Tag Archives: islamophobia

Why the Question of Islamophobia Deserves a Real Answer

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved ones honorable and faithful service.”

These were the words spoken to us just over a week ago as our family sat, tears falling, amid the backdrop of endless white headstones at Long Island National Cemetery. In that moment of sadness, our thoughts turned to our children. In the midst of the loss of their great-grandfather who served in WWII, we’ve been compelled to think about their place in the future of this nation. Our nation.

As an American Muslim couple, both of us born and raised in New York, we’ve been watching this presidential election process unfold with rising concern. Although questions have been asked at the debates about the surge in hatred and violence towards innocent, law abiding American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, we find ourselves holding our breath in anticipation, eager for a moment in which the many victims of this anti-Islam hate will be recognized with more than just an off-hand, superficial condemnation.

The discussion of this topic – often labeled “Islamophobia” – the “othering” of Muslim citizens and the dangers posed to these American families – is often shifted – almost unnoticeably, to the topic of fighting terrorism.

All Americans are subject to the same terrorism threat – including Muslims. In addition to the terror threat, American Muslims are made to endure misplaced hatred, violence and suspicion ranging from micro aggressions and discrimination – to cold blooded murder.

The evil of terrorism is not a justification for the violence toward innocent Muslims – both are unacceptable. So why do the responses to this issue in the debates repeatedly shift attention away from recognizing the victims of anti-Islam hate?

By shifting the topic from Islamophobia to terrorism, the virulent anti-Islam hate directed at innocent Americans is implicitly justified – as if the existence of terrorism is the natural, obvious explanation for it. This allows for the conflation of Islam with terrorism. But terrorism is not actually the cause of Islamophobia.

We’ve heard that anti-Islam hate towards American Muslims is wrong because “we need them” to be part of our “eyes and ears” as if American Muslims are merely tools in defeating an enemy. But we are citizens with the same inalienable rights as anyone else – and conflating Islam with terrorism isn’t just a matter of insult.

In fact, the term “Islamic terrorism” isn’t wrong because it’s insulting. It’s not wrong because American Muslims are needed to be “on our front lines.” It’s wrong because the overwhelming majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims believe that terrorism can in no way, shape, or form be “Islamic” – terrorism is un-Islamic. This is evidenced by the open letter signed by 120 Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world, or the fatwa against terrorism which 70,000 Muslim scholars came together to pass in 2008. Or the Orlando statement that we signed along with hundreds of other American Muslim leaders in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. It’s wrong to use the term “Islamic terrorism” because it does not conform with reality.

American Muslims are an integral part of the fabric of this country and have been a part of the US since the time of George Washington, as Hillary Clinton rightly pointed out.

American Muslims are entrepreneurs, doctors and nurses, police officers, firefighters, members of our military, neighbors and friends. Muslims are one of the most diverse faith groups in this country. Muslims are black, white and everything in between. Thousands of Americans choose to become Muslim every year.

Our children will grow up knowing their great-grandfather was a naval sergeant in WWII. They know their grandfather worked for the NY Fire Patrol and continued to drive into downtown Manhattan during the stressful aftermath of 9/11, he died in the following weeks, before they were born. Will they know that they have a future in this country, the only home any of us have ever known?

Their history is rooted in the United States – but we can’t help but wonder if their future here is safe. Will they be free to practice their faith in an environment devoid of anti-Islam hate? They deserve to know.

In these last weeks before the presidential election, our family, and the millions of American Muslims around the country will be waiting for a real answer.

Co-authored with Shakiel Humayun

Originally Published by AboutIslam.net

If Islam is Hate, Why Are People Still Converting?

It’s an odd thing: Thousands, upon thousands of people around the world – around 20,000 every year in America alone, are choosing to become Muslims.

Muslims. You know, those people who’ve murdered scores of civilians – brutally and mercilessly?

Not only are alleged Muslims behind atrocities like 9/11 and the massacre in Paris, they claim their violence is inspired and sanctioned by Islam itself – don’t they?

The word Terrorism has come to be directly – instinctively – associated with Islam. Think about that word: Terror. What kind of people would desire to terrorize others? What kind of monsters slaughter indiscriminately men, women, and children-Children – the epitome of innocence?

Well, if you believe what you hear and see, in far too many media and “news” outlets, the answer would appear to be: the Muslim kind.

This begs the question: “What kind of people would convert to a religion that promotes carnage and chaos like this?” Naturally, one might imagine these converts must be people with sociopathic tendencies – self-hating psychopaths perhaps.

But that’s just not the case.

Who Converts to Islam?

From youthful, pre-pubescent teens, to sage elderly grandfathers and grandmothers such as Georgette Lepaulle of Belgium who converted at the age of 91 – Islam seems to be attracting all kinds of people – the vast, overwhelming majority of whom definitely don’t fit the description of terrorist.

Johannah Segarich, now a retired college Music professor, asked herself this question in the midst of the confusion after the 9/11 attacks: “What kind of religion is this that could inspire people to do this?”

Johannah had studied other religions, but hadn’t thought to learn about Islam. She decided to buy a copy of the Quran, wondering if her notions of Islam as a male-controlled and now apparently violent religion, would be confirmed.

She read the first chapter, “In the name of God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful…. All Praise is due to God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. … You alone We worship, You alone we ask for help, Show us the straight way, the way of those who have earned your favor…” She finished the Quran a few weeks later, and then started reading it again. About half way through, barely 10 weeks after 9/11, “I came to the realization,” she said, “that I had a decision to make.”

She decided to convert to Islam.

A travel bug took Angela Collins Telles, a quintessential California girl, to Egypt and Syria. She made friends abroad, and found most people to be generous and kind. When anti-Muslim rhetoric flared after 9/11, She felt a need to do something.

“I saw my country demonizing these people as terrorists and oppressors of women, and I couldn’t think of anything further from the truth,” she said, “and I felt a need to stand-up and defend them. But then I realized that I couldn’t argue without knowledge.”

Realizing she had no basis upon which to defend the people she felt were being wrongly demonized, she began studying Islam. Regarding her findings she said: “The concept of God was the most beautiful thing, and that concept fit with what I believe,” She converted only a few months after 9/11. (Source)

For Caleb Carter, becoming a Muslim took years. Sept. 11, 2001, was a turning point — specifically his teacher’s hostile response to Islam that day.

“I was a junior in high school at the time, taking a class called Nonwestern World Studies,” said Carter, “For him, it was purely, ‘This is what Islam teaches. We shouldn’t be surprised.’ He played the whole ‘Islam equals terrorism card.’”

But Carter wasn’t buying his teacher’s opinions, nor was he “educated enough to judge it either way.” Studying Islam and other world religions became his mission, and he converted to Islam in 2006. (Source)

Davi Barker, a writer and artist from California, also converted in 2006. Barker lived in Saudi Arabia and the Maldives for a few years as a child and knew “Muslims in Muslim countries,” so he didn’t believe that the religion was to blame for the terrorist attacks. He said he “saw the propaganda campaign going on” against Islam, something that continues to this day.

Canadian Micheal Atwood, was raised to be a practicing Christian. He first heard about Islam on the anniversary of 9/11. He was not intrigued to learn about it right away, but he later found out that Muslims believe in Jesus while on a class trip to a museum.

In 7th grade he overheard his Muslim friends talking about the Quran, and decided he wanted a better understanding of the Bible. What he found when he began researching its authenticity and history, left him un-impressed.

Atwood became curious about the Quran and began reading its translation online. He said, “I couldn’t stop reading the Quran. It was beautiful.” He learned about the practices of Islam and felt Muslims follow Jesus even more than he had learned to as a Christian. Half way through 7th grade, he converted to Islam at only 12 years old. (Source)

The internet is chock full of the stories of people, young and old, from every corner of the Earth, and how they decided to convert to Islam. From high-power, successful business men and women, to bartenders; from the highly confident and blissfully happy, to the ones who felt lost, lonely or depressed; from the party guys and girls who just wanted to have fun, to studious intellectuals – Islam appears to attract people from every walk of life.

Indeed the Quran confirms that it is in fact a message for all mankind: {This (Quran) is direction and guidance for the whole world.} (Quran 38:87)

Why are conversions increasing with terrorist activity?

I encourage every reader to read and listen to the stories of the people who made this choice. 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities did not influence people to learn about Islam, because they like violence. Rather, they fall into several categories:

  1. Some of those whose conversion began with knowledge of a terrorist crime wanted to better understand how areligion could possibly be that evil. It’s an outrageous claim that isn’t easily swallowed by everyone. These people needed to find out for themselves. What they found not only defied their original suspicion; it spoke to them in the most beautiful way.
  2. Others, like me, wanted to expose Islam for the hoax we thought it really was – until we realized it wasn’t. Conversion for my kind is often difficult, because it requires the admission of having been utterly incorrect, and often becoming the person who would have previously been the butt of your own jokes.
  3. Then you have the ones who knew Muslims already. They knew they weren’t the bloodthirsty, deranged caricatures they appeared to be on TV. These people felt a strong sense of injustice and wrongful portrayal, slander of the innocent. In order to make their point though, they realized they needed to have knowledge for their stance to be credible.
  4. For other people, the apparent chaos and strife in our world makes them begin thinking about life, God and inevitably, religion. Their searching eventually leads them to Islam. Had it not been for the unfortunate and misguided crimes committed in the name of Islam, many people would have never thought at all about Islam.

I’ve noticed in my extensive research of Muslim converts, that just about every single one of them did extensive research which included reading the Quran, most often the entire Quran, sometimes several times over before coming to a decision. The people who convert to Islam, rather than exhibiting and increase in anger or bloodthirstiness, express that they have become kinder, gentler, more patient and caring people.

Being a Muslim in these times where Islam is so grossly misunderstood is not necessarily easy. We are wrongfully stereotyped and feared. But, the benefits each and every one of us has gained – God – an understanding of the true purpose of life and death, guidance – dwarf any of the challenges we face.

Originally Published at AboutIslam.net: http://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/understanding-islam/islam-hate-people-still-converting/

 

My Baby and the Wolves

My 8 year old daughter was explaining to me, while she read an article for homework, about the astonishing variety of species of catfish, and just how unbelievable it is, that a bullfrog tadpole can take three years to mature…

I watched her radiant face and listened to her voice, elevated with excitement,

but I could hardly pay attention.

It started when I began thinking about how much she loves science and I thought about how she may choose to study some type of biology after high school.

But then, the current events began pushing their way into my thoughts.

What will the world be like for her?

I wonder if it will be her generation that the prophet Muhammad talked about, when he said,

“There will come upon the people a time when holding onto the religion will be like holding onto hot embers.” (Tirmidhi)

Ouch.

Today there are so many people, from so many directions, out to destroy Islam.

We have these crazy terrorists who, by their horrific acts of violence, defile Islam. They add fuel to the fire and help grow and multiply the very things they claim to want to ‘avenge’.

We’ve got Christian missionaries, with their very creepy version of Islam that they tote around, event to event, teaching leaders and pastors about ‘Islam’; only – they are lying through their teeth – Effectively convincing congregation after congregation, that Islam is something totally unlike it really is.

Then you’ve got the political pundits – demonizing Islam and Muslims is merely a means to their end. I and my children’s lives, ‘collateral damage’ in the race to gain (or rather maintain) control of a region.

But the people staring blankly, while the blue light of the TV dances over their frozen faces, don’t know any better; all they know is:

they just hate Islam.

They just hate me; my baby with her innocent face and mind alive with curiosity about so many wonderful things…

I wonder, will she be like me?

Sometimes I feel like a ninja, thwarting attack after attack. For every post on Facebook I make, with texts from the Quran, or the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, to show how good, beautiful, and tolerant Islam encourages people to be,

I am attacked as if by wolves.

Called names –

and regularly invited to worship Jesus instead of my Creator.

But I have surety in my heart and in my mind. I ask God to give me strength, patience and kindness – To act in the way He instructed me:

 “Many of the followers of previous books wish that they could turn you back into disbelievers after you have believed” – “but pardon and forgive.” (Quran 2:109)

and

Bear patiently what they say.” (20:130 and 50:39)

I know all my husband and I can do is try to raise our babies the best we can, to pray for them, and to inculcate in them, this forgiveness and patience.

No matter what the climate, there will always be trials and tribulations of one sort or another. My concern for my children, is that they hold on to those burning embers; that they cling to Islam and never let go, even for a second.

Even if it costs them everything else.

No amount of suffering could ever make letting go, worth it.

I’d rather my child succumb to the wolves while huddled over her Islam – protecting it with her life – than to let it go and walk away with the pack. Because that would truly be losing everything.

So, while I fantasize about my intelligent daughter, filled with energy, a marine biologist, out on a mission in a blue sea with a smile on her face, the sun reflecting off the water and lighting her eyes, so filled with life – While I dream about her living without a care in the world beside her passion; I know – well, at least I fear – that her life will be far from easy.

Our feet must be planted firmly to withstand the currents.

To withstand the wolves.