Archive for Monday, September 13, 2010

Fellow Americans’ suspicions frustrate Muslims

September 13, 2010


— Nine years of denouncing terrorism, of praying side-by-side with Jews and Christians, of insisting “I’m American, too.” None of it could stop a season of hate against Muslims that made for an especially fraught Sept. 11. Now, Muslims are asking why their efforts to be accepted in the United States have been so easily thwarted.

“We have nothing to apologize for, we have nothing to fear, we have nothing to be ashamed of, we have nothing that we’re guilty of — but we need to be out there and we need to express this,” said Imam Mohammed Ibn Faqih in a sermon at the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim, Calif., the day before the 9/11 anniversary.

There is no simple way for American Muslims to move forward.

Images of violence overseas in the name of Islam have come to define the faith for many non-Muslims at home. The U.S. remains at war in Afghanistan, and although America has formally declared an end to its combat operations in Iraq, U.S. troops there continue to fight alongside Iraqi forces.

Within the U.S., domestic terror has become a greater threat, while ignorance about what Islam teaches is widespread. More than half of respondents in a recent poll by the Pew Forum for Religion & Public Life said they knew little or nothing about the Muslim faith.

Some U.S. Muslims say their national organizations share the blame, for answering intricate questions about Islam with platitudes, and failing to fully examine the potential for extremism within their communities. Muslim leaders often respond when terrorists strike by saying Islam is a “religion of peace” that has no role in the violence instead of confronting the legitimate concerns of other Americans, these Muslim critics say.

“There’s a quaintness and naivete or outright whitewashing of some very complex issues,” said Saeed Khan, who teaches at Wayne State University in Detroit. “This has caused a lot of frustration for a lot of Muslim Americans, myself included.”

Recent events

The summer frenzy about Islam in America has revolved around Park51, a community center and mosque planned two blocks from New York’s ground zero. Opponents and supporters of the center converged on the area for protests and counter-protests Saturday after the morning memorial ceremony at the World Trade Center site.

In recent months, mosques in Tennessee, California, New York and elsewhere have been shot at and vandalized. Threatening messages were left at one mosque. A Florida pastor caused a global uproar with his ultimately unfulfilled threat to make a bonfire of Qurans on Sept. 11.

Many Jewish, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical, atheist and other groups have responded with an outpouring of support for Muslims, but suspicion remains high among many Americans.

Islamic centers have become a focus of non-Muslim fears. Federal authorities have placed informants in mosques, saying doing so is a critical counterterrorism tool. Muslim groups have separately created national campaigns encouraging congregations to monitor for any sign of radicalization, but they have also complained bitterly about the use of informants, worried the innocent will be caught up in the net police have set for criminals.

Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic studies at American University, found a wide range of mosques — from literalist to modernist to mystical — while researching his book, “Journey Into America, The Challenge of Islam.” He said many mosques are engaged in internal struggles between Muslims with rigid and modernist views, but he found none that fit the imaginings of anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists.

Historians, and several Muslim leaders, see similarities to the prejudice Roman Catholics and Jews experienced as newcomers to America starting in the 19th century. The hierarchical Catholic church was denounced as a threat to the separation of church and state. Synagogues were banned in many states, and Jews were viewed as undermining the nation’s Christian character.

Prejudices spread

Mark Silk, director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Connecticut, said the experience of Japanese Americans in World War II more closely parallels the current plight of Muslims. After the Pearl Harbor bombing, Silk said Americans asked, “Are our Japanese different from those Japanese?”

“I don’t think we’re about to round up all the Muslims and put them in concentration camps,” Silk said. “But I don’t think we’ve ever seen the degree of legitimacy given by people in positions of authority to straight-up, anti-Islamic expression.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group, blames bigotry on “a small cottage industry” that foments prejudice on the Web and elsewhere. These organizations have dramatically expanded their reach since 2001 through social media, and have made celebrities of Muslim converts to Christianity who disparage Islam as thoroughly violent.

“The reality is that there are very well-funded initiatives to spread misinformation about Islam,” said Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group for thousands of Muslims. “For the Muslim community, we are finding ourselves so stretched. We’re a young community.”

U.S. Muslim condemnations of terrorism have failed to persuade other Americans.

This year, in response to recent cases of young Americans lured into jihadist movements by Internet preaching, nine prominent U.S. Muslim scholars made a YouTube video denouncing radicalism. Other American Islamic scholars have written edicts, or fatwas, saying violence is contrary to Islamic teaching. The Islamic Society of North America dedicated its 2005 annual convention, which draws tens of thousands of Muslims, to fighting terrorism and extremism.

However, suspicion persists among other Americans that Muslims say one thing in public and something different among themselves. U.S. Muslim groups that still accept foreign funding are the most vulnerable to this charge.


Tom Shewmon 7 years, 8 months ago

"U.S. Muslim condemnations of terrorism have failed to persuade other Americans."

Probably because they're few and far in between, and this should've been screamed from the every mountain top by them right after 9/11 if that's the case then. For every isolated condemnation, there is several more threats.

mbulicz 7 years, 8 months ago

"For every isolated condemnation, there is several more threats."

Apples and oranges.

Condemnations come from Muslims. These are superfluous anyway, since it is not their burden to defend themselves against a crime which they did not condone or commit.

Threats come from extremists. The attackers. The real threat. The terrorists.

Is it the burden of every Catholic to profusely apologize every time a priest gets caught molesting a young boy? Does everyone with more melanin owe an apology because inner city criminal convicts predominantly represent minority groups? Does every Hispanic person in the US owe an apology because illegal immigrants are crossing our borders?

No, it isn't, just as it isn't the responsibility of the 25% of the world's 6 billion people to stand up and apologize because 19 psychos with box cutters committed an atrocity.

50YearResident 7 years, 8 months ago

That 25% of 6 billion should have stood up to condem the 9/11 terrorists and this would not currently be a problem. Where were those 25% and why no responce then?

mbulicz 7 years, 8 months ago

Those 25% are the 1.66 billion Muslims in the world.

There was a mosque located in the WTC. Muslims were murdered in that building. Muslim rescuers were murdered there when the towers collapsed. Muslims donated blood and gave aid and helped the same that the rest of us did. Muslim American soldiers gave their lives fighting this war. Muslim soldiers from overseas fought and died alongside US troops.

Don't discount their contributions just because they didn't do it apologetically enough for your liking.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 8 months ago

"“I don’t think we’re about to round up all the Muslims and put them in concentration camps,” Silk said."

If teabaggers have their way, don't be surprised if it happens.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 8 months ago

Why are you so concerned with what consenting adults do with their genitalia?

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

Rightwingers first used the term "teabaggers" to describe those taking part in the Tea Party. Why does their desire to give a new meaning to a term bother you so much?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 8 months ago

That was one guy with one sign. Olby & his gang took that up and mindless drones have been repeating it ever since. What I choose to do with my scrotum has nothing to do with my politics.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

No, it wasn't one guy with a sign. You are mistaken. It was the beginning of the movement. Here is an article from the National Review on the history of "teabagging" as used as a political term:

"The first big day for this movement was Tax Day, April 15. And organizers had a gimmick. They asked people to send a tea bag to the Oval Office. One of the exhortations was “Tea Bag the Fools in D.C.” A protester was spotted with a sign saying, “Tea Bag the Liberal Dems Before They Tea Bag You.” So, conservatives started it: started with this terminology. But others ran with it and ran with it."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jafs 7 years, 8 months ago

It's a good thing you aren't in politics then, isn't it?

terrapin2 7 years, 8 months ago

How very American of you Tom. Someone has a different opinion and you want to lock them up? Maybe you should move out of a country that allows for differing opinions then. Muslims have been saying that they are a peaceful religion for a very long time. Since long before 9/11, but you don't listen. I guess if Glenn Beck didn't say it, you don't hear it. Whether you think they have been saying it or not does not change the fact that Islam is a peaceful religion and we are not at war with Islam.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 8 months ago

Islam is not our enemy. Arabs are not out enemy. Fear and hatred are our enemies.

50YearResident 7 years, 8 months ago

I'm glad you cleared that up because I thought they didn't speak out for fear of death threats to them and their family members from the Radical Muslim Terrorists.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 8 months ago

Nicely put!Fear and hatred are our enemies, not Islam.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

These racist problems begin with uninformed politicians and their uninformed friends in the media.

The USA government has forced US soldiers to kill thousands upon thousands upon thousands of innocent muslim men,women and children.

Not one country invaded the USA. Why is the government killing people and occupying their countries?

Why is the USA government poisoning Iraq,Afghanistan and Pakistan with depleted uranium?

The Muslim community was not responsible for 9/11/01.

15 terrorists performed 9/11/01 by getting around Bush/Cheney/Rice/Rummy and NSA headquarters after living but a few blocks from NSA headquarters for approximately two years.

independant1 7 years, 8 months ago

Couple reasons come to mind.

Catholics used to worship in Latin but now all but a few throwback congregations modernized and threw in the guitar to replace the gothic Pipe Organ.

Muslims praying in their native tongue is somewhat reminicent of the old catholic way. Too much hocus pocus.

Too many modern day terrorists and suicide bombers are professed muslim and are supported in thier acts by organized muslim extremist groups. They also get a lot of air time.

Also, lets face it, if you are religious in america you are a target. In a way, the koran/quoran burning crap in Florida is just our very pecularly american right of passage to the club in the good ol' USA!

Muslims, listen, it's just our peculiar way of welcoming you. We do that to all devoutly religious people/groups. Get over being a victim, we are equal opportunity religion bashing country.

independant1 7 years, 8 months ago

Well, perhaps they should loosen the rules about the language thing. Else it'll be problematic assimilating into this gulash culture of ours.

booyalab 7 years, 8 months ago

I think Muslims have had it pretty easy compared to, say, Japanese-Americans and German-Americans in WW2.

booyalab 7 years, 8 months ago

"U.S. Muslim condemnations of terrorism have failed to persuade other Americans."

Of what? That they exist? I'm sure they do. That doesn't exactly stop the terrorism, though.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 8 months ago

Here's a hint, it's not the Amish that are performing honor killings in America. Do a search for "Noor Almaleki" and see what you find.

AnnaUndercover 7 years, 8 months ago

How can we be better about observing and absorbing the basic GOOD in the people who are doing nothing wrong?

I'm not even an idealist, and I'm frustrated.

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