The baffling argument that has become mainstream under Trump: ‘Islam is not a religion’

EDTLP3CHJII6TFFL2LO2HQG7KIAnxiety and fear were palpable among American Muslims last week after the mass slaughter in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand: Would a violent attacker enter their mosque, too? But even in their moment of vulnerability, one lawmaker insisted Muslims were the “real cause of bloodshed.” Fraser Anning, a senator in Australia, said the core problem was Islam.

“The entire religion of Islam is simply the violent ideology of a 6th-century despot masquerading as a religious leader. … The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith. … It is the religious equivalent of fascism,” he said. “And just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance does not make them blameless.”

For many Americans, Anning’s statement may seem like an outlier — an extreme right-wing sentiment that does not reflect mainstream politics. But it taps into something strategic and concerted, the idea that “Islam is not a religion.” Islam, this idea suggests, is instead a dangerous political ideology, and therefore Muslims have no right to respect, dignity or First Amendment protection for religious liberty.

The argument has been circulating for some time, but it has gained ground in recent years, at least partly because the voices making the argument have a prominent platform in the Trump administration. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn said “Islam is a political ideology” that “hides behind the notion of it being a religion.” Former White House aide Sebastian Gorka and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon have also questioned Islam’s status as a religion. Fred Fleitz, who in 2018 was named chief of staff for President Trump’s National Security Council, has said in the past
that American Muslims are susceptible to a “radical worldview that wants to destroy modern society, create a global caliphate and impose sharia law on everyone on Earth.”

Letter of Recommendation: The Life of Marshall Hodgson

09mag-09lor-t_ca0-master768Viewed in the least charitable terms, academia is a small fraternity of ambitious backbiters engaged in the production of work so dense that only other members of the order can hope to understand it. But some scholars arrive on the scene bearing such a combination of intellect, urgency and charisma that their achievements resonate long after the Festschrift is printed and the memorial lecture empties out.

One of these was Marshall Hodgson, a great American scholar of Islam who died in 1968 while jogging on the University of Chicago campus. He was 46, and he left behind a manuscript that would become a magisterial three-volume book, “The Venture of Islam,” published posthumously through the efforts of his widow and colleagues. Before “The Venture,” there was no English-language textbook, no unified history, about the many linked empires that emerged out of the revelation received by the Prophet Muhammad in 610 A.D.

Before 1957, when Hodgson founded his yearlong course on Islamic civilizations at Chicago, there was no course like it. Islamic studies in America was an outgrowth of European Orientalist thought, which focused on Arabic language and literature and the core Arab lands of Islam. Persianate and Turkic dynasties were considered backwaters: Persians were important for their pre-Islamic achievements, Ottomans for their role in European diplomatic history. Sufism — the vast mystical current of Islam — was a blip in European and American historiography. A roughly 500-year period was glossed as a time of “Oriental decline,” wherein Muslim empires were said to languish under ineffectual despots.


More Than 1,000 Indian Muslim Clerics Sign Fatwa Against ISIS

India Muslim Edict-4

“The acts of the Islamic State are inhuman and un-Islamic.”

The Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) — More than 1,000 Muslim clerics in India have ratified a religious ruling that condemns the Islamic State and calls the extremist group’s actions “un-Islamic,” a top Indian Muslim leader said Wednesday.

Religious leaders from hundreds of Islamic mosques, education institutions and civic groups across India have signed the edict, or fatwa, saying the actions of the Islamic State group went against the basic tenets of Islam.

The edict was issued by a leading Mumbai-based cleric, Mohammed Manzar Hasan Ashrafi Misbahi, and has been signed by the leaders of all the main mosques in India, which has the world’s third-largest Muslim population.

“The acts of the Islamic State are inhuman and un-Islamic,” Misbahi said by phone from Mumbai. “Islam does not allow the killing of even an animal. What the Islamic State is doing is damaging to Islam.”

Misbahi said the fatwa — which is around 1,100 pages and labels the Islamic State group “un-Islamic” — has been sent to the leaders of more than 50 countries, seeking their endorsement.

Muslim clerics across India will speak to their followers after prayers on Friday, explaining the contents of the edict and why it is important to denounce the Islamic State, said Abdul Rehman Anjaria, president of the Islamic Defense Cyber Cell.

Among prominent supporters of the edict are the chief clerics of New Delhi’s iconic Jama Masjid mosque, as well as the leaders of the Muslim shrines of Ajmer Dargah and Nizauddin Aulia in northern India and several Muslim sects.

Anjaria said the Islamic State group was enticing young people to join by using social media for propaganda and giving a false impression of Islam.


Why Christians should want Islam to be taught in schools

islam-in-schoolsA Californian mother’s rant about Islam being taught in schools has gone viral in yet another embarrassing display of the rampant ignorance that plagues so many of our friends across the pond, desperate to protect America’s non-existent Christian heritage.

Tara Cali of Bakersfield, California, posted a photo online of her son’s homework assignment which asked students to name the five pillars of Islam and summarise Islamic beliefs and practices.

“My son will not be a part of this in any sort of way. This is bad teaching material. He will NOT partake. If you have a problem with it, call our lawyer,” Cali wrote over the homework sheet, listing six Bible verses instead.

“How about Christian practices? That sheet has never came home, this year or last! [sic]” she added. Under a QR code that students were invited to scan to hear the call to prayer from a Mosque in Istanbul, Cali simply wrote, “Seriously?”

It’s the kind of response that you’d hope would be laughed at and ignored, but Cali’s Facebook post has been liked 38,000 times, and shared by more than 123,000 people. Some of the comments below accuse the government of brainwashing children and implying that Christianity is being pushed out of schools, while Islam is actively encouraged.


Latest Disputes over Lessons on Islam Show Need to Better Inform Parents

Learning the names of houses of worship

Learning the names of houses of worship

Some Tennessee lawmakers and parents are in a tizzy because they believe seventh-graders are spending too much time learning about Islam as part of social studies.

A Tennessee lawmaker leading the charge has spewed an all-too common refrain, saying the state’s schools were leaning toward indoctrination because they emphasized learning about Islam more than about Christianity. The lawmaker last week upped the ante and proposed a bill prohibiting Tennessee public school courses from including “religious doctrine” until students are at least in 10th grade. What the lawmaker means by religious doctrine is fuzzy. But she’s a part of a statewide movement of parents and groups taking aim at lessons on Islam. A Christian organization joined the fray by submitting a public records request to every school district in the state asking for curriculum that included Islam.

It would be easy for some people to brush this off as anti-Muslim rhetoric, given previous high-profile controversies in Tennessee like nasty opposition to the construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro. But this outcry over instruction about Islam is also brewing in Walton County, Georgia, in a suburban Atlanta school system where some parents objected to simply seeing Islam mentioned in seventh-graders’ homework. And it has happened with variations on the theme in Wellesley, Mass., in suburban Boston; Wichita, Kansas; Tampa, Florida; and Lumberton, Texas. I reported on conflicts in those towns and cities as part of research for a book on schools’ efforts to teach about the world’s religions.

Teaching about religion, and not only Islam, has become an increasingly thorny topic for public schools.

In Wichita, in August 2013, a set of parents and a state lawmaker objected to an elementary school’s bulletin board display because it said, “The Five Pillars of Islam.” Opponents to the bulletin board, set up for fourth-graders studying the spread of Islam, questioned how the school could teach about the five pillars and exclude the sixth, which they claimed was jihad and a Muslim obligation to kill all infidels. Traditionally, Muslims refer to five pillars or five basic obligations of their faith, including daily prayers and fasting on Ramadan. Jihad is not on that list.


The One Dimensional Muslim

killerIn many ways the United States appears to be in its most inclusive moment. The Black Lives Matter movement is drawing crucial attention to police violence against African-Americans. The Supreme Court has recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states. Caitlyn Jenner’s public gender transition has brought the struggles of transgender Americans to the national spotlight.

However, even in the midst of these crumbling barriers, prejudice against American Muslims remains robust. Many Americans across the political spectrum appear to view discrimination against Muslims as an acceptable form of profiling. On July 16, after 24-year-old Kuwaiti-American Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot and killed four U.S Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the incident was immediately labeled an act of terrorism. A Muslim shooter was all that was needed to apply the tag. It did not matter that the shooter, like many other troubled Americans, had issues with depression, substance abuse and came from a broken home.

A week earlier, Ali Muhammad Brown, who allegedly killed a college student in New Jersey last year, became the first person to be charged under that state’s terrorism statute. The only basis for the indictment was Brown’s alleged confession in which he said the murder was an act of “vengeance” for lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran.

By contrast, another deadly shooting on June 17 in Charleston, South Carolina, where white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people, was simply treated as a hate crime. This has been true in other cases of mass shooting. For example, James Holmes who killed 12 people and injured 70 in a movie theater in Colorado was never charged with terrorism. The implicit assumption is clear: Only Muslim mass murderers are treated as terrorists.

As the 14th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the endurance of Islamophobia can no longer be pinned to ignorance or isolated instances of religious bias. Instead, the construction of the one-dimensional Muslim — a homegrown assassin that poses a consistent and covert threat to American liberties and freedoms — has become a conceptual necessity to justify a pervasive surveillance state.


The 21st century call for Islamic Reformation

irshad-manjiIrshad Manji, a Canadian television journalist and commentator, is a Muslim. She is on the front line of the public’s question about Islam. All made up looking like a model, but actually very tomboyish, she has become the cover girl of Melbourne’s The Age magazine with the caption, “Meet Irshad Manji.” Some say she was the late Osama Bin Laden’s worst nightmare.

Reporter Johann Hari described her in an interview: “Irshad is a key figure in the civil war within 21st century Islam. She is the Saladin of progressive Muslims, an outrider for the notion that you can be both a faithful Muslim and a mouthy, fiercely democratic Canadian. She does not drink alcohol and she does not eat pork.”

Christianity’s Reformation happened in the 16th century

“What I want is an Islamic reformation,” Irshad says. “Christianity did it in the 16thcentury. Now, we are long overdue. If there was ever a moment for our reformation, it’s now, when Muslim countries are in poverty and despair. For the love of God, what are we doing about it?”

The core concept in Manji’s thought – and that of all progressive Muslims – is Ijtihad. Ijtihad is the application of reason and reinterpretation to the message of the Koran. It allows every Muslim to reconsider the message of the Koran for the changed circumstances of the 21st century.“What was true for the 9th century Mecca and Medina may not be the best interpretation of Allah’s message today,” Irshad exclaims.

This seems obvious to post-religious European ears, but it is literally heresy to conservative and even most mainstream Muslims. Irshad explains, “At this stage, reform isn’t about telling ordinary Muslims what not to think. It’s about giving the permission to think. We can’t be afraid to ask: What if the Koran isn’t perfect? What if it’s not a completely God-authored book? What if it’s riddled with human biases?”