‘Love Thy Neighbor?’

When a Muslim doctor arrived in a rural Midwestern town, “it felt right.” But that feeling began to change after the election of Donald Trump.

 The doctor was getting ready. Must look respectable, he told himself. Must be calm. He changed into a dark suit, blue shirt and tie and came down the wooden staircase of the stately Victorian house at Seventh and Pine that had always been occupied by the town’s most prominent citizens.

That was him: prominent citizen, town doctor, 42-year-old father of three, and as far as anyone knew, the first Muslim to ever live in Dawson, a farming town of 1,400 people in the rural western part of the state.

“Does this look okay?” Ayaz Virji asked his wife, Musarrat, 36.

In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Muhammad are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the antichrist.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Explaining the rise in hate crimes against Muslims in the US

file-20170719-13567-pyqde6Hate crimes against Muslims have been on the rise. The murder of two samaritans for aiding two young women who were facing a barrage of anti-Muslim slurs on a Portland train is among the latest examples of brazen acts of anti-Islamic hatred.

Earlier in 2017, a mosque in Victoria, Texas was burned to the ground by an alleged anti-Muslim bigot. And just last year, members of a small extremist group called “The Crusaders” plotted a bombing “bloodbath” at a residential housing complex for Somali-Muslim immigrants in Garden City, Kansas.

I have analyzed hate crime for two decades at California State University-San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. And I have found that the rhetoric politicians use after terrorist attacks is correlated closely to sharp increases and decreases in hate crimes.

Hate crimes post 9/11

Since 1992 (following the promulgation of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990), the FBI has annually tabulated hate crime data voluntarily submitted from state and territorial reporting agencies. A “hate crime” is defined as a criminal offense motivated by either race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

According to the FBI’s data, hate crimes against Muslims reported to police surged immediately following the terror attacks of 9/11. There were 481 crimes reported against Muslims in 2001, up from 28 the year before. However, from 2002 until 2014, the number of anti-Muslim crimes receded to a numerical range between 105 to 160 annually. This number was still several times higher than their pre-9/11 levels.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION 

Conservatives claim Linda Sarsour called for holy war against Trump. Here’s what she really said.

Muslim American activist Linda Sarsour has fired back at critics for misrepresenting her use of the term “jihad” in her keynote address for the Islamic Society of North America earlier this month.

In the July 1 speech, Sarsour shared a story from Islamic scripture concerning a man who asked Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, about the “best form of jihad.” “And our beloved prophet … said to him, ‘A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad,’” Sarsour told the crowd.

Sarsour urged fellow Muslims to “stand up to those who oppress our communities,” as “we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or on the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America.”

But after edited video of the event began to circulate online, Sarsour received a barrage of criticism and threats, a result of conservative media publications like Breitbart and the Daily Caller accusing her of encouraging fellow Muslims to incite a “holy war” against the Trump administration.

Even Donald Trump Jr. got involved, retweeting a Fox News story titled “Activist Linda Sarsour Calls for ‘Jihad’ Against Trump Administration,” adding, “Who in the @DNC will denounce this activist and democrat leader calling for Jihad [against] trump?”

Now Sarsour is pushing back against these critics. In a July 9 op-ed for the Washington Post, she writes that the term “jihad” has “been hijacked by Muslim extremists and right-wing extremists alike, leaving ordinary Muslims to defend our faith.”

“In my speech … I sent not a call to violence, but a call to speak truth to power and to commit to the struggle for racial and economic justice,” Sarsour explains. “Most disturbing about this recent defamation campaign is how it is focused on demonizing the legitimate yet widely misunderstood Islamic term I used, ‘jihad,’ which to a majority of Muslims and according to religious scholars means ‘struggle’ or ‘to strive for.’”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOX

‘Secret Life of Muslims’: How video series took on rising Islamophobia in the US

WO14-US-SecretLifeofMuslims-1The online series — which features both high-profile and ordinary American Muslims sharing their personal experiences of being Muslim in the United States — has clocked up millions of views since it premiered in November

Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed found himself routinely typecast as a terrorist when trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood in the 1990s.

“I played a terrorist in the movie Executive Decision … I played a terrorist on the sitcom Rosanne … In a film called Steel Sharks, I played this evil Persian submarine commander,” says the 47-year-old in the first episode of the Secret Life of Muslims online video series. “All my lines are like, ‘I’ll kill you in the name of Allah!’.”

The hugely popular series is one of a number of projects harnessing the power of the internet to try to change the narrative about Muslims amid rising Islamophobia in the US. Others have launched on Facebook and Instagram, such as Muslim American Faces, where the photographer and filmmaker Heidi Naguib posts photos of Muslim Americans from all backgrounds, along with a caption sharing a little of their life story.

Secret Life of Muslims has clocked up millions of views since it premiered in November, a few days before the presidential election. In the intervening months, Donald Trump has been back and forth with the US courts over his plan to implement a travel ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries. And alongside this, the series has featured both high-profile and ordinary American Muslims talking about what Islam means to them and sharing their personal experiences of being Muslim in the US.

The series’ American Jewish director and executive producer, Josh Seftel, said his own childhood experiences with anti-Semitism made him feel compelled to do something to counter Islamophobia.

“As a Jewish kid growing up in upstate New York … I had experiences where I was called names, where people used to throw pennies at me sometimes and someone threw a rock through the front window of our home. And so, I felt a connection to the kind of discrimination that Muslims are facing in the United States,” he told The National.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

Islamophobia & the Catholic Media

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When I went to Catholic elementary school in the 1960s, the Crusades were taught as a glorious fight against the “Mohammedans.” One teacher said the next great war would be about religion, which presumably meant that we boys needed to be ready when called on to storm the bastions of atheistic communism.

That strain of the faith lingers in the anti-Muslim, Steve Bannon-style Catholicism found among some Baby Boomers and their elders, notwithstanding the new direction the Second Vatican Council charted in 1965 with Nostra Aetate, its document on relations with non-Christian religions. And, according to a study issued last week [.pdf] by Georgetown University’s Prince Alaweed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and its Bridge Initiative, anti-Islam polemics find friendly platforms across substantial segments of the Catholic media. Meanwhile, the study reports, nine out of ten Catholics have never heard of Nostra Aetate, and only 16 percent surveyed in a poll said they knew about church teaching on Islam.

In Nostra Aetate the council stated that the Church “has a high regard for the Muslims” and expressed appreciation for the religiosity of Islam’s faithful. “Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims,” the document reads. “The sacred council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding.”

Anti-Islam polemics find friendly platforms across substantial segments of the Catholic media

Since then, popes and others in the Catholic world, such as the Franciscan order, have steadily sought dialogue and cooperation with Muslims. Pope John Paul II, in particular, worked tirelessly at it. Pope Francis has too, while challenging the claims of anti-Islam polemicists that Islam encourages violence.

The Georgetown study covers a lot of ground, so I’ll focus on just one aspect: The attention it gives to the prolific author Robert Spencer, who runs the hardline website Jihad Watch. Spencer’s argument is essentially that Islam is inherently violent. He saysPope Francis was wrong for saying, “It’s not fair to identify Islam with violence. It’s not fair and it’s not true.” Spencer argues that the pope was also wrong when he wrote in Evangelii Gaudium that “faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” (No. 253). Further, Spencer counters John Paul II—who said Christians and Muslims worship the same God—by insisting that Vatican II’s call for dialogue must be qualified in light of earlier Church tradition, such as the teachings of Pope Callixtus III, whom he says pledged in 1455 to “exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet in the East.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM COMMONWEAL MAGAZINE 

I Am Not Your Muslim

muslimIf Islam were a skin color, there would be a sliding scale along which you could determine just how Muslim you are. On the extremely Muslim end, there would be classic identifiers — hijab or niqab for women, a beard and skullcap for men. On the light Muslim end, there would be those whose identity can only be determined because of a name or provenance, those who usually “pass” in public and are not immediately identifiable. Let’s call this the Identity Matrix.

In order to predict how likely it is that a Muslim will be discriminated against, another measurement needs to be overlaid over visibility — The Privilege Scale. Jobs, wealth, education and other markers of status interplay with the degree of perceived Muslimness that can confer or deny immunity. This is pretty much how identifiers are leavened with social status (or lack thereof) across minority groups in most parts of the world.

Certain attributes and accoutrements offer some Muslims a “pass.” Sara Yasin, a Palestinian American journalist, remarked on how comparatively easy her passage through life in the United States is due to her pale skin, hazel eyes and neutral first name. A pass almost always depends on the ease with which an individual can blend into the affluent dominant culture. It sounds dramatic, and it is.

The ways Muslims have been fingered, pathologized and persecuted mean that the Muslim identity is being calibrated and re-calibrated in order to settle upon one dominant narrative. During the presidential election, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims,” immediately casting suspicion upon any Muslim as a potential threat. He also suggested that Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parent who appeared alongside her husband to support Hillary Clinton, was “not allowed to speak,” because she was Muslim.

These broad strokes are not only the preserve of the political right. Liberals such as Bill Maher have been at it for years. On terrorism, Maher suggested that, “if Muslim men could get laid more, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

This drive to otherize and dehumanize Muslims is grotesque, and the speed and uncoordinated efficiency of it seems almost like a natural phenomenon. But it isn’t. It’s a confluence of unnatural, dynamic and calculated narrow interests that dictate who gets to be “mainstream.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

Ghavri: What is Islam, Anyway?

A self-proclaimed “angry brown man” rants about Islam.

by Anmol Ghavri | 4/27/17 12:45am

timthumbIslam is whatever a practicing Muslim says it is for them. Period.

If you are a religious layman and your journalism diet consists of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, then your only interaction with Muslims is when an anchor is narrating coverage of a terrorist attack in Paris or London. Panic, brown bodies and explosions are the only thoughts a majority of Americans associate with Islam. As far as they are concerned, there is no difference between a “radical moose-lamb” terrorist and any other Muslim. Islam is Islam; Christianity is Christianity. Done deal. No-go zones in British cities and the oppression of women! “They” are incompatible with “us.” “They” hate democracy and are jealous of how wealthy and powerful “we” are. And that is that.

Unfortunately, this is not a fringe belief. Powerful people in Western governments hold these views. The religious and cultural illiteracy around the world and especially in halls of power is shocking. Politicians like Rep. Steve King, R-IA, President Donald Trump and his chief strategist Stephen Bannon view the world in black and white. Good and evil. Christianity and Islam.

Religions are first and foremost social and cultural phenomena. They are not top-down monolithic entities but are inseparable from class, race and gender. In Muslim majority countries, socioeconomic status and the urban-rural divide are far more predictive of social and cultural views than simply “being” a Muslim. Indeed, there exists no singular form of Islam, just as there exists no singular form of Christianity. The issue of the veil? Cosmopolitan or upper-middle class female Muslims often do not wear a hijab, and if they do, many choose to do so under their own volition.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DARTMOUTH