Saturday, November 28, 2009

U.S. Muslims are Americans Too

by Hamid Dabashi

(This article was taken from here.)

New York (CNN) -- The serendipitous occurrence of this year's Thanksgiving holiday on the same evening as the Muslim Eid-ul-Adha is a festive occasion to reflect on the place of Islam in American collective consciousness and on Muslims as Americans.

On the same evening that millions of Americans gather around their Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate this most American of holidays, even more millions of Muslims around the globe, including the growing number of American Muslims, will do the same -- celebrating as well one of the most definitive moments of their faith -- Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for his God.

This holiday celebration comes soon after the tragic incident at Fort Hood, when the atrocious act of a mass murderer put Islam and Muslims under some pressure to either denounce or defend their faith.

The psychotic act of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, MD, a Muslim American military psychiatrist at Fort Hood who went on a rampage killing 13 U.S. soldiers and wounding 30 others, has prompted two diametrically opposed reactions.

On one side are people who say that Islam -- and Islam alone -- is inherently violent and by extension Muslims are constitutionally driven to murder, while on the other are apologetic Muslims who argue their faith is peaceful and benevolent -- unrelated to criminal acts such as Hasan's.

The fact is that Maj. Hasan and Osama bin Laden have as much claim on Islam as do Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Persian poet Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, who is the best-selling poet in America. Islam is an abstraction and any Muslim, saintly or satanic, detested or beloved, can and does have a claim on it -- and Islam is not the only world religion with this proclivity for good and evil.

The distinguished New York Times columnist David Brooks, one of the most consistently militant warriors in his take on American involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq, takes Islam -- and Islam alone -- to task for having a diabolic roughness on its fringes. But even if so, Islam is not alone in this failure to curtail murderous instincts.

The same Hinduism that produced Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violent theory of civil disobedience has also produced Hindu fundamentalists who sliced and skewered pregnant Muslim women alive in Gujarat.

The same Christianity that produced Saint Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa also produced children's crusades and Spanish conquistadors who burned native Americans alive 13 at a time (according to the 16th-century Spanish Dominican priest, Bartolomé de las Casas) in honor of the Twelve Apostles and Jesus Christ. It also produced American Seung-Hui Cho who killed 32 students and himself at Virginia Tech and American John Wayne Gacy, Jr., who raped and murdered 33 young men and boys in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1970s.

The same Judaism that produced Martin Buber, Emanuel Levinas, or Primo Levi also produced the Stern Gang, Meir Kahane and Baruch Goldstein.

But the knee jerk reaction of blaming Islam and Muslims, in general, or looking for delusional links to "al Qaeda," for the horrific murders at Fort Hood points to something far more fundamental, overdue, and urgent -- namely something of a psychological barrier for Americans to accept the Islamic component of their own society, culture, and history.

To avoid singling out Islam as diabolical, it is imperative for Americans to come to terms with the collectively repressed fact that by far the most important social uprising of their 20th century -- namely the civil rights movement of the 1960s -- is not as exclusively a Christian phenomenon as it is made out to be: The towering figure of a Muslim revolutionary named Malcolm X is of great importance in the history of that movement.

It took a whole generation of Americans to accept the fact that Jewish civil rights activists were instrumental in many measures of the success that was achieved in the 1960s. It is long overdue for Americans also to recognize that Malcolm X was equally, if not more, important to the civil rights movement.

The way the history of the civil rights movement is mostly remembered now, an overwhelming role is assigned to the Southern Baptist genealogy of Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X is delegated to a radical fringe -- portrayed as more of a menace and a hindrance than a positive force in the civil rights movement.

But without the simultaneous presence of Malcolm X as a Muslim revolutionary, the Southern Baptist pacifism of Martin Luther King Jr. would not have been as formidable a force.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were the yin and yang of the civil rights movement -- ennobling anger and vision coming together in hopes of realizing the dream of equality.

For more than three decades now, I have taught generations of American students who come to college having scarce read a word about Malcolm X, and yet everything about Martin Luther King Jr.

Until Americans come to terms with the fact that they are deeply indebted to a Muslim revolutionary for the fruits of the civil rights movement they enjoy today, Islam and Muslims will continue to be seen as archetypically alien and an everlasting danger to American lives and liberties.

Americans are Christians, Jews, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, and anything else in between -- but Americans are also Muslims, millions of them, and Islam has now become integral to what the distinguished American sociologist Robert Bellah termed our "civil religion."

It is only apt that this particular Thanksgiving, Americans think about Eid-ul-Adha, as precious to Muslim-Americans as the occasion that has gathered us all "at the table." Let's make room for Muslims "at the table" because -- to quote Langston Hughes -- they "too, sing America."

Hamid Dabashi is the author of "Iran: A People Interrupted." He is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. His Web site is

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pat Robertson: Islam isn’t a religion; treat Muslims like fascists

By Daniel Tencer

Conservative commentators are ratcheting up anti-Muslim rhetoric in the wake of last week's Fort Hood massacre, with televangelist Pat Robertson leading the way with a declaration that Islam is "not a religion," but a "political system" bent on destroying all the world's governments.

In a commentary on his show, The 700 Club, Robertson noted that the alleged shooter in the Fort Hood massacre, Nidal Malik Hasan, had come to the attention of authorities prior to the rampage by emailing a radical cleric and trying to contact Al Qaeda.

"Nobody wanted to go after him because of political correctness," Robertson said on Monday. "We just don't talk about somebody's quote 'religion,' even if the religion involved beheading infidels and pouring boiling oil down their throats."

Robertson said Islam should be treated like a fringe political movement.

"If we don't stop covering up what Islam is ... Islam is a violent -- I was going to say religion, but it's not a religion, it's a political system, it's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination," Robertson said. "You're dealing with not a religion, you're dealing with a political system, and I think we should treat it as such, and treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party, members of some fascist group."

Read the full article here.

Pat Robertson was a large contributor to Virginia Governor-elect Bob McDonnell. McDonnell openly spoke against Robertson's claims. See the video here.

I read one of Pat's books, Bring It On. On page 261, he says "Many people are confused about who Allah is. Allah was one of the jinns in existence in Mecca during the time that Muhammad [peace be upon him] was having his purported dreams and revelations that inspired the Koran. Allah is the moon god, and the symbol of Islam is the crescent moon. Allah is not the God of the Old Testament."

As you can see, he plays off of old and misinterpreted stereotypes to get his followers to believe that Islam is not apart of the Abrahamic tradition, but some crazy religion, where Muslims worship the moon and follow a false prophet.

First of all, Allah is the Arabic word for God. It comes from the word Al-Ilah, literally, "The God." If one picks up any Bible in Arabic, they will find "God" translated into "Allah." What Pat is thinking of is the pagen moon-god "Al Laat," who the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us not to worship. Also, the crescent moon became the symbol of Islam much later in Islam's history and has nothing to do with who we worship.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How Right-Wing Talkers Crassly Exploited Ft. Hood Tragedy

By David Corn

This article was taken from here.

On Tuesday morning I accidentally had the chance to listen to Chris Plante, a Rush-wannabe radio talk-show host who appears on a D.C. station. He was going on and on about how the Fort Hood shootings have driven the nation apart. An agitated Plante noted that 9/11 had brought the country together, but that in the wake of the horrific Fort Hood attack there's been no unity. Why? Because, as his Web site noted, Democrats and liberals have been "trying desperately to convince America" that Nidal Hasan, the presumed shooter, was "just a crazy guy who spent too much time around deployed soldiers and caught [post-traumatic stress disorder] and oh he happened to be a muslim [sic], but we should ignore that. We shouldn't jump to conclusions."

This was a bizarre analysis: Division was being created by people saying that there should be no rush to judgment regarding the motives underlying this horrific act or the episode's ultimate significance. Actually, it was right-wing pundits and activists who were eagerly whipping up conflict.

On his show, Plante repeatedly asserted that Hasan had shouted, "Allahu Akbar!" before firing on his fellow soldiers -- which would make his attack an act of religious-inspired murder. But a Fort Hood spokesman had said that Hasan's use of that phrase was just "speculation." In fact, last Friday, when Gen. Robert Cone, the base's commander, first discussed the possibility that Hasan had shouted these words, he made clear that this was an unconfirmed report. Nevertheless, Laura Ingraham, another conservative radio ranter, also claimed it was a fact that Hasan was "screaming Allah-u-Akbar" -- as she argued that Hasan had been moved to kill by his "religious fervor" (read: Muslim religious fervor).

Maybe Hasan did shout that Islamic phrase. If so, that would partly explain what had driven him to kill his fellow soldiers. For now, stating it as an established fact is a divisive act.

Yet some on the right see no need to wait for evidence. On Monday, the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, posted on its Web site an article calling for all Muslims to be barred from military service. "As soon as Muslims give us a foolproof way to identify their jihadis from their moderates, we'll go back to allowing them to serve," wrote Bryan Fischer, the group's director of issues analysis. (An aside: When Christian right extremists shoot abortion providers, does this outfit call for prohibiting all Christians from owning guns?)

Over at Fox News, Sean Hannity, too, has been busy exploiting the Fort Hood horror. He proclaimed, "There is a chance our government knew all about" Hasan and "did nothing because nobody wanted to be called an Islamophobe." This is -- to use a technical term -- dumb. The U.S. government has pursued numerous terrorist cases against radical Muslims. It has broken up alleged cells of Muslim radicals. And the Bush and Obama administrations have used drones to blast Islamic extremists in the nether-regions of Pakistan. No one in charge of these activities seems to fear being branded a bigot.

Nevertheless, Hannity has tried to use the Fort Hood tragedy to depict Obama as weak on terrorism. The facts, however, don't fit the smear. As The Washington Post reported, Hasan came to the attention of not one but two terrorism task forces after he corresponded by e-mail with a radical imam named Anwar al-Aulaqi. But this happened in late 2008, when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were in charge. The government then took no action, because an analyst concluded that Hasan's contact with al-Aulaqi was consistent with research Hasan was conducting. Still, Hannity has blasted the Obama administration for not catching Hasan before his killing spree, bellowing, "What does it say about Barack Obama and our government?" Actually, it says nothing about Obama.

Rush Limbaugh also blamed Obama for the Fort Hood massacre. Then he denounced the president for not referring to the attack as an act of terror.

The Fort Hood killings are a national nightmare. Obama spoke movingly at the memorial service held on Tuesday afternoon. After being greeted by loud cheers from those who had assembled to commemorate the deaths of comrades and loved ones, the president spoke of the country's commitment to religious freedom and plurality:

We're a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln's words, and always pray to be on the side of God. We're a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today.

Shouters on the right, though, see this moment as an opportunity -- to stir up questions about an entire religion and to bash political foes. They are not decrying division, they are quite purposefully creating it.

David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine. Prior to that he was the Washington editor of The Nation magazine for twenty years... More on David Corn.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Now Hiring. Muslims Need Not Apply.

For Muslim-Americans, discrimination in the workplace and in hiring practices is the norm. This discrimination comes in many forms; but no matter what form it comes in, it has a grave impact on Muslim-Americans. Muslims and Non-Muslims should remember that such discrimination in America is a part of our history. Many religions, cultures and ethnic groups have faced hatred and bigotry in the past, and in many ways, it’s just our turn. The difference is, however, that we have certain recourse that other minorities did not have in the past.

It’s common for Muslim-Americans to face discrimination in the workplace. During job interviews especially, Muslims who practice outwardly by either wearing a hijab for women, or a beard and a kufi (skullcap) for men, are at a significant disadvantage. Notably, one Muslim woman was not hired at Abercrombie and Fitch because her headscarf did not (supposedly) fit their style. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2008, reported 3,273 complaints of religious-based discrimination.

I have personally found that there are several ways in which discrimination at job interviews happens:

1) They are open about it. While applying for a job to load and unload trucks at a local FedExKinkos dock, I got the ol’ “go back where you came from.” Even worse, one classmate in college was told in a phone interview “sorry, we’re not hiring Muslims right now.” I remember the look on her face when she told me that. I remember her telling me how tired she was of this country, and how she just wanted to go back to Pakistan. (She was a U.S. Citizen.)

2) They just can’t get over it. For a possible job at a charitable organization in Rochester, NY I was given the option of having a phone interview, or coming in person. I always like to come in person, because I am not ashamed of how I look, nor do I want any surprises the first day of work, if I do get the job. As usual, the interviewer walked in with a smile, until she saw me. Her face changed, but she tried to be cordial. She asked me some questions and I politely and smilingly replied. While I was replying to one of her questions, however, (I’ll never forget this!) the interviewer exploded like a volcano. Out of nowhere, she suddenly slammed her hand on the table and screamed “I have friends in Israel!”

3) They give excuses. This is the interviewer that doesn’t really have ill will towards Muslims personally, but also can’t afford to be a hero. “Look,” they usually start out, “most of my clients are [fill in the blank] and they wouldn’t like it if I hired you.” For me, that blank was filled with “firefighters.” For my sisters (who are dentists) in Long Island, that blank was filled with “Jewish.”

4) They are “subtle.” “Don’t worry,” I was told with a wink and a smile, “we’ll take care of you.”

No matter how you’re discriminated against, it hurts. Like hell. All at the same time, you feel angry, helpless, bitter, worthless, and alien to your own society. You feel different, and, after a while, despair sets in. A study done by psychologist Mona Amer of Yale University corroborates this. In her study of 611 Arab-American adults, she found that Arab-Americans had much worse mental health than Americans overall. About half had symptoms of clinical depression. The cause of this depression, she says, is the verbal harassment Muslims and Arab-Americans face in a post 9/11 world.

Instead of depression, Muslims need to look at the broader picture, and buck up. America has a long history of discriminating against many different races, cultures, creeds and religions at one time or another for various reasons. Blacks faced slavery. Native Americans had their land and culture destroyed. The Japanese were thrown into internment camps, (imagine every Muslim in America thrown into Guantanamo). Women weren’t allowed to own property (Please note, Muslim women have always had the right to own their own property thank you very much!)

An old Jewish neighbor (who has since retired and moved away), graduated from the same law school I did. He told me his story when he was a first-year law student. “I remember one student, he was a Catholic Priest, who decided to go to law school. He was no dummy. He actually ended up graduating at the top of his class! I’ll never forget the first conversation we had. As we were talking, he started staring at my head. ‘What are you looking at?’ I asked. ‘We were always taught that all Jews had horns,’ the priest replied.”

Don’t forget, even Catholics were discriminated against. When the Irish-Catholics came to America during the potato famine, signs outside businesses would openly say “Help Wanted. Irish Need Not Apply.” When Kennedy ran for president, he had to repeatedly say that he would not take orders from the pope. Moreover, an entire group, known as the “Know-Nothing Party” also known as the “American Party” was dedicated to keep immigrants and especially Catholics from being able to vote or hold public office.

The point is, that becoming part of the American story means going through the same growing pains and the same rights of passage all other American subcultures went through, namely, discrimination. This is not to say, that discrimination is ok; just that people have gone through this before, and things have gotten better. Eventually, Muslims will be recognized as the full members of American society they are, just like all other groups.

What non-Muslim Americans should learn from their past, is not to discriminate in the first place. Even if your ancestors came to America on the Mayflower, they did so because of persecution and discrimination. Every American should look to their past and try to remember when they, as a group, were shunned, hated and despised. They should remember the trials and tribulations their ancestors went through just because they were “different.” Every American should remember the evils of the discrimination their ancestors faced, and know that they have the chance to be a part of the fight against this evil. Judge us not by the direction in which we pray, but by the content of our character.

The good news is, Muslims have recourse that most previously discriminated American subcultures didn’t. Muslims often do not speak up against what is done to us, but we have every right to. Laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protect us from the injustices we face. Just last month, a Muslim won a settlement against his employer for allowing other employees to make jokes about Muslims being terrorists. Moreover, of the 3,273 religious discrimination complaints, almost a quarter of them resulted in outcomes favorable to the parties claiming discrimination, with a total payout of 7.5 million dollars last year. For more information about fighting discrimination, see the EEOC website.


In a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,007 Americans, 58% said they had never met a Muslim. And those who did know Muslims felt a lot better about them.

In Los Angeles, there are two "cousins clubs," interfaith groups of Muslim and Jewish women, so named because they share a common ancestor, Abraham. Participants read each others' sacred texts, celebrate holidays together and learn about one another's spiritual lives.

The women have become close, says Shayna Lester, co-founder of one of the groups. "We find we have more likenesses than differences. We no longer call each other cousins. We call each other sisters."