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.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLATE

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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 

Preaching hatred of Islam does not help Christians

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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.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

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.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Being Muslim on Campus

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In this Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 photo, people walk on the campus of Brooklyn College in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Investigators have been infiltrating Muslim student groups at Brooklyn College and other schools in the city, monitoring their Internet activity and placing undercover agents in their ranks, police documents obtained by The Associated Press show. Legal experts say the operation may have broken a 19-year-old pact with the colleges and violated U.S. privacy laws, jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal research money and student aid. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

In the wake of terrorism, the burdens of Islamophobia fall especially hard on students.

Even before the Paris Attacks, Muslims on American college campuses were often the targets of hatred or violence. In November, Virginia Tech responded to a threat that claimed “I will kill all Muslims,” and Islamophobic posters were hung at American University. And it’s only gotten worse since.

“People are a little more careful traveling alone, going out at night, walking to their cars,” Adeel Zeb, the Muslim Chaplain and director of Muslim life at Duke University, told me. And that reality plays an important role in the everyday lives of students.

Across the country right now, students are walking out of classes, demanding administrators’ resignations, and staging protests to draw attention to prejudice on campus—and to press for greater inclusion. Most of their focus, though, has been on race. Where does pushback against Islamophobia fit in?

Many Americans, including some presidential candidates, draw little distinction between the violent ideologies of extremist groups and mainstream Islam. As a result, there is often an anti-Muslim backlash in the wake of attacks, despite overwhelming condemnation of terrorism and the use of the Quran to justify mass murder among practicing Muslims. As my colleague Conor Friedersdorf points out:

Hate crimes against American Muslims spiked tremendously after 9/11. Hate crimes against Sikhs increased too. In Britain, hate crimessoared after the London bombing. And after the attack on Charlie Hebdo earlier this year, The Independent reported that “twenty-six mosques around France have been subject to attack by firebombs, gunfire, pig heads, and grenades as Muslims are targeted with violence.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC