Ugly Islamophobia

Two stories in the news show the worst of American intolerance and ignorance of other people.   One is the opposition to Muslim mosque and outreach center being built a few blocks from the site of  9-11’s “ground zero.”   The other is a bizarre tea party protest against the Six Flags amusement park company for having a “Muslim family day.”   To the extent these bigots make the international news, the reputation of the United States is further sullied by those who understand neither their country nor the world today.

The Muslim mosque and community center is designed to help improve relations between the various communities.   It is dedicated to helping the growing American Muslim community connect with Christian, Jewish and western enlightenment agnostics/atheists, as well as to educate Americans about what mainstream Islam is all about.

The idea that it should not be built because it would cause “pain” to the victims of 9-11 is like saying a church should not go up near a school after all the pedophilia cases recently.    Pedophilia by Catholic priests is not about Christianity, it’s about those priests and the reaction of the Church.   9-11 was not about Islam — most Muslims did not believe the act could have been done by members of the Islamic community because terrorism is so contrary to the teachings of Muhammad.    9-11 was about a radical extremist fringe.  The Muslim community center should be embraced as a way to signal to and connect with that vast majority of Muslims who reject violence and terrorism and want to be part of a vibrant American culture.   We should embrace it as recognition that the 9-11 perpetrators were not acting for Islam, and in fact damaging the religion through their heinous deeds.

To make matters worse, the Jewish Defense League came out (in a rather nuanced way) in support of the bigots!   I realize that Israel is dealing with some extremist groups and is disliked by the Muslim world, but by  justifying the kind of bigotry that Jews have so often endured, the JDL looks hypocritical and disingenuous.   They should also have taken the stance that this isn’t about religion, it’s about evil extremism.   The mosque/Community Center is designed to be the antithesis of that extremism.   It should be welcomed, it should be a partner.

The tea party opposition to a Muslim family day is even more disgusting.  Six Flags has routinely been offering this every year at the Eid (the end of Ramadan) as a way to help Muslims celebrate.   This is a time for community gathering, and that’s often difficult for Muslims who live alongside others of different faiths.   This is a place to come together.  It was coordinated originally by a Muslim who later died on 9-11 in the terror attack.

Why would the tea party now come out against this?   It could be that given the anti-Islamic rants against the New York City Community Center, they’re just finding Islamophobia intoxicating.   It also could be that the date this year — September 12th — is close to the 9th anniversary of the terror attacks.   The timing is not due to that, however, but the changing time of Ramadan (Islam runs on a lunar calendar, so the years are shorter, meaning holidays take place at different times of the year according to the western solar calendar).

This tea party trash, er web site not only totally lies about what the Koran teaches (it takes orders by Muhammad to his small community living in Medina after the Quarysh of Mecca attacked them wanting to wipe them out — things like ‘lie if you are outnumbered’ or ‘kill the polytheists’ — and pretends they are universal orders), but has outlandish claims like “they are not like us,” “they are not American,” and, recognizing that this does sound like a call to ignore the first amendment, claims Islam isn’t even a real religion!   They forget that Muhammad said there should be no coercion in religion, that no Muslim should fight someone who does not want to fight, or that Christians and Jews (of whom Muhammad had many friends) should be treated with respect.

In short, that “tea party patriot” website sounds more like something you’d find from Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s — lies so obvious and obscene that it’s amazing people fall for them.

This has got to stop.   It makes the US look like a bunch of ignorant bigots to the rest of the world, and feeds an irrational fear.   Al qaeda and Islamic extremists aren’t even able to win over people in the Arab world.   They don’t want the bizarre spartan theology of Bin Laden, they want the benefits of modernism and openness.  They understand Islam as a religion of submission and peace, not conquest and terror.  Why should we push them away, the only one benefiting from the tea party rhetoric is Bin Laden and those of his ilk.

Some tea partiers, being very conservative Christians, might believe that God wants them to wipe out the infidel Muslims as a false religion.  Therefore, the idea of co-existence and tolerance is anathema — in their religious belief system, Islam is evil.   More bluntly, they are Christian versions of Bin Laden, willing to support wars that kill numerous civilians to try to, as Ann Coulter put it “conquer and Christianize them.”   But that belief is a delusion.  Not only has Iraq and Afghanistan proven  that beyond our capacity, but Islam as a great world religion is not going to go away.

Wouldn’t be better to help convince Muslims that the West can learn to understand and cooperate with them, respecting their differences while asking them to respect ours?   Aren’t those the principles upon which our country was founded. The Nazis called Jews and those who disagreed with Nazi ideas “un-German,” and the tea party website now says that Muslim citizens aren’t “real Americans.”   Hopefully saner voices in the tea party movement — those wanting smaller government and worried about debt — will stand up and do their movement a big favor and not only reject the bigotry of these shrill Islamophobes, but even embrace Muslim family day at Six Flags and the Mosque/Community Center in New York.

In short, the tea party says it wants to embrace the principles upon which this country was founded.  I call on them to do, and renounce those within their movement who want to embrace the principles upon which the Third Reich was founded.

UPDATE: To add to the insanity, a Florida church looks even more Nazi like with a “burn the Koran” day scheduled for 9-11.   They have been condemned by the Association of Evangelicals and Florida is looking into their tax exempt status.  But still, this is a sign of unhinged ignorant fear.

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  1. #1 by Lee on August 1, 2010 - 15:35

    Well said ! I have been shocked and saddened at the number of “editorials” I have read against the mosque being built. Education and understanding is the key to preventing extremism IMO. Sadly I have come to fear the majority of folks in the US don’t just look like irrational bigots, but we ARE irrantional bigots. Sigh. Of course at least I live in a country where it is safe to voice that opinion (I think!)

  2. #2 by renaissanceguy on August 3, 2010 - 18:31

    I hate to argue about words, but who in the world came up with Islamophobia? It would seem to mean an irrational fear of Islam. Do you really think that there are people running around having panic attacks involving the religion of Islam?

    I suppose it is like homophobia, which is another stupid word. It would seem to mean an irrational fear of things that are the same.

    Having gotten that off my chest. . .

    I think that you might be just a bit naive when it comes to the motives of the people builing this Isalmic center. You cannot simply go by what people say, whether they are Muslim imams, Catholic priests, or Jewish rabbis. Of course, they are going to say that their purpose is to improve relations.

    So far, it’s not working very well. They probably ought to cancel their plans, simply because it seems to be harming relations between them and other people in the community pretty badly. You cannot improve relations by angering and alienating people.

    Maybe a sincere memorial to the victims–with a clear message that terrorist acts are evil–would have been a more apporpirate thing to build.

    Your analogy about the church and the school does not seem apt to me. There is a difference between a priest molesting children in contradiction to his religious teachings and a group of Muslims destroying a building in compliance with their religion and in obedience to their imams. Catholic priests have not molested children in the name of Christianity or in the name of God or to obey the bishops.

    It’s also different to talk about having a church near a school where no molestation occurred, and putting a mosque just around the corner from the site where hundreds of people were killed.

    In addition, if a Catholic priest were pushing to have his church built next to a school, it would be apporpriate for people to be a bit suspicious, and to want to have the priest investigated. I know that as a parent, I would feel that way, whether it is fair or rational or not.

    Speaking of rationality, fear is not irrataional when there is cause for it. It’s like those cheesy movies in which someone is being harrassed and threatened but nobody believes them. People tell them that they are just paranoid. But then they are found half dead somewhere, and people finally realize that it wasn’t paranoia after all. In Manhattan, it is not paranoia to think that Muslim people want to attack Americans. It is a fact. The poeple are not irrational or crazy; in fact I would call it irrational and crazy to pretend that 9/11 and hundreds of other Islamic terrorist attacks have not occurred.

    Are you aware that Feisal Abdul Rauf said that the United States was an accomplice in the 9/11 attacks? Perhaps that doesn’t bother you, but it bothers me. Out of one side of his mouth he repudiated the attacks, and out of the other side of his mouth he partly blamed the country that was attacked. I would not want such a person building anything in my neighborhood, much less in the very neighborhood where the attacks took place.

    You wrote: “They should also have taken the stance that this isn’t about religion, it’s about evil extremism.” Don’t you realize that the evil extremism is about religion? The extremists say so. Why don’t you believe them? Why do they say that they are fighting a holy war, but you say, basically, “No, they are not”? You realize, I am sure, that Muslim clerics are preaching these things, and most of the terrorists feel that they are doing it with the blessing of their religious leaders.

    Are you aware that at least three prominent Muslims oppose the building of the Islamic center there? Are they Islamophobic? Are they bigots? The three I refer to are Suleiman Schwartz, Zudhi Jasser, and Hossein Komaly.

    —–

    I don’t care one whit about a Muslim family day at an amusement park. The people who oppose it are just being idiotic.

    • #3 by Scott Erb on August 3, 2010 - 18:50

      I disagree with you on this, I think trying to connect 9-11 to all of Islam is wrong and the Islamic center should be welcomed with open arms. Moreover I think the response of many Americans who seem to think Islam is some kind of evil extremist religion hurts the US in our foreign policy pursuits by making us seem like an ignorant and intolerant people. At this point in time to back down and give into what I see as bigotry would be a shame. Christianity has as much evil and extremism in its baggage as Islam, and the West has an even more violent past than the Islamic world.

      Also, I think the word “phobic” is correct. It is a very irrational fear. It is irrational to take a very small number of terrorist incidents and, compared to 1.5 billion Muslims, fear Muslims and Islam. It is far more rational to fear riding in a car — you get the deaths of 9-11 in one month. Terrorism is exceedingly rare.

      I think its time for Americans to say “With 1.5 billion Muslims, most of them peaceful, faithful and tolerant, it is wrong for us to do things that smear the faith because of the actions of a very tiny part of that religion (and I’d argue their actions are more political anyway). Let’s recognize that the Islamic world is rejecting al qaeda messages almost completely, and help those who want a peaceful and positive relations between Muslims and westerners achieve their goal.

  3. #4 by len on September 3, 2010 - 21:50

    Hi Scott,
    This is not mine, but makes me think.

    Islamization occurs when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate for their so-called ‘religious rights.’
    When politically correct and culturally diverse societies agree to ‘the reasonable’ Muslim demands for their ‘religious rights,’ they also get the other components under the table. Here’s how it works (percentages source CIA: The World Fact Book (2007)).

    As long as the Muslim population remains around 1% of any given country they will be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to anyone. In fact, they may be featured in articles and films, stereotyped for their colorful uniqueness:

    United States — Muslim 1.0%
    Australia — Muslim 1.5%
    Canada — Muslim 1.9%
    China — Muslim 1%-2%
    Italy — Muslim 1.5%
    Norway — Muslim 1.8%

    At 2% and 3% they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs:

    Denmark — Muslim 2%
    Germany — Muslim 3.7%
    United Kingdom — Muslim 2.7%
    Spain — Muslim 4%
    Thailand — Muslim 4.6%

    From 5% on they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population.
    They will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature it on their shelves — along with threats for failure to comply. ( United States ).

    France — Muslim 8%
    Philippines — Muslim 5%
    Sweden — Muslim 5%
    Switzerland — Muslim 4.3%
    The Netherlands — Muslim 5.5%
    Trinidad &Tobago — Muslim 5.8%

    At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islam is to convert the world & to establish Sharia law over the entire world.
    When Muslims reach 10% of the population, they will increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions ( Paris –car-burnings). Any non-Muslim action that offends Islam will result in uprisings and threats ( Amsterdam – Mohammed cartoons).

    Guyana — Muslim 10%
    India — Muslim 13.4%
    Israel — Muslim 16%
    Kenya — Muslim 10%
    Russia — Muslim 10-15%

    After reaching 20% expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings and church and synagogue burning:
    Ethiopia — Muslim 32.8%

    At 40% you will find widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks and ongoing militia warfare:

    Bosnia — Muslim 40%
    Chad — Muslim 53.1%
    Lebanon — Muslim 59.7%

    From 60% you may expect unfettered persecution of non-believers and other religions, sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels:

    Albania — Muslim 70%
    Malaysia — Muslim 60.4%
    Qatar — Muslim 77.5%
    Sudan — Muslim 70%

    After 80% expect State run ethnic cleansing and genocide:

    Bangladesh — Muslim 83%
    Egypt — Muslim 90%
    Gaza — Muslim 98.7%
    Indonesia — Muslim 86.1%
    Iran — Muslim 98%
    Iraq — Muslim 97%
    Jordan — Muslim 92%
    Morocco — Muslim 98.7%
    Pakistan — Muslim 97%
    Palestine — Muslim 99%
    Syria — Muslim 90%
    Tajikistan — Muslim 90%
    Turkey — Muslim 99.8%
    United Arab Emirates — Muslim 96%

    100% will usher in the peace of ‘Dar-es-Salaam’ — the Islamic House of Peace — there’s (supposed) to be peace because everybody is a Muslim: we know however that this isnt true is it…?

    • #5 by Scott Erb on September 4, 2010 - 01:01

      You are falsely attributing causality to religion rather than politics. Islam as a religion was at one point far more tolerant and open to science and rational thought than the Christian world at the time. In fact, the change in theology that embraced Aristotle and started the move to the enlightenment came from Thomas Aquinas, who studied Muslim rationalists Avicenna and Averroes. After attacks from the Christian crusaders (who, when they took Jerusalem demanded Muslims ‘convert or die’ — something not demanded by the Muslims when they took the city back, since Muhammad commanded respect for other ‘people of the book’) and Asian hordes, a military dictatorship took over, which became the Ottoman Empire.

      The Ottomans wanted to use religion to justify their control, and Islamic rationalism was rejected in favor of a very conservative and reactionary interpretation of the Koran. Before that the West was behind Islam in terms of civilization peace and prosperity, but by the 1600s things turned around.

      Now the Islamic world has to respond to demands of modernization, and the minority extremists are really those who don’t want change — and they are being rejected by fellow Muslims who want change (including political change in their own countries). The problems you cite come from post-colonialism in many cases — and in Bosnia and the Balkans it’s the Christian Orthodox Serbs who caused most of the problems — or the impact of 600 years of Ottoman tyranny and misrule. Overcoming that requires both political change (and oil corruption makes that hard), and reclaiming the spirit of pre-Ottoman Islamic rationalism.

      Beyond that, I don’t think we have a choice. Globalization means populations will mix, and we have to find a way to overcome the differences and prevent the extremists from making this a battle of civilizations. That’s why the center in New York is potentially important, it can help create a bridge of understanding.

      Islam gave the West a gift with information from Spain that helped spur on the Italian renaissance, and Islamic rationalism, which lead Aquinas to bring into the West the idea of science and rational thought. Then Islam had tragedy when their rationalist era passed into darkness thanks to dictatorship. Now we can return the favor and help create a path for change into a modern form of Islam that has the focus on peace, no compulsion of religion, and no war if the opponent does not want to fight, and tolerance of other faiths that Muhammad demanded.

      Christianity has been horribly abused by extremists who have committed genocides and atrocities, so has Islam. And there are fascistic forms of Islam being pushed out there, and these are dangerous. I do think we have to stand up for our values as a plural society and not give in to demands for us to change. I think we shouldn’t be afraid of shows that portray Muhammad or do things that arouse anger of extremists. And we should prosecute and go after those extremists. But we can’t give them the privilege of being seen as what Islam is all about, we can’t let them cause us to turn against average Muslims who thought 9-11 was un-Islamic.

      I really think globalization means there will be more population shifts, weaker borders and perhaps a diffusion of sovereignty. I’m not saying this should happen, just that the trends point that way. Unless we can find a way to help Islam move back into rationalism and modernize, things will be more dangerous.

  4. #6 by len on September 3, 2010 - 22:43

    After I posted the comment on your blog I went on reading some news and saw an article on CBN.com website “‘Islamization’ of Paris a Warning to the West”. Please check it out. What are your thoughts? What if this comes to your streets in Farmington?

    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2010/August/Islamization-of-Paris-a-Warning-to-the-West/

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