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.



Every Time I Hear a Mass Shooter Wasn’t Muslim, I Feel Relief

171004_POL_Relief-ShooterNotMuslim.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2The first thing I felt Monday morning was grief. The slow trickle of news about another mass shooting can feel like just the next chapter in a long national assault on helpless victims, but it’s important we focus our energy on the victims whose experience in Las Vegas on Sunday night is new. Right now, I’m thinking about them and everyone else who has experienced this horror. My heart is broken.

The second thing I felt Monday was relief. That’s what I always feel when I learn a mass shooter wasn’t Muslim.

I wish, like many other Muslims I know, that my mind didn’t immediately arrive at “Oh God, was it a Muslim terrorist?” That’s a terrible way to think. But I don’t just feel that way because I don’t want my community to be forced to confront false associations. I’ve learned Americans have more pointed, sobering conversations about the root causes of this violence when they’re forced to confront a perpetrator they can’t so easily separate from themselves.

I know what will happen as soon as I hear a Muslim-sounding name connected to a shooting on the news. There’s question of accountability: Why didn’t “moderate Muslims” do more to stop it? What could I have done in New York to stop the Muslim shooter in Florida? Or California? If the shooter was born in America, the question then turns to the parents: Should they ever have been allowed to come here?

That’s how it went down after Omar Mateen was identified as the shooter in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in June 2016, until Sunday the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Within hours, reports chased down his immigration status and his connections with foreign terror groups, and a New York Times writer declared it the worst act of terrorism on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. By the following Monday, then-candidate Donald Trump had also seized on Mateen’s religion and national origin, bragging on Twitter “for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” He added, in an angry, rambling speech, “The only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here.”


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.



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.



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.



Preaching hatred of Islam does not help Christians


Last week, a coalition of mostly far-right Christian organisations hosted a conference in Washington that claimed to be defending persecuted minorities in the Middle East. Given the very real threat facing vulnerable ancient religious communities at the hands of barbarous groups such as ISIL, one might be inclined to commend the organisers. However, an examination of the groups involved and the list of invited speakers shows that the conference’s purposes appear to be dangerously provocative.

Among the featured speakers are a handful of notorious Islamophobes and a strange collection of individuals who claim to have been “radical Muslims” of one stripe or another, all of whom say they have now converted to Christianity and have come forward to tell their conversion stories.

One of the listed headliners was Frank Gaffney who heads an organisation that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) identifies as an “anti-Muslim hate group”. Mr Gaffney is one of the main propagators of the notion that president Barack Obama “may be a Muslim” and that a Hillary Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, is a secret operative of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another speaker representing an SPLC-listed hate group is retired general William Boykin, a Bush-era Pentagon official who gained notoriety when it was revealed that he had repeatedly compared the Iraq war to the Crusades, boasting that the US/Christian side was bound to win because “our God is bigger than theirs”. Gen Boykin has also said that “Islam is evil” and should not be protected by the First Amendment.

Among the others scheduled to address the event were a number of evangelical preachers, Donald Trump supporters, and Christian missionaries devoted to converting Muslims.

The organisers invited some converts to share their stories. One of them, Tass Saada, claims to have been a PLO sniper until he saw the light and converted to Christianity. He founded the Hope for Ishmael group to encourage other Muslims to convert. Another speaker, Daniel Shayesteh, is an Iranian American who claims to have been an Islamic extremist at the age of 9. He became a Christian and founded the group Exodus from Darkness.

It was especially troubling that a number of conservative Republican Members of Congress and State Department officials were scheduled.



Inshallah Is Good for Everyone

inshallahA COLLEGE student was recently escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight after a fellow passenger said she heard him making comments in Arabic that were “potentially threatening.”

In a statement, Southwest Airlines said that the student, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, who came to the United States as a refugee from Iraq, was removed for the “content of the passenger’s conversation” and not his language choice.

Mr. Makhzoomi wasn’t ranting about death, terror, Trump or artisanal mayonnaise — any of which might warrant such a drastic response.

No. What he said on the phone right before the passenger expressed concern, he later explained, was the Arabic phrase “inshallah,” which translates as “God willing.”

This trisyllabic, Semitic weapon of mass destruction is a hallmark of the Arabic vernacular. Some anti-Muslim bigots in recent years have argued Arabic is “the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States,” one that seeks to replace the United States Constitution with a halal cart menu. Most sane individuals, however, believe Arabic is simply a language that millions of people around the world speak.

But now Arabic has become a nightmare that terrorizes passengers at 30,000 feet. In November, two men said they were questioned before boarding a Southwest flight because a few passengers heard them speak Arabic and were afraid to fly with them. Several years ago, six imams were kicked off a plane for what fellow passengers deemed suspicious behavior, including praying in Arabic near the gate.