Exposing the Islamophobia Network in America: Wajahat Ali

Wajahat Ali – Originally Published in The Guardian, republished in The Huffington Post

Exploiting fear, hysteria and ignorance has been a lucrative business for the Islamophobia network in America.

After a six-month-long investigative research project, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a 138-page report, “Fear Inc: Exposing the Islamophobia Network in America”, which for the first time reveals that more than $42 million from seven foundations over the past decade have helped empower a relatively small, but interconnected group of individuals and organizations to spread anti-Muslim fear and hate in America. I, along with co-authors Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes and Faiz Shakir, expose this network in depth, categorize it, trace the money trail to the donors, name the players in the network, connect the dots between them, and uncover the genesis of several fictitious threats such as the current “anti-Sharia” fear sweeping the nation, as well as the protests of neighborhood mosques as alleged “Trojan horses” and incubators of radicalization.

We’ve defined Islamophobia as the following: an exaggerated fear, hatred and hostility towards Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political and civic life.

Healthy debate, disagreement and differences of opinion are a critical part of any civil society, and it is, in fact, necessary when discussing religion, race and politics. This report, however, targets those individuals who have clearly ventured towards poisonous extremist ideology and rhetoric by exploiting fears concerning terrorism and national security, as well general ignorance of Muslims, as a profitable vehicle to advance a hateful agenda.

The Islamophobia network in America is comprised of five categories:

• The money trail: a list of seven funders who have given nearly $43 million to anti-Muslim organizations and thinktanks.

• The Islamophobia scholars and policy experts: five individuals and their respective organizations that act as the central nervous system responsible for manufacturing the fictitious memes and fear-mongering talking points about Muslims and Islam. For example, Frank Gaffney’s neoconservative thinktank, the Centre for Security Policy, has used its millions to misdefine sharia, or Islamic religious law, as the pre-eminent totalitarian threat to America, which radical Muslims will allegedly use to supplant and replace the U.S. Constitution. No religious Muslim scholar, let alone a practicing layman, would recognize this definition of Sharia, which, in reality, deals primarily with personal religious observances, including practices such as charitable giving, prayer and honoring one’s parents, with precepts virtually identical to those of Christianity and Judaism.

• Grassroots organizations and the religious right: new and existing activist networks and mainstream popular religious personalities disseminate these messages to their constituents and elected officials. The organization Act! For America relies upon Frank Gaffney’s anti-Sharia memes and promotes this fictitious threat through their 573 national chapters and 170,000 members worldwide. Currently, 23 states are in process of considering anti-Sharia bills.

• The media enablers: the mainstreaming of this fringe, extremist rhetoric is aided by media allies in network TV (Fox News), radio (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck), online magazines (World Net Daily, Front Page Magazine) and the Islamophobia blogosphere (Jihad Watch), which give Islamophobe talking-heads an influential pulpit to broadcast their misinformation.

• The political players: finally, these talking points end up as soundbites and wedge issues for politicians and, specifically, several 2012 Republican presidential candidates, such as Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, who all have jumped on the manufactured, fictitious “anti-Sharia” bandwagon.

This fear-mongering rhetoric negatively affects our fellow Muslim American citizens and portrays them as perpetual hostile suspects, instead of our neighbors and allies. Currently, this has reached a crescendo resulting in certain communities attempting to curtail constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.

For example, we’ve witnessed grassroots organizations protest the construction of mosques, constitutionally protected houses of worship, in Tennessee, California and Brooklyn. In February, Muslim American families with young children attending a fundraising dinner in Yorba Linda, California were jeered by protesters who called them “Terrorists!” and told them “Take your Sharia and go home, you terrorist lovers.” This was not the result of a spontaneous groundswell of public bullying, but rather a well-organized and highly effective effort orchestrated by principal grassroots organizations of the Islamophobia network, such as Act! For America, Stop Islamisation of America and state Tea Party groups.

For example, blogger Pamela Geller, the co-founder of Stop Islamisation of America and face of the manufactured “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy — which was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero — clearly reveals her bias against Muslims when she equates practicing Muslims with Nazis: “Devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service. Would Patton have recruited Nazis into his army?” Continue reading

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“Somalia: Nevermind”: Poem by Amir Sulaiman

Thanks to celebrated, HBO Def Jam poet Amir Sulaiman for letting me publish his brilliant poem on Somalia. May we all open our palms to pray for her and our wallets to feed her.


“Somalia: Nevermind”: Poem by Amir Sulaiman

black faces

white tongues

the smell of sea water

taunts with sarcasm

drink me

oh somalia

im sorry i couldnt be there for you

but while you were trying to to get your daughter

to drink her urine

a singer died

while your children

were falling from the tree of life

scattered bushels of rotten fruit

some whiter children were shot

oh somalia

only if your beautiful wasnt so black

only if you were

gaza or

libya or

bahrain or

egypt or

norway or

england or

japan or

america

or the moon

i would mention you in a poem

only if you had

oil or

poppy or

timber or

rubber or

gold or

white people

i would mention you in my prayers

oh somalia

only if your beautiful wasnt so black

the world has grown accustom to watching you die

since i was a child

somalia – synonymous with suffering

african meant adversity

an african struggling was like

a fish swimming

a dog barking

somalia meant starvation

nevermind the magic in your poetry

or

the glowing saints rising from your lands like a thousand moons

nevermind the beauty of your beaches

or

the utter perfection in the hips of your women

oh somalia

only if you didnt wear the resemblance of eve

like an ornate funeral shroud

we wouldnt see you as our sin

and avert our gazes

in shame

turn our faces

to blame

only if your lack of the worldy

didnt remind us

of our lack of the other-worldly

perhaps then we would mention you

oh somalia

only if your beautiful wasnt so black

“FIRST NIGHT OF RAMADAN”: A Poem by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

 

A single stone is thrown in

and the canyon resounds with the

 

hallelujahs of angels

 

A single breath contains the

known and unknown universes

 

Back behind edgeless

space are motions that

 

vibrate the heart

 

Back behind ancient mountains and

historical intricacies

 

a shadow gives way to Light that has a

door in it to

 

let us through

 

We take no step that

doesn’t bring us nearer

 

One sip and the oceans disappear

 

One glance and the skies

bend closer to hear our

 

emptiness

 

One heart-wrench elegant elevation

and we’re on a

 

plateau tossing a stone in the dark

that never stops echoing

 ______________________

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore 

8/1/2011

1 Ramadan, 1432

‘Formula for a Successful Marriage’: M. Azam

‘Formula for a Successful Marriage’ 

Recently I was forwarded this article on what makes a ‘successful marriage’ :


The piece is written by Yasmine Mogahed, whose popular work includes an article in response to Amina Wadud’s leading of Islamic prayer back in 2005-”A Woman’s Reflection on Leading Prayer” http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/13883/Mogahed commonly adopts a ‘cultural feminist’ view that reflects an essentialist notion of gender by emphasizing what are seen as innate and undeniable differences between men and women.

To answer her question on “What is going wrong when so many of our marriages are ending in divorce?” Mogahed states that “According to Dr. Emerson Eggerich, author of Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs, the answer is simple. In his book, Eggerichs explains that extensive research has found that a man’s primary need is for respect, while a woman’s primary need is for love. He describes what he calls the “crazy cycle”—the pattern of argumentation that results when the wife does not show respect and the husband does not show love. He explains how the two reinforce and cause one another.  In other words, when a wife feels that her husband is acting unloving, she often reacts with disrespect, which in turn makes the husband act even more unloving.” http://loveandrespect.com/

Mogahed writes in her typical eloquence, citing hadiths and spiritual reflections along the way. It is easy to be taken by the purity in her tone. Many actually do buy into it.

Me- not so much. Mogahed writes as if she’s offering a dissection of painfully clear logic. However, the pervasive, gender-stereotyped, and formulaic perspective on marriage that was being promoted by the article is problematic. It can impede a couple from deeply evaluating the individual expectations and preferences that each member might have from the relationship and instead endorses a ‘rigid’ standard of conduct. It could very likely be the case that the woman senses a lack of respect and the man a lack of affection.

Gender differences are valid. I am not negating the idea that men and women may have different needs. I find beauty in the yin and yang. I am wary, however, when these differences are stated as a dichotomous straightforward reality. As we know, one’s sex is simply determined by X and Y chromosomes, while gender is much more complex and is derived from socio-cultural contexts, personal individual histories, and even varying levels of predisposed sex hormone levels. Gender sensitivities are required in a marriage; however, these should be dealt with on tangible and nuanced terms not by an over-simplified external reality of how a husband and a wife are to be differently treated.

Also, by adhering ‘respect’ for the husband and ‘love’ for the wife, Eggerich’s preconception emphasizes male authority and the notion that females need to be pampered. The purporting of respect for the husband and love for the wife, instead of the idea of a mutual level of respect and love for both, insidiously supports a ‘top-down’ power dynamic between the husband and the wife. This is cautionary especially due to the fact that many of us come from cultural backgrounds which advocate a dominating role by the husband and a subordinated role by the wife, with the assumption that this dynamic is ‘Islamic.’ To move our community towards the complementary balanced relationship that Islam does in fact advocate, I say let us become hypersensitive to any (usually well-intending, albeit) dogmatic thinking on marital relations. The answer to what makes a successful marriage is, often, anything but simple.


M. Azam

A Ramadan State of Mind: Wajahat Ali

I’ll be blogging my Ramadan experience for Patheos here.

Posted on August 1, 2011 

 

A Ramadan State of Mind

When Ramadan-ing, it’s encouraged to have a Ramadan State of Mind.

It’s a state of mind and state of body that is resilient to pain, longing, easy comfort and selfish desires.

An observer can easily perceive this month long fast as an exercise in masochism commanded by a sadistic Creator who enjoys denying his “trying-to-get by worshippers” food, water, sex and bad etiquette from sunrise to sunset. To add insult to famine, we’re also encouraged to increase our prayer –as if the daily 5 prayer ritual wasn’t enough – and give charity despite being mired in one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression.

The Usual Ramadan Wikipedia Posts

Your usual “Ramadan” blog posts give you a quick Wikipedia facts update on how this is the 9th month in the Islamic lunar calendar in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Upon sighting the new moon, Muslim communities worldwide become spiritually charged avatars of ascetic awesomeness immersed in reflection, forgiveness,prayer, reconciliation and generosity.

1.5 billion Muslims magically transform overnight and jettison their messy, imperfect,  human emotional baggage, because that’s the miraculous power of Ramadan and being Muslim!

We become Yodas with kufis and Splinters in thobes. We are Mr. Miyagis and Morgan Freemans dispensing calm, sage advice and composing ourselves elegantly like a stereotypical ascetic monk only seen in Hollywood movies as quiet Asian men in robes.

This, my friends, is not reality.

Most of us spend at least half the month complaining about being Muslim and flirting with the idea that maybe worshipping fire (Zoroastrianism) isn’t such a bad gig.

The Nostalgia of Old Men

A few days ago I sat with a bunch of friends at Ma’s Halal Chinese Restaurant in San Jose talking about the upcoming month of fasting.

We’re all old men now, mostly in our early 30’s, and gone are the days when we thought hair would last forever or we’d be able to sustain a 6 pack. Some of us have wives and kids, and mostly all carry a one-pack gut. We are good folks just trying to get by and we fondly remember the glory years when we could play basketball for 3 hours without stretching and then eat 2 slices of Blondie Pizzas and stay up for most of the night playing video games and still function with 2 hours of sleep.

“Man, it kinda sucks being Muslim. Islam really ruins my life sometimes,” I complained.

“Word. This Ramadan is gonna’ be brutal. Morning prayer is like at 4:50 am, then we have to go to work, then we break our fast at 8:45 pm,” a friend replied.

“Maybe you can trick Allah and move to Australia. They open fast at 5 pm. Or, just travel all month and you can do a write-off and make it up during the Winter,” another friend added.

“I thought about it, but I think Allah knows this stuff. F my life. Anyway, inshallah (God willing), it’ll be ok.”

“Yeah, I guess. At least there will be some bomb-ass iftars.” That was the group consensus: at least there will be some “bomb-ass iftars.”

Annoying Muslims

Then, there’s the Muslims. They annoy the hell out of me. Islam would be far more pleasant if it had less Muslims. Really. Sometimes I feel like being Reverend Lovejoy of The Simpsons and suggesting other religions to the Ned Flanders of our communities.

We Muslims are obsessed with Unity for some reason, but can only unify on how much disunity exists within our communities. For the first time in years, every community is starting their fast on the same day. Some of you are asking, “Why? Don’t you all start at the beginning of the Islamic month?”

Well, there are two camps. I refer to them as “Moonies” and “Computer God Muslims.” The former say we have to see the new moon with the naked eye and only then we can officially begin Ramadan. The latter camp says we should rely on technology and if the new moon rises, despite being visible to the human eye, then we are officially a “go” for Ramadan.

Naturally, these two camps rarely agree thus resulting in major social awkwardness when telling our bosses, “Yeah, I might have to take either Tuesday or Wednesday off for Eid in a month. I’ll let you know in a bit. Yeah, it’s a Muslim thing. Just…trust me.” Continue reading