.
6. Esposito, J. L. The Islamic World: Past and Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

B. Understanding Islamophobia.

1. Abrahamian, E. (2003). The US media, Huntington and September 11. Third World Quarterly, Vol. 24, (3), 529-544.
2. Esposito, J. & Kalin, I. (2011), Islamophobia: The challenge of pluralism in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press.
3. Al-Saji, A. (2010). The radicalization of Muslim veils: A philosophical analysis. Philosophy of Social Criticism, 36 (8) 875-902.
4. Cole, M. Maisuria, A. (2007). ‘Shut the f***up’, ‘you have no rights here’: Critical race theory and racialisation in post-7/7 racist Britain. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies. 5 (1).
5. Dossa, S. (2008). Lethal Muslims: White-trashing Islam and the Arabs. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. 28(2), 225-236.
6. Elgamri, E. (2008) Islam in the British broadsheets: How historically-conditioned Orientalist discourses inform representations of Islam as a militant monolithic entity. Reading, UK: Ithaca Press.
7. Fernandez, S. (2009). The crusade over the bodies of women. Patterns of Prejudice, 4(3) 269-286.
8. Ho, C. (2007). Muslim women’s new defenders: Women’s rights, nationalism and Islamophobia in contemporary Australia. Women’s Studies International Forum, 30, 290-298.
9. Razack, S. (2005). Geopolitics, culture clash, and gender after September 11. Social Justice, 32 (4). 11-31.
10. Brinson, M. E. (2010). Muslims in the media: Social and identity consequences for Muslims in America. (Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Doctoral Dissertations and Theses. (3427827).
11. Council for American Islamic Relation (CAIR): http://www.cair.com/AmericanMuslims/ReportsandSurveys.aspx

C. Interventions Against Islamophobia.

1. Jackson, E. J. (2009). Teaching about controversial groups in public schools: Critical multiculturalism and the case of Muslims since September 11. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertation and Theses. (3392076).
2. Jackson, L. (2010). “Images of Islam in US media and their educational implications” Educational Studies, 46, 3-24.
3. Phelps, S. (2010) Critical literacy: Using nonfiction to learn about Islam. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(3), 190-198.
4. Niyozov, S. (2010). Teachers and teaching Islam and Muslims in pluralistic societies: Claims, misunderstandings, and responses. Int. Migration & Integration, 11, 23-40.

D. General Interest.

1. Shaheen, J. G., and Greider, W. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001.
2. Gottschalk, P., and Greenberg, G. Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008.
3. Herman, E. S., and Chomsky, N. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books, 2002.
4. Kincheloe, J. L., Steinberg, S. R., and Stonebanks, C. D. Teaching against Islamophobia. New York: Peter Lang, 2010.
5. Esposito, J. L., and Mogahed, D. Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2007.

Some additional titles (that are on my “to read” list), which you may wish to check out are:

1. Shryock, A. Islamophobia/Islamophilia: Beyond the politics of enemy and friend. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010.

2. Lean, N. The Islamophobia Industry: How the right manufactures fear of Muslims. London, UK: Pluto Press, 2012.

3. Sheikh, Z. U. Islam: Silencing the Critics: A candid analysis of the most discussed faith in today’s world. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.

As Education is the key to understanding, it is also the means to thwart ignorance and hatred. Please visit my website at Genius School to learn more about how I may serve your needs. Your comments, sharing, and feedback are always welcome.

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