The Creeping Liberalism in American Islam

Mustafa Akyol

00Akyol-superJumboSince 9/11, a recurrent theme in the far-right circles of America has been “creeping Shariah.” It reflects the fear that Islamic law will silently spread through the land of freedom to ultimately overtake it — to put all women in burqas and all adulterers to death. In this scenario, American Muslims, who make up only 1 percent of the population, will pursue this grand scheme because they are here not for freedom and opportunity, but to form a fifth column in it, as Steve Bannon seriously claimed in 2016.

Those with deeper knowledge of American Muslims, a minority that is much better integrated than some of their counterparts in Europe, can easily see such sordid fantasy as paranoia. Those with some knowledge of American history can also see that this new calumny about Islam has precedents, in the McCarthyism of the Cold War era and the anti-Catholicism of the 19th century.

But here is something even more ironic: When you examine the internal discussions among conservative Muslim leaders or pundits in America today, they don’t come across as concocting some “Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.” Instead of cheering for any creeping Shariah, they seem worried about a creeping liberalism within American Islam.

Read Mikaeel Ahmed Smith, for example. He’s an imam in Virginia who has titled an internet article “A Spiritual Disease in American Muslims, Making Them Gods Above God.” His criticism targets a new genre of Muslim bloggers and writers who he says “challenge or outright reject the traditionally normative Islamic view on social issues and Muslim life.” These young people care less about traditional religious texts, the imam warns, because of “a rejection of any authority other than one’s own intellect.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

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Muslim enclave in New York state that was target of alleged foiled attack urges justice

190122-islamberg-new-york-cs-115p_e3cc3a86c2dd579016babc88f7de1e87.fit-2000wBy Associated Press

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A Muslim group called Wednesday for full prosecutions against the four people accused of plotting an attack on the group’s rural enclave named Islamberg in upstate New York.

The arrests of three Rochester-area men and a 16-year-old who had access to homemade explosives and firearms sent shockwaves through the community, The Muslims of America said in a prepared statement. The small community has been dogged by allegations on right-wing websites that it is a terrorist training camp, and it was the target of a similar plot in 2015.

“It is beyond tragic that our nation continues to fester with Islamophobia, hate and religious intolerance,” the group said in a prepared statement. “To bring justice and properly deter similar terrorist plots against our community, we are calling for the individuals charged, as well as their accomplices, to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Image: Handout photo of Vetromile, Colaneri and Crysel, arrested after planning to bomb a Muslim community in upstate New York
Vincent Vetromile, 19, of Greece, New York, Brian Colaneri, 20, of Gates, New York and Andrew Crysel of East Rochester, New York, arrested after planning to bomb a Muslim community in upstate New York according to authorities.Greece New York Police Department / via Reuters

Authorities in suburban Rochester on Tuesday announced weapons possession and conspiracy charges against Brian Colaneri, 20; Andrew Crysel, 18; and Vincent Vetromile, 19. A 16-year-old student at Odyssey Academy in Greece, a Rochester suburb, was charged as an adolescent offender.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NBC NEWS

The Riz Test: how Muslims are misrepresented in film and TV

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In a speech to the UK’s House of Commons in March 2017, actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, a Muslim, delivered a message about the importance of diversity and representation in the media:

What people are looking for is a message that they belong. Every time you see yourself it’s a message that you matter, that you’re part of the national story.

But when it comes to the “national story”, the one about Muslims is pretty grim. The pressing issue of Islamophobia is both fuelled and defined by the misrepresentation and stereotyping of Muslims in the media. Instead of challenging the images of the “oppressed” Muslim woman, or the violent Middle Eastern man that propagate our media, mainstream films often reinforce them. But films are also platforms with the potential to create change through alternative narratives. Our visual culture can play a crucial role in the way we understand the world. So the question is, what do our visual platforms tell us about our cultural perceptions of Muslims? In other words, how are Muslims represented in our stories?


Read more: It’s not just about race and gender – religious stereotypes need tackling too


With backgrounds in education research and tech respectively, Sadia Habib and Shaf Choudry have kickstarted a project that not only asks this question, but also strives to offer evidence-based answers. In an attempt to quantify the representation of Muslims, the duo has coined what they call the Riz Test. Inspired by the Bechdel test, (which challenges viewers to consider the way women are represented in whatever they happen to be watching) and Riz Ahmed’s speech, Habib and Choudry use five points to measure the depiction of Muslims in films and TV shows.

In their own words, the Riz Test: “is a project to measure the portrayal of Muslims in film and TV. What’s new is that we’re creating a data set that measures how poorly Muslims are represented.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

How an old, far-right meme about Muslim ‘prayer rugs’ at the border became a Trump tweet

U.S. President Donald Trump sits at his desk during an interview with ReutersOn Friday morning, the President of the United States tweeted about a two-day-old Washington Examiner article with an unsubstantiated claim from one anonymous rancher.

“There’s a lot of people coming in not just from Mexico,” the rancher had told the newspaper. Then, without offering further proof, the rancher said that “people, the general public, just don’t get the terrorist threats of that. That’s what’s really scary. You don’t know what’s coming across. We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal. It’s not just Mexican nationals that are coming across.”

Trump quoted the line about prayer rugs, adding: “People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Border rancher: “We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.” Washington Examiner People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.

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The anonymous rancher’s comment about prayer rugs — one that has now been repeated by the president to support his proposed border wall during the partial government shutdown — is similar to the claims of a conspiracy theory that has long been popular with far-right and anti-Muslim figures and publications. And the rumor itself has been invoked to support a larger, debunked claim from a far-right group that Islamic State operatives have established a massive training camp at the border.

It is a claim that conflates an item used by some practicing Muslims with a sign of terrorists — the false implication being that any association with the Islamic faith is itself worthy of suspicion.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the meme was “Islamophobic.”

“It exploits the Islamophobia promoted by the president himself,” Hooper told The Washington Post, “and it dog whistles that anything associated with Islam is somehow connected to terrorism.”

“Even if there were prayer rugs at the border, so what? That isn’t any indication of anything expect that there may have been a Muslim trying to cross the border,” he added, noting that Trump is simply “trying to distract from his own legal and political problems.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Retired soldier educating South about Islam

1FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — When Jason Criss Howk’s Army career came to an end in 2015, he thought he’d spend his days teaching and fishing.

But a wake-up call at a Pinehurst library changed those plans. And while Howk does teach, he’s found a new mission, too: Explaining the Middle East, Islam and Muslim culture to a population that has little experience, but strong opinions on those topics.

At times, it has been a combative undertaking.

Howk has spoken at small rural churches across the Southeast and has, on occasion, had to be escorted to his car by church leaders at the end of the night.

But that hasn’t stopped his one-man mission to better educate America and, in the process, help promote tolerance.

His efforts have expanded since he retired. In 2017, he published “The Quran: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation” through Old Stone Press. The book is intended for audiences that have little familiarity with Islam, the Quran or Muslim culture.

And earlier this year, he launched a podcast called “We’re Just Talking About It.”

Howk’s interest in Islam is tied to his experiences as a soldier.

He served as an enlisted paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in the 1990s and returned as an officer a decade later.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARMY TIMES 

Attacking Muslims is wrong path for Republicans. Be like Bush, celebrate religious liberty

love america

If you feel the need to attack Muslims to to win an election, you’re not worthy of a seat in office. Both Bush presidents modeled better values.

During this election cycle that felt never-ending, too many conservative candidates steered their campaigns in a dangerous anti-Muslim direction. They spewed nasty rhetoric on the campaign trail, damaging the image of the Republican Party and alienating voters.

Muslim Advocates released a report in October detailing the increased amount of anti-Muslim rhetoric in campaign messaging. It found at least 80 campaigns this cycle used shameless anti-Muslim rhetoric. Of 73 races where a candidate’s party affiliation could be positively identified, 71 of the campaign messaging supported Republican candidates. Half of the candidates were running for Congress, and 37 competed in the general election.

This isn’t a new development. There have been anti-Muslim conspiracies looming on the fringes for years. Some candidates across the country keep taking the bait. By doing so, they alienate faith-friendly voters who value diversity and cherish their neighbors who follow Islam.

Take GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Dave Brat of Virginia.

To distract voters from his indictments, Hunter used anti-Muslim messaging to portray his Democratic opponent as a threat. Ammar Campa-Najjar is a former Obama official of Mexican and Palestinian descent. Hunter accused Campa-Najjar of being receptive to sharia law and looking to “infiltrate” Congress. And Hunter won — even though Campa-Najjar is a devout Christian who denounces extremist beliefs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM USA TODAY

Muslims demand full legal protection from Islamophobia (UK)

4928Pressure builds on party leaders to recognise racism targeting ‘Muslimness’

Muslim organisations are urging Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and all other party leaders to adopt a newly proposed working definition of Islamophobia in an attempt to put pressure on a reluctant Home Office to follow suit.

The Muslim Council of Britain and other Islamic groups want the Conservatives and Labour to take the lead in the aftermath of a week marked by public outrage over the alleged racist bullying of a 15-year-old Syrian refugee in Huddersfield.

The definition was set out in a report published by a cross-party group of MPs last week and says: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

However, a Home Office minister said earlier that the department had no intention of adopting a definition, in response to a question from one of the chairs of the cross-party group, the Conservative MP Anna Soubry. Victoria Atkins told the Commons in March that there were “many definitions of Islamophobia”, but added: “We do not accept the need for a definitive definition, but we know that Islamophobia is clearly recognised and that we have very effective monitoring systems of all race-hate crimes.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)