Fear of a Muslim Planet: A Conversation on Islamophobia

Yesterday, I participated in a “conversation” on Islamophobia held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The panel included myself, Linda Sarsour, Bassem Youssef, Douglas Murray, Asra Nomani, Faisal Saeed al Mutar


The full audio can be heard here: http://www.wnyc.org/story/bam-islamophobia/

My Yoda impression is at 1:39:40

Here is a transcript of my 3 minute opening remarks.

Hope it fell on some impressionable ears and can push things forward.



“Good evening BAM and Assalam Alikum to all.

I am Wajahat Ali – a multihyphenated, left handed, consistently brown skinned son of Pakistani immigrants born and raised in California whose first language was Urdu and who knew only 3 words of English in preschool: Shutup, Idiot, and uh oh Spaghettio.

I am an American Muslim of Pakistani descent.

And Nothing – NOTHING – says popularity like those three words: American, Muslim, and Pakistani.

In America, they ask me why does Islam hate the West?

Abroad I’m asked, Why does the West hate Islam.

And as a Muslim, I’m asked to apologize for criminal actions that I’ve never committed, done by violent extremists that I’ve never met.

And all this time I’m asking myself, “Who is Islam and the West? How come I’ve never met either of them.”

See Islam doesn’t speak, Muslims do, and the overwhelming majority of them – according to the facts- reject violent extremism, love our freedoms, and are “moderate.”

Oh, you heard of moderate muslims, right? – you know these rare, mythical creatures that you can find after you bypass a “no go zone” enclave dominated by “non assimilationist muslims who carry out as much of sharia law as they can” in america and europe — that’s a direct quote by the way from Governer Bobby Jindal.

See, there are some who want you to fear me simply because I’m an American who happens to be a practicing Muslim.

Their rhetoric seeks to turn us – Muslims – your neighbors, friends, doctors, taxi cab drivers, tech support, relatives, into perpetual suspects instead of what we are – partners, neighbors and fellow Americans.

Their extremist narrative only seeks to divide Americans among religious and ethnic lines.

But apparently to some ISLAMOPHOBIA is just fiction: a manufactured ruse used to silence free speech and dissent. It apparently doesn’t exist – like Climate Change.

Awesome. This was the easiest honorarium ever. I guess we can go home now.

But –

Islamophobia exists. It’s real. It’s pervasive. It’s toxic and now it’s mainstream. Islamophobia is anti-Muslim bigotry – don’t let any verbal, semantic or pedantic gymnastics fool you otherwise. We know homophobia means anti-LGBT bigotry, we know antisemitism refers to anti-jewish hate. Islamophobia makes all of us – not just Muslims – all of us, including our troops and law enforcement, less safe and secure.

And it’s fundamentally anti-American. It’s against our American heritage, our values of pluralism and our freedoms. And it’s really nothing new – it takes its DNA and its playbook directly from hateful fear mongering campaigns that were once used against Jews, Catholics and Japanese Americans.

It’s divides the world into “Us vs them” and paints an apocalyptic, civilizational conflict – “Islam is at war with the West” and “The West is at war with Islam”

But – there’s a significant cost to such inflammatory hate.

Islamophobia overwhelmingly affects those who are innocent civilians.

It doesn’t just affect muslims, but also those who look “Muslimy.”

The first post 9/11 hate murder was of Balbir Singh Sohdi, a Sikh American, whom the murderer chose because he was “dark-skinned, bearded and wore a turban.”

Ask yourself this: WHERE WILL THIS LEAD US? How do we benefit from hysteria, fear and scapegoating? What do these Islamophobes inspire except division & hate?

This isn’t about free speech. This isn’t about Cartoons or satire. This is about extremism and hate – and it’ll take all of us to overcome it. Thank you.”