Extremists have not only hijacked Islam and its symbols, but also American sensibility

Activists Demonstrate Against Recent Rhetoric Against Muslims And Refugees Near Trump Tower

Six-year-old Mohammad says “Allah” and “boom”. The substitute teacher calls the police who question the child and then launch a terrorism investigation against the family. Child protection services also intervene for good measure.

This sounds like a sick joke on Saturday Night Live. Except it is not. This is exactly what happened in the Texan city of Pearland, about 20 miles south of Houston, last November.

Now anti-Islam attitudes are being normalised

The parents of Mohammad Suleiman told Fox 26 that he could not have uttered these words because “he doesn’t speak at all” and has “the mental capacity of a one-year-old”. He was born with Down’s Syndrome.

Fear of Islamic symbols

The rash phone call turned the family’s life upside down. We will never understand the full impact of the trauma on the child or family. Suleiman’s father said: “They claim that he’s a terrorist. This is so stupid, this is discrimination. It’s not implied discrimination, it’s 100 percent discrimination.”

Either the teacher was a bigot and acted on his bias or he was genuinely afraid and freaked out. Both scenarios don’t bode well.

Islamophobia and the fear of Islamic symbols and phrases has now become as American as apple pie. It is so insidious that the best defence Suleiman’s father could come up with was that his son does not even speak.

What if he did say those words? Would a six-year-old with a mental disability saying “Allah” and “boom” be enough to call the police? Taking it seriously and thoroughly vetting it would be understandable (and necessary), but escalating it to a full police response and investigation reveals how entrenched fear of Islam and Muslims is in American culture. It may be latent, but it’s there for sure.

Years ago, when a woman said she did not trust Obama because he was a Muslim, senator John McCain was praised when he responded, “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man…” When the correct answer, as General Colin Powell pointed out, should have been, so what if he was? That was well before there was a US president re-tweeting hate videos about Muslims.

Now anti-Islam attitudes are being normalised.

Unfortunately, some of those opposed to Muslim extremists are driven by ignorance or in some cases even prejudice and bigotry which extends to all Muslims

Yes, “Allahu Akbar” is what New York terrorist Sayfullo Saipov reportedly uttered after ploughing down innocents on the streets of New York a couple of months ago. Many other killers have done the same.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE

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Trump’s new tune on Islam unconvincing, experts in Mideast say

usa-trump-saudi(CNN) President Donald Trump’s speech Sunday will likely be met with skepticism and frustration in the Muslim world, according to experts in the Middle East who said his sudden shift in tone on Islam was unconvincing.

Trump gave his speech in Saudi Arabia, where he ditched his hard-line rhetoric from the 2016 election campaign and instead called Islam “one of the world’s great faiths.”
Here’s what experts in three Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East thought of the speech.
 Jordan
Former Jordanian Justice Minister Ibrahim Aljazy said Trump’s shift in tone towards Muslims was notable.
Trump to Muslim world: Drive out terrorists
But Aljazy said that Jordanians and others in the Muslim world had hoped Trump would deliver clearer answers on American policy in the region.
“I would not call it a constructive tone since that people in the region, particularly Jordanians, are looking for a more clear approach to the Israeli policies and an end to settlements, which may pave the way for a true two-state solution and end of occupation,” he said.
“Referencing ‘Islamic’ terrorist organizations only will not be appreciated by the vast majority of people in the region when other forces are carrying out acts of aggression, especially as Arabs and Muslims are the prime victims of these organizations,” he said.
Trump also failed to acknowledge the importance of democracy and the rule of law in putting an end to the root causes of terrorism, Aljazy said.

It’s Not Enough to Dismiss Islamophobia

lead_960A new book argues that conversations about Muslims in America and Europe are about more than rights and freedoms.

Controversies over Islam take somewhat different shapes in Europe and the United States. While France attempts to ban  burkinis, or full-body bathing suits worn by some Muslim women, U.S. state legislatures attempt to ban the use of sharia law in American courts.

And yet, argues Nadia Marzouki in her new book, Islam: An American Religion, anti-Islam arguments in the West have become “surprisingly standardized.” It’s “no longer possible to discuss Islam’s place in Western societies without systematically invoking a series of normative oppositions: good/bad, moderate/radical, faith/law, West/Muslim, modernity/tradition, and so on,” she writes. “For a majority of Americans and Europeans, Islam remains an opaque object that one is unable to think of in any way other than as a problem, threat, or retrograde legal code.”

 

It’s not enough to understand this simply as Islamophobia, argues Marzouki, who is a research fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. She believes Islam has become a cipher in Western societies for the tough questions of secular, liberal democracies: how much to champion liberty over equality, for example, and whether legal rights should entitle Muslims to fully express their faith in public. As much as Europe and the U.S. have different histories and legal traditions, she claims, anti-Muslim groups in both places share their discomfort with these challenges.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy

09thu2web-master675.jpgIs President Trump trying to make enemies of the entire Muslim world? That could well happen if he follows up his primitive ban on refugees and visa holders from seven Muslim nations with an order designating the Muslim Brotherhood — perhaps the most influential Islamist group in the Middle East — as a terrorist organization.

Such an order, now under consideration, would be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam. It appears to be part of a mission by the president and his closest advisers to heighten fears by promoting a dangerously exaggerated vision of an America under siege by what they call radical Islam.

The struggle against extremism is complex, and solutions must be tailored both to the facts and to an understanding of the likely consequences. Since 1997, the secretary of state has had the power to designate groups as foreign terrorist organizations, thus subjecting them, as well as people and businesses who deal with them, to sanctions, like freezing their assets. President Barack Obama resisted adding the Brotherhood to that list.

There are good reasons that the Brotherhood, with millions of members, doesn’t merit the terrorist designation. Rather than a single organization, it is a collection of groups and movements that can vary widely from country to country. While the Brotherhood calls for a society governed by Islamic law, it renounced violence decades ago, has supported elections and has become a political and social organization. Its branches often have tenuous connections to the original movement founded in Egypt in 1928.

Under State Department guidelines, the “terrorist” designation is intended to punish groups that carry out terrorist attacks. There’s no question that some such groups have grown out of the Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, the adversary of Israel, which the United States named a terrorist organization in 1997. Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has worked to crush the Brotherhood in his country since he overthrew his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, in 2013. But there is no evidence that senior Brotherhood leaders ordered any violence or carried out any of the recent major terrorist attacks in Egypt, according to the analysts Michele Dunne and Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making

02worldview-3-master768WASHINGTON — It was at a campaign rally in August that President Trump most fully unveiled the dark vision of an America under siege by “radical Islam” that is now radically reshaping the policies of the United States.

On a stage lined with American flags in Youngstown, Ohio, Mr. Trump, who months before had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, argued that the United States faced a threat on par with the greatest evils of the 20th century. The Islamic State was brutalizing the Middle East, and Muslim immigrants in the West were killing innocents at nightclubs, offices and churches, he said. Extreme measures were needed.

“The hateful ideology of radical Islam,” he told supporters, must not be “allowed to reside or spread within our own communities.”

Mr. Trump was echoing a strain of anti-Islamic theorizing familiar to anyone who has been immersed in security and counterterrorism debates over the last 20 years. He has embraced a deeply suspicious view of Islam that several of his aides have promoted, notably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist.

This worldview borrows from the “clash of civilizations” thesis of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, and combines straightforward warnings about extremist violence with broad-brush critiques of Islam. It sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

How Trump changed Americans’ view of Islam – for the better

imrsPresident Trump is expected to announce a ban on Muslim immigrants into the United States. However, polls conducted in the last year show that, despite his electoral success, Trump’s views on Islam and Muslims do not have wide support among the American public.

Americans’ opposition to accepting refugees from Middle East conflicts have been highly exaggerated. As I noted last June, “even in the middle of a U.S. presidential campaign that has been breathtaking in its exaggerations and racism, with devastating terrorism providing fuel, 59 percent of Americans say they are ready to accept Middle East conflict refugees” assuming they are screened for security. As usual, Americans were deeply divided along partisan lines on this issue.

Four polls during the election year revealed extraordinary, progressive and unexpected shifts that cannot be explained by events during that year. Attitudes toward “Muslim people” became progressively more favorable from 53 percent in November 2015 to 70 percent in October 2016.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

What’s Missing in Western Classes About Islam

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There has been much misinformation about Islam. Reports in Western media tend to perpetuate stereotypes that Islam is a violent religion and Muslim women are oppressed.

Popular films like American Sniper reduce places like Iraq to dusty war zones, devoid of any culture or history. Fears and anxiety manifest themselves in Islamophobic actions such as burning mosques or even attacking people physically.

At the heart of such fear is ignorance. A December 2015 poll found that a majority of Americans (52 percent) do not understand Islam. In this same poll, 36 percent also said that they wanted to know more about the religion. Interestingly, those under 30 years were 46 percent more likely to have a favorable view of Islam.

These statistics highlight an opportunity for educators. As a scholar of Islamic art and architecture, I am aware that, for the past 20 years, educators have been trying to improve the teaching of Islam – both in high school and college history courses.

The problem, however, is that the teaching of Islam has been limited to its religious practice. Its impact on the arts and culture, particularly in the United States, is seldom discussed.

What teaching of Islam misses

In high school history books, there is little mention of the intertwined histories of Europe, Asia, and Africa in the middle ages and the Renaissance. There is even less mention of the flowering of art, literature, and architecture during this time.