7990Islamophobia in America
- Apr 8, 2007Islamophobia: A Call to Confronting a Creeping Disease
First Published 2007-03-30
The last time a world religion was considered a
problem and a question was in late-nineteenth-century
Europe. Then, the eJewish Questionf was widely
debated by both the enlightened and bigots among
European thinkers, says Louay Safi.
President Bush reacting to the unearthing of the
alleged bombing plot over the Atlantic August 10
remarked: "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists
who will use any means to destroy those of us who love
freedom, to hurt our nation."
On Aug. 7, during a press conference from his ranch in
Texas, he said terrorists "try to spread their
jihadist message - a message I call ... Islamic
radicalism, Islamic fascism". A moment later, he said
"Islamo-fascism" was an "ideology that is real and
profound". White House spokesman Tony Snow told the
gAtlanta Journal-Constitutionh Aug. 11 that the
president will continue to use the phrase.
This is not the first time that Bush and members of
his Administration have used this deliberate coupling
of Islam with evil ideologies or actions, such as
fascism or terrorism. Bush referred to
gIslamo-fascismh in his address to the National
Endowment for Democracy, Oct. 6, 2005. Sen. Rick
Santorum (R-PA) addressing Christians United for
Israel (CUFI) held their first Washington-Israel
Summit in Washington D.C., July 2006, declaring
gIslamic fascism is a mosaicch
Media baron Rupert Murdoch pontificated in Sydney,
Australia June 26, 2006: "You have to be careful about
Muslims who have a very strong, in many ways a fine,
but very strong religion which supercedes any sense of
nationalism wherever they go."
The term is coined, and was initially used, by radical
Zionist pundits and their allies in the Far Right, and
is intended to drive a wedge between Western and
Muslim communities. The fact that it is already being
used by President Bush and his top lieutenant
underscore the extent to which Islamophobia is
gradually creeping into public discourse.
Blaming Islam and Muslims for the rise of terrorism
that threatens the U.S. and the West is at the heart
of the strategy developed by individuals and groups
whose systemic attacks on Islam and Muslims, borne out
of either ignorance or hatred, constitute the recent
and painful reality : Islamophobia.
Islamophobia reflects an attitude and a posture
normally associated with the Far Right, but that has
been creeping slowly to the center of political
debate. Islam and Muslims are separated out from the
citizenry and increasingly presented as a problem to
be addressed and a question to be tackled. The last
time a world religion was considered a problem and a
question was in late-nineteenth-century Europe. Then,
the gJewish Questionh was widely debated by both the
enlightened and bigots among European thinkers.
Islamophobia is a strategic weapon in the campaign to
marginalize Muslim Americans by ideological extremists
and paranoid bigots. On one level, Islamophobia stems
from ignorance, deception, and misrepresentation. On a
deeper level, however, it stems from a very basic
human instinct to dominate, exploit, and abuse,
combined with a scrupulous attitude that refuse to
recognize moral principles and boundaries. While
Islamophobia has existed since centuries, perhaps the
term became public in Europe in the 1990s.
The twentieth century witnessed great struggles all
over the world to overcome bigotry and racism, and to
create more open and inclusive societies in which
different races, ethnicities, and religions live
side-by-side and cooperate for the betterment of
society. After many devastating tragedies and wars,
including two world wars that wiped out more than 80
million people, a holocaust, and a long civil rights
struggle, chauvinism, racism, and bigotry were finally
condemned, though not totally rejected. By the
mid-twentieth century, the concept that individuals
must be treated on the basis of their individual
characters and actions, and that no individual or
group should be targeted on the basis of religious,
ethnic, racial, or national affiliations became widely
Therefore, the recent efforts that aim at presenting
Islam as a challenge and Muslims who practice their
faith as a problem are both disheartening and
disquieting. They represent a dangerous move to
reverse human progress and return to the age of
outright racism and intolerance. This renewed focus on
Islam as a problem has been justified by invoking
security concerns. Many voices, particularly within
the U.S. policymaking community, either out of
ignorance or prejudice, decided to place the blame for
terrorism squarely at the door of Islam.
The decision to ignore complex and painful realities
that give rise to discord and tension between Western
and Muslim countries, and to blame it all on a major
world religion and its practitioners, will only
exacerbate an already dire situation. This exercise in
self-delusion can only distract us from confronting
the real sources of the concerns on both sides and
delay the efforts to bring forth a permanent and
lasting solution. Meanwhile, tremendous resources are
wasted, and the credibility and prestige of the United
States are being undermined.
The failure to understand the profound changes taking
place in the Muslim world is not simply a matter of
ignorance and lack of insight into Muslim cultures,
but a reflection of the bewildering stubbornness of
neoconservative analysts in the U.S. and Europe, and
their comfort in employing the archaic Orientalist
attitudes and tools to analyze relationships between
the West and the Muslim world. Muslims are not awarded
the dignity of equal human beings with intrinsic
values and legitimate concerns, but are often
presented as thoughtless and violent masses incapable
of articulating their conditions and solving their
problems. Consequently, no effort is made to initiate
dialogue and exchange, and all energy is focused on
devising strategies for the manipulation and control
of the Muslim world.
Many self-proclaimed experts on Islam continue to
behave as if Islam and Muslims are a distant part of
reality and an external problem to address, rather
than partners for dealing with common problems and
challenges. An increasing number of Muslims are proud
Americans, serving American society as professors,
businessmen, medical doctors, engineers, lawyers,
sports stars, firefighters, police officers, and
teachers. Many experts in Middle East and Islamic
Studies departments have their ancestral roots in
Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures. Many Muslim
Americans are active in the debate on how best to
bridge the divide, or at least change the perceptions
of a divide, between the Muslim world and the West.
Muslim Americans are well positioned to expose the
deceptions of power hungry unilateralists, and bridge
the divide between Muslim and Western countries. They
equally reject the bigoted spirit of exclusivist
ideologies that use religion in all its forms as a
weapon for achieving political supremacy, and demonize
and dehumanize political opponents. Muslim Americans
should take a firm and resolute stance against
individuals and groups that use violence and terror
against civilians in the name of religion, and condemn
all campaigns of terrorism by groups like al-Qaeda, as
they do condemn those who justify violence and
aggression against Muslims in the name of biblical
prophecies and religious supremacy.
The time has come for the world to undertake a
profound shift in political thinking and practice,
similar to the one achieved in Europe in modern times.
A democratic and free Europe came to life when the
feudal system that privileged a small class of
European elites was rejected and replaced with a
system based on political equality and the rule of
law. A democratic and free world will be achieved when
the current political structure that perpetuates
political and economic disparity is replaced with one
in which all are equally treated under international
law, and have fairly equal access to international
For two centuries, America has shown that it is
capable of transcending its limitations and marching
behind those who struggle to realize the ideals of
freedom, justice, and equality. And throughout its
history, America stood behind those who fought for
equal rights and equal dignity against self-centered
groups that wanted to preserve their privileges.
American Muslims must take a firm stand against the
militant Religious Right that is bent on denying them
the equal dignity they deserve. As long as they uphold
the values of freedom, justice, and equal dignity for
all, and reach out to other fellow Americans who share
with them deep commitment to these values, they are
destined, with the grace of God, to defeat the
unscrupulous and mean-spirited attacks led by hate
mongers and religious bigots.
Dr. Louay M. Safi writes and lectures on issues
relating to Islam, American Muslims, democracy, and
human rights, leadership, and world peace. His
commentaries are available at his Blog: Insight.
'Anti-Muslim rhetoric' cited after vandalism at mosque
in UA area
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 04.05.2007
Officials with the Islamic Center of Tucson say a
recent rise in "anti-Muslim rhetoric" may have spurred
vandalism at the University of Arizona-area mosque.
Tucson Police Department detectives are investigating
a Sunday-night break-in at the mosque during which
someone smashed the lock on a side door, broke an
office window, ransacked the office and wrote "Bush
was here" in magic marker across a computer screen.
Nothing was stolen, mosque officials said.
Mosque spokesman Muhammad As'ad said officials don't
know if Sunday's incident is related to the theft of
$1,000 from the mosque two months ago. The money
disappeared after funds collected during a Friday
service weren't immediately deposited at the bank,
He said it's possible Sunday's break-in was a hate
"There's an increasing obsession with Islam that's
been stirred up by a small cadre of people," he said.
"The obsession is growing because of events overseas.
We deplore the hate speech going on. After all,
Muslims, like Christians, are encouraged to love their
As'ad said an example of the "anti-Muslim rhetoric"
was former CNN reporter Steven Emerson's December
lecture at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. Though
he denied the accusations, local Muslims accused
Emerson of being a disingenuous "fear-monger" who
carelessly interchanges the words "Muslim" and
Emerson spoke here as part of the UA's Shaol Pozez
Memorial Lectureship Series, sponsored by the
university's Center for Judaic Studies. The title of
his speech was "The Grand Deception: Militant Islam,
the Media and the West." Emerson contends that groups
representing themselves as mainstream Muslims often
have terrorist ties.
As'ad said in addition to the Emerson talk, he's
noticed anti-Muslim attitudes on local radio talk
shows. He stressed that, in general, the Tucson
community has been supportive of the local Muslim
community following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks, though there have been incidents of
name-calling, particularly involving local women
wearing head scarves, in which people told them to "go
The Arizona Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations wants the FBI to investigate the mosque
break-in. FBI officials said they're aware of the
incident and are in regular contact with the mosque,
but there's no active investigation.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at
Muslim Workers Leave Goldfn Plump Over Prayer Time
Apr 04, 2007 -- 10:59 AM CDT
For eight months, Issak Horor delayed his floating
break time to say his dusk prayers. That was until
Sunday, when his employer, Goldfn Plump, a St.
Cloud-based chicken processing company, told him that
he wasnft eligible to do that anymore.
gI told them that God made me eligible to pray five
times a day,h said Horor in a telephone interview
from his home in Rochester.
Horor, 25, is one of three workers who left the
companyfs Arcadia, Wis., facility Monday over the
prayer time dispute. At least two other workers quit
in solidarity with their fellow Muslims.
Horor said he feels he was forced out. gThey asked me
to not delay my break time or to hand in my badge,h
he said. gHaving bad and worse options, I chose the
bad one: to hand in my badge.h
Julie Berling, a spokeswoman for Goldfn Plump, said
the company was able to accommodate most workers who
needed to pray with a new floating schedule.
gHowever, due to unavoidable production line
limitations, a few employees were put on the waiting
list for a floating break schedule,h Berling said in
an e-mail message.
Horor said his employer failed to understand that his
strict prayer schedule canft be put on a waiting
The case is the latest in a series of workplace and
religion collisions involving pious Muslims. A cashier
at Target recently refused to scan pork products for
customers, and some cabbies at the airport were
shunning passengers with alcohol. Islam bans the
consumption of pork and alcohol.
Horor and other workers who left the company worked
the night shift -- the shift with the least prayer
requirements in the Muslim faith. He said the only
prayer he needed to say during his shift was the dusk
prayer, but his scheduled break fell at 1 a.m. in the
morning. Goldfn Plump allowed him and other Muslim
workers to delay that break until 6 a.m., when the
dusk prayer is due.
On April 1, the company issued a new policy that
continued that culture for most employees. Horor and a
few others were left out. gThough we assured these
few employees that we were committed to accommodating
their needs, they were unwilling to give us the time
necessary to accommodate them and voluntarily resigned
from their positions,h Berling said.
Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, employers are
required to provide a reasonable accommodation of
their employees' religious observations, unless that
creates an undue hardship to the business. Itfs not
clear whether that law was violated in this case. Just
last month, new legislation that would make it easier
for employees to practice their faith in the workplace
was introduced in the Congress.
gI donft think itfs reasonable to ask employees to
not pray for a while,h said Valerie Shirley,
communications director for the Minnesota chapter of
the Council on American Islamic Relations, which is
handling the case. She said she is trying to speak
with Goldfn Plump officials about the matter and to
supply them with gAn Employer's Guide to Islamic
Religious Practices," a booklet about Muslims in the
Employee Dispute Leads To Complaint Against BMW
Harassment Complaint Follows 'Religious' Dispute
POSTED: 4:56 pm EDT April 3, 2007
UPDATED: 3:23 pm EDT April 4, 2007
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- A Muslim civil rights group says
BMW ignored religious harassment between employees,
but WYFF News 4 has learned that there is more to this
News 4's Gordon Dill has been looking into the
complaint -- a fight between an Israeli Christian and
a Muslim. Both men were contract workers at BMW.
The 65-year-old Muslim man told deputies he was
washing his hands in the bathroom at BMW when the
41-year-old Israeli man put a box cutter to his throat
and threatened to kill him.
The Muslim man then called the Council on
American-Islamic Relations and said there was a
pattern of harassment by BMW employees.
According to a spokesman, the council had received
reports of other incidents not only involving the
Israeli man but other employees as well.
But the Israeli man and his alleged victim may have
known each other for years.
The Muslim man's nephew and that same Israeli man were
business partners in a Duncan restaurant and as far
back as 1996, there was a police report alleging that
one man punched the other.
In its official statement, BMW alluded to that
The statement said, "... It appears the two
individuals have a long personal history, including
being business partners in the past."
WYFF News 4 tried contacting that alleged victim and
his nephew, but they didn't return calls.
Dill did find the Israeli man, who said he couldn't
appear on camera or even reveal where he lives because
he fears Muslims will "put a bomb on his porch."
"This isn't about BMW. It's about religion," the man
BMW said it has started its own investigation
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has asked
the FBI to start its own hate crime investigation.
Islamic group wants BMW plant incident investigated as
The Associated Press
GREER, S.C. --A Muslim man at the BMW plant in Greer
told authorities a co-worker threatened to cut his
throat, prompting a national Islamic group to ask the
incident be investigated as a possible hate crime.
Abdulwahab Ahmed, 65, said a man approached him in a
restroom at the plant and held a box cutter to his
throat, according to a Spartanburg County sheriff's
The man, whose name was removed from the report, told
Ahmed that he would kill him before making a slashing
motion as he lifted the box cutter from Ahmed's neck,
the report said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Ahmed
also claims other plant employees repeatedly made
anti-Muslim comments, including a statement that
Muslims "should all be killed."
"There have been a number of comments based on the
alleged victims' religion," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim
Hooper said. "We call on authorities and the FBI to
investigate this disturbing incident as a possible
A message left for Ahmed at his home was not
immediately returned Tuesday.
Authorities are not calling the incident a hate crime
at this point, but are investigating, sheriff's
spokesman Maj. Dan Johnson said.
FBI spokesman Tom O'Neill refused to say if federal
agents are investigating.
BMW said the two men involved in the bathroom incident
were employees of a plant subcontractor, were business
partners in the past and had a long personal history.
"BMW security is cooperating with our subcontractor
and the Sheriff's Department to ensure the continuing
safe working environment of all personnel at the BMW
plant," public relations manager Bobby Hitt said in a
Mosque: Graffito may be hate crime
Intruders targeted a Tucson mosque Sunday, the second
time in less than two months, said mosque officials,
who are starting to ask questions.
"We are beginning to wonder if this is a hate crime,"
said Muhammad As'ad, spokesman for the Islamic Center
of Tucson, where the crimes took place.
The latest incident at the center at 901 E. First St.,
near the University of Arizona campus, was a
ransacking of the mosque office, according to a news
release Tuesday from the Arizona chapter of the
Council on American-Islamic Relations.
A message - "Bush was here" - was hand-written with a
marker on a computer monitor, the release said.
Tucson police confirmed the mosque reported a burglary
Monday and the incident is under investigation.
Two months ago, thieves broke into the mosque and
stole about $1,000, the release said.
The only TPD report that coincided with that date was
an embezzlement reported Feb. 17, a TPD spokesman
said. No information on that report was available
CAIR-AZ civil rights director Mohammed AbuHannoud said
the council has asked the FBI to assist in the TPD
investigation, but the FBI has no record of the
request, an FBI spokeswoman said.
Deborah McCarley said the FBI had no record of
CAIR-AZ's request, adding that just because "Bush was
here" was scrawled on a computer monitor does not
automatically classify the incident as a hate crime.
"I don't know if that in and by itself would make it a
hate crime," she said Tuesday. "I know of no
investigation that we're involved in at this time.
"It's unfortunate when any mosque or church is
vandalized," McCarley added, "but it's not always a
hate crime. Many are vandalized and broken into not
necessarily as a hate crime but because you have
vandals and thieves."
The center was in the news at the end of last year
when a former imam, Omar Shahin, and four other Muslim
scholars were barred from a US Airways flight in
Minneapolis after fellow passengers complained that
the Muslims appeared suspicious because they had
kneeled and said prayers before boarding.
As'ad said the center may make changes, regardless of
the crimes' classification.
"We are in the process of discussing increased
security," he said. "But this is a good community.
Very tolerant, a very good community."
Catholic church defaced with anti-Arab graffiti
Jim Lynch / The Detroit News
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
WARREN -- At a time when nearly 200 families of St.
Mary's -- Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of
the East were preparing to celebrate the move into a
new facility, church leaders and members are dealing
with issues of hate and, perhaps, mistaken identity.
Vandals defaced the outside of the congregation's new
church, at 4320 14 Mile, by spraying anti-Arab threats
onto the building. The church is scheduled to host its
first Mass May 6 after nearly 20 years at its location
on Toepfer Road.
Construction crews discovered the vandalism Monday
Among the messages left in blue and black paint were
"1 God Jesus" and "Arabs Die." Most were left at the
rear of the building.
"It's not so much anger I feel but more a sense of
disappointment," said Ashurina Mirza, a 21-year-old
member of the congregation whose father helped build
the original church two decades ago.
"To know that the people in our church poured their
hearts and souls into something and see someone try to
destroy it it's disappointing."
The religious undertones of the messages left on the
church suggested perpetrators who are anti-Muslim. But
church members, as the name suggests, are Catholics.
And the number of crosses adorning the building,
including a giant wooden cross over the western
entrance, would seem to make it clear St. Mary's is a
Inside the church's entryway are writings that may
appear Arabic, but they are actually Aramaic.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is looking
into the incident and plan to offer assistance to
church members and the community at large.
"These kinds of things are generally not based on
people airing legitimate concerns," said Harold Core,
a department spokesman.
Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh issued a statement
Tuesday: "This kind of vandalism sickens me. People of
all religions have the right to worship without having
to put up with this kind of hatred. "
Warren Police Chief Jere Green said he will increase
patrols around places of worship in the area. Anyone
with information regarding the vandalism should call
police at (586) 574-4776.
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