Posts Tagged ‘ Bigotry ’

How I Overcome the Biggest Challenge in My Life

By Zulfiqar Ali Malik for Culturally Speaking
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I am a Muslim, an American Muslim and that identity itself has become the biggest challenge for me. I am a naturalized citizen, I but my children and grandchild are born in America. Just because we are Muslims, we cannot be treated as foreigners. We do not seek special favoritism but do expect an equal treatment allowed by the U.S. constitution. Muslims are not ‘children of lessor God’.The negative portrayal of Muslims the mainstream media incites the Islamophobia. Anti-Islam groups are rising in popularity. Some politicians particularly in the election year are spreading the fear of the Shariah law. Discrimination and hate crime against Muslims are on the rise. Our holy book Qur’an and several mosques have been desecrated. Seems to me that kicking around the Islamic values is the favorite game in town.

The challenge to me is how to fight bigotry, remove the paranoia and change the American consciousness. Then I remind myself of the  command of the God Almighty  in the Qur’an:
“Goodness and evil can never be equal. Repel evil with what is better (or best). Then see: the one between whom and you there was enmity has become a bosom friend.” [41:34]
I practice patience, tolerance and respect for others. I forgive wrongs done to me and my community. I try to be modest, gentle, friendly, and helpful to others. I participate in several social, cultural, charitable and interfaith activities and events.

Offering prayers and keeping a positive attitude has always been helpful to me. I make efforts to keep the same positive attitude during editing my weekly online newsletter Muslim News Digest. I try to inspire Muslims and cultivate understanding and build bridges between Muslims and my fellow Americans of other faiths.

American Muslims are as American as baseball and apple pie.

– Zulfiqar Ali Malik is a longtime resident of Overland Park, Kansas and is an editor of an online newsletter for his community.

Lowe’s Errs in Muslim Ad Uproar

By Laura Berman for The Detroit News

Lowe’s used to be the home supply store for macho do-it-yourselfers who want to pick up a chain saw or a sledge hammer along with a box of garbage bags.

Now it’s steeping in a political mess, the result of acceding to the demands of a “pro-family” group — a warm-and-fuzzy sounding way to describe a group that specializes in email campaigns targeted against TV shows that treat minorities as human beings.

In this case, the target was “All-American Muslim,” The Learning Channel’s new reality show that depicts five Muslim families in Dearborn as they entertain, bicker, laugh and get married. The show’s premise — that Muslims are Americans, too — verges on the silly in its obviousness, or so most would think. But the Florida Family Association branded the show, which premiered a month ago, as “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

The group launched its email campaign in November, then triumphed when Lowe’s — among dozens of other sponsors — disappeared from the show in subsequent episodes.

Its big beef was the lack of negative portrayals of Muslims on the show: Insufficient underwear bombers and radical clerics. The FFA wants ordinary, tooth-brushing, family-friendly Muslims “balanced” with scary, America-hating radical Muslims, apparently as a way to keep suspicion and prejudice alive.

This strikes me as un-Christian to the max. But Lowe’s bought in or, more likely, tried to gracefully bow out of the political arena by removing itself from the show’s list of sponsors.

Lowe’s next error: releasing paragraphs of corporate mumbo-jumbo, pseudo-apologies that fueled the growing uproar. Now there’s a festive holiday season cultural eruption centered on Dearborn. Dearborn’s Muslim community leaders are denouncing Lowe’s, while the Florida Family Association brags online about its successful campaign to eliminate advertisers for “All-American Muslim.”

In the FFA’s version of All-American, only “God fearing” Christians are real Americans, released from requirements to be portrayed, at least some of the time, as crucial components of the axis of evil.

This xenophobic, self-justifying bigotry is, in fact, just as American as our more widely copied ideas about equality for all and a universal right to pursue happiness. But it’s hard to believe what a persistent undercurrent conspiracy theories are in American culture.

The Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Richard Hofstadter described 50 years ago what he called “the paranoid style” in American politics, giving as an example a 1964 campaign by the John Birch society to boycott Xerox for advertising on a television show about the United Nations.

Just as American Muslims are now subjected to bigotry and suspicion, Masons and Catholics were singled out by 19th century Americans bent on protecting their country through conspiracy theories, and Japanese Americans were forced into 20th century concentration camps.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” Hofstadter wrote, describing a state of mind that flourishes in America today.

The problem isn’t only anger but, also, how fear so easily drowns out even a chain-saw-wielding corporation’s All-American supply of courage.

Islamophobia and Radicalization

By James Zogby for Counter Punch

Let me state quite directly: Islamophobia and those who promote it are a greater threat to the United States than Anwar Al-Awlaqi and his rag-tag team of terrorists.

On one level, Al-Awlaqi, from his cave hide out in Yemen, can only prey off alienation where it exists. Adopting the persona of a latter-day Malcolm X (though he seems not to have read the last chapters of the “Autobiography” or learned the lessons of Malcolm’s ultimate conversion), he appears street-smart, brash, self- assured and assertive — all of the assets needed to attract lost or wounded souls looking for certainty and an outlet for their rage. Like some parasites, Al-Awlaqi cannot create his own prey. He must wait for others to create his opportunities, which until now have been isolated and limited: a disturbed young man here, an increasingly deranged soldier there.

Islamophobia, on the other hand, if left unchecked, may serve to erect barriers to Muslim inclusion in America, increasing alienation, especially among young Muslims. Not only would such a situation do grave damage to one of the fundamental cornerstones of America’s unique democracy, it would simultaneously and rapidly expand the pool of recruits for future radicalisation.

I have often remarked that America is different, in concept and reality, from our European allies. Third generation Kurds in Germany, Pakistanis in the UK, or Algerians in France, for example, may succeed and obtain citizenship, but they do not become German, British or French. Last year, I debated a German government official on this issue. She kept referring to “migrants” — a term she used to describe all those of Turkish descent living in her country — regardless of the number of generations they had been there. Similarly, following their last election, a leading British newspaper commented on the “number of immigrants” who won seats, without noting that many of those “immigrants” were third generation citizens.

America has prided itself on being different. Being “American” is not the possession of a single ethnic group, nor does any group define “America”. Not only do new immigrants become citizens, they also secure a new identity. More than that, as new groups become American and are transformed, the idea of “America” itself has also changed to embrace these new cultures.

Within a generation, diverse ethnic and religious groups from every corner or the globe have become Americans, dramatically changing America in the process. Problems remain and intolerant bigots, in every age, have reared up against new groups, but history demonstrates that, in the end, the newcomers have been accepted, incorporated and absorbed into the American mainstream.

This defines not only our national experience, but our defining narrative as well. When immigrant school children in Europe learn French, German or British history, they are learning their host’s history. In the US, from the outset, we are taught that this is “our new story” — that it includes all of us, and has included us all, from the beginning.

It is because new immigrants and diverse ethnic and religious communities have found their place and acceptance in the American mainstream that the country, during the last century, survived and prospered despite being sorely tested with world wars, economic upheaval and bouts with internal strife. During this time we had to contend with anti-black, anti-Asian, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, and anti-Japanese movements. In the end, after creating their moment of pain, these efforts have always lost.

They lose, but they don’t always go away. The Islamophobia we are witnessing today is the latest campaign by bigots to tear apart the very fabric of America. We know the groups promoting it. First, there is the well-funded “cottage industry”, on the right, of groups and individuals with a long history of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim activity. Some of the individuals associated with these efforts have been given legitimacy as commentators on “terrorism”, “radicalisation” or “national security concerns”, despite their obvious bias and even obsession with all things Arab or Muslim (in this, they remind me of good old-fashioned anti-Semites who never tired of warning of Jewish threats or conspiracies or who while always claiming to like individual Jews rallied against any and all Jewish organisations).

If these “professional bigots” have provided the grist, the mill itself was run by the vast network of right-wing talk radio and TV shows and websites, and prominent preachers who have combined to amplify the anti-Muslim message nationwide. Their efforts have done real damage. They have tormented decent public servants, created protests that have shuttered legitimate institutions, fomented hate crimes, and produced fear in the Muslim community.

In just the past two years, we have seen a dramatic upsurge in the activity of these bigots. More ominously, their cause has been embraced by national political leaders and by elements in the Republican Party, who appear to have decided, in 2010, to use “fear of Islam” as a base-building theme and a wedge issue against Democrats for electoral advantage.

In the past, only obscure or outrageous members of congress (like North Carolina’s Sue Myrick who expressed nervousness and insecurity because of “who was owning all those 7/11’s”; or Colorado’s Tom Tancredo who once warned that he “would bomb Mecca”) were outspoken Islamophobes. After the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee embraced opposition to Park 51 as a campaign theme, it is hard to find a leading Republican who has not railed on some issue involving Islam or Muslims in the US.

The net impact here is that this current wave of Islamophobia has both played to the Republican base while firming up that base around this agenda. The polling numbers are striking and deeply disturbing. Some 54 per cent of Democrats have a favourable attitude towards Muslims, while 34 per cent do not. Among Republicans, on the other hand, only 12 per cent hold a favourable view of Muslims, with 85 per cent saying they have unfavourable views. Additionally, 74 per cent of Republicans believe “Islam teaches hate” and 60 per cent believe that “Muslims tend to be religious fanatics”.

The danger here is that to the degree that this issue has become a partisan — and in some cases a proven vote getter — issue for the Republican Party, it will not go away any time soon. The longer we are plagued by this bigotry, and the displays of intolerance it breeds (the anti-mosque building demonstrations or the anti-Sharia law efforts now spreading across the country) the longer young Muslims will feel that the “promise of America” does not include them, and they will feel like aliens in their own country.

It is this concern that has prompted many inter-faith religious groups and leaders and a diverse coalition of ethnic and civil rights organisations to so vigorously oppose Congressman Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings that will deal with the radicalisation of American Muslims later this week. They know, from previous statements made by King, of his personal hostility to American Muslims. They also know that what King is doing will only aggravate an already raw wound, creating greater fear and concern among young Muslims who have already witnessed too much bigotry and intolerance.

What they should also know is that in the process of targeting a religion in this way, and engaging in this most “un-American activity”, King and company are, in fact, opening the door for increased alienation and future radicalisation. Al-Awlaqi must be smiling from inside his cave.

-Dr James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute and is a Roman Catholic of Lebanese descent and brother of prominent American political pollster and founder of Zogby Polls, John Zogby.

Religious Leaders Denounce Anti-Muslim ‘Bigotry’ in US

By Carla Babb for The Voice of America

As a pastor from a small church in the U.S. state of Florida plans to burn Korans on September 11, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders stood side by side at the National Press Club in Washington Tuesday to show their solidarity against anti-Muslim acts of discrimination in the U.S.

A group of religious leaders from Christian and Jewish faiths joined together with the Islamic Society of North America for an emergency meeting to discuss a recent increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric and intolerance.

Baptist Pastor Gerald Durley spoke for the group. “As religious leaders in this great country, we have come together in our nation’s capital to denounce categorically the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America’s Muslim community,” he said.

The group said people around the world have seen non-Muslim Americans show fear and contempt toward their Muslim neighbors–emotions that have generated from a national debate about a planned Islamic Center near the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Catholic Cardinal Theadore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, said he wants the international community to understand that the U.S was built on the principle of valuing one another.

 “I have a great fear that the story of bigotry, the story of hatred, the story of animosity to others is going to be taken by some to be the story of the real America and it’s not. This is not our country and we have to make sure our country is known around the world as a place where liberty of religion, where respect for your neighbor, where love for your neighbor, where these things are the most prominent in our society,” he said.

A Christian pastor in Florida says his church will burn Korans on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. He says the act serves as a protest against violent Islamist extremists. The local government has denied the church a permit to conduct the public burning. But the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center has vowed to go ahead with his plan.

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer says the interfaith group strongly condemns the desecration of a sacred text. “We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans,” she said. Farhana Khera, president of the organization Muslim Advocates, was part of a separate group of religious leaders that met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department. She said Holder also condemned the plan. “To quote the attorney general, he called the Gainesville plans, burning of Korans, idiotic and dangerous,” Khera said.

The plan has sparked protests in Indonesia and Afghanistan. Demonstrators in the Afghan capital burned the American flag and shouted “Death to America.” Islamic Society of North America President Ingrid Mattson says American Muslims must show the world that the U.S. is a place where all religions can live together in peace. “American Muslims have a unique ability to be this bridge and to show the Muslims who do not live in this kind of freedom that an open, pluralistic atmosphere where there are diverse religions together can really be good for everyone,” she said.

Tensions have heightened in America as the anniversary of the attacks approaches. In 2001, Islamist extremists killed nearly 3,000 people by ramming passenger planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

Pat Robertson’s anti-Islam remarks put new Virginia Governor-elect McDonnell in a tough spot

Virginia Beach, Virginia USA- Rev Pat Robertson is coming under fire by Virginia Muslims and others nationally including several Christian and Jewish organizations regarding his recent comments about Islam when discussing the Fort Hood tragedy on his Tv show, The 700 Club. Robertson stated on his show that Islam is “not a religion” but a “violent political system” and that those who practice it should be treated like members of a communist or fascist party. It’s a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination. “

Robertson has been preaching since at least 1960 when in that year he established the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The CBN is now seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages. According to Wikipedia, “Robertson founded CBN University in 1977 on CBN’s Virginia Beach campus. It was renamed Regent University in 1989. Robertson serves as its chancellor. He is also founder and president of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest law firm that defends Christians whose First Amendment rights have allegedly been violated. The law firm, headquartered in the same building that houses Regent’s law school, focuses on “pro-family, pro-liberty and pro-life” cases nationwide. Robertson is also an advocate of Christian dominionism – the idea that Christians have a right to rule.”

He has been in controversy before when he made disparaging remarks about Islam the religion versus the extremists who claim to be of that faith. The issue has incensed Muslims in Virginia and across the United States as well as prominent members of Christian and Jewish faiths as well as several Democrats on the Hill.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) issued this strong statement condemning Robertson: “ When a prominent Virginian chooses to engage in hate-filled rhetoric that divides us and has the potential to fuel real discord in our polity, leaders cannot remain silent. That is why I am calling on Mr. Robertson to apologize to my constituents – Muslim and non-Muslim – for the hurt he has caused and the damage he has done. It is a week overdue.”

To add fuel to the fire and cause further embarrassment in other conservative quarters, Virginia’s new Republican Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, who has previously studied as a law student at Robertson’s university and was also given thousands of dollars as donations by Robertson, was asked about Robertson’s disturbing remarks towards ALL Muslims. Asked if he thought the comments by the preacher were “appropriate.” While stressing that he wants “people of all faiths” to part of his administration, McDonnell refused to condemn Robertson specifically, citing the First Amendment. “You know, I’ve got probably 15,000 donors to the campaign, and I can’t stand to defend or support every comment that every donor might make. I think people are entitled under the First Amendment to express whatever opinions they may have.”

In response to this dangerous stupidity, on November 16 Mark Pelavin, Director of the Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism and Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to Reverend Pat Robertson, asking him to retract his comments.

The letter states:

“Dear Rev. Robertson,

“On behalf of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing the largest stream of American Jewry in North America, I write to express our outrage at the remarks pertaining to Islam that you made on “The 700 Club” on November 9, 2009.

“When speaking about this month’s tragic shooting at Ft. Hood, you referred to the alleged shooter’s religion, saying, “Islam … [is not] a religion, it’s a political system, a violent political system, bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination, that is the ultimate aim…and I think we should treat it as such and treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party or members of some Fascist group.”

“We understand and share your concern about Muslim extremists. Too often, they have blasphemed their own faith, just as extremist Jews and extremist Christians have done. The danger posed by those who resort to violence in the name of religion is real, and it does seem to have been a significant part of the story at Fort Hood. But, of course, that is not what you said.

“Rather you made the outrageous and bigoted claim that Islam itself is the problem – and, in doing so, you denigrated the faith of some 1.5 billion people.

“How disappointing to see a religious leader stoop to this level, attempting to delegitimize one of the world’s great faiths based on the actions of someone who perverts its teachings. Do you not have any Muslim friends? Have you no Muslim colleagues? Have you never met a peaceful Muslim, someone with whom you might find common ground? If not, how sad. If so, how do you reconcile their life with your claim that Islam is “a violent political system” and “not a religion”?

“One of the advantages of having your own television program is the opportunity to revisit statements you have made. I sincerely hope you will do so in this case. ”

McDonnell attended law school at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Robertson and named after the Christian Broadcasting Network, whose studios share the campus. After the school changed its name to Regent University, McDonnell served on the board of trustees for eight years and last year spoke at its law school graduation. Robertson’s ever increasingly alarming remarks against Islam are not new, what is very disturbing to generalize the faith of Islam and a religion of over a billion people buy the actions of a few such as Major Hasan in the Ft Hood attacks. How can an entire religion, a fellow Abrahamic faith (along with Christianity and Judaism) be reduced to a non-religion status by a prominent Baptist minister and Tv personality and also not have an incoming governor of a state bordering Washington DC rebuke these irresponsible comments?

What is most troubling is that the incoming Governor of a major state such as Virginia is not as of yet disavowing Pat Robertson’s anti-Islam comments. One can only hope that the Governor elect has enough sense to know that he needs to have the support of the approximately 200,000 to 230,000 Muslim population of Virginia and the surrounding area when his re-election comes around again in four years.

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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