Combating Anti-Muslim Bias

muslims against terrorismWhen Basir Jamil was 8 years old in 2001, he hated the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center, smashed into the Pentagon and downed an airplane full of people in rural Pennsylvania.

So when he was called the same thing—a terrorist—a few years later in middle school, he was shocked.

Basir, now a senior at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, Md., says he hears fewer insults directed at him or other Muslim students today.

But he knows that’s not the case for thousands of other Muslim kids across the country.

“People should have the right to speak out, but they should be more educated before they say something,” says Basir, 17, whose parents are from Pakistan. The Islam he has been raised with is a peaceful religion, he says.

America’s 2.5 million Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center. Anecdotally, we know that many Muslim students face discrimination. Unfortunately, no group or government agency keeps statistics on the subject. But some cases have warranted investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Muslim groups have reported widespread bias as well. The Islamic Networks Group is a San Jose, Calif., nonprofit that promotes education about Islam. In recent years, the group has spoken with Muslim students about what they were experiencing. Content Director Ameena Jandali says her organization wanted to know if the students’ beliefs had made them targets for taunts and bias. “We were shocked to see it was happening on a regular basis,” she says.

Inflamed by the News
Jandali says news stories frequently trigger anti-Muslim incidents. In recent months, those stories included the controversy over a Florida preacher threatening to burn Qur’ans and the uproar that followed plans to build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site in New York. Jandali says just about any anniversary of September 11 also heightens the tension for Muslims.

“Now it’s to the point where it’s like, ‘What’s it going to be today?’” she says. “It’s been such a long cycle.”


Anti-Muslim Is Anti-American

blow-circular-thumbLarge-v5by Charles M. Blow 

There seems to be no bottom to the cesspool of Islamophobic rhetoric coming from Republican candidates.

The tone of anti-Muslim musings post-Paris attack has become so poisonous that it cannot portend anything positive.

In the latest, the Republican front-runner said the United States would have “absolutely no choice” but to close some mosques. And, when asked by a reporter, he seemed to suggest he wouldn’t have a problem registering Muslims, which many have condemned, comparing it to the way Jews were once treated. (After heavy bipartisan criticism, he tried to walk back his remarks about the registry.)

And then Dr. Ben Carson drew a tortured parallel between Syrian refugees, who are mostly Muslim, and “a rabid dog running around your neighborhood.”

Robert McCaw, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Al Jazeera that Carson’s remarks were “unthinkable,” saying, “There is only one thing you do with a rabid dog — and that’s put it down.”

Indeed, this is the problem with reckless, racist rhetoric: Each utterance tosses one more log onto the bonfire that can burn out a space for the unimaginable.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned in his 1967 “The Other America” speech: “Racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide.” As King put it:

“If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him; if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.”

Whereas these candidates may not be conscious of this “ultimate logic” or in any way approve of it, it doesn’t make their language any less dangerous when it lands on the ears of the minorities on the margins, or those looking for a reason to gussy up their wrongheadedness with righteousness.


Judge Upholds MTA Ban on Political Ads Including Pamela Geller’s Islamophobic Posters


Pamela Geller, pictured in May, lost her fight in Manhattan Federal Court to be allowed to post Islamophobic ads on New York buses.

Conservative firebrand Pamela Geller’s Islamophobic posters will not appear on Nwe York City buses any time soon.

A Manhattan Federal Court judge has ruled that the MTA’s recently revised policy banning all political advertising in subways and on city buses renders moot his previous ruling that Geller’s ads were protected speech.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl had said in April that the posters — showing a menacing man with his face masked in a Middle Eastern-style scarf next to the quote “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah” — should be allowed to be displayed like other political ads in the MTA system.

Before the bills went up, the MTA board then voted to change its policy and banned controversial political ads altogether — a move Geller’s team argued was done in bad faith.

An example of Geller's posters.PAMELAGELLER VIA INSTAGRAM

An example of Geller’s posters.

Koetl disagreed.

“No law requires public transit agencies to accept political advertisements as a matter of course, and it is not for this Court to impose its own views on what type of forum the MTA should create,” Koetl wrote.


Christians at Phoenix protest stand between Muslims and anti-Islam crowd

love-your-neighborPHOENIX—What was billed as both an anti-Islam and pro-free speech rally in Phoenix turned into a peaceful, but heated, religious debate Friday night.

The first evening of the hottest weekend so far this summer kicked off with a group of several hundred motorcyclists rallying outside the Islamic Community Center in central Phoenix.  The protest was dubbed the “Freedom of Speech Rally Round 2,” copy-catting a similar event in Texas earlier in May organized by activist Pamela Gellar, who encouraged attendees to draw cartoons of Mohammed in an affront to the Islamic commandment not to make images of their prophet. Two gunmen opened fire outside of that event in Garland, Texas, and were killed by police.  They were suspected followers of radical Islam. One had been investigated earlier for reportedly trying to join a militant group in Somalia.

Those gunmen were from Phoenix and were believed to have worshipped at the Islamic Community Center. While the tension Friday electrified the crowd, it never erupted into physical violence. Still, attendees were rattled, and loud noises—motorcycles revving or the pounding of several news choppers overhead—seemed to make everyone jump.

Countering the motorcyclists was an equally large group of anti-protest-protesters, many of them evangelical Christians from a handful of nearby churches. Adam Estle, executive director for the nonprofit organization Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, organized the “Love Your Neighbor” rally to stand between the motorcyclists and the mosque.

“These are my neighbors,” said Estle, who also lives in Phoenix and attends Orangewood Nazarene Church, next door to the mosque. He said when he heard about the rally, he contacted his friend, Usama Shami, who heads the mosque. Shami asked Estle if he could organize a group of people to show love and support for the Muslim community that worships there.


The Muslims of Early America

09Manseau-1423266788353-blog427IT was not the imam’s first time at the rodeo.

Scheduled to deliver an invocation at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo last week, Moujahed Bakhach of the local Islamic Association of Tarrant Countycanceled his appearance because of the backlash brought on by a prayer he had offered a few days before. The imam had been asked to confer a blessing on horses, riders and members of the military. He was met with gasps from the audience and social media complaints: “Outraged at a Muslim prayer at an all American event!” “Cowboys don’t want it!”

Vocal anti-Islamic sentiment is undergoing a revival. Four days before the imam’s canceled benediction, protesters at the State Capitol in Austin shouted down Muslim speakers, claiming Texas in the name of Jesus alone. In North Carolina two weeks earlier, Duke University’s plan to broadcast a Muslim call to prayer was abandoned amid threats of violence. Meanwhile Gov. Bobby Jindal, Republican of Louisiana claimed that if American Muslims “want to set up their own culture and values, that’s not immigration, that’s really invasion.”


Christian clergy are fighting against Germany’s anti-Islam protests

DV1923770_tstmp_1420242679The famous Cologne cathedral planned to switch off its lights on Monday evening as a sign of protest against “anti-Islam” marchers assembling in the German city. Demonstrations staged by a populist movement dubbed “Pegida” — the German acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamicization of the West — have shaken Germany for the past month, drawing big crowds in a handful of cities and condemnation from the country’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Critics say the movement is a vehicle for far-right hate and neo-fascism. The weekly marches are emulating pro-democracy protests that took place in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union. But they are animated by far different beliefs.

Pegida supporters claim to represent a considerable spectrum of German society, fearful about the consequences of an influx of refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are Muslim. They say they are anti-extremist, but others point to the prevalence of hate groups among Pegida’s ranks and say the movement is nothing more than dressed-up, “pinstriped Nazis.”

In a New Year address, Merkel urged her compatriots to reject Pegidabecause “their hearts are cold and often full of prejudice.” The center-right leader’s comments have been largely backed by the rest of the country’s political and business elites, who dislike the xenophobic image of Germany conveyed by Pegida’s marches.


Attacking Islam is not Christian


by Jan Fuller

Recently, I was forwarded a hateful email which characterized Muslims — all of them — as un-American, un-Godly and violent, among other unfounded negatives I refuse to repeat. Fortunately, the forwarder wanted my opinion on the claims in the unsigned, unattributed, and frequently re-forwarded email.

I am a lifelong student of Islam, although not a Muslim. I know that the way of submission to God called Islam is a religion of peace and concord, even though it is different in many respects from the religion I practice. Christians and Muslims worship the same God with many similar attributes, with distinct emphases and differences. I know that Muslims want what Christians want — to live in freedom and in peace in civil communities, to raise children, to pray in God’s will, to go and come in safety and respect, and to be patriotic citizens. I also know that there are challenging exceptions, people who go too far in every faith.

When I was newly ordained, an acquaintance confided, “I babysat you. If I had known you would go and be ordained, I would have snapped off your head then and saved you the trouble.” That was hurtful, but no one hearing it said, “Christians are violent!” No one ended the relationship, despite hurt and disagreement.

I watch Christian leaders in moral and financial trouble, churches in turmoil, and church members committing crimes. No one has said, “Christians are dishonest, bullies and immoral.” We have, instead, prayed for those communities in their sorrow.