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)

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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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