FIGHTING ISLAMOPHOBIA: SAMPLE STRATEGIES

HOW TO RESPOND TO ISLAMOPHOBIA?

A good counter strategy when attacks get personal is to follow the example of a known TV personality, incidentally known for her own bigoted statements against ordinary Muslims and Islam. In August 2015 when Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was verbally abused by none other than Donald Trump, mocking her and questioning her professionalism on national TV and social media, Kelly who ran the second- highest-rated program in cable news in America stayed silent for almost a week only speaking up on her show “The Kelly File” where she said:

“I’ve decided not to respond . . .

Mr. Trump is an interesting man who has captured the attention of the electorate. That’s why he’s leading in the polls. Trump, who is the front-runner, will not apologize, and I certainly will not apologize for doing good journalism. So I’ll continue doing my job without fear or favor. And Mr. Trump, I expect, will continue with what has been a successful campaign thus far.”

She then added, “This is a tough business, and it’s time now to move forward. And now, let’s get back to the news”. Ms. Kelly was praised for the way she handled the issue.

Clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD, who counsels on bullying, was quoted in the local press saying:

“Research and experience in this field overwhelmingly maintains that you do not engage the bullying because fundamentally the bully is looking for that reinforcement for their tactics” he says.

Put another way, if you’re the victim of bullying, ignore the bully and don’t react. Soon enough, they will get tired of the lack of response and move to another target. (Source: Megyn Kelly’s Response to Donald Trump Is a Master Class in Handling Haters by Korin Miller, 12 August 2015, Yahoo News).

This says plenty about the best course of action when dogs bark: you leave them alone. You don’t bark back. Escalation is exactly what they want and therefore it should definitely not be given to them. Evidently, Ms. Kelly was right. Shortly thereafter, Trump shifted his nihilistic views towards the Mexicans, women and ordinary Muslims. The rest, is rather unfortunate history.

WHAT TO DO WHEN AN ISLAMOPHOBE IS INVITED TO SPEAK AT A UNIVERSITY GATHERING OR FORUM?

When invited to speak at universities and other events –

Islamophobes, atheists, bigots and war hawks do not always have to be boycotted but every effort should be made to stand up to them by challenging them to a pubic debate or at the very least, hold up a critical sign during their speech or write a rebuttal of their claims and distribute it at the event.

This is the beauty of “freedom of speech”. It works both ways! Heckling or boycotting them advances nothing for Muslims. They will always find another venue to help grow their following, if all we do is heckle and call for the boycotting their events. Instead, these events should be seen as opportunities for well-informed Muslims to reach out and speak up with a united voice against myths and false statements smearing Islam and ordinary Muslims.

HOW SHOULD YOUNG ANGRY MUSLIMS RESPOND TO ISLAMOPHOBIA?

Disgruntled youth and individuals who are angry should be advised to vent their frustrations by forming local or regional lobby group(s), peacefully protesting or writing op-eds letters to their local and regional newspapers, local district member of parliament or its equivalent and do everything possible to ensure each and every one of our voices are readily heard through civic engagement. If you are a constituent, set an example by writing letters to your representative. Sign a petition. If you are not a constituent, get registered as one.

Put simply, let your opinion be heard and let this be seen by your children.

Muslim youth and teenagers should also be encouraged to speak out “every time a white, middle-aged, Christian fundamentalist goes on an anti-abortion killing spree and the same bastards who demand that I bow and scrape to them over the Paris attacks don’t immediately condemn people of their own ilk. Sue me.” (Source: Moderate Muslim: Where Are All The Moderate White Christians Denouncing Planned Parenthood Shooting? By James Schlarmann, November 28, 2015, The Political Garbage Chute)

An exemplar example however was set by Tarek El-Messidi, 35, an American Muslim leader from Knoxville, Tennessee. Through his organisation Celebrate Mercy, which teaches about Muhammad [PBUH], he used social media to urge Muslims to send condolence letters to the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed along with three others in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. The effort drew 7,700 letters from 115 countries, El-Messidi said . . . After this year’s killings in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, of three young American Muslims who had been focused on public service, El-Messidi helped create the “Feed Their Legacy” effort, which organized canned food drives in honor of the victims among mosques in 30 states. He said about 200,000 meals were provided for the poor . . . “The narrative is being defined for us, and we’re being de ned by these extremist acts and the poll numbers show that,” El-Messidi said.

“I personally do feel like condemning is an unfortunate necessity right now because our community is misunderstood. But I think that’s partially the Muslims’ fault because we’re not changing the narrative.

Condemning is just a Band-Aid solution. It feels like putting a Band-Aid over a tumor”. (Source: US Muslims struggle with how they should condemn extremism by Rachel Zoll, 6 December 2015, Associated Press)

For those of us who are both tech-savvy and equally editorially driven, consider writing for and developing a platform similar to Muslim Matters, a unique collaboration between bloggers and Muslim scholars bringing key issues affecting Muslims to the fore.

On a niche-scale but quickly attracting a strong following, MuslimGirl.net, which was established by 23-year-old Al-Khatahtbeh along with seven volunteer editors and more than 30 contributing writers, as the first mainstream media network by and for Muslim women.

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh kicks off her speeches with a request to her audience: take out your phone and search “Muslim women” on Google Images . . . The experiment yields myriad images of faceless figures covered head to toe in black veils. Only the women’s eyes are visible – if they’re shown at all. Al-Khatahtbeh, who wears a hijab, says the pictures boggle folks in the crowd . . . “I always ask them: Do these Muslim women look like the Muslim women you know in real life? Do they look like me? Do they look like your friends? And the audience always says ‘no’ – it looks nothing like us,” Al-Khatahtbeh said in an interview . . . Fed up with that and other inaccurate portrayals of Islam, she launched news and lifestyle website MuslimGirl. The portal, which encourages Muslim women to speak up and covers topics ranging from Donald Trump’s proposed [nefarious and counterproductive] Muslim ban to modest workout outfits, logged 100 million hits in 2015. (Source: Meet The Rising Media Star Shattering Stereotypes About Muslims, Daniela Sirtori-Cortina, 17 October 2016, Forbes Magazine)

Granted, while we can’t solve terrorism with hashtags, memes, gifs and tweets, some online messages can define how society views Islam and ordinary Muslims, especially if it is liked, shared, reposted, and retweeted by world renowned politicians and celebrities or in some cases, an ordinary citizen:

In December 2015, when a self-professed Muslim attacked three passengers on the London Underground using what was described in the press as a 3-inch knife, he was quickly overpowered by the police and a non-Muslim passerby shouted “you ain’t no muslim bruv”, which quickly became a hashtag “#youaintnomuslimbruv” generating 100,000 tweets, going viral within hours and much more since. The passerby added, “He is angry terrorist organisations such as ISIS claim to represent Islam”.

After his comments came to symbolise London’s defiance in the face of terror attacks, [former] UK Prime Minister David Cameron praised the phrase as having “said it all better than I ever could” . . . Others, particularly proud Londoners, praised the hashtag itself – with Russ Burt saying: “#YouAintNoMuslimBruv – one man does more for community cohesion with one sentence than any government initiative.” (Source: Man who shouted ‘You ain’t no Muslim bruv’ was upset by people who make generalisations about Muslims by Samuel Osborne, 13 December 2015, The Independent)

THERE IS NO POINT PAYING TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO ISLAMOPHOBIA ONLINE.

The Columbia Journalism Review documented the “widespread” posting of such anti-Muslim memes over the last year, as well as the use of hashtags like #banislam, #killmuslims, #attackamosque, #bansharia and #islamisterror. Facebook and Twitter have become platforms where people who “actively believe in the extermination of Muslims . . . are not afraid to state their views in public,” according to the CJR report published last month. (Source: Let’s Talk About All That Anti- Muslim Garbage In Your Newsfeeds, Christopher Mathias, 6th October, 2016, The Huffington Post)

 Almost 7,000 “Islamophobic” tweets were sent, in English, every day in July worldwide, data seen by the BBC suggests. (Source: Islamophobic tweets ‘peaked in July’, Catrin Nye, 18 August 2016, BBC News)

HOW BEST TO FIGHT ISLAMOPHOBIA ONLINE?

For those who have to put up with cruel social media trolls, there is a lesson worth learning from Australian Muslim Susan Carland who has been named one of 500 most in influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

Tired of receiving hate-filled messages on social media, Ms. Carland and her husband, Waleed Aly vowed to donate $1 to charity for every hate-filled tweet she receives since her previous attempts to engage, block or simply ignore them did not seem to be going anywhere.

She added, “I felt I should be actively generating good in the world for every ugly verbal bullet sent my way”, pledging to donate the proceeds to “UNICEF, as so often they were assisting children who were in horrific situations that were the direct outcome of hate – war, poverty due to greed, injustice, violence. These children seemed like the natural recipients for the antidote to hate”, she said. (Source: Koran guided me in how to turn tweets from trolls into a force for good, 13 November 2015, Susan Carland, Sydney Morning Herald)

BUT THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE INTERNET.

At its very basic level, the power of the internet should not be underestimated. After all, it was the uproar on Twitter and Facebook that forced global media platforms to look into the shootings of three Muslim students at UNC-Chapel Hill in February 2015, which in turn led to widespread condemnation of mainstream media.

While the news of the shootings by Craig Stephen Hicks, an anti-theist who frequently posted anti-religious messages on social media, was ignored for 17-long hours by all leading print, TV and online news sites – they were all forced to not only report the news albeit late but a number of news platforms like the Independent and Huffington Post subsequently published articles examining why there was an apparent double standard when it comes to reporting news events where Muslims were the victims and an atheist a perpetrator.

It is also through hashtag activism in early 2017 that brought the abhorring issue of police brutality in French society to the forefront, almost as if the country only recently discovered the banal cruelty of police brutality especially towards poor, minorities and blacks, something that has existed for decades:

Theo Luhaka, 22 had attempted to intervene when a friend of his was the victim of a violent identity check. The police not only subjected him to racists insults but physically assaulted him and pushed a baton at least 10cm into his rectum, a horrendous YouTube video secretly recorded the event from a distance documenting the irrefutable terror.

This quickly brought back memories of the 2005 banielue riots when: Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, two teenagers who had done nothing wrong, were chased by police officers, hid in an electrical substation and were electrocuted. An unprecedented wave of unrest shook France for three weeks. (Source: When will France admit that police racism is systemic?, Rokhaya Diallo, March 2017, The Guardian)

 Therefore, do not discount the power of social media and technology given its penetrating reach whatever one’s social or economic strata.

THE KEY STRATEGY IS TO FOCUS ON SOCIAL MEDIA THEN?

No, there is a world beyond online social media therefore our keyboard warriors need to sometimes briefly step away from their laptops and press for real, tangible solutions to combat racism and division, especially since an online post alone, is not likely to change the discrimination tactics facing ordinary Muslim communities today.

In essence, logging into social media sites – posting, liking and forwarding messages and video clips is nowhere nearly enough. A lot more needs to be done – in a coordinated, organised fashion by ordinary Muslims around the world.

 

GLOBAL BRANDBUILDING FOR MUSLIMS AND ISLAM

APART FROM DAWAH, HOW CAN ORDINARY MUSLIMS HELP BUILD A GLOBAL BRAND FOR ISLAM AND ORDINARY MUSLIMS?

From regularly volunteering at a local nursing home, helping to deliver food to homeless families or teaching a young person to read to helping out at local charities such as soup kitchens, food bank, homeless shelter and contributing towards clothes and food distribution or something as simple as shoveling neighbours’ driveways or giving blood at least once in your lifetime, if not more, there are many ways to illustrate what it truly means to be a Muslim.

The point is, we Muslims have to make it difficult for others to stereotype or distrust people they actually know. At present, most of us are regrettably little more than sitting ducks.

In an incredible speech that did not receive as much coverage as it rightfully deserved, the Canadian Imam who delivered a powerful eulogy for the six Muslim victims of a deluded white supremacist killing outside a Quebec (Canada) mosque in late January 2017 said:

Our Prophet was persecuted, thrown out of his town. He was alone. Eight years after that he came back to this town with 10,000 people. Less than two years after that, when he did the last pilgrimage in life, he was accompanied with 120,000 people. From where did these 120,000 people come from in a period of 10 years? It was the same people who were his enemies. The people who wanted to kill him. The people who were persecuting him and his companions and his sympathizers . . . He transformed his enemies into friends and followers. We don’t have enemies. I repeat we do not have enemies. We have some people who don’t know us. It should be easier to explain to these people who do not know us, it is easier to let them know who we are. (Source: Translated and adapted version of the eulogy, which Imam Hassan Guillet delivered for the Québec mosque shooting victims)

Given such, it may be worthwhile exploring some out-of-the-box approach to being a visible Muslim today: Hundreds of American Muslims around the country joined forces to put their faith into action . . . At least 23 teams from mosques, Muslim student clubs, and faith-based non-profits signed up to serve in soup kitchens across the country for the first National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day. In total, the volunteers cooked and distributed more than 3,000 meals throughout the day in New York, Florida, Alabama, and seven other states, according to the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project (MSKP), the New York-based organization that coordinated the national event . . . 200 volunteers signed up as cooks, drivers, and soup kitchen servers. They helped out at 8 local shelters and at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York’s Farm. (Source: American Muslims Join Forces For National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day by Carol Kuruvilla, 4 May 2016, Huffington Post)

Another example is one of how Muslims bandied together in December 2015 when American Muslims responded to the attack in San Bernardino with philanthropy. The fundraising campaign, Muslims United for San Bernardino Families, cited a Qur’anic verse and Hadith. It collected more than US$200,000 within seven days – the equivalent of US$1,000 an hour . . . In July 2015, after an American Muslim with a history of mental illness murdered five victims in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the local Muslim community raised US$20,000 for their families . . . On July 4th, as Americans celebrated their country’s birth- day at barbeques, parks and beaches, American Muslims led by the Islamic Society of Central Jersey – observing a Ramadan fast from sunrise to sunset – will gather at one of the state’s largest mosques to prepare 600 meals for the poor and homeless. (Source: American Muslims Show Humanitarian Islam, Engy Abdelkader, 28 June 2016, Huffington Post)

 As yet another example: when several African American churches burned to the ground last summer [in 2015] in the wake of the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, news outlets noted that a Muslim organization raised more than US$100,070 to help the congregations rebuild – a higher sum than several Christian organizations accumulated in the same time period.

The lead organizer for the effort? Faatimah Knight, a Zaytuna graduate, America’s First Accredited Muslim College.(Source: What It’s Like To Attend America’s First Accredited Muslim College by Jack Jenkins, 18 April 2016, Think Progress)

Or contemplate local efforts in Michigan, with perhaps the largest Muslim community, led by the Michigan Muslim Community Council. When the water supply in Flint, Michigan, was found to be toxic, the state’s Muslims worked with members of other religions to aid distressed citizens while state and local officials failed. The American Muslim response to the water crises in Flint – including more than US$300,000 and 1,000,000 bottles of water in donations – made local, national and international news (Source: American Muslims Show Humanitarian Islam, Engy Abdelkader, 28 June 2016, Huffington Post) although the mainstream news media rarely captures the civil engagement of Muslims.

“They were very helpful,” says Lee Anne Walters, a Flint woman who blew the whistle on the contamination. “It was great seeing every- one come together”. (Source: Albert Hunt: U.S. Muslims are terror victims too, Albert Hunt, 21 June 2016, Bloomberg View)

On the healthcare front and joining at least 25 free clinics nation- wide run primarily by Muslim volunteers, according to the American Muslim Health Professionals’ task force on health a affordability: The American Muslim Community Center in Orlando, Florida, has converted an old doctor’s office into a free clinic for uninsured families and people in need . . . “Our goal is to serve humanity – no strings attached. Everyone is welcome,” Atif Fareed, AMCC chairman, told the Orlando Sentinel. “We have over 40 physicians who come to our mosque, and we have 11 of them signed up to volunteer here. So we are very, very blessed.” . . . The facility, which will only be open on Fridays for the time-being, will offer general health care to anyone who lives in Central Florida who is uninsured and lives below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. This equates to individuals who make $23,760 or families that make $48,600 or less a year . . . Free health care facilities run by Muslim Americans have been sprouting up all over the nation, such as in Jacksonville, Florida; Muscoy, California; Silver Spring, Maryland; and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, just to name a few. (Source: This Muslim-Run Clinic Offers Free Health Care To Those In Need, Elyse Wanshel, 18 January 2017, Huffington Post)

Over in the UK, London Muslim students regularly run huge home- less drives providing medical checks, food and haircuts, as well as litter picking in the streets of the capital. Islamic Relief Scotland’s Winter Warm campaign distributed over 350 bags containing hats, scarves and gloves this year alone in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh over the Christmas period in 2016. The East London mosque, in conjunction with Muslim Aid meanwhile distributed 10 tonnes of food to London’s homeless over the December holiday season, collectively playing their role in the local society they live in.

Such effort also has other multi-fold benefits. While we as parents allocate a great deal of time encouraging our children to learn about Islam, we can model random acts of kindness for our children by committing acts of goodness in their presence.

The idea of getting to know your neighbours, donating to charity, participating in beach cleanups, opening a door for strangers, helping an elderly on the street or public transport remind children of the importance, sense of peace and happiness that lies in doing good. There can be no better way of laying the foundation of fighting helplessness and evil via Islam than through our own positive actions.

SHOULD CHARITY BE GIVEN IN STEALTH OR IN PUBLIC?

While Muslims are taught charity given in stealth has more value in Islam, for as long as the intention is not the shameless display of wealth, it is indeed high time for ordinary Muslims to start looking at the bigger picture. Put crudely, there is a somewhat limited point having a mosque in a Western society when Muslims have zero visibility in the local community.

In terms of media coverage and in reaction to the negative coverage of Muslims, many outlets seem to feel a need to overcompensate. Whenever a Muslim is doing something normal or “good” for society, it is as if journalists are stunned. Hannah Allam, a journalist at McClatchy, summed up this issue in a tweet last year: Anti-Muslim hostility has led to a well-meaning but sad genre of corrective journalism that says “Look at this Muslim doing a normal thing!”, 12:10 AM – 30 Nov 2016 (Source: What Covering Hate As A Muslim Journalist Taught Me About The Media, Rowaida Abdelaziz, 23 January 2017, The Huffington Post)

The key therefore is to strike a balance by avoiding a shameless display of wealth and thus the need to dispense of the so-called “corrective journalism” about ordinary Muslims, charity and Islam

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

CHINA, INDIA AND BURMA: ISLAMOPHOBIA’S NEXT FRONTIER

ARE THERE ANY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ISLAMOPHOBES IN THE WEST VERSUS ISLAMOPBHOBES IN CHINA AND INDIA?

A key characteristic of being an Islamophobe in the West is to be as controversial, outrageous and wildly provocative as possible, by making statements that create immediate shock value so as to cut through the many voices in the mainstream and online media today. This much is quite obvious.

In China however, there is almost zero interest in participating in broad, sweeping, and ridiculous generalisations of ordinary Muslims and Islam nor does the government peddle opportunistic misinformed notions to generate media attention (although the latter point could be technically argued given the nationwide propagandist attitude of the Chinese government against Islam and ordinary Muslims).

Nevertheless (in China), there is an entire government apparatus that is responsible for keeping media attention on Muslims to as little as possible so that they can simply get on with their persecution of ordinary Muslims in China, old and young.

In India meanwhile, the purpose of faith-baiting and peddling misinformed notions about ordinary Muslims and Islam on TV, online and in print newspapers is just as much opportunistic.

However in India this has little to do with advertising and TV ratings as in the West but more to do with the swaying vote-bank political parties salivate after.

By alarming ordinary Indian citizens with exaggerated fears and wholly decontextualized theses about ordinary Muslims and Islam, religious tension stoking politicians make mountain out of moles or out of issues with arch-rival Pakistan and territorial issues related to Kashmir by relying on right-wing populism, sourced directly from the concerted radical Hindu majoritarian playbook.

BUT INDIA TREAT ITS MUSLIMS WELL.

“Nearly 100,000 people, mostly Muslim civilians, have been killed and thousands have disappeared during the armed revolt and subsequent military operations since 1989 in Kashmir”. (Source: Hundreds arrested in Kashmir ahead of Modi visit by Baba Umar, 4 November 2015, Aljzeera.com) India is also in violation of at least 18 UN resolutions on Kashmir that has promised right of self-determination to Kashmiris.

In a report published by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) made public in May 2016 which caused an uproar, India was placed on a Tier two ranking, which is where it has been since 2009, USCIRF noted since “the largest democratic country of the world “is on a negative trajectory” in terms of religious freedom.

It added, “Minority communities (in India), especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups”, according to the findings in the report.

From the destruction of the Babri Mosque by Hindu nationalists and their saffron-clad terrorism that led directly to the 1992 Bombay Riots to the state-sanctioned Gujarat massacre in 2002, many ordinary Indian Muslim citizens feel disillusioned about the “Indian government’s willingness to tolerate, even encourage, the Hindu hard-liners within the ruling administration” (Source: The Costs of Hindu, Extremism, The Editorial Board, 3 November 2015, New York Times), much to the detriment of other minorities (including Christians) and not just Muslims living in India today.

In fact, in 2007, award-winning Tehelka magazine released “The Truth: Gujarat 2002,” a report which implicated the state government in the violence, and claimed that what had been called a spontaneous act of revenge was, in reality, a “state-sanctioned pogrom”.

According to Human Rights Watch, the violence in Gujarat in 2002 was pre-planned, and the police and state government participated in the violence. (Source: Violence against Muslims in India – Wikipedia)

 Then there is the systematic social and economic discrimination Muslims face daily on TV, online as well as at work so much so that some are forced to assume fake identities especially when it comes to securing menial jobs where worker’s identity documents are not usually sought.

Muslims face discrimination in finding homes in mixed colonies and in finding work . . . and often still encounter barely disguised bigotry in the workplace (The challenges of being Muslim in India, 6 June 2015, Humaira Ansari, Hindustan Times).

In a separate article that goes into somewhat more detail about further challenges Muslims face from a young age, the writer explains how, “As a group, Muslims have fallen badly behind Hindus in recent decades in education, employment and economic status, with persistent discrimination a key reason.

Muslims are more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities and less likely to qualify for bank loans”. (Source: For India’s Persecuted Muslim Minority, Caution Follows Hindu Party’s Victory by Gardiner Harris, May 16 2014, New York Times)

 In a brave investigative report by the Guardian in October 2016, the journalist produced an in-depth article highlighting the gross human rights violation by the so-called largest democracy in the world:

Since July [2016], when the killing of a young militant leader sparked a furious civilian uprising across the Kashmir valley, the Indian state has responded with singular ruthlessness, killing more than 90 people. Most shocking of all has been the breaking up of demonstrations with “non- lethal” pellet ammunition, which has blinded hundreds of Kashmiri civilians . . . In four months, 17,000 adults and children have been injured, nearly five thousand have been arrested, and an entire population spent the summer under the longest curfew in the history of curfews in Kashmir . . . Indeed, the Indian state, aided by a near-militaristic TV news media, has used the Uri attack and its aftermath to cover up a surge of killings, maimings and blindings in one of the longest-running conflicts in the world . . . These weapons discharge hundreds of small metal pellets, or birdshot, capable of piercing the eye . . . As the uprising continued, the armed forces, by their own admission, red nearly 4,000 cartridges at stone- throwing demonstrators, crowds protesting against police brutality, and even onlookers. This means that they sent, by one recent estimate, 1.3m metal balls hurtling towards public gatherings predominantly made up of young unarmed people . . . Children as young as four and five now have multiple pellets in their retinas, blinding them partially, or fully, for life. At the start of September, doctors at Kashmir’s main hospital reported that on average, one person had their eyes ruptured by pellets every other hour since 9 July. “It means 12 eye surgeries per day,” one doctor told a local newspaper. “It is shocking.” . . . On 12 July, the fourth day of the protests, the state government, which is run by a controversial coalition between Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a local ally, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), finally issued its first official statement on the use of the so-called “non-lethal” pellet guns. A spokesperson for the government, representing the PDP, described its position to the media: “We disapprove of it . . . But we will have to persist with this necessary evil till we find a non-lethal alternative.” . . .There is no recorded instance of a modern democracy systematically and willfully shooting at people to blind them . . . At the end of August, according to data obtained by one of India’s national newspapers, nearly 6,000 civilians had been injured, and at least 972 of them had suffered injuries to their eyes . . . According to official records at SMHS, the main hospital in Srinagar, 570 people sought treatment after their eyeballs were ruptured by metal pellets. Ophthalmologists at the hospital performed more surgeries in three days – from 10 to 12 July – than they had in the past three years. Many of the wounded were protesters, but not all. Not one of them deserved to be robbed of their sight . . .

In the 1990s, India came down hard on a wide-spread uprising in the Kashmir valley – killing, torturing, disappearing, and imprisoning thousands. Some estimates put the number of people killed since 1989 at 70,000. Some 8,000 non-combatants are thought to have been disappeared, and 6,000 are believed to have been buried in mass graves. Human rights reports have identified thousands of cases of torture, including shocking techniques such as “simulated drowning, striping flesh with razor blades and piping petrol into anuses” . . .

In 2011, months after the uprising in Tahrir Square that toppled an Egyptian dictator, a young police lieutenant, Mohamed el-Shenawy, became infamous for ring pellets into the eyes of protesters against Egypt’s military government. His exemplary skill at blinding civilians earned him the nickname the “Eye Sniper”, and his notoriety as a symbol of ongoing state brutality eventually led to a three-year jail sentence . . . Will India prosecute its own eye snipers? Or outlaw the use of these weapons? . . .The secessionist Kashmiri, the impure Dalit, the traitorous beef-eating Muslim, the woman who speaks her mind, the anti-national journalist, the dissenting writer. Any voices who might call for a ban on these “non-lethal” guns are certain to be ignored . . . The wanton demonisation of the Kashmiri Muslim, a project that some media organisations in India take particular pleasure in, was perhaps fully realised even then. It certainly is now, when thousands, fed on a daily diet of nationalist fury, take to social media to celebrate the killing, maiming, and blinding of young Kashmiris . . . How did India get here? How is it all right for a constitutionally democratic and secular, modern nation to blind scores of civilians in a region it controls? Not an authoritarian state, not a crackpot dictatorship, not a rogue nation or warlord outside of legal and ethical commitments to international statutes, but a democratic country, a member of the comity of nations . . .The harsh repression of Kashmiri protests, the Nobel prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen declared in July, is “the biggest blot on India’s democracy” . . . (Source: India’s crackdown in Kashmir: is this the world’s first mass blinding?, by Mirza Waheed, 8 November 2016, The Guardian)

WHAT ABOUT CHINA? WHY WOULD THE MEDIA IGNORE MUSLIMS IN CHINA?

No one today talks about Muslims in China as much as we should, in part due to lack of media interests from global news giants and in part because of the draconian stranglehold by the Chinese atheist government that ensures as little as possible news trickles out, on matters related to Uighurs (pronounced “wee-ghur”) in China by restricting journalists access in the region via ubiquitous checkpoints as well as other means.

In the rare event a news report leaks outside China and goes viral, journalists are accused of political bias for “reporting on Beijing’s efforts to equate ethnic violence in the Western Muslim region of Xinjiang with global terrorism”. (Source: China says new restrictions to come on terrorism reporting, 28 December 2015, Associated Press).

Alternatively, the visa accreditation is not renewed and journalists are accused of “violating unspecified rules and regulation”. (Source: Al Jazeera shuts English bureau after China visa denial, 8 May 2012, Reuters)

HOW ARE MUSLIMS TREATED IN CHINA?

In Xinjiang, China, government officials, public servants, teachers and students are told in clear terms to be “unyielding Marxist atheists”. They are not allowed to fast and forced fed if necessary. Men are not allowed to grow beards while their women are told not to wear the Hijab.

The rationale provided by the Chinese government too, seems like a watered down version of what one would astonishingly hear in France today:

“The ruling party says religion and education should be kept separate and students should not be subjected to ‘religious influences’, although this rule is rarely enforced for children of Han Chinese, who – if they have a religion – are mostly Buddhist, Taoist or Christian. (Source: China bans Muslims from fasting during Ramadan, say Uighur community by Aftab Ali, 17 June 2015, The Independent).

 In March 2017, a new draconian law was passed, banning a wide range of acts including wearing veils or “abnormal” beards, without specifying the term. It will also be illegal to refuse to watch state television and listen to state radio, or prevent children from receiving national education – activities deemed “manifestations” of extremism, according to state run media, illustrating the inhumane stranglehold of religious rights in China.

WHO ARE THESE XINJIANG MUSLIMS?

Xinjiang has a large Uighur Muslim population estimated to be in the region of 20 million and is located in the resource rich region at the far West of China. In recent years if not decades, a great deal of unrest has emanated from the region. It all started when the central Chinese government tactfully started encouraging Han Chinese who were mostly non-Muslims to migrate to the region titling the geography in its favour.

In fact, the geographic manipulation started as long as seventy years ago: “In 1949, when the Communist Party swept to power in China, Han Chinese made up less than 7 percent of Xinjiang’s population: today, that number stands at 40 percent. Uighurs, at 43 percent, are [today] a minority in the region, with other, mainly Muslim ethnic groups making up the remainder”. (Source: China’s campaign for mixed marriages spreads to troubled Xinjiang by Simon Denyer, September 1, 2014, The Washington Post)

 HOW ARE MUSLIMS PERSECUTED IN CHINA?

Knife and bomb attacks in China are often planted and meticulously staged and the alleged Uighur Muslim perpetrators are stupendously rounded up within hours and instantaneously killed in a form of justice that would make anyone but the Chinese government, with a conscience cringe.

The death toll created by the Chinese security forces is also often understated by the local state controlled media, while local mosques are barred from broadcasting the call to prayer and remain under 24-hour surveillance for “hidden security threats”.

As a further example of suppression to any form of reports on the region, “Thirteen American academics were banned from China after contributing to a collection of essays about Xinjiang in 2004”. (Source: Ursula Gauthier: foreign media must fight China censorship, says expelled journalist by Tom Phillips 31 December 2015, The Guardian)

All this within a single region in China that has repeatedly blamed separatist Uighurs, citing dubious evidence for a string of terrorist attacks on civilian targets, but the group has consistently denied involvement, raising warranted questions as to who is actually behind these attacks.

The goal of the atheist government, according to the Uighur separatists in China, is to “ferment racial violence and rally public support for its suffocating security controls, illegal detentions, persecution and extra-judicial killings among Uighur Muslims in China”. (Source: Human Rights Watch)

 In the words of Brad Adams, the Asia Director of Human Rights Watch: “The Chinese are very good at putting things down and keeping a lid on them when they really want to,” (Source: 156 dead as Muslim uprising hits China by Claire Soares, 7 July 2009, The Independent), using its phalanxes of police and armored vehicles rumbling through the streets of the regional capital.

In a separate report, Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, has written: “Since 2012, law enforcement forces have killed hundreds of Uighurs in what authorities claimed were counter-terrorism operations. But whether those killed or convicted were actually responsible for the violence . . . will remain unknown to the outside world”. (Source: As China joins the anti-Isis brigade, must we keep quiet about the Uighurs? by Peter Popham, 21 November 2015, The Independent), exacerbating an endless series of repression and violence in the region.

WHY ARE WESTERN NATIONS AND MUSLIM- MAJORITY COUNTRIES SILENT ABOUT MUSLIM PERSECUTION?

Rarely will we hear any form of formal condemnation from the centers of power in the West let alone from any Muslim-majority countries, as everyone understands we are today dealing with none other than the twin-Asian equivalent of the Roman empire that is, China, which executes thousands of people each year but considers the number of death sentences to be a state secret and never releases them; and India which has banned over 11,000 NGOs from operating in the country including the likes of Greenpeace on dubious charges – and thus, political morality takes a backseat in the dungeons of eternal obscurity, especially given the massive trade flows involved from China and India.

Given such, no Western leader or let alone Middle Eastern autocrat in his or her right mind would risks the severing of economic and diplomatic ties for the voiceless ordinary Muslims who have themselves been sidelined in their own countries, let alone China and India which are increasingly hostile to ordinary Muslims and other minorities.

Most worryingly and curiously not as extensively covered, the only voice that ironically called for change is none other than the deranged, irrational and misguided leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (as of July 2017, presumably dead). The man responsible for contributing to the ever-growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the West, declared in July 2014 that China is a country where “Muslim rights are forcibly seized”. Twisted irony indeed.

Most remarkably and as part of its ingenious hiring strategy and appeal, ISIS released for perhaps the first time in its short blood-thirsty history a statement void of bloodshed and instead of focusing on its infamous series of beheadings, public executions and irrational killings, it (ISIS) tactfully expressed public concern for their so-called, co-religionists in China, calling on Hui and Uighur Muslims in the country to “wake up” to overcome “a century of slavery”, a feat not a single Muslim-majority country has managed to achieve to-date, and yet we have self-anointed “foreign-policy experts” in the West today scratching their heads as to why some misguided Muslims fall prey to the strategic yet devious recruiting techniques at ISIS?

HOW WOULD ONE SUM UP THE SITUATION IN BURMA?

Burma (Myanmar) is one place, which everyone talks about in passing but no one does anything constructive about the genocidal situation in the country. Needless to say, zero airstrikes or Iraq-like invasion to be expected but more donor conventions and conferences by Muslim and non-Muslim countries to discuss the plight of the Muslim minorities in Burma and wooden statements vapourising into oblivion.

WESTERN NATIONS HAVE FOR DECADES APPLIED SANCTIONS ON BURMA. ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?

While that was true in the past, the European Union suspended all non-military sanctions against Burma in 2010. In May 2013, the Obama administration decided that a 1996 ban on granting U.S. entry visas to the former Burma’s military rulers, their business partners and immediate families was no longer necessary after two years of reforms”. (Source: U.S. lifts more sanctions on Myanmar to support reforms by Paul Eckert and Peter Cooney, Reuters, May 2, 2013)

The fact that these sanctions were being lifted during the height of violence, firmly backed by the then-government, directed at Muslims in 2012 and 2013 was all the more shocking. Myanmar’s rebrand monk Ashin Wirathu, who rose to prominence following his anti-Muslim rhetoric led the deadly riots in 2012 and 2013, in which hundreds died and an estimated 90,000 people were displaced by the violence.

In a statement from the group’s Washington headquarters, Jennifer Quigley, executive director of the advocacy group U.S. Campaign for Burma said: “The Burmese military and security forces continue to carry out serious human rights violations against ethnic minorities in Burma” and called for further investigation into “the Burmese government’s system of impunity and security forces’ role in the ongoing escalation of anti- Muslim violence and ethnic cleansing”.

WHO ARE THE ROHINGYA MUSLIMS?

The Rohingya Muslims are the indigenous people of Southwestern Myanmar, eking out a living in the Rakhine State. Members of the 1.1 million group, who identify themselves by the term Rohingya, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Today they have been herded into detention and internment camps, stripped of their valuables, denied freedom of movement and left impoverished and lack even basic healthcare.

Rakhine State, one of Burma’s poorest regions, is home to an estimated 500,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims, the majority of whom remain confined to temporary camps following waves of deadly violence in 2012 between Buddhists and Muslims that left at least three hundred Rohingya Muslims dead and whole towns razed. Thousands of lives were destroyed. Astonishingly, no one has ever been prosecuted.

Ostensibly separated “for their own safety” behind barbed wire and checkpoints, a de facto apartheid exists in Rakhine – a state where the Rohingyas (or “Bengalis” as they are pejoratively labelled and were required to self-identify as in last year’s census) make up a third of the population. The state capital Sittwe is now totally Rohingya-free: more than 140,000 have been forced into squalid refugee camps – open air prisons in all but name – on the city’s fringes. The UN describes the camps as “some of the worst it has seen”. (Source: The Most Persecuted Minority in the World by Damian Collins, 26 June 2015, Huffington Post)

 Construction of mosques and religious schools in the region was banned in 1962, when military rule was first established in the country. Twenty years later in 1982 the Citizenship Law was amended that effectively led to the Rohingyas losing their citizenship, rendering millions who were born and raised in the country stateless, nameless, and protection-less. (Source: Mosques, Madrasas to be Razed in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, 21 September 2016, Voice of America)

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a June 2016 report the Rohingyas are excluded from a number of professions and need special paperwork to access hospitals, which has resulted in delays and deaths of babies and their mothers during childbirth.

AT LEAST MUSLIM PERSECUTION IN PLACES LIKE BURMA AND CHINA ARE REPORTED.

It is impossible to imagine our attention requiring such a high thresh- old were it a Christian minority group suffering a similar threat of imminent ethnic destruction . . . Compare for example how energised the commentariat and wider public became last year [in 2014] when Iraq’s Christian Yazidi’s entered ISIL’s barbaric sights. Under no circumstances would it be tolerated. The denunciations of “never again” that followed Rwanda and Srebrenica were dusted o and received a thorough airing. (Source: The Most Persecuted Minority in the World by Damian Collins, 26 June 2015, Huffington Post)

Then again, the same could be said of other governments (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) that do little else for the victims of anti-Muslim violence and persecution in China and Burma, no doubt the next frontiers for Islamophobia, albeit of a different kind.

NOBEL LAUREATE AUNG SAN SUU KYI IS REALLY KEEN ON HELPING MUSLIMS.

Despite the well-known atrocities and media reports about such decades-long injustices, nothing in diplomatic circles has led to any meaningful progress. Yet the merry-go-round continues. Even the inexplicable silence of Nobel laureate and current State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, otherwise a “champion of the dispossessed and distressed” has been eerily deafening.

On the first anniversary of her taking “power” in November 2016, some media reports went too far defending her, saying the military in Burma retains a leading role in national politics, appointing the three most important ministers – defence, home a airs and border a airs and controls a quarter of all members of the country’s parliament and local assemblies. Given such, there is only so much Suu Kyi can do, they claimed.

How would one however explain her display of discomfort in 2013 when interviewed by a leading BBC journalist who courageously raised more than a few uncomfortable questions about the violence against Muslims: According to an excerpt in the book by Peter Popham, The Lady And The Generals: Aung San Suu Kyi And Burma’s Struggle For Freedom, Suu Kyi was so incensed about being challenged by renowned BBC presenter Mishal Husain in October 2013 about violence against Muslims in Arakan state and her refusal to endorse the reports by Human Rights Watch, she was reportedly heard to say angrily o -air, “No-one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.”. (Source: “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim”: Aung San Suu Kyi’s Rohingya problem by Max Fisher, 28 March 2016,Vox)

 More recently in late January 2017, a key Muslim adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, was shot and killed point-blank by an assassin at the airport in Yangon, Myanmar. Not only was Ko Ni’s death celebrated on social media by some conservative Buddhists, Suu Kyi did not attend the lawyer’s funeral or meet with the family, demonstrating her conspicuous silence time and again.

Therefore, it remains an outrage the Nobel committee hasn’t yet criticised Suu Kyi (as she was once celebrated) by rescinding the medal let alone demand the return of the prize money.

BUT MUSLIM PERSECUTION IS A PROBLEM IN MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES TOO.

Muslims do face various forms of hardship in practicing Islam in ironically, some Muslim-majority countries but this is more of a case of religious rights or religious persecution than Islamophobia. In the case of Turkmenistan like most other parts of Central Asia for example, mosques and Muslim clergy are state-sponsored and financed and therefore sermons are controlled. In Kyrgyzstan, Muslims are prohibited from wearing the Hijab. In Tajikistan, female students and teachers are expelled from school for wearing the hijab and women are prevented from praying in mosques.

Worse still in Uzbekistan, police are known to plant narcotics and ammunition on citizens with “outward signs of religious observance, such as traditional clothing or beards” to justify their arrests and torture, despite being a 90 percent Muslim-majority country. Eerily put in simple terms, Trump can seem moderate by comparison to some living in certain Central Asian countries or Muslim-majority countries.

MUSLIM-MAJORITY GOVERNMENTS ARE DOING THEIR BEST TO FIGHT ISLAMOPHOBIA.

Utterly false. Not a single Muslim-majority government is doing anything substantial beyond standard rhetoric – condemning violence, diplomatic initiatives through dialogue, publishing reports and organising international conferences to promote interfaith tolerance. Toothless Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) workshops to formulate “Media strategies in countering Islamophobia”, expert meetings aimed at defining means of “combating negative stereotyping and violence against persons based on their religion” and releasing final pledges and declarations at the end of high pro le conferences to “. . . work harder to make sure that Islam’s true image is better projected” are all useful but nowhere near enough what Muslim-majority governments and individual Muslim philanthropists are capable of doing to counter mounting waves of widespread and growing Islamophobia today.

(Note: This section was written in early August 2017, a few weeks before the Burmese government carried out its genocidal atrocities (burning villages, shooting fleeing refugees and laying landmines at the border, killing well over 400 Rohingyas and causing over 600,000 Rohingyas to seek refuge in Bangladesh and elsewhere)

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

HOMOSEXUALITY, BLASPHEMY AND APOSTASY IN ISLAM

HOMOSEXUALITY

 MUSLIMS ARE ALL AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS.

There is no denying it. Some Muslims are homophobic. But this is not a remarkable admission in light of the fact that most endeavors to restrict the civil liberties of the LGBTQI community in the U.S. have been led not by Muslims but by Christians . . . It’s also important to stress that the only two Muslims in Congress, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana, are fierce advocates of LGBTQI rights. Last year, Carson helped to introduce the Equality Act, which would extend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. For his part, Ellison was named by Think Progress in 2012 as one of the most pro-LGBTQI members of the House of Representatives . . . For many years, members of the L.G.B.T.Q.I. community have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community against any acts of hate crimes, Islamophobia, marginalization, and discrimination. Today we stand with them shoulder to shoulder. The liberation of the American Muslim community is profoundly linked to the liberation of other minorities – blacks, Latinos, gays, Jews, and every other community. We cannot fight injustice against some groups and not against others. Homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia – we cannot dismantle one without the other . . . In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, for instance, American Muslims launched a crowd-funding campaign for the victims and their families. The campaign, Muslims United for Victims of Pulse Shooting, cites a Qur’anic verse and Hadith, or saying of Muhammad [PBUH]. In less than two weeks, they raised more than $75,000. (Source: American Muslims Send A Powerful Message Of Solidarity To Orlando Victims, Carol Kuruvilla, 14 June 2016, Huffington Post)

DOES ISLAM ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALITY?

In an interview with a leading Islamic scholar in America, following the Orlando shooting, Sheikh Humza Yusuf had the following to say: As we say in the Orlando statement, we are committed to Abrahamic morality, but it should not be imposed on others. America is about choices, including those to live certain lifestyles . . .

I have studied the tradition, and the vast majority of Muslims would never accept the lawfulness of an active homosexual lifestyle. I don’t see that happening. But there is also no authority in the tradition for any individual to take things into his own hands and impose their version of the religion on someone else. (Source: Muslim leaders: ‘We will not allow the extremists to de ne us’, by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor, 15 June 2016, CNN)

SO MUSLIMS HATE HOMOSEXUALITY?

While Islam and many other religions including the other two Abrahamic faiths have a clear position on homosexuality, in an excellent summarised response to the issue, interfaith presenter, Sajdah Nubee sums up a key point when it comes to the matter at hand:  Muslims [as individuals] do not condemn homosexuality. Who are we to judge? Islam meanwhile does not condone homosexual relationships [and the Qur’an very clearly condemns it] but every Muslim [also] believes in free will to act and that our actions will be judged by God on Judgment Day. If we’re doing good, as we should, the correct narrative will take care of itself because we’re already a visible force to combat untrue rhetoric. (Source: What It Means to Me to Be Unapologetically Muslim by Sajdah Nubee, 10 March 2016, Huffington Post)

BUT THE JUNE 12 ORLANDO PULSE NIGHTCLUB MASS SHOOTING KILLING 49 AND INJURING 53 CLEARLY PROVES MUSLIMS ALL HATE HOMOSEXUALS.

Religiously motivated legislation from the right-wing Christian lobby has been trying to stifle gay civil liberties ever since the gay rights movement came into existence.

The Christians, not Muslims are against LGBTQI equality. If conservative Christians truly cared about the fate of LGBTQI people, one ought to shed some light on the Church’s contribution towards LGBTQI discrimination and stigma for years let alone decades. (Source: Conservatives Try To Scapegoat Islam To Avoid Responsibility For Perpetuating Anti-LGBT Violence, 13 June 2016, Zack Ford, Think Progress)

As an example: A Baptist Pastor Roger Jimenez spewed a hate- filled, homophobic sermon just hours after the Orlando massacre . . . praising the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida . . . Video footage of the sermon, which was uploaded to the Verity Baptist Church’s YouTube account, showed Jimenez telling churchgoers, “I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. As Christians, should we be mourning the death of these 50 vile, perverted predators?” . . . Jimenez doubled down on those remarks in an interview with The Sacramento Bee, noting, “All I’m saying is that when people die who deserve to die, it’s not a tragedy.”. He was later removed from his church. (Source: Pastor Who Praised Orlando Shooting May Lose His Church, 23 June 2016, Curtis M Wong, Huffington Post)

AT LEAST 10 MUSLIM COUNTRIES (YEMEN, IRAN, IRAQ, MAURITANIA, NIGERIA, QATAR, SAUDI ARABIA, SOMALIA, SUDAN AND THE UAE) and ISIS – SAY HOMOSEXUALITY IS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH THEREFORE, ISLAM IS CLEARLY AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY.

There are no verses in the Qur’an that specifies the punishment for homosexuality. Surah Al-Nur refers to “men who are not in need of women”, without condemning them. In the story of Lut (A.S), the Qur’an describes the punishment Allah sent to the deviant people of Prophet Lut (A.S) who were not only homosexuals but polytheists, alcoholics, pedophiles, etcetera.

On the issue of “Mukhannath” (hermaphrodite) even Muhammad (PBUH) recognised hermaphrodites around him, without ever enforcing the punishment (hudud) upon them. Therefore in accordance to Shariah, being a hermaphrodite is not a sin because this is considered the creation of Allah. It is thus also in reference to the 13th century Syrian scholar Al-Nawawi who once said: “If a person is gay, we have to treat them with mercy”.

Having said that, there is a following Hadith (narrated sayings and actions of Muhammad (PBUH), which is classed as genuine (saheeh) but comes with qualifiers: Al-Tirmidhi (1456), Abu Dawood (4462) and Ibn Maajah (2561) narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Lut (A.S), execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”

QUALIFIERS: This Hadith indicate the permissibility of executing gays caught in the act of perpetrating this heinous sin. Which establishes that the Shar’iah does not necessitate absolute execution in every single case. The Jurists mention that such hadith merely indicate to the permissibility of execution in the event that the leader or government of a certain place deem it to be the best course of action for that particular society. The matter is to the hands of the leader and government officials. If they deem it politically beneficial, they are permitted to execute the homosexual caught perpetrating the act. Similarly, if they deem it better to counsel and advise the perpetrator to repent from the sin or to apply another form of punishment, they are permitted to take that course of action as well.

Secondly, in the realm of the Islamic criminal law, penalties (hudud) in Islam are mainly meant to act as a deterrent factor and not to be widely applicable without keeping in mind the strict restrictions and meticulous conditions that should be carefully considered before the execution of such penalties. Any rising speculations regarding meeting one or more of the conditions of applying the penalty leads it to be at halt.

One of the major common elements in most of the major penalties to be applied is the element of the “availability of trust worthy and honest eye-witnesses” to testify to the validity of the crimes committed and the existence of a specific state of affairs. If that state of affairs is not present, the hudud is not to be imposed. Therefore there are important qualifiers to meet before any capital punishment is to be handed out.

Islam is an ultra-benevolent religion. There’s firmness but no harshness. There are laws but to serve more as a deterrent. Lest we forget some of the strongest advocates for Islam at the time of Muhammad (PBUH) were formerly the biggest enemies, hypocrites, wrongdoers and sinners against Islam.

For example, homosexuality is considered a major sin in Islam but so is disrespecting parents; having sex outside marriage; severing ties of kinship; theft – all considered equally grievous along with 10 other major sins on the list of 15 major sins in Islam. Yet disproportional condemnation is reserved exclusively towards homosexuality and not nearly as much passionate intolerance directed towards some of the other major sins listed above, laying bare the hypocrisy among some Muslims today.

Therefore, self-labelled Islamic majority countries or extremist groups where they cane, hang or throw homosexuals off buildings are simply doing this based on their whims framing it dishonestly as an Islamic law when this is not strictly based upon injunctions from the Qur’an or Hadith, the only two sources where jurists studying Islamic law are supposed to derive its rulings from

BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM


 WHAT IS THE EXACT POSITION OF ISLAM ON BLASPHEMY?

Blasphemy laws historically began in Christian Europe as a means to prevent dissent and enforce the church’s authority. They were exported to Muslim majority nations via British imperialism. Today, just about every Muslim majority nation that has blasphemy laws can trace them back to British statute from centuries prior.(Source: This is what the Qur’an actually says about blasphemy, Qasim Rashid, 12 May 2017, The Independent)

Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan too, has pointed out that:

“There are more than 200 verses in the Qur’an, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called “blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet” but nowhere does the Qur’an prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.” (Source: Blasphemy and the law of fanatics by Fareed Zakaria, 8 January 2015, Washington Post)

Yet thousands of misinformed, easily manipulated Muslims sympathise with murderers and mobs who kill or imprison individuals accused of blasphemy when the fact remains:

That the Qur’an prescribes no punishment for blasphemy. Period.

The misguided idea that Islam requires that insults to Muhammad (PBUH) [or religious edicts] be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda, and ironically, nowhere are these archaic blasphemy laws more abused than some Muslim-majority countries with the worst records for fair governance such as Pakistan, Nigeria and Sudan. (Source: Blasphemy and the law of fanatics by Fareed Zakaria, 8 January 2015, Washington Post)

Yasir Qadhi, an assistant professor of Islamic studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee takes a more nuanced view: “Loving the prophet (PBUH) is a necessary requirement of (faith). Defending his honor is a sign of belief. This is done by following his teachings and practice, not by murdering in his name,” Qadhi wrote in a widely shared Facebook post. “Even for those who believe that the penalty for blasphemy should be death: by unanimous consensus of all the scholars of Islam, this must take place after a legitimate trial, by a qualified judge, appointed by a legitimate Islamic state. Under no circumstances does Islam allow vigilante justice”.

Therefore even if a punishment is to be vetted out for blasphemy, one ought to ask where in the world are you going to find a legitimate Islamic state, not a Muslim-majority country that pretends to be Islamic but a true Islamic state like those during the Islamic renaissance or during and after the advent of Islam?

This is precisely why notable scholars like Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naʿim have written extensively about the place of Shariah (Islamic religious law) in predominantly Muslim societies of the world. In his book, Islam and the secular state, he argues: “The coercive enforcement of Shariʿa by the state betrays the Qurʿan’s insistence on voluntary acceptance of Islam. Just as the state should be secure from the misuse of religious authority, Shariʿa should be freed from the control of the state. Showing that throughout the history of Islam, Islam and the state have normally been separate, An-Naʿim maintains that ideas of human rights and citizenship are more consistent with Islamic principles than with claims of a supposedly Islamic state to enforce Shariʿa. In fact, he suggests, the very idea of an “Islamic state” is based on European ideas of state and law, and not Shariʿa or the Islamic tradition, according to an introduction prepared by the Harvard University Press.

Therefore it is easy to blame Islam and ordinary Muslims for transgressions undertaken by politicians (such as in the 2017 case of ethnic Chinese, Christian Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama who was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy against Islam in Jakarta, Indonesia), countries with Muslim-majority population (13 of which punish blasphemy by death) and the extrajudicial killings that such laws inspire (such as for example in Pakistan and Bangladesh, among others) or individuals with a Muslim name who commit acts of terror – but is this really fair when the Qur’an and Hadith, read in context and clarity, remains the best form of refutation in terms of what is morally right and wrong, permissible and forbidden.

Evidently it therefore appears: “Blasphemy laws don’t exist to protect God: they exist to protect the fragile egos of corrupt clerics”, in the succint words of Qasim Rashid that captures the essence of this entire debate. (Source: This is what the Qur’an actually says about blasphemy, Qasim Rashid, 12 May 2017, The Independent)

 

APOSTASY IN ISLAM


WHY IS THE APOSTATE KILLED IF HE OR SHE DECIDES TO LEAVE ISLAM?

To understand apostasy, it may be best to start by referring to the example of Thumana ibn Uthal, from the time of Muhammad (PBUH). Thumana pretended to come into Islam and when presented with an opportunity, killed a group of Muslims but was soon after captured and tried for his crimes. Muhammad (PBUH) however decided to forgive him instead and ordered his release. Seeing this, Thumana accepted Islam and became a real Muslim. This eventual conversion of course was not always the case.

At the time of Muhammad (PBUH), many tribes were against Muhammad (PBUH) and his small but fast-growing number of Muslims. In order to dissuade, disburse and/or make a dent in the overall number of people joining Islam and forming a true Islamic state, the opponents of Muhammad (PBUH) developed a strategy of nominating people from within their tribes and asking them to falsely accept Islam and when faced with the right opportunity, kill as many Muslims as they possibly could get their hands on

(note: shades of similarity with a common strategy used by Islamophobes today who enlist the help of certain ex-Muslims or “reformed” Muslims who conflate fact with fiction and present their misinterpreted version of Islam to prevent people from really understanding the religion).

It is however important to note, no one was ever killed under this law during the time of Muhammad (PBUH), since the purpose of this law was not only to protect Islam, but the freedom of conscience for those of all faiths, which was being threatened at the time. Nonetheless and given the particular circumstances at the time, it successfully acted as a useful deterrent.

WHAT IS THE LOGIC NOW OF IMPOSING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR LEAVING ISLAM AS IF, HE OR SHE IS COMMITTING TREASON?

In modern day societies, we call the act of entering a state as a citizen and betraying it treason, which is often punishable by death, life imprisonment without pardon or solitary confinement. The following excerpt however provides an interesting counterpoint on the subject: The most commonly heard argument heard in favor of punishment for apostasy posits this: That apostasy is tantamount to treason, which is a capital crime in most nations in the world, including secular Western ones . . . This argument can be rejected outright based on the fact that Muslims throughout the world are already divided into nation states that have their own treason laws, as well as into sects and intra-sectarian denominations. In the absence of a global community or leadership there is no rational basis for a treason argument . . . The Qur’an has stated in its singular eloquence “There is no compulsion in matter of faith: distinct is the way of guidance now from error” (2:256). It is time, we as Muslims, lived up to that ideal. (Source: Empathy For Apostasy: The Acceptance Of The Ex-Muslim Is Long Overdue, Khwaja Khusro Tariq, 8 March, 2017, Huffington Post)

However since this matter relates to theology, it is best to include an excerpt from an article that explains the entire controversy relating to apostasy:

The death penalty for apostasy relies at the core of it on an authentically verified Hadith from Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] who said, “Whoever changes his religion kill him.”

This statement, however, would seem to contradict numerous verses in the Qur’an that guarantee freedom of belief, few of which include “There is no compulsion in religion” [2:256], and “Whoever so wills may believe and whoever so wills may deny” [18:29] . . . How could one reconcile the Qur’an with the Hadith in this issue without committing an inconsistency whereby the Hadith is rejected out of hand, even though the same transmission rules for accepting veracity of any other Hadith were applied to this one?

Moreover, one could ask whether it is an Islamic objective to artificially inflate the numbers of Muslims by including those who would not be so if they had the option . . .

Although the above-mentioned Hadith is authentic, it is also established that Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] never ordered the death penalty to be carried out on people known during his time to have apostatised. Of such people was a Bedouin man who came to Medina (during a time of political and military power for Muslims) to announce his Islam, but apostatised and left the city a short period later without receiving any penalty for his subsequent rejection. Given how the Prophet [PBUH] treated individuals who entered and left Islam, and the numerous verses in the Qur’an guaranteeing freedom of belief, the Hadith decreeing a death penalty for apostasy becomes more puzzling.

This can be resolved by turning to another authentic Hadith where this penalty is mentioned, but with a qualifier: “. . . the one leaving his religion and abandoning the group”. In addition, another verse in the Qur’an, which can further resolve this conundrum speaks to a strategy adopted by a rival sect in Medina in one of their attempts to create a schism within the nascent Muslim community by pretending to enter Islam in the morning, then leaving it in the evening [3:72] . . .

It is interesting to note here that prior to entering Islam, the two biggest tribes in Medina were engaged in a lengthy civil war that only ended when their allegiances were redefined from the tribal to the religious. If these new allegiances were jeopardised, it was highly likely to lead to civil strife and loss of life again.

Hence, the Hadith about the death penalty is not about apostasy in the strict sense of no longer believing in Islam per se. Rather, it is about what can be considered in modern terms political treason.

In his book The Empathic Civilization, social critic Jeremy Rifkin notes the evolution of human social units over time and how that affected our a affiliations and allegiances. In our early history we began with blood ties, progressed to tribal allegiances, then to religious associational ties and finally today to national ties. Contemporary Muslim scholar Abdallah bin Bayyah previously commented on a problem in how modern Muslims approach scriptural sources where they “misunderstand the text, ignore the context, and thus misapply the ruling”. (Source: Islam, Saudi and apostasy: Does Islamic law really proscribe the death penalty for apostasy? By Mohamed Ghilan on 10 May 2014 on Aljazeera.com)

WHY THEN DO SOME MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES IMPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR APOSTASY?

Here is another article (excerpts only) that talks about Sudan (but is just as equally applicable to many, many Muslim-majority countries today), which has a government that claims to be “Islamic” but has done little to demonstrate just that:

Governments like that of Omar al-Bashir’s love to use religion to legitimise their authority and call themselves and believe to be Islamists. It appears that whatever directive is taken, be it legal, social or military, it uses religion as the underlying justification and legitimisation for it. But as with all like-minded, undemocratic governments, such rulings are based on twisted truths and the bending of religious teachings to suit political needs. (Source: Sudan: A misconception of apostasy: Sudan’s recent apostasy death sentence is a manifestation of the wrongful use of religion in politics by Dallia M Abdelmoniem, Aljazeera.com)

In a nutshell, calling yourself an Islamic country does not make you “Islamic” and therefore, countries that claim to call themselves Islamic do it for political and diplomatic reasons more than religious reasons.

To illustrate this point, to kill a human being for allegedly eating beef when this is more communal or politically motivated does not mean India where the majority of citizens are Hindus, is behaving like a rogue Hindu state. On the contrary, this is about politics, pure and simple and less to do with religion.

Coming back to the issue of apostasy, implementing a punishment for apostasy that was never once handed out even at the time of Muhammad (PBUH) calls into question the basis of what these so-called “Muslim” countries like Nigeria, Saudi, (Aceh) Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, etcetera, are pretending to do.

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

ANTI-FEMINISM WITHIN ISLAM

SINCE SAUDI ARABIA IS THE BIRTHPLACE FOR ISLAM, DON’T MUSLIMS FOLLOW WHAT THE SAUDIS PREACH?

Saudi Arabia as a country only came into being in 1932 (less than 90 years ago) or over 1300 years after Muhammad (PBUH)’s death, so no, Saudi is not the birthplace of Islam.

Mecca and Medina are indeed two key cities located within present-day Saudi Arabia. By governing the cities Mecca and Medina after its founding, the Saudi royal family has self-appointed itself as the guardian of the two Holy mosques but this does not in any way make them leaders over the Muslim community worldwide.

PRESENT-DAY MIDDLE EAST IS MODELLED ON AN IDEAL ISLAMIC SOCIETY.

Considering the simple, ascetic lifestyle Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged Muslims to lead, it is shocking the number of Muslim leaders living in sheer opulence in the Middle East and elsewhere today.

It is also worth asking how does one generalise the entire Muslim world with the actions of what for example, Saudi Arabia which accounts for less than 2 percent of the world’s Muslim population that is, 29 million population does especially when no other Muslim-majority country around the world has the kind of regressive laws some Middle Eastern countries are infamous for.

Therefore, one could argue present-day Middle East does little to resemble the equal rights Muhammad (PBUH) promised when he was sent to mankind as a Prophet. Having said that, the West is also not exactly a beacon for women’s rights either. America today ranks top of a notorious list, in terms of women abuse and rape in the world today (where every two minutes a women is raped and where 44 percent of the victims are under the age of 18) according to statistics by RAINN, America’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. But finger pointing is a cop-out and can go on until kingdom comes.

It is more important people understand, Islam as a religion is not based on the Islam practiced in for example, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East or (Aceh) Indonesia but true Islam practiced privately within the homes of genuine ordinary Muslims around the world – that every Muslim firmly believes:

Only God-Allah is the able judge of what is right and wrong and not some Arab cleric who delivers lengthy speeches on moral codes and religious edicts and yet remains eerily silent when it comes to condemning the chauvinistic rule of some tyrannical dictators in the Middle East.

HOW CAN MUSLIMS THEN STILL BE STUCK WITH A SEVENTH-CENTURY VIEW WHEN IT COMES TO ITS WOMEN?

A number of Middle Eastern countries have strangely regressed to a view that is anything but seventh century, or after the passing of Muhammad (PBUH). Women enjoyed great rights and mobility then unlike present-day Middle East and in many respects the seventh century was inarguably the best century for women given the voluminous rights given to women, a large portion of which the West finally introduced 100 years ago or 1300 years following the advent of Islam.

Consent in marriage, freedom to work and control over economic livelihood, freedom from violence were all indeed unheard of among the monotheists religions until the arrival of Islam in the seventh century. But not long after those rights were established men mobilised to undermine these revolutionary advancements and corrode the gains made by women. (Source: Yassmin Abdel-Magied said nothing wrong. She should not have to face this venom, Joumanah El Matrah, 21 February 2017, The Guardian)

In fact like in all monotheistic religions, middle aged men controlled how Islam was to be understood and consequently a tradition was produced that favoured the worldview, interests and needs of men, thus there is no denying a large portion of what we see today is the corrupted cultural practices labeled Islamic, when it is anything but.

For example, homosexuality is considered a major sin in Islam but so is disrespecting parents; having sex outside marriage; severing ties of kinship; theft – all considered equally grievous along with 10 other major sins on the list in Islam.

Yet disproportional condemnation is reserved exclusively towards homosexuality and not nearly as much passionate intolerance directed towards some of the other major sins listed above, laying bare the misogynistic hijacking of Islam today by Muslim men which many Muslim feminist theologians, academic and circuit speakers today armed with decades of scholarship are working very hard towards reclaiming while on the other hand – overcoming the mainstream media narrative on Muslim women which is riddled with hyperbole, stigma, and misinformation.

DIDN’T MUHAMMAD MARRY A SIX YEAR OLD AND CONSUMMATE THEIR MARRIAGE WHEN SHE WAS ONLY 9-12?

Scientifically verifiable, girls from that century and many generations thereafter the world over used to enter puberty much earlier due to varying climatic and geographical conditions then and thus, used to get married much sooner. Even boys were married off by the age of 10-13. This however was not limited to the Middle East but all over the world, including in Christian, non-Christian and atheists communities for a good part of the last 1,900 years. In fact, the idea of setting the age limit to 18 only came about less than 100-150 years ago.

Fast forward to 2017, Florida is one of 27 US states today that permits children of any age to be married with their parents’ permission and a ground-breaking report issued in 2011 found that some 9.4 million American girls were married before age 16. Nevertheless, it may be worth guessing the 18-year age limit may be too young in another 50-70 years.

Focusing on the question at hand and at the time of Muhammad (PBUH) 1400 years ago, the concept of schooling or seeking a career didn’t exist either therefore the fact that Muhammad (PBUH) married Aisha, when she was young was never an issue, not even to the Islamophobes of that era, as this was perfectly normal.

What was not normal however was to stay married as women were used and disposed of during the era of ignorance (Jahiliya), before the advent of Islam but remarkably, Aisha and Muhammad (PBUH) remained married until his dying day when he died with his head in her lap, widowed at aged 20.

To however understand why this marriage took place when it did, Dr. Resit Hay Lamaz, author of the remarkable book “Aisha: The Wife, The Companion, The Scholar” explains it best:

Given the unique proximity to Muhammad (PBUH) thanks to the marriage, “Aisha’s bright, inquisitive mind and quick wit facilitated the transmission of knowledge that would have been next to impossible to transmit. Therefore as a direct result of this marriage, the 9-year old Muhammad (PBUH) married became the most important interpreter of the Qur’an and the main teacher of Hadith, becoming the foremost transmitter of Islam unlike any other. Perceptive scholars such as Hakim have said that one-fourth of the body of religious knowledge [Hadith or narrated teachings of Prophet Muhammad – PBUH] was transferred to us through Aisha [given her unrivalled proximity]. Following Muhammad (PBUH)’s death, when possible controversies arose, Aisha was a kind arbitrator. For mistakes on religious issues that emerged, she was a dignified corrector and a decisive and patient example of the straight path of Islam.

If there is one woman responsible for the huge important expansion in the rights of women, Aisha is to be credited first and foremost. Aisha defended women not because they were right. She did not refrain from admonishing women who were wrong, who went too far, who were trying to force the boundaries of religion. Justice and equity was the essence of her decision-making, illustrating how the young nine-year old he married came to become revered throughout the Muslim world rightfully, as the Mother of all Believers”.

BUT ALL RELIGIONS INCLUDING ISLAM HAVE A PATRIACHIAL ATTITUDE TOWARDS ITS WOMEN.

From peddling stereotypes that show Muslim women as constantly oppressed to the hijab, which is seen as the epitome of oppression, the idea that Islam encourages unfairness towards women has been a favorite claim of the Islamophobia industry for years.

There is nothing in the Qur’an to justify the controlled seclusion of women. The Qur’an gave women rights of inheritance and divorce, legal rights the Western world didn’t have until the end of the 19th century.

As an example, Muhammad (PBUH)’s first wife or the very first person to become a Muslim in the Prophet’s era, Khadija (R.A) was a noble businesswomen before they met and there are plenty of historical documents that prove she held her own therefore if not anything else, the Saudi government may have appointed themselves the “Guardian of the two Holy Mosques” but they are not all role models for Muslims within the country let alone, outside the country, a bitter truth most ordinary Muslims will privately, if not publicly admit.

ALL FUNDAMENTALIST RELIGIONS (INCLUDING THOSE ROOTED IN JUDAISM OR CHRISTIANITY) SEEK TO CONTROL FEMALE SEXUALITY.

The key problem with this argument is that it conflates a moral right with a factual inaccuracy. While it is perfectly right to criticise any culture that limits women, one ought to at the very least understand Islam is a religion and not a culture. If the Saudis for example, who account for less than two percent of the world’s Muslim population and are not in any way, shape or form representative of Islam impose prohibitive restrictions on the movement and rights of women, it has more to do with their culture than the rights given to women in Islam. Besides, if this were in any way Islamic, why are the same restrictions not applied in other fifty-odd Muslim-majority countries around the world?

Progress towards women’s rights in the West had to wait until the late-19th and early-20th centuries and even to this day, fast forward a hundred years there remains a huge disparity in those rights, regardless of whether people in the West admit or deny it. Wage inequality, glass ceiling, high heels and dress code expectations to name a few, are still issues in many parts of the West.

Quoting directly from another important article on the subject: “Islam on the other hand institutionalised gender equality upon its inception, in far worse circumstances”. (Source: Islam Is Actually A Feminist Religion: 5 Myths About Islam, Mint Press News)

 The pre-Islamic environment of 7th century Mecca, with its tribal- ism, lack of law and order and constant warfare, was strongly male- dominated. The advent of Islam challenged the status quo and sought not only to introduce a new kind of social order but to limit the excesses of Meccan society, which directly harmed women and girls. (Source: No, Islam Is Not Inherently Misogynistic. Here’s Why by Bina Shah, 23 July, 2015, Huffington Post)

It is therefore bewildering why the religion that had revolutionised the status of women is still being singled out and repeatedly misrepresented as so repressive of women. This misinformation about Islam is inarguably one of two most widespread myths about Islam in our world today, with the role of violence in Islam as the other contentious issue often exploited and misrepresented by Islamophobes.

Having said that, this may in large part have to do with the way the loudest voices (and most unrepresentative of ordinary Muslims) act, speak and behave in public, while calling themselves Muslims.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record for this has been repeated more times than it has been necessary, it is unfair to blame Islam if a group of people or a given society does not follow the edicts based on the Qur’an and Hadiths (narrated sayings and recorded actions of Muhammad – PBUH).

After all, it is only fair to look at what the religion of Islam or any other religions says about women and not what its deviant followers or people who call themselves Muslims do. Put simply, blame the driver, not the car.

ISLAM AND MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES SHOULD BE CRITICISED IN THE MEDIA
 FOR FEMALE GENETILIA MUTILATION (FGM), FORCED MARRIAGES AND HONOUR KILLINGS.

People or countries that show little sign of wanting to bring to an absolute end to female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriages and honour killings should not only be condemned and criticised but every e ort should be made to boycott these countries however, we need to first get our facts straight.

Female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour killings are all often misreported as inherently Islamic issues, despite well-substantiated evidence of their presence in many other non-Islamic cultures around the world, including in Africa, sub-continent Hindu India and many non-animist countries around the world.

In fact, why does the fact that Islam has clear precedents calling against all of the above seem to matter little in the generic media reporting while the fact that these are practiced by some Muslims and non-Muslims as part of their ancestral tradition and patriarchal culture (and not religion) matter so much? The key is education and generating willingness from the community. Else nothing will change and women and girls in these cultures will remain in the same quagmire.

WHY THEN IS FGM SUCH AN ISSUE IN SO MANY MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES IN AFRICA?

Muslims account for only 12 percent of the population in Liberia while Christians account for 85.5 percent of the population and yet half of Liberian women and girls are estimated to have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), illustrating how FGM is not an Islamic issue but a cultural practice in Africa with zero health benefits that no doubt needs to be banned.

The same could be said for Eritrea that has a 50 percent Christian population or Ethiopia where Christians make up to 62 percent of the population and Kenya as well as Central African Republic where 83 percent are Christians. In all these cases, FGM remains a prevalent issue today.

Undeniably, FGM is also a challenge for a number of Muslim-majority countries in Africa including Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti while Nigeria and Gambia, are two leading Muslim-majority countries in the African continent that have decided to move with the times with the relevant legislations enacted recently to help bring this barbaric practice to an end.

In reality though, unless tough legislation is enacted and properly enforced, it will remain an uphill battle to accelerate change in this abhorring form of child abuse and the lives and wellbeing of millions more girls will continue to be put at risk.

WHY ARE MUSLIM WOMEN DISRESPECTED IN ISLAM AND REQUIRED TO COVER UP SO MUCH?

In the words of Imam Mongy Elquesny, leader of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Crown Point:

“If your definition of disrespect is due to the requirement of women in Islam to dress modestly then you can make the same argument for nuns and the Virgin Mary being disrespected in the Christian faith . . .

You can also make the argument that those women in the entertainment industry who are encouraged to not dress modestly are creating an environment that focuses on the physical appeal of women rather than their intellect. Therefore, that ends up disrespecting women too”. (Source: Muslim leaders address questions about Islamic faith, culture by Jerry Davich, 3 April 2016, Chicago Tribune)

WHY DO MUSLIM WOMEN INSIST ON WEARING THE HIJAB OR HEADSCARF?

Hijab has little to with the headscarf given how Hijab encompasses much more than an article of clothing. In the eloquent words of Rawan AbuShaban:

Hijab refers to one’s behavior, speech, countenance, and dress. It is a habitual practice that is applicable to both men and women. Not engaging in obnoxiousness, boisterous behavior, resisting flirtations, prolonged staring, and idleness with the opposite sex, and wearing clothes that conceal one’s gure, and preserve one’s beauty . . . Hijab isn’t something one wears; it is how one is.

A person’s hijab is one’s modesty in its entirety. It is an Islamic code of conduct, respect for oneself and for one another. (Source: Differentiating the Hijab From the Headscarf by Rawan AbuShaban, 15 Feb 2016, Huffington Post)

In a separate article, Assignment Editor/Producer and Writer Slma Shelbayah at CNN shares:

“At a time when a woman’s body is often depicted sexually in the fashion and media industry, it can feel liberating and empowering not caving into these idealized images . . . Let me not forget those who are forced to wear hijab unwillingly. They also exist. To their perpetrators, I say, “you do not represent Islam nor do Muslims want to be associated with you for imposing your political agenda on women . . .

It sits on my head so silently, yet says so much as a symbol. It makes me stand out from the crowd. It screams that I am different. And though my body is physically covered, the scarf puts all of me on display”. (Source: Removing hijab, finding myself By Slma Shelbayah, Assignment Editor/Producer and Writer, CNN, November 11, 2015, CNN)

Perhaps Dr. Ali Merad, a professor of Arabic literature and civilisation at the University of Lyon, France says it best:

“If a woman wears a short skirt and drinks wine, Frenchmen don’t care about her skin colour. But when she wears a headscarf, France becomes neurotic”. (Source: Dining with Terrorists, Author, Phil Rees)

WEARING A BURQINI IS AN OBVIOUS SIGN A PERSON DOES NOT WISH TO ACCEPT THE CUSTOMS AND HABITS OF THE COUNTRY WHERE THEY HAVE DECIDED TO LIVE.

Telling Muslim women they have to be at least semi-naked in order to prove their inclusiveness is astonishingly hypocritical:

Politicians too talk constantly about integration, and then proceed to push to the fringes the very women they claim are oppressed and excluded from society. (Source: Five reasons to wear a burkini – and not just to annoy the French, Remona Aly, 15 August 2016, The Guardian)

In France, a nun in traditional dress is seen as going about her day, whereas a woman in a headscarf is taking over public space in the name of Islam. (Source: The West can have burkinis or democracy, but not both, Yascha Mounk, 27 August 2016, Foreign Policy Magazine)

If there was any doubt that the French belief in freedom of expression is wholly one-sided, it has surely vanished now. France cannot be in favour of free expression when it offends Muslims, but whines about provocation when Muslims and others choose to be different. (Source: France defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to o end – so why can’t a Muslim woman in a burkini ‘o end’ us too?, Sunny Hundal, 25 August 2016, The Independent)

Isn’t it bizzare that when the Saudis tell you how to dress it is oppression, but when France does it, it’s called liberation. If women in thongs and string bikinis can express themselves, who is being harmed if a women chooses to cover up on a beach? (Source: Burkini controversy puzzles North Jersey Muslim women, patricia Alex and Monsy Alvarado, 28 August 2016, USA Today)

A burqini is simply a garment, for example, for a modest person, someone with skin cancer, or a new mother who doesn’t want to wear a bikini. It is not symbolic of Islam.(Source: Why we wear the burkini: five women on dressing modestly at the beach, Carmen Fishwick, 31 August 2016, The Guardian)

As sociologist Agnès De Féo said during an interview with CBS News:

It is easier to accuse French Muslims “than to solve real social problems: unemployment, poverty, and social inequality”. (Source: France’s burkini bans justifiable security measures or Islamophobia, Pamela Falk, 25 August 2016, CBS News)

The French establishment talks about “liberty, equality, fraternity”. It claims to want Muslim women to achieve independence from their men, but deprives them of the means to acquire it, by keeping them indoors. This is a betrayal of its own core values. (Source: How a legal misunderstanding is fuelling France’s witch-hunt of Muslim women, Christine Delphy, 29 August 2016, The Guardian)

In fact, if the self-professed feminists of the world really want Muslim women not be oppressed, it may be worth asking what we are all doing about the rising Islamophobia slowly becoming a legitimate ideology in the West, because that Islamophobia disproportionately hurts visibly Muslim women most.

Susan Carland, a lecturer at Monash University’s National Centre for Australian Studies, says it best: Yet for something about which so many people are adamantly sure, I feel there is very little information from the women actually involved . . . It’s uncanny how often people try to demonstrate their concern about the alleged oppression of Muslim women by humiliating them. (Source: If you want to know about Muslim women’s rights, ask Muslim women by Susan Carland, 7 May 2017, The Guardian)

YET THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT ISLAM THAT LEADS INEXORABLY TO THE SUBJUGATION OF WOMEN.

We ordinary Muslims need to fully [re-learn], understand and acknowledge the unique rights of Muslim women in Islam and distinguish this [indisputable] fact with the un-Islamic and poor treatment of women in certain if not most Muslim-majority countries today. While Islam offers more than equal rights to women in our midst, the powers that be as well as patriarchal societies in Muslim-majority countries continue to repress such rights to women in their own societies. Muslim women today suffer social and cultural marginalization, political exclusion, economic discrimination and threats, and acts of violence all over the world. (Source: How can the rights of Islamic women be improved? By Maha Akeel, 23 March 2016, Newsweek)

The point is, women are certainly not mistreated in Islam but also do not enjoy the optimal equal rights in many Muslim-majority countries they rightly deserve.

However, the same argument could be made for many non-Muslim countries around the world today.

From violence and rape against women that has become rife in reality and on TV, the cinema and on stage to the unashamed mourning of celebrities accused of sexual abuse let alone mainstreaming of pedophilia, pornography and sexual abuse, the West is hardly a beacon for women rights.

After all, aren’t celebrities in the West often compelled to take their clothes off to “grace” covers of magazines with soft-porn photo shoots to help with their profile while advertisements involving women having orgasms about food are increasingly commonplace today? Indeed, no one does it better than the West when it comes to reducing women into “empowered” sexual objects especially since pornography, became widely available on the internet at the turn of the century.

In fact, some women are under so much pressure today to be “sexy” that they have stopped standing up for themselves and each other in matters relating to sexual abuse, body shaming and rape. Again, volumes have been written about this, to no avail.

Granted, rape is not only just confined to the West but is endemic in many shady, impoverished corners of the globe as well but to claim women in the West are better of than their counterparts in the East let alone parts of the Middle East could not be more further from the truth and is most certainly an issue that can be vigorously argued from almost all sides.

WHY THEN ARE FEMINISTS THE WORLD OVER CONCERNED ABOUT DETERIORATING RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM?

How then would you explain the deafening and choking silence from white feminists (ever ready to liberate Muslim women from Muslim patriarchy) and yet stony, hypocritical silence when it came to condemning the French and the EU courts for policing women how to dress and restricting the fundamental liberties of Muslim women in France?

Women’s rights are theirs, and the subject has no place being bandied about by uppity Muslim women. Feminism is something the West beneficently imposes on Muslims, never something that can be indigenously theirs, and certainly never in a form that isn’t Western, liberal and secular. To them, the only way a Muslim can be a feminist is to view Islam with the same unwavering misogyny-goggles they do. (Source: Yassmin Abdel-Magied and the Australian crucible, Susan Carland, 25 February 2017, The Saturday Paper)

Citing a number of further examples of leading commentators starting with: Sunny Hundal at the Independent Newspaper wrote: “France cannot be in favour of free expression when it offends Muslims, but whine about provocation when Muslims choose to be different. This is astonishingly hypocritical.” (Source: France defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to o end – so why can’t a Muslim woman in a burkini ‘offend’ us too?, 26 August 2016, The Independent)

Arundhati Roy too, eloquently put it: “Coercing a woman out of the burka instead of enabling her to choose is an act of violence, humiliation and cultural imperialism.” (Source: The burkini ban is misogynistic – and Western feminists are turning a blind eye, Huda Jawad, 13 August 2016, The Independent)

A nun is allowed to wear a headdress and not be called oppressed because she is devoting her life to Christianity, but as soon as a Muslim woman wears a headscarf, suddenly it’s called oppression and racists say these women are being forced to do things, but people forget it’s their own choice. (Source: Muslim girls fence against Islamophobia in the UK, Zeb Mustafa, 8 July 2016, Aljazeera.com)

There have been multiple incidents of schoolgirls being forbidden from wearing ‘long skirts’ to school – not when they’re worn as a fashion statement, but when they’re worn by Muslim girls because then it suddenly becomes a ‘religious symbol’. (Source: Dear white people of France: being forced to undress wasn’t exactly the liberation I was longing for, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, 24 August 2016, The Independent)

Given such, can a Muslim be faulted for asking where were the usually loud intersectional feminists of the world or actresses trying to brand themselves as feminist icons when Muslim women came under attack in one of the self-professed leading democracies of the world?

Alarmingly, the decision the EU judges made is strikingly like the anti-Jewish legislation that was passed in Germany prior to the Second World War. The Nuremberg laws specifically targeted a social group by restricting them on an economic level. Jews were banned from professions such as midwifery and law, and state contracts were cancelled with Jewish owned businesses. That is not dissimilar to telling a woman that she is not welcome at a workplace if she decides to identify as a member of a given faith. (Source: Europe has started to enshrine Islamophobia into law – history tells us this can’t end well, So a Ahmed, 14 March 2017, The Independent)

Therefore, how can we consider ourselves advocates and guideposts for feminism for the progression of all women and at the same time sideline Muslim women who are fighting systematic discrimination in the West?

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES REMAIN BACKWARDS

BY NOT UPDATING ISLAM WITH THE TIMES, MUSLIMS ARE FALLING BEHIND.

It was the Islamic injunctions, which first led to the Islamic Golden Age from the eighth and thirteenth centuries, or for over 500 years. In fact, the real reason many so-called Islamic countries are falling behind today is precisely because Muslims and the autocratic governments in power are not faithfully following Islamic injunctions related to justice, social equality and knowledge seeking for all gender and background, rich and poor.

Also, the history of Western democracies should not be forgotten:

The history of their own country [America] began with the genocidal destruction of Native Americans, continued with the despicable history of African slavery, and at the heights of their technological achievements with dropping an atom bomb on Japan. (Source: The liberal roots of Islamophobia, Hamid Dabashi, 3 March 2017, Alajzeera.com) Therefore with time and hopefully with a lot less bloodshed, Muslim-majority countries will re-emerge economically.

WHEN DID THE MUSLIM DECLINE START AND WHY IS IT CONTINUING?

Since Muslims ruled Andalusia, followers of Islam have witnessed one historical defeat after another, the last being the demise of the 600-year Ottoman empire. In more modern history, Arabs have witnessed political defeats that left Palestine under Israeli military control, Syria and Egypt ceding territory in the six-day war and Iraq defeated twice by an US-led coalition that included Arab allies. (Source: The only way to defeat Islamic State is to give young Arabs hope, Daoud Kuttab, 27 July 2016, The Guardian)

[One ought to] . . . be aware that Middle Eastern nations have repeatedly been subjected to humiliating wars of invasion, conquest and expropriation that have killed millions of people. (Source: Atheism, Islam and liberalism: This is what we are really fighting about on 12 Oct 2014 by Andrew O’Hehir, Salon)

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

THE MEDIA

ORDINARY CITIZENS OF THE WEST FEEL UNDER THREAT TODAY. WHAT IS WRONG WITH SHINING A LITTLE MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON MUSLIMS AND ISLAM?

The spotlight is not the problem but unjust and biased, one-sided coverage is.

Featuring deeply bigoted and belligerent individuals who demonise Muslims and Islam as a religion by spouting all kinds of vitriol using factually incorrect information is a problem when the media ought to examine more closely how these individuals often times speak and write with a seemingly subtle agenda aimed at only justifying the recent series of foreign policy blunders of the West in Muslim- majority countries.

“So why is it so important for pundits and chat show hosts, who are intent on presenting themselves as educated and liberal, to trash Islam with simplifying, blanket statements? . . . More seriously, what is the overriding agenda?

Trashing Islam is about disseminating simplistic ideas that lend support to precise political goals, and it allows supporters of certain aspects of US foreign policy to justify past, present, and future mistakes. If American voters can be given the impression that most Muslims are sexist, homophobic, intolerant fanatics who murder and behead at the drop of a hat, then they may just believe that it is necessary to invade countries in which Muslims are the majority – it hardly matters which country, as long as wrecking its political, economic, and social fabric serves the primary goals of controlling oil resources, profiting from the arms trade, and allowing Israel to feel safe (irrespective of whether its feelings of insecurity correspond to reality)”. (Source: Why is Ben Affleck defending Islam by Lana Asfour, 6 October 2014 on Aljazeera. com/English)

WHY CAN’T THE MEDIA FREELY WRITE ABOUT MUSLIMS AND ISLAM AND ALLOW ANYONE TO SPEAK THEIR MIND ON ISLAM AND THE MUSLIM WORLD?

The media ought to be free to write about Islam and ordinary Muslims but is it too much to ask that the media at the very least get some of its basic facts right, especially when it comes to practices that are rooted in culture versus clear, unambiguous injunctions that condemn such practices such as honour killings, female genital mutilation, women’s dress codes among a wide range of issues, repeatedly misreported by the mainstream press, thus:

“Clumsily creating a tinderbox for anti-Muslim madness’, in the words of James Ragland, columnist at Dallas News. (Source: Muslims are now an organized political force in Irving, James Ragland, Columnist James Ragland, May 2016, Dallas News)

Like the actual Jew-hating Anti-Semites of the past, the Islamophobes of today in the media employ the same timeless tactic of broad-brushing every 1.6 billion Muslim individual into an amorphous and frightening group by hyping what Muslims will take from “us” in terms of law and order, country and jobs. This needs to change. Write about Muslims and Islam; Criticise Muslims if you have to but hold the same standards to people of other faiths and atheists as well.

If the current status quo continues unabated, there is surely more trouble ahead for the West and its Muslim & non-Muslim citizens as the article below very neatly makes a strong case for why people invited to speak ought to be at least vetted on matters of Islam, Middle Eastern a airs, politics and history or else there is nothing but continuing hatred and despair ahead on both sides of the fence:

“While a few knowledgeable individuals have been invited for rare media appearances, all too often the networks have let laziness win out dragging out a cast of “regulars” – former military officers, current or former elected officials, and paid “talking heads”. They may know a few choice Arabic words (Sunni, Shia, Jihadi, etc.) and can use a few of them in a sentence. But experts, they are not . . . To hear these “experts” pontificating about Islam or Arab culture is more than annoying. It’s downright dangerous . . . Instead of making us aware of the enormous complexities involved in these conflict zones, they reduce them to simple and easy clichés . . . America has been down this road before in the Middle East – with tragic results. I fear we may be heading there once again. During the past four decades we’ve been deeply involved across this region, but because we’ve known so little about its peoples, cultures and history – all too often our involvement has spelled disaster . . . To the first they responded — “they hate us because they hate our values and are envious of our success” or “they hate us because they have been taught to hate us” or ” they have failed because their religion is fundamentally backward””. Instead of shattering myths enabling us to see our way forward to bridging the chasm that separated the West from the Arab and Muslim peoples, they accented our fears and contributed to deepening the divide . . . Our political leadership, with most media outlets cheering them on, committed hundreds of thousands of our young men and women to fight and lose their lives in two failed wars. Bush invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq without any real understanding of their history or people – not knowing where we were going and what the consequences of our blunders would be . . . Our polling shows that the overwhelming majority of Arabs love American values and culture, people and products, and the advances Americans have made in science and technology. What they don’t like about us are our policies, which so negatively affect their lives. Far from being fanatics, Arabs tell us that what they value most are their families and their work. They watch TV to be entertained. And their mosque attendance rates are roughly the same as church attendance rates in the U.S.?”. (Source: We need to know more, but the experts aren’t helping by James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute on 18 October 2014, Huffington Post)

SO MUSLIMS WANT THE MEDIA TO STOP WRITING ABOUT ISLAM THEN?

There is nothing better for Muslims than for the media to write about Islam and ordinary Muslims, as long as they are well-balanced with views of Muslims and non-Muslims included, however critical – instead of featuring only quotes by misinformed pundits, known Islamophobes, right-wing politicians among others with a history of bias against Islam and ordinary Muslims.

Journalists too, ought to be able to ask probing questions and should have creativity, fearless expression and polemical inquiry at their disposal but is it too unreasonable for Muslims to ask that one should avoid conflating two or three irrelevant examples to justify a sweeping generalisation about Islam and ordinary Muslims? In fact, free speech should not be restricted. Speech that incites violence should be restricted, a curious exception given when it comes to other minorities but frequently debated when it comes to Muslims.

DO MUSLIMS EXPECT ADVERTORIALS EVERYTIME WE IN THE MEDIA REPORT ABOUT MUSLIMS?

No one needs to read or watch advertorials about Islam or ordinary Muslims but the very least the media can do is try and understand a faith that is embraced by one-fourth the world population by getting its’ facts right before inviting appropriately qualified people on the show or opinion writers who actually understand the subject. The current journalistic one-sided approach of covering Islam and Muslims with hours and hours of biased and misinformed coverage, heavy on talking heads but light on facts is simply not sustainable.

In the precise words of longtime subscriber of the NYT, Nancy Cadet who rightly observed: “The falsehoods and their repercussions live on long after the stories have been corrected or disputed.” (Source: Systematic change needed after faulty Times article by Margaret Sullivan, 18 December 2015, New York Times)

As yet another example of chaos manufactured by the media: It was tailor-made for the anti-immigration press: a crazed man wearing a suicide vest “filled with gasoline and gunpowder” enters a supermarket in a small town in northwestern Spain, shouts “Allahu Akbar!” and opens fire. Mercifully, no one is killed, but customers flee in terror. The story runs in a local paper, is quickly picked up by an assortment of media in the US and the UK, and then shared widely on Twitter and Facebook. Anti-Muslim figures claim, with heads shaking in disapproval, that the attack symbolizes everything that is wrong with Islam. One small problem: it didn’t happen. Yes, a man did enter a supermarket in the town of Ourense and red shots. That, however, is where fact ends and fantasy begins. The suicide vest? Didn’t exist. Shooting at customers? No, he hit some bottles. Crazy lunatic on a rampage? At one point in the surveillance video we can see the man sitting down and eating a banana. Was the town in shock? No. What about his screaming “Allahu Akbar”? It was then reported that this was actually a man from the Basque region “with decreased mental faculties”, and that someone mistook the words he spoke in Euskara (a regional language) for Arabic . . . There was no Bowling Green massacre? Well, OK, but there could have been one, and it would have been a Muslim who did it. In the flexible world of bigotry, we can even condemn people for crimes committed in our minds . . . In one of the more astonishing stories of 2017, last week the German tabloid Bild claimed that on New Year’s Eve in Frankfurt, a huge group of intoxicated Muslim men, most of them refugees, had formed a “rioting sex mob” and assaulted scores of women. The story contained “eyewitness” accounts and even interviews with purported victims. Naturally, it was picked up internationally and spread via social media . . . One week later, however, police in Frankfurt declared that the story was completely false: no such sexual assaults had been reported, the “victim” in question was not even in Frankfurt at the time, and two individuals were now under investigation for starting the false rumors and wasting police resources . . . Bild is the largest-selling newspaper in Europe, with a circulation of about 3m per day, but it has come under attack from other outlets in Germany for stoking anti-immigrant and anti- Muslim flames. When the police announced that the Frankfurt incident was false, Bild published an apology, and claimed that the story, “in no way met the journalistic standards” of the paper. But the fact remains that it was published and reproduced globally, and no quantity of retractions, excuses or apologies from the outlets that ran with it will heal the damage. (Source: Europe’s biggest paper ran a bogus refugee ‘sex mob’ story. What now?, Christian Christensen, 17 February 2017, The Guardian)

HOW CAN YOU BLAME THE MEDIA WHEN MUSLIMS ARE VIOLENT?

In an era where news has more to do with speed than accuracy, the opinion shapers who today control the media has shown itself to be on par with wall street bankers, weapons manufacturers and drug dealers when it comes to ethics. This despite all the grand mission and vision statements that in actual fact is based on a matter that comes out of the lower bottom of a bull.

Using the following as an example, if the majority of airtime can be spent debating the “radicalisation” of young Muslim men, should we not see equal if not more airtime examining the radicalisation of American right-wing Christians? But this is far from the present status quo let alone the deafening silence for example, from the sitting US President Trump every time there is an act of violence by a white supremacist.

BUT JOURNALISTS ARE ONLY DOING THEIR JOBS.

To cite examples of character misrepresentation:
A young Jewish American man [was] charged with pretending to be an Australian-based Islamic State jihadist after a FBI joint investigation with the Australian Federal Police based on information provided by Fairfax Media . . . Joshua Ryne Goldberg, a 20-year old living at his parents’ house in US state of Florida, is accused of posing online as “Australi Witness,” an IS supporter who publicly called for a series of attacks against individuals and events in Western countries. (Source: FBI says ‘Australian IS jihadist’ is actually a Jewish American troll named Joshua Ryne Goldberg by Elise Potaka and Luke McMahon on September 12 2015, Sydney Morning Herald)

In April 2017, three German soldiers, with obvious rightwing extremist conviction’ were arrested after they were caught posing as asylum seekers in a planned terror plot. The plan was to make their attack look like the work of Islamist militants, and the target included the Germany Justice Ministry as well as a few other key landmarks in Germany, based on seized materials as reported by Der Spiegel magazine.

As part of an elaborate plan, one of the soldiers had previously been detained in late January 2017 by Austrian authorities on suspicion of having hidden an illegal gun in a bathroom at Vienna’s main airport in Schwechat . . . and had intended to have the finger prints of a Syrian asylum seeker on the gun, which he wanted to use in a possible attack and leave at the scene. Using a fake identity, the soldiers had also registered as a Syrian refugee to find a target, whom the attack could be blamed upon (Source: ‘Xenophobic’ German soldier, student suspected of planning attack, Apr 27, 2017, Reuters)

This incident was revealed only days after prosecutors in Germany revealed that a German-Russian citizen, Sergei W orchestrated the April 2017 Dortmund bus bombings, detonating three bombs targeting a bus carrying the Borussia Dortmund football team, in an attempt to frame ISIS and to make as much as 3.9 million euros on shares of the company using put options, a stockbroking product that enables the buyer to pro t when the share price of a given company falls. Preying on our fear of ISIS and terrorism, Sergei selfishly committed an act that could have led to loss of many lives.

Earlier in February 2017: The German mass-circulation daily Bild “emphatically” apologised to its readers for an article that said a “mob” of Arab men had sexually assaulted women on New Year’s Eve in a Frankfurt restaurant, after the police said that an investigation had failed to turn up any evidence . . . Bild has a daily circulation of 2.5 million and often sets the tone for political discussions in Germany, and the decision by prosecutors to open an investigation reflects broader concerns in the country about the spreading of false stories and anti-immigrant or anti-European propaganda. (Source: Bild Apologizes for False Article on Sexual Assaults in Frankfurt by Migrants, Melissa Eddy, 16 February 2017, New York Times) The key therefore is to not believe everything reported in the press.

BUT MUSLIMS ALREADY GET PLENTY OF POSITIVE AIRTIME IN THE MEDIA.

Unfortunately, the Muslim culture for the past four decades has been depicted in the media as unchanging and monolithic whereas Muslims are today unfairly portrayed as backwards, irrational and aggressive fanatics. (Source: What is it like to be a Muslim in Britain today? By Emma Howard, 9 July 2014, The Guardian)

 The current media discourse about Islam is filled with essentialist paranoia, fear, and the commentary of people who not only understand little about the religion but are often dismissive of people who do. The media also has a tendency of placing Muslims all in one box. This is not only silly but also harmful especially if the ultimate goal is to understand the problem better. (Source: Can Muslims write about Christianity, 28 July 2013 by Dan Murphy at Christian Science Monitor)

Unfortunately, Islamophobia is not only tolerated on US and European news channels but it is often the default position of large, leading high-pro le media organisations today. (Source: It’s not just Fox News: Islamophobia on cable news is out of control by Max Fisher, 13 January 2015, Vox)

WHILE THERE ARE SOME NEGATIVE REPORTS ABOUT MUSLIMS, MUSLIMS ARE GIVEN FAIR BIT OF COVERAGE AS WELL.

If this is the case, try producing a refutation on any of the following inconvenient yet important questions:

(1) Why are terror attacks in the West given more column inches than attacks in Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan or Beirut when often more lives are lost in Muslim-majority countries?;

(2) What is the common denominator that disqualifies Muslim- majority countries from receiving wall-to-wall coverage granted to attacks in the West when each life lost is just as much a political point made by the terrorists?;

(3) How heinous and violent do acts of terror in Muslim-majority countries need to be for the governments in the West to interrupt almost every high pro le news broadcast to condemn it?;

(4) How many multiples in terms of civilian casualties does an act of terrorism in a Muslim-majority country need to achieve in order for flags to fly at half-mast in the West?;

(5) Where is the act of solidarity at the Tower Bridge, Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House or other monuments when a Muslim- majority country is attacked?;

(6) When a city in the West is attacked, “global” news media reassign leading anchors and journalists providing 24/7 coverage but when Muslims come under attack, the same media outlets do not cover the event with one-tenth the intensity and breadth?;

(7) Where is the outpouring of touching stories about ordinary Muslims or detailed pro les about the heroism of the locals killed when Muslims come under attack?;

(8) When Muslims are killed, why are they brushed aside as casualties of sectarian conflict when these have more to do with politics and less with sectarianism but when citizens of the West are killed, they become universal icons of free speech and liberty when these are often killed as a result of misguided foreign policies of the West?;

(9) Why are European deaths a tragedy while Muslim civilians killed by drones and bombs dusted aside as nothing more than collateral damage?;

(10) Why do ordinary civilians in the West not wear black ribbons or where is the march in solidarity and vigils honouring the dead when the victims of terrorism happen to be in Muslim-majority countries?; &

(11) Why is there no “Pray for Baghdad,” or no “Je Suis Pakistan” on Twitter trending in the West when ordinary Muslims are killed? Nor are there memes on Instagram of unified global grief when Muslims fall victim to terrorism? (Source: Various articles)

PEOPLE IN THE WEST ARE CONCERNED ABOUT MUSLIM CASUALTIES ELSEWHERE.

People in the West let alone in most parts of the World express regret for the civilian deaths in the West but when Muslim civilians are killed there are no memorial services or candlelit vigils on Western television. Why?

In fact decades ago, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky coined the term “worthy and unworthy victims” to differentiate between those whose suffering benefits a particular ideological or political agenda, and those whose suffering does not.(Source: Trump’s silence after the London mosque attack speaks volumes, Christian Christensen, 20 June 2017, The Guardian)

To that end, here are some more pointed (rather uncomfortable) questions from a terrorism expert:

“Would it have been morally different if a plane had own over London on July 7 and dropped four bombs, killing fifty-two civilians?

Would it be any more acceptable if the perpetrators argued that the targets of the raid were police stations, electricity supply lines or key logistical installations rather than civilians, who were only collateral damage?

If four bombs managed to terrorise London and place Britain on edge, what was the effect on the people of Baghdad of hundreds of bombs raining on their city each day during the invasion?

How would you feel if Iraqi troops were walking along your street? They might occasionally break into your home and arrest someone you love.

If they said they invaded Britain to give you a better life, would you welcome their presence?

Is it licit to drop bombs from fifty thousand feet in the e ort to kill terrorists – with predictable widespread deaths of innocents – but immoral for a single suicide bomber to kill the enemy from five feet in the struggle for national liberation, also killing innocents?

No doubt some acts of terrorism are quite indiscriminate and specifically designed to spread fear and demoralization; but what then of Dresden, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki, in which the major purpose of the exercise, was to terrify and demoralise – in modern parlance, to create ‘’shock and awe’’ to win the conflict. (Source: Phil Rees, Author, Dining with Terrorists)

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

CHARLIE HEBDO, MUSLIMS & FREEDOM OF SPEECH

WHY ARE ALL MUSLIMS, ANTI “JE SUIS CHARLIE”?

If I [had responded] to the attacks in Paris by saying, “Je Suis Charlie”, what would I be insinuating? Of course I would be condemning the attacks, but I would also be promoting the mocking of Muhammad [PBUH]. I unequivocally condemn [all] the terrorist attacks in France and pray for the families of the victims. Terrorism has no place in Islam. (Source: Ibrahim Ijaz, San Jose, Letter to The Editor, 15 January 2015, L.A Times)

“The killings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are abhorrent. But let us not forget the daily abhorrence of our wars in the Muslim World, wars that have seen over a million Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Syrians and Yemenis killed and millions more wounded and maimed physically and psychologically, while millions of men, women and children endure another cold winter, homeless and hungry . . . For to believe that the attack in Paris was a tragedy singularly about a cartoon or as an event solely to be defined as an assault on freedom of expression, is to be daft and incongruent with the history and reality of American and Western policy in the Middle East”. (Matthew Hoh, Veterans for Peace (Source: I stand with Charlie Hebdo but I also stand with the victims of Our bombs, January 9 2015, Huffington Post)

BILL MAHER IN EARLY 2015 ASKED: “SINCE THEY WERE PROTESTING ME FOR ONCE SAYING THAT ISLAM IS ‘THE ONLY RELIGION THAT ACTS LIKE THE MAFIA (AND WILL) KILL YOU IF YOU SAY THE WRONG THING OR DRAW THE WRONG PICTURE . . .’ AND THEN TWO JIHADISTS GUNNED DOWN 12 PEOPLE IN PARIS FOR SAYING THE WRONG THING AND DRAWING THE WRONG PICTURE,” HE ASKED: “YOU HAVE TO TELL ME, WHERE DO I GO TO PROTEST YOU?”

No one is denying there are individuals with Muslim names today who will go on a violent rampage if you “say the wrong thing or draw the wrong picture . . .” but why is Islam as a religion on the dock if an individual with a Muslim name does not obey its teachings? Where does it say in the Qur’an, Muslims should kill person X if he/she “says the wrong thing or draws the wrong picture”? Did most ordinary Muslims, Islamic community leaders, Islamic scholars and Islamic countries condemn the Charlie Hebdo killings or celebrate the shootings?

Was it not a French Muslim police officer (Ahmed Merabat), who was gunned down by the self-claimed Muslim attackers who killed 17 people in France in January 2015? Was it not a Muslim supermarket clerk (Lassana Bathily) that saved the lives of 15 French Jews the next day? How is it then “Islam is the only religion that acts like the Mafia”?

People with twisted ideologies are the problem, whether you follow Islam, Christianity (Anders Breivik), Judaism (Baruch Goldstein), Hinduism (RSS), Buddhism (Ashin Wirathu) or for that matter, Atheism (Craig Stephen Hicks – UNC North Carolina). Not religion, not race nor country of origin.

BUT MUSLIMS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHARLIE HEBDO ATTACK.

While the shootings was a global outrage given how 17 lives were mercilessly lost, the fact that the gunmen shamelessly did it “in the name of Islam” helped reinforce the myth that Islam promotes violence. An untruth when again, it was none other than a French Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabat who was the first to arrive on the scene and also killed by the gunmen or the fact that it was a West African Muslim immigrant, Lassana Bathily who saved the lives of 15 Jews the next day. Unfortunately it is too easy broad-brushing Islam and Muslims for the crime of a group of retards who committed a cowardly act of violence in direct contradiction to Islamic teachings of a true Muslim, Muhammad (PBUH).

Also, why do so many people in the West instinctively decide Islam is the reason the Islamic State attacked Paris, but would never attribute the Oklahoma City bombing to the fact that Timothy McVeigh was Catholic? Nobody associates all Seventh-day Adventists with David Koresh, who belonged to a splinter sect, or all of Judaism with Meir Kahane but when a person with a Muslim name is involved, the whole religion of Islam is besmirched. Why?

MUSLIMS LOVE CALLING FOR “RESPECT” FOR THEIR FAITH BUT DO NOT RESPECT CHARLIE HEBDO’S SATIRE OR FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

If freedom of speech is truly valued in the West, why did the French government stop climate change protesters during the summit in December 2015 or why were over 100 Muslims arrested who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks, however anti-Islamic the stance of supporting the killers or the barbaric killings were?

Does this not illustrate how “the French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace”, in the fine words of Gary Trudeau, the first cartoonist recipient of the George Polk Award in April 2015 who said: “Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny – it’s just mean. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech . . .

Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another”. (Source: The Abuse of Satire by Gary Trudeau, 11 April 2015, The Atlantic)

In other words, shouldn’t satire focus on those who are rich, proud and the powerful instead of those who are less fortunate than we are since satire targeting victims of hatred is nothing less than bullying, an act that can never be worth a laugh.

In 2008, the left-leaning satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo fired a cartoonist who illustrated a crude image about President Sarkozy’s son alluding to a Jewish link and yet no one in Paris screamed for the need to defend “the right to freely express themselves”, illustrating apparently there are indeed limits to what can be written and drawn and that not everything can be said.

Unfortunately, when the public over-reaction that is, urge to “defend freedom of expression” in response to the tragic events from January 2015 unfolded, the troubling double standard at play became far too obvious for ordinary Muslims in France and the world over to ignore.

FRANCE AND AUSTRALIA ARE FIRM BELIEVERS IN FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

If this were true then why are people in France prosecuted for anti-Semitic speech at higher rates than those spouting anti-Islamic views, (although Jew-baiting is wrong in every shape and form but by using the example of the double standards at play when it comes to Jews, the objective is very much to highlight the flaws in the system where certain people are criminalized for certain speech while the others have a free reign to o end).

The same argument could be applied to the French pro-Palestinian protesters whose demonstrations against Israel’s assault in Gaza in 2014 were banned. While the fight against anti-Semitism against the Jews is alive and kicking but regrettably, some parts of the West appear to be light years away from recoiling from its subconscious stance on Islamophobia.

In fact, politicians are in favour of provocation and free speech until Muslims exercise those freedoms, it seems (at which point it is quite conveniently called a “debate” like the Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s April 2017 statement about Anzac day for which she was heavily criticised and following a series of events, migrated from Australia to Britain in July 2017).

Given the right wing’s obsession with freedom of speech and their vitriolic rhetoric defending their right to o end, it is more than just interesting when the tables are turned. When something as holy as Anzac Day comes into the mix, then suddenly free speech becomes hate speech and causing offense is actually a big deal. But when it’s Muslims, people of colour, LGBT communities, etcetera, who are the victims, then it’s a whole other issue. Their freedom of speech does not need to be respected then. (Source: Freedom Of Speech Is A White Man’s Privilege by Masrur-Ul Islam Joarder, 28 April 2017, Huffington Post)

This reaction of course is not only limited to Australia but in Europe: Muslims are told to get used to be being offended and provoked by cartoonists but if the French public gets offended, oh well lets get the police to intimidate a woman into undressing in public to prove their worthiness as a free woman (Source: France defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to o end – so why can’t a Muslim woman in a burkini ‘offend’ us too?, Sunny Hundal, 25 August 2016, The Independent), one of many examples of how freedom of speech appears to be a white man’s privilege?

Last but not least, why is it okay to offend Muslims by making fun of its revered Prophet (PBUH) but not the Jews, victims of Jewish concentration camps or deny the Holocaust altogether such as by saying Holocaust was a mere “point of detail” of the second world war or that Nazi gas chambers were merely a “detail” of history. (Note: The Holocaust should not be denied nor any other wartime massacre or victims in history overlooked or mocked). It appears nevertheless Anti- Semitism is treated as a crime, while Islamophobia is tolerated if not given the denial, blind eye treatment.

GROUPS WITH MUSLIM NAMES HAVE CITED VERSES FROM THE QUR’AN BEFORE COMMITTING ACTS OF VIOLENCE WHENEVER MUHAMMAD (PBUH) IS CRITICISED OR MOCKED.

Cherry-picking or citing verses out of context is simply wrong. The Qur’an says in clear terms: “And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace”. (Qur’an 25:63). Yes, there are indeed a minority of Muslims who have zero patience for any criticism against Islam or Muslims but their actions do not represent Islam, especially when the injunction above, always to be read and understood with proper context and detailed interpretation, is crystal clear.

MUSLIMS ARE CLEARLY AGAINST FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

The famous dictum attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, may not be far from the Koranic call for Muslims to “stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: for God can best protect both”. (Source: What Muslims must learn from anti-trump protests in America, Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, 5 February 2017, SCMP)

Along a similar vein, Linda Sarsour, a leading Muslim American activist was quoted in an article titled “Muslims Defend Pam Geller’s Right to Hate”, saying “[Pamela] Geller can draw any damn cartoon she wants and I defend her right to do so. I have always fought for her right to be a bigot and I have the right to counter her bigotry with my own speech . . . The only hope is that the media covers our responses with the same zeal they cover the attack.”

But of course this is rarely the case:

“When you attack African-Americans, they call it Racism. When you attack Jews, they call it Anti-Semitism. When you attack women, they call it Sexism. When you attack homosexuality, they call it Intolerance. When you attack your country, they call it Treason. But when you attack the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), they call it freedom of speech and expression.” (Source: Widely circulated Facebook quote, unknown author)

FREE SPEECH IS ALL ABOUT DOING GOOD IN THIS WORLD.

If free speech absolutes were genuinely fighting for fearless freedom of expression and are sincere about doing true and lasting good in this world as they often claim in their defence, aren’t there countless of other urgent issues that these free speech heroes ought to consider giving some coverage to?

From writing about rights of the poor, minorities, disabled people, asylum seekers, working class migrants, rape victims, sex trafficking, teenage pregnancies, capital punishment, violence against women, human rights activists in jail, the role of western pornography in pedophilia, Western arm producers selling weapons to repressive regimes or abandoned army veterans who are sent overseas for war and come home scarred from emotional (PTSD) and/or physical disabilities or the hundreds of LGBTQI killed every year in Christian-majority as well as Muslim-majority countries around the world, – there are hundreds more worthwhile albeit controversial issues that deserve the right to be discussed and yet are very often overlooked by these so-called “free speech absolutes”. Why is that?

In fact, author and American journalist Glenn Greenwald rightly called this the “Bill Maher Complex: thinking you are brave and subversive for mocking the most marginalized while reliably sycophantic to actual power”.

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

CONDEMN OR BE DAMNED


WHAT TO DO WHEN AN ACT OF TERRORISM OCCURS?

When an act of terrorism occurs, we ordinary Muslims should rst and foremost start by acknowledging the innocent victims (both Muslims and non-Muslims alike) before touching on anything that has to do with politics, religion, resistance, war and revenge especially when innocent people are attacked and lives lost. Next, we should point out the real reason we speak up against any terror groups is simply because we are human beings like everyone else and not simply because we are Muslims. This is an important step.

Just as importantly, we need to make clear Muslims have a right to mourn their fellow Muslim and non-Muslim citizens without needing to apologise for fringe members of their faith who commit acts of violence and who ignorantly call themselves Muslims.

While at it, we should also ask ourselves and each other – why we Muslims feel compelled to defend Islam every time someone does something that has no basis in the Qur’an and Hadith (narrated sayings and actions of Muhammad – PBUH)? Worse still, why are Muslims the world over unfairly put in the dock or why are all Muslims always presumed to be heinous, whenever someone with a Muslim name commits an act of violence?

WHY DON’T MUSLIM LEADERS CONDEMN  TERROR?

In 2014, a leading Islamic group, penned by 120 Muslim scholars countersigned an open letter to ISIS that meticulously deconstructed the group’s theology. This was not, the first nor this is likely to be the last. Multiple Fatwas have been declared against extremism and spiritual jihads announced against terrorism and yet every time ISIS, Al-Qaeda or any of their incestuous cousins commit an act of violence in the name of Islam or ordinary Muslims, a tragically familiar refrain arises: Where is the condemnation from the Muslim world?

Despite an avalanche of condemnations from the upper echelons of the world leading Islamic figures, leaders and scholars after every single terrorist attack including the Paris attacks, Boston marathon bombing, Boko Haram kidnappings, Charlie Hebdo shootings, Orlando shootings, the entire Muslim community continues to be the scapegoat for the actions of individuals and groups that commit morally repugnant acts – all in the name of Islam.

In fact, 19-year old Hera Hashemi, student at the University of Colorado decided to put the notion to the test in November 2016. Using Google spreadsheets, she made a “712-page list of Muslims condemning things with sources”, which she tweeted. The list includes everything from acts of domestic violence to 9/11. “I wanted to show people how weak the argument [that Muslims don’t care about terror- ism] is,” she explained. Her stats struck a chord. Within 24 hours, Hashmi’s tweet had been retweeted 15,000 times. A couple of her followers volunteered to help her turn her spreadsheet into an interactive website and, within a week of the tweet, muslimscondemn.com was born. (Source: The 712-page Google Doc that proves Muslims do condemn terrorism, Arwa Mahdawi, 26 March 2017, The Guardian)

Yet, why is the media not giving due coverage to public denouncements and series of formal condemnations by leading Muslim figures that the very same media so vehemently demands, we ordinary Muslims often wonder? Why are these important voices being drowned out by the very same people who keep making the call for them to speak up? And why is the public still deliberately misinformed with the same xenophobic implications about Islam and ordinary Muslims – time and again?

In the words of Yamine Hafiz: “The implication is that every Muslim in the world who doesn’t engage in terrorism is nevertheless a latent supporter, or enabler, of terrorism because he doesn’t make [continuous] loud proclamations against”. (Source: Muslims Condemning Things: Tumblr answers a question that should be obvious on 20 Aug 2014 by Yasmine Hafiz, Huffington Post)

WHY DON’T ORDINARY MUSLIMS CONDEMN TERROR ATTACKS?

Never mind how ordinary Buddhists are never expected to condemn the extremist diatribes and tirades of the “Buddhist Bin Laden” Ashin Wirathu or Christians are never repeatedly asked to condemn the crimes against humanity by Timothy McVeigh or Anders Breivik. Even moderate Jews are never repeatedly asked to denounce the long ago Baruch Goldstein’s killings or the IDF for its almost never ending, extra-judicial killings or incursions by the illegal settlers in West Bank, Israel. The average atheists are also never asked to denounce the actions of deranged killers like Craig Stephen Hicks. Yet, the giant perpetual spotlight has always been on Islam and ordinary Muslims. Why?

Since 9/11, Muslims by default are instantaneously asked to condemn acts of terrorism as if all Muslims are evenly responsible, often times well before the smoke clears while leaders have failed to demand similar levels of all round condemnation when ordinary Muslims are verbally or physically attacked in Europe and America, all in the name of freedom of expression. Respect it appears is a one-way street. That the vast majority of Muslims are as peaceable as the vast majority of Christians is of no matter.

“Anyone who keeps saying that we need to hear the moderate voice of Islam – why aren’t Muslims denouncing these violent attacks doesn’t own Google . . . The voice of condemnation is deafening and if you don’t hear it you’re not listening”. Reza Azlan, (Source: Anyone Who asks why Muslims aren’t denouncing attacks “Doesn’t Own Google, January 11, 2015, Media Matters for America)

“It’s true that every Muslim leader in Britain has denounced them several times, but that’s hardly sufficient. They might denounce them at five past three, and then again at twenty past three, but what are they doing in between? For all we know they’re blowing themselves up at bus garages . . . So to truly distance themselves from the shooting, every Muslim should have to draw their own satirical cartoon involving Muhammad trampolining on a pig, so we know we can trust them . . . This is a fair point, because it’s hard to think of a single newspaper that at any time has ever said anything critical about Islam, isn’t it?.” Mark Steel, Columnist, The Independent (Source: January 8, 2015, Charlie Hebdo: Norway’s Christians didn’t have to apologise for Anders Breivik, and it’s the same for Muslims now, The Independent)

IF MUSLIMS ARE CONDEMNING VIOLENCE, WHY CAN’T WE HEAR THEM?

When virulent, unsubstantiated however brief statements are posted online by individuals and groups who claim to be Muslims, all the expert analysis emerges in the form of 24/7 media coverage lasting weeks or month at a time, asking: “Why are Muslims not condemning terrorism?”. On the other hand, when detailed statements are made by regional leaders and scholars let alone ordinary Muslims condemning violence, it is deemed non-newsworthy. Why is that?

“It appears major media and critics can in fact hear Muslims scream but only when they scream threats and vitriol. Words and acts of altruism, compassion, love, tolerance, and pluralism fall on deaf ears”. (Source: Why Won’t Major Media Report on Muslims Combatting Terrorism on 17 November 2014 by Qasim Rashid, The Huffington Post)

Put another way,

the vast majority of Muslims can’t help but wonder why is the killing of innocent civilians by less than 0.03 percent of people claiming to be Muslims only newsworthy but if the vast majority of Muslims (99.97 percent) pledge peace, nobody cares to report the same?

How can anyone possibly believe that small groups of terrorists accurately represent Islam or ordinary Muslims worldwide? In the words of Saman Shad, an Australian Muslim who wrote for the Independent UK in September 2012:

“We aren’t fanatics and we don’t issue death threats over YouTube clips – which is why we don’t get the airtime”. (Source: Say g’day to Australia’s other Muslims, 18 September 2012, Saman Shad, The Independent)

SHOULD MUSLIM LEADERS STOP CONDEMNING VIOLENCE THEN?

The standard protocol today of first calling on every single Muslim religious leader, activist, public intellectual and interfaith speaker to take a “clear and courageous stance”, “loudly and explicitly denounce terrorism” and “condemn unspeakable criminal acts” by terrorists or suicide bombers every time an individual or group does something horrendous in the name of Islam dragging its name through the mud – no doubt needs to be thoroughly reconsidered. The endless cycle of demanding Muslim communities – “to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject acts of terrorism” as if this has even an iota/atomic portion to do with Islam or any ordinary Muslim also needs to be thoroughly thought-through once again.

“This expectation for Muslims to keep speaking out is nothing short of Islamophobic. It assumes that Islam is, at its core, evil. It also upholds the view that Muslims can be essentialised as a monolithic whole”. (Source: Why #illridewithyou is an ill ride by Nazry Bahrawi, on 17 Dec 2014, Aljazeera.com)

Put another way, the current knee-jerk reaction by Islamic leaders to decry faraway atrocities that are grossly disconnected to Islam, needs to stop for what is probably the most important reason: “Above and beyond these endless series of condemnation and apologies, there is now growing weariness among ordinary Muslims around the world who find it severely draining and disempowering about having to apologise for the actions of extremists who claim to represent Islam, a religion with over 1.6 billion followers worldwide – when this has nothing to do with Islam or ordinary Muslims but misguided foreign policies, politics, oil & gas, war and history – among some of many complex underlying factors that in influence terrorism today.

In fact, during the 2010 Chilcot enquiry, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director General of M15 from 2002 to 2007, confirmed unequivocally that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to a “substantial” increase in the threat of terrorism in Britain. Our involvement in the Iraq war had a direct impact on the number of threats, and forced the security service to request that their budget be doubled. (Source: Former MI5 chief delivers damning verdict on Iraq invasion, Richard Norton-Taylor, 20 July 2010, The Guardian)

Therefore, the fact that Muslims condemn these acts in front of a bank of cameras as often as we do, creates a dangerous confirmation bias, reinforcing the false, common stereotype that there is a relation- ship however weak, between Islam and violence when the whole point of condemning these acts should also be for the sake of clarifying how these acts have nothing to do with Islam or ordinary Muslims.

Given how this is having the opposite effect, Muslim leaders and Muslim advocacy groups ought to explore other alternatives every time an individual commits an act of terror in the name of Islam or while invoking the name of Allah, since at present we are applying a bandaid nowhere near the expanding wound that matters.

“I just want to know why I have to get down on bended knee and ask for forgiveness from the entire western world . . . every time some asshole who has twisted my religion commits an act of violence, but whenever some delusional, white, gun toting religious fundamentalist shoots up a Planned Parenthood or a black church in South Carolina, it’s immediately labeled the act of a lone wolf or someone clearly not indicative of Christianity as a whole? . . . that kind of “built-in double standard” is why “this country still has a wink-wink and not approach to the Ku Klux Klan” but why Islamic Americans “have to be put through sixteen levels of screening” when traveling . . . And the fact is that since that day far, far more Americans have been killed in domestic mass shooting events than have been killed in Islamic terrorist attacks. So why do they insist,” she asked rhetorically, “on demanding that I apologize for the Paris attacks and specifically condemn those psycho- paths, but they get to just put their hands up and slide-step six paces to the right away from this Planned Parenthood shooter?” Anika Kaber a resident of Colorado (Source: Moderate Muslim: Where Are All The Moderate White Christians Denouncing Planned Parenthood Shooting?, 28 Nov 2015, Political Garbage Chute)

“There is an argument that in condemning these acts we are admitting that it is done on behalf of Islam, that we are responsible and we are attaching guilt and shame to ourselves and Islam. There is an argument that the West has much more to apologize for its acts of genocide and war in the Middle East and other places. There’s an argument that in expecting Muslims to apologize, we are subjugated by the West and held in a catch-22 scenario of having to apologize, even though these acts have nothing to do with our religion . . . I simply condemn these acts out of my Islamic religious convictions, which teach me that I should speak out against injustice. All forms of injustice, and that I do. There’s a certain pain that I feel when I watch as my religion is being run through the ground by loud ruthless voices who take all the head- lines. If I’m able to counter that, by my actions before my words, I will always do it”. Mona Shadia, Award-winning Egyptian American journalist and writer (Source: Not in My name, January 8, 2015, Huffington Post)

“We should treat people like the Charlie Hebdo attackers as what they are: monsters who kill both for the simple sake of killing and to provoke exactly the sort of religious conflict that mosque-attackers are indulging. And we should treat Muslims as what they are: normal people who of course reject terrorism, rather than as a lesser form of humanity that is expected to denounce violence every time it happens”. (Source: Max Fisher, in an article he originally wrote after the Sydney siege but updated in the event of the Charlie Hebdo killings, Vox)

On the other hand, it may be worth citing a counter-argument. Egyptian-American journalist, Mona Shadia said: “Muslims who feel they must condemn these actions, not to please anyone but to remain proactive and in charge of our destiny”. (Source: Not In My Name by Mona Shadia, 10 March 2015, Huffington Post)

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

Q&A WITH AN ATHEIST

RELIGION IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL EVIL ESPECIALLY WHEN SCIENCE AND HUMANISM PROVIDE SUCH REAL HOPE FOR HUMANITY.

If one were to take religion out of the equation for one moment, would the world become a better place? If yes, how would one explain this? “Defenders of religion claim Adolf Hitler was an atheist. Communism under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao Zedong banned religion, but also massacred millions. And science brought incredible and amazing advances, but also pollution and the atomic bomb.” (Source: Dawkins on religion, June 2013, Al-Jazeera)

In fact, atheists nowadays like to argue how atheism should not be held responsible for the actions of some authoritarian regimes that worked very hard to expunge religion from under its control (e.g., Pol Pot, Stalin, Chairman Mao, etcetera) but then: We should not forget what happened following the establishment of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, two nations that actively promoted “state atheism” by violently suppressing religious expression and persecuting faith communities: “While it wasn’t atheism that motivated Stalin and Mao to demolish or expropriate houses of worship, to slaughter tens of thousands of priests, nuns and monks and to prohibit the publication and dissemination of religious material, it was anti-theism that motivated them to do so. (Source: Sam Harris and “New Atheists” aren’t new, aren’t even atheists on 21 Nov 2014 by Reza Azlan, Salon.com)

In many ways, the persecution of religious minorities continue unabated to this date among millions of Muslim and Christian minorities in China today.

Besides, if you truly believed that religion is “one of the world’s great evils” – as bad as smallpox and worse than rape; if you believe religion is a form of child abuse; that it is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” – if you honestly believed this about religion, then what lengths would you not go through to rid society of it.? (Source: Sam Harris and “New Atheists” aren’t new, aren’t even atheists on 21 Nov 2014 by Reza Azlan, Salon.com)

 For a Muslim, being an atheist is like living life without a guiding rulebook on how best to act, which probably works for some but may not work for others.

I think that encouraging people to change their actions is more essential than trying to change their beliefs. If everyone in the world became an atheist, it wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems; if everyone became kind and good, it would. (Source: Why I ditched God for good by Ariane Sherine on 3 December 2013, The Guardian), religious or non-religious.

In fact, here are two additional excerpts about religion versus atheism worth pointing out:

#1: I’d say the conclusion is obvious that the only thing as disturbing as the religious is the modern atheist . . . Similarly, [Christopher] Hitchens appears to have become obsessed with defying religion, so made himself one of the most enthusiastic supporters for a war he saw as being against the craziness of Islam. But the war wasn’t about God or Allah, it was about more earthly matters, which the people conducting that war understood. (Source: Just because you’re an atheist doesn’t make you rational by Mark Steel, 29 Dec 2011, The Independent)

 #2: I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to under- stand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently. I see someone doing what he claims to hate in others. Preaching from a selfish vantage point. (Source: The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes by Chris Arnade on 24 December 2013, The Guardian)

MEN OF RELIGION ARE VERY VIOLENT.

Karen Armstrong, bestselling author on history and religion said in an interview in late November 2014:

“No state, however peace-loving it claims to be, can afford to disband its army, so when people say religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history this is a massive oversimplification. Violence is at the heart of our lives, in some form or another . . . “Blaming religion”, Armstrong argues, “allows Westerners to ignore the essential role that violence has played in the formation of our own societies – and the essential role that our societies have played in seeding violence abroad”. (Source: Karen Armstrong on Sam Harris and Bill Maher: “It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps” on 23 November 2014 by Michael Schulson, Salon)

 RELIGION CAUSE WARS AND DEATHS.

If we think religion has been a negative force in modern world history, consider the alternative. Religion couldn’t have done worse than the history of savage secular violence and unprecedented butchery that dominated the history of the West in the twentieth century, marked by two world wars, fascism, Nazism, and communism – none of which had anything to do with religion. Secular extremism has only offered us worse. The real problem lies in the nature of human aspirations, good and bad. We in the West will be on a sounder path if we can de-Islamize our perceptions of regional issues and view them simply as universal human social and political problems for which we, too, share some responsibility . . .

The true horrors of the twentieth century have almost nothing to do with religions: two world wars, Fronco, Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Rwanda – the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, all involving secular, even atheist regimes that seized upon dogmatic ideas and brutally implemented them at all cost. (Source: A World without Islam, Author, Graham E Fuller)

 SO YOU ARE SAYING ALL ATHEISTS ARE  TROUBLE MAKERS?

While there is a minority but loud group of atheists who are profoundly disrespectful of fundamental individual rights and the basic right to freely worship, the vast majority of atheists and self-professed agnostics are open-minded and respectful of other creeds. In fact, a number of high pro le atheists today like Richard Dawkins are increasing gaining more detractors than followers as time goes by – and as their true colour emerges.

Richard Dawkins is yet another example of a man hugely disconnected with the massive growing movement of atheists today, frequently criticised for his narrow-mindedness and his insistence of “preaching from a selfish vantage point”. (Source: The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes by Chris Arnade on 24 December 2013, The Guardian)

 Not every atheist looks up to Ayaan Hirsi Ali given how she has a tendency to speak from both sides of her mouth: “We believe Ayaan Hirsi Ali represents a sadly common voice in the atheist community that attacks and provokes, rather than contributes to constructive criticism or dialogue”, according to a statement by a group of students. (Source: Yale Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics, Yale University)

“Sam Harris genuinely appears to view himself as a voice of science and reason . . . Harris must be aware that Middle Eastern nations have repeatedly been subjected to humiliating wars of invasion, conquest and expropriation that have killed millions of people. They play no evident role in his thinking about the state of Islam”. (Source: Atheism, Islam and liberalism: This is what we are really fighting about on 12 Oct 2014 by Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com)

 BUT ATHEISM IS COMPLETELY AGAINST VIOLENCE.

The Chapel Hill shootings in February 2015 is perhaps a useful example of a militant atheist. On February 10, 2015, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were all killed in their home in Finley Forest Condominiums on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States. A year later in Oregon, there was yet another school shooting in the US by proud atheist Chris Harper, a 26-year-old who shot and killed nine people and injured at least seven others. Before each person was killed execution style, he asked each of his victims: “Are you a Christian?” and “if you are a Christian then stand up” and as they stood up, he continued ‘because you are a Christian you’re going to see God in about one second’ followed quickly by a gunshot. The Las Vegas shooting (worse mass shooting in recent US history) by Stephen Paddock (known atheist or anti-theist) on Oct 1 2017 is yet another example.  Again, it is wrong to argue this applies to all atheists. The vast majority are open-minded and respectful or at the very least, indifferent to other beliefs and creeds.

STILL, ATHEISM IS THE BEST OPTION FOR MANKIND.

“As practised by Richard Dawkins and his ilk (the late Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, et al), what is branded as “New Atheism” now amounts to a fanatical religion, degenerated into an o beat cult, entirely contradictory to the delusion they are preaching that they are atheists . . . The manner, however, in which Dawkins and his coreligionists preach and practise their atheism is not much different than the manner in which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi preaches and practises his Islam, or John Hagee confesses his Christianity, or Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan his Judaism. They are all fanatical absolutists, dead certain in their hateful convictions, and without the slightest human doubt about their fanatical dogmas. They are all interdictions and punishments: no room for error, no time for introspection, no interior space for tolerance . . .

Judaism produced its Maimonides, Buber, and Levinas, Christianity its Schleiermacher and Kierkegaard, Islam its Rumi and Ibn Arabi, Hinduism its Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, and Mirabai. But who have these profoundly fanatical atheists produced to teach them patience, humility, and forgiveness? Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris – an abiding love of humanity and our frailties? They are each more vindictive, arrogant, and spiteful than the other. Can you imagine if these vindictive fanatics were to rule the world, legislate its laws, and execute its mandates? Anxiety-ridden, obsessive, and hypochondriac – they excel in the neurotic behaviour they then attribute to “religion”. (Source: Is there a Theology to this New Atheism? By Hamid Dabashi, 27 September 2015, Aljazeera.com)

BUT RELIGION IS NOT RATIONAL. MEN OF RELIGION BELIEVE IN GOD WHILE ATHEISTS BELIEVE IN SCIENCE.

In the words of a Hira Amin, a PHD student at Cambridge: “Just because I believe in God does not make me a less rational human being. The prevalent belief that science answers all questions is astonishing. As Western philosophers of science point out, science cannot answer questions surrounding the issues of morality, meaning and purpose. Science can only study the physical world, not the metaphysical. Religious people do not reject science; we believe there is more to life than just physical matter”. (Source: A post by Hira Amin, PhD at Cambridge University extracted into an article titled what is it like to be a Muslim in Britain today on 9 July 2014 by Emma Howard, The Guardian)

FAITH MEANS TO BELIEVE WITHOUT REASON.

This is false. Islam requires faith, not blind faith, as there is a world of scientific evidence, if one were to read the Qur’an and make a genuine effort to reflect and understand it from a neutral – scientific and historical stance. A good example is that of the carbon-dating of a parchment of text from the Qur’an kept at Birmingham University, which sparked an almost irrelevant debate in June 2015 as to when the Qur’an was compiled, when the key point about the miraculous nature and contents of the Qur’an was stupendously overlooked. Back in the day, the Qur’an was compiled by followers who wrote down Muhammad’s [PBUH] words on “pieces of papyrus, at stones, palm leaves, shoulder blades and ribs of animals, pieces of leather, wooden boards” according to Cyril Glasse in The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam.

Based on the carbon-dating of a parchment of text from the Qur’an on hand, leading Oxford academics claimed it originated between 568-645 AD, or five full years before the Qur’an is widely believed by Muslims to have been compiled in year 650, or eighteen years after the death of Muhammad (PBUH), who is generally thought to have lived between 570 to 632. The book was put together under the rule of Uthman, the third Caliph and close companion to Muhammad (PBUH), who was elected from 644 to 656. The academics argued this “may change our understanding of the way in which Islam’s holy book was compiled.” Needless to say, the assertion was disputed by many fellow academics.

What was unfortunately not as widely covered was the fact that: “A study of the orthography of the pages – the spelling, grammar and other conventions of language shows that it can be dated to the second half of the seventh century and therefore fits in with the more traditional explanation of the Qur’an’s development. Among the telltale features that indicate that it is from a later version of the holy book are the use of verse markers and marks denoting how a consonant should be pronounced. Such devices, it is argued, were not in use during the Prophet’s life.” Dr. Mustafa Shah, senior lecturer in Islamic studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, told The Independent Newspaper: “When you look at this, it is clear they simply t with the stylistic conventions of Arabic linguistic form of the later seventh century”. (Source: Scholars split by claim that Koran scrap rewrites story of Islam by Cahal Milmo, 5 September 2015, The Independent)

Nonetheless, this begs an important question how was so much information about modern day radar technology, the contraction motion that facilitates birth, the solidity of the atom and electron orbits, bone loss at old age, the ozone layer at the poles as the sun rises, the cloning of living things, the pulling motion that facilitates birth, the expanding universe, earth’s gravitational force, fossilization and iron content, the sun’s hydrogen and helium content, oxidation in the blood, the sun’s trajectory, orbits and the rotating universe, earth’s geoid shape, layers of the atmosphere, the formation of petrol, sub-atomic particles, pulsating stars, weight of clouds, formation of rain, how the process of photosynthesis begins in the morning, seas not mingling with one another, darkness in the seas and internal waves and hundreds of other scientific facts – known 1400 years ago regardless of whether the Qur’an was compiled in year 568-645 which in any case is unlikely given how the “use of verse markers and marks denoting how a consonant should be pronounced were not in use at the time” – or after 650 which is more likely given the “stylistic conventions of Arabic linguistic form of the late seventh century”, illustrating best the metaphysical and miraculous source of the Qur’an could not have been a human.

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved

ANTI-IMMIGRANT CITIZENS OF THE WEST

THE 2014 SYDNEY SIEGE WAS ALL ABOUT ISLAMIC TERRORISM.

What do the actions of a widely acknowledged mentally ill patient with a history of certified mental illness who, had a Muslim name have to do with Islam and why are crimes committed by people of other back- ground rarely if ever, linked to their faiths?

When an individual with a Muslim name is responsible for 2-3 deaths, it is mislabeled as “Islamic terrorism” but when a white American goes on a shooting spree killing 6 people at around the same time in a different time zone, he is called “gunman on the loose”.

During the Sydney siege [in Australia], a shooting spree incident unfolded in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA that left 6 dead . . . International media agencies described the perpetrator, the now-deceased Bradley William Stone, simply as “a suspect”, “a gunman on the loose” and even “a Montgomery man”. No hashtag campaign was necessary to assure white people that the rest of the world will ride with them to keep them safe . . . The same can be observed of the reaction to the mass killings committed by the Norwegian Anders Breivik in 2011. While Breivik had claimed himself a baptised Christian in his 1,500-page manifesto, the world did not expect Christians to condemn terrorism in the same way Muslims had. (Source: Why #illridewithyou is an ill ride by Nazry Bahrawi on 18 Dec 2014, Aljazeera.com)

As it turns out the next day, this “suspect” or “gunman on the loose” was an ex-Marine, Iraq War veteran: An Iraq War veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives in a shooting and slashing frenzy was found dead of self-inflicted stab wounds Tuesday in the woods of suburban Philadelphia, ending a day-and-a-half manhunt that closed schools and left people on edge . . . Suspected gunman Bradley William Stone, 35, smashed through a glass door at his ex-wife’s apartment . . . before ring multiple shots and killing her. He then fled with their two children . . . to the two nearby communities of Lansdale and Souderton, where he killed five people and severely injured one more. (Source: Ex-Marine wanted in 6 killings commits suicide by Kathy Matheson and Sean Carlin on 16 December 2014, Associated Press)

Just over two years later in January 2017, a 26-year-old man drove his car into a crowded Melbourne street, killing ve people including a child. Travelling around an intersection then speeding down a footpath on Bourke Street, smashing through pedestrians, another 15 people were injured, with four in critical condition, including an infant. Dimitrious Gargasoulas, a Greek Christian, had a history of mental health and drug abuse and was in fact arrested by police the weekend before when he assaulted members of his family.

Yet despite the terrifying ordeal for those on the street at the time, there was no mention of the word “terror” in any of the news report when he was no more mentally disturbed than Monis, who was responsible for two deaths including one ricochet police bullet that was meant for Monis but killed a hostage instead. Why can’t the same standard be applied to all forms of violence instead of pointing the finger at Muslims and Islam every time an individual with a Muslim name is involved in an act of violence?

Lastly as a relatively recent example in July 2017, a masked catholic gunman burst into a high-end casino with an M4 automatic assault rifle and set re to a gaming room in Manila, Philippines, leading to the deaths of 36 people who died from inhaling smoke. Lo and behold the authorities insisted it was not a terrorist attack although one can’t imagine if this was any less terrifying that what is often labeled a terrorist attack, skewing the perception further that any violent act undertaken by a Muslim (regardless of mental health) is always about terrorism.

BUT ASYLUM SEEKERS LIKE MONIS FROM THE SYDNEY SIEGE IN DECEMBER 2014 WERE WELCOMED WITH OPEN ARMS, HAD GONE ON GOVERNMENT WELFARE FOR YEARS, ONLY TO HAVE THEM KILL HIS OWN FELLOW CITIZENS. ORDINARY CITIZENS CAN’T BE BLAMED FOR WANTING TO HALT IMMIGRATION.

Is it logical to look at the one person who was a certified psychiatric patient seeking counseling who committed an act of violence and ignore the hundreds of thousand of people whose lives countries like Australia has transformed by admitting them as citizens giving them a life that would have been impossible elsewhere? While a number of them may be criminals or living in impoverished neighbourhoods, crime does not have a skin colour or race.

Unless of course what is being said is that every one of those asylum seekers is a criminal today and no white American, white European, white Australian or white Canadian is in prison today or that there is no such thing as a violence prone white person and that white Aussies are all white collar professionals? The issue isn’t about an asylum seeker gone rogue but a mentally disturbed citizen whose case was being looked after or in this case, neglected by the Australia healthcare system let alone, the much-touted taxpayer funded, billion dollar state-interventionist police surveillance in the Western world. Yet despite all the fancy software and hardware, the Australian government failed to prevent the horrible incident.

IF THE SYDNEY SIEGE DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH ISLAM, WHY
 BRING AN ISIS FLAG AND STICK IT UP IN THE WINDOW AND KILL PEOPLE IN THE NAME OF ALLAH?

There was nothing normal about the delusional Monis. Dressed as an Iranian cleric, he was a Shia and initially held up the ISIS (self-professed Sunni group) flag upside down at the cafe. To understand the Middle East, you need to understand how politically sectarian (Sunni versus Shia) the conflict has become today. Put another way, the fighting is in essence a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, not only was Monis deviating from Islam but clearly the group (ISIS) he was claiming to support was massacring Shias by the hundreds at the time of the incident so to say he was confused is to say the least about the state of his psychotic mind.

Last but not least and just because a certified mental case invokes the name of Allah or misquotes from the Qur’an while committing an act of violence does not make it Islam’s fault unless you believe a pedophile priest having sex with a choir boy while exclaiming “oh my god” makes it the fault of Christianity or a bank robber who wears a George W Bush mask while robbing a bank makes it the fault of the President of the United States. 

ASYLUM SEEKERS, REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS ARE BIG THREATS
TO WESTERN DEMOCRACIES. ALSO, WHATEVER IS HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE EAST DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH ORDINARY CITIZENS OF THE WEST.

The following article written by a journalist at the Independent, who scored a bull’s eye on why “we” can’t afford to abandon asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants after being responsible for all the pillaging over the last century, says it best:

After years of ferocious migrant-bashing, the national psyche has been successfully reprogrammed: millions of our citizens truly believe that humans from the old Soviet Union, Africa, Asia and the Middle East are flocking to get at those gorgeous council flats and big, fat, state handouts. So easy isn’t it? Just blame those who can’t answer back. Don’t think too deeply about why there is this movement of peoples and how they feel before, during and after they leave their homelands. Fear is a terrible thing. It depletes compassion . . .

In 2011, David Cameron, on a visit to Pakistan, accepted that Britain was responsible for many of the world’s intractable problems. It was the first and only time I recall a British leader accepting that colonialism left fractures and stains, which have led to discord and failed states. (Margaret Thatcher, as well as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, extolled the Empire and the subjugation of millions.) . . . No, you can’t just blame white people for post-colonial chaos and failures. Since independence, leaders have almost all been incompetent, corrupt and callous . . . Dictatorships and one-party rule, profligacy and greed, have despoiled potentially productive nations, turning them into hopeless, dependent, unsustainable entities. But the case against old European imperialists is strong and indubitable . . .

Then there is the continuing support this country gives to oppressive regimes, the arms we sell, and the wars we have launched in the past 20 years. Iraqis never chose to become resented refugees, nor did Afghans. Libya is now the export depot for hungry, frightened, distressed people. The allies who bombed the place have gone and feel no obligation for the mess they left. Many Isis insurgents are from Saddam Hussein’s old Baathist army. True, we did not intervene in Syria, but for decades Bashar al-Assad was propped up by us, as was his equally heinous father.

Many of the migrants trying to get into Europe come from these places. They are hated perhaps because they remind us of our bad policies and actions. Are these then our noble British values? . . . The EU, IMF and World Bank must transform the system; our leaders need to tell more truths about the dispossessed. Xenophobia, withdrawal of welfare and gunboats won’t stop the tide of humanity coming to our shores. They come because they have no choice. But the West does. (Source: Don’t blame migrants – the West helped to create their plight by Yasmin Alibhai Brown on 24 May 2015, The Independent)

From the story of the Good Samaritan who helped a Jew who was mugged when everyone else left him by the wayside to the woman at the well who used her pitcher to give a thirsty Christ (PBUH) water (that is, woman stopped to help this stranger), the Bible too, has teachings that should not be sidelined. In an excerpt from a notable Christian in the UK and a true believer in Gospel values who had a highly respect- able position on refugees, the bishop of Manchester, David Walker in April 2015 said: Britain has a moral imperative to accept refugees from conflicts in which it has participated. After a week in which the death toll of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe grew to 1,700 so far this year, the bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said there was a duty to treat the survivors with compassion. In a piece for the Observer published online, he writes: “They are pushed, not pulled, towards the EU, forced out of their homelands by war, terrorism and the persecution of minorities. A political rhetoric that characterises them as willful criminals rather than helpless victims is as unworthy as it is untrue.” The UK’s pivotal role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq prompted a sectarian war that the UN said had forced two million Iraqis to flee the country, an involvement that ran alongside the 13-year Afghanistan war and was followed by the 2011 attacks on Libya, both of which precipitated significant regional instability and migration. Walker writes: “The moral cost of our continual overseas interventions has to include accepting a fair share of the victims of the wars to which we have contributed as legitimate refugees in our own land. (Source: Bishop says Britain has a moral duty to accept refugees from its wars on 25 April 2015, Mark Townsend, The Guardian)

IMMIGRANTS AND ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM WAR-TORN COUNTRIES ARE NOT EUROPE’S RESPONSIBILITY.

The seeds of intolerance to the influx of Muslim immigrants were planted, if not reinforced well over a decade ago. Europe’s pivotal role in the 2003 illegal Iraq invasion led to a sectarian war that forced at least two million Iraqis to flee the country (and directly created conditions that led to the birth of ISIS). The 2001 “War on Terror” in Afghanistan did no less in producing its own population of displaced people. Europe’s beleaguered role in the 2011 attacks on Libya created yet another dimension of regional instability and cross-regional migration, while the dictatorships of both Bashar al-Assad and his father, long propped up for decades by US and European countries created another millions of refugees that are today approaching the shores of Europe. Nonetheless, the majority of terror victims . . . possibly as high as 95 percent, are themselves Muslims. It is no wonder, then, that Muslims make up a huge part of refugee crisis, which has seen 6 million Syrians, half of them children, fleeing the civil war; 100,000 Iraqis displaced by the Islamic State, among many other desperate people, risking their lives to escape the turmoil of the Middle East. (Source: Together, we can conquer Isis’s savage worldview by Deeyah Khan, 22 November 2015, The Guardian)

The fact that Europe competes with America in selling weapons to oppressive regimes and the weapons used in those regional conflicts created floods of legitimate, frightened let alone distressed refugees fleeing the dreadful combination of indiscriminate attacks in the form of barrel bombs, beheadings, suffocating sieges and abhorrent atrocities by ISIS is not likely to be mentioned either when a populist party with a strongly anti-immigration agenda [targeting a blue-collar and provincial middle-class] electorate tries to win the next round of local or regional elections in Europe. For instance, French arms sales to countries in the region [Africa and the Middle East, for example] neither take into account their human rights record nor the fact that those countries contribute to the war. (Source: Don’t let ISIL divide France by Alan Gresh, 15 Nov 2015, Aljazeera.com)

STILL, A SIMPLE PARTIAL SOLUTION TO TERRORISM MAY BE TO BAN MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS.

When times were good, lets open the door to immigrants and let them take up all the menial jobs, as we are or were too good for these jobs. Their children are brought up and educated in our countries, pay taxes and speak the local language better than their immigrant parents and yet they are never one of us but following the decline of the manufacturing industry and the growing urgency for austerity, we suddenly feel they ought to “go back home” as they are not as white as the indigenous population are or suddenly, have not assimilated as well as they should.

Also, in almost every case of a major terror attack since 9/11, the perpetrator has either been an American or European born and bred or someone who was already living in the country legally.

Therefore, why do right-wing xenophobic politicians like “Dutch Trump” Geert Wilders and the wretched lady Le Pen point their finger at refugees every time an act of terrorism occurs when an overwhelming majority of the suicide bombers who struck Paris in 2015 were French nationals?

Even the 9/11 terrorists were not refugees. They entered the U.S. by obtaining tourist and student visas, which are far easier to get than going through the arduous procedures involved in asylum seeking.

MUSLIMS DON’T CONTRIBUTE, INTEGRATE AND ASSIMILIATE INTO WESTERN SOCIETY SUCH AS IN FRANCE OR THE UNITED STATES.

“There are several million Muslims in France, and the vast majority are integrated into French society and for those who aren’t, it’s less a question of religion than their social and economic situation”. (Source: Claude Dargent, Professor at Sciences Po University in Paris)

In the astute words of Felix Marquardt, a Parisian Muslim and cofounder of the al-Kawakibi Foundation:

“Being Muslim in France is not easy, it’s a complicated condition especially if you are a woman wearing a veil, you are a victim of discrimination and if you’re a man [with a Muslim name or beard] you find it hard to get a job”. (Source: France likely to close more than 100 mosques by Anealla Safdar, 3 December 2015, Aljazeera.com)

 In Britain, Masuma Rahim, a clinical psychologist says its best: For too long, Muslims have been cast as a risk to public safety and security. We have been vilified by politicians and the popular press; we have been described as “terrorist sympathisers” and accused of being unwilling to integrate into British society. But what those accusers fail to understand is that it is difficult to integrate into any society if you’re permanently being cast as a threat to the world around you, and if the solution to that threat – a “final solution”, as Katie Hopkins might term it – is for your places of worship to be monitored and your schools to be investigated on the most spurious of charges. (Source: Dear Theresa May, come and meet some Muslims. It might help if you knew us, 20 June 2017, Masuma Rahim, The Guardian)

Therefore, this persistent idea that Muslims are not assimilating is clearly not true. Surveys by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and the Pew Research Center suggest that the attitudes of U.S. Muslims about country and community are similar to those of adherents of other religions.

A Pew poll several years ago found that Muslims, more than 3-to-1, preferred to adopt American customs rather than retain their distinct identities. (Source: U.S. Muslims Are the Collateral Victims of Terror Attacks, Albert Hunt, 19 June 2016, Bloomberg)

Muslims have also made contributions to society in many ways ranging from engineering, culinary, fashion, finance and banking, medical and sciences. While “there are many challenges including illiteracy, sectarianism and identity crises, these problems are not that much different from other communities around the world”, according to Muhammad Akhter, a doctor in Essex in a blog written for Muslim matters. (Source: What is it like to be a Muslim in Britain today?, 9 July 2014, Muslim Matters)

Working as educators, mayors, judges, lawmakers, athletes, soldiers and members of Congress, Muslim Americans constitute 1-2 percent of the population but account for about 5 percent of the country’s physicians. (Source: It’s not just Trump – the US is gripped by anti-Muslim hysteria by Moustafa Bayoumi, 14 December 2015, The Guardian)

This despite the fact that a large proportion of Muslim doctors face discrimination on a regular basis (Note: There are over 15,000 Pakistani- American physicians in America alone). In fact, a recent study in the American Journal of Bioethics found that 24 percent of Muslim physicians have experienced religious discrimination in the workplace. (Source: I Thought My Ivy League Degrees Would Protect Me From Bigotry. I Was Wrong by Altaf Saadi, M.D., at Massachusetts General Hospital, 18 January 2016, Huffington Post)

Muslim Americans do not just live and work in the United States. They have given their lives too, to the country. Often overlooked in media reports, 60 Muslim innocent lives also perished at the World Trade Center. One of them was NYPD cadet and first responder, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, who died at the Twin Towers on 9/11. Then there are at least 14 Muslims who died serving the United States in the ten years after the 9/11 attacks.

Furthermore: A recent study by Duke University showed that Muslim Americans helped catch more terrorism suspects and perpetrators than the United States government itself. (Source: 10 Reasons You Should Not Fear Muslims by Omar Alnatour, 26 January 2016, Huffington Post)

In a separate 2011 study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, tips from Muslim American communities helped thwart terrorist plots in 52 of 140 cases involving Muslim Americans. This means that at least 37 percent of foiled domestic terror plots have been thwarted with the help of Muslim Americans. (Source: To Fight Terrorism, Treat Muslim-Americans With Respect by Tara Lai Quinlan and Deborah Ramirez, 8 December 2015, Huffington Post)

Therefore, there is no basis for claiming Muslims don’t integrate, contribute or assimilate into local societies in the West, at the very least no more than any other groups of immigrants in the West today.

THERE ARE NO BENEFITS TO WELCOMING IMMIGRANTS.

In an article written by Nadya Tolokonnikova, Russian member of the Pussy Riot band, rightly pointed out:  “Migrants are innovative and entrepreneurial. In the 19th century, a third of the population of Sweden, Ireland and Italy emigrated to America and other countries. The U.S. is the very best example of how dynamic a country of immigrants can be . . . (Source: I Live Without Borders, Nadya Tolokonnikova, 22 October 215, The Huffington Post)

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