Every Muslim in America should have encountered the recent slew of statements that have been made about Muslims and Islam over the past several weeks and months. Most notable among them are the following:

On September 7th, Martin Peretz, the owner of the magazine The New Republic, stated “…Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims…I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse”.

On October 7th, on the popular morning talk show The View, Bill O'Reilly, the conservative Fox News talk show host declared that “Muslims killed us on 9/11.” Defending O'Reilly's egregious statement, Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of the programme Fox and Friends claimed that “not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims.” Fast-forward to October 19th, when Juan Williams divulged the following: “…when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” When examined collectively, all of these statements demonstrate a ratcheting up of anti-Muslim sentiment in this country. Certainly, Muslims and Islam have become a hot button issue.

Following his statements, Juan Williams was immediately fired by NPR, a move which has unleashed a tidal wave of controversy. From the perspective of a Muslim American, the firing of Williams may have been greeted by some in the community with surprise and maybe even a little satisfaction. It is rare that public figures, such as Williams, suffer the consequences for making Islamophobic remarks. But those of us feeling this way should not get too carried away by NPR's decision because it looks like Williams's remarks about Muslims were the straw that broke the camel's back as NPR had previously expressed discontent with Williams's affiliation with Fox News. Some Muslims also believe that NPR's decision to fire Williams was misguided because of their understanding that Williams was simply expressing an opinion held by many Americans when they see Muslims at airports. But what if Williams had expressed the same fear about seeing black people or Jews? Would his statement be as easily brushed aside as a commonly held belief if other racial or minority groups were involved? That's just food for thought. Regardless of whether you think his firing was justified, at the end of the day, he violated NPR's code of ethics for journalistic neutrality, and that's what led to his dismissal.

So, with the discussion that the Williams firing has touched off, the question arises: how can Muslims in America go from being the “feared” minority to the “accepted” minority? I was reading the New York Times' opinion columns and I ran across a post that attempted to answer just that question.

Robert Wright, a columnist at the New York Times, answered the question in his recent article titled “Islamophobia and Homophobia.” Wright explores the reasons why homophobia, relative to Islamophobia, has declined in acceptance among the American public. Wright agrees that “playing the homophobia card is costlier than playing the Islamophobia card.” For any Muslim (and this should be every Muslim living in the America) concerned about how Islam can become integrated into the American social fabric, much like other minority groups i.e. blacks, Catholics, Jews, and gays before us, then this article is worth a read. But just in case you're pressed for time I will briefly summarize his argument below. Thereafter, I raise several points about what is problematic about his comparison between Islamophobia and homophobia.

Wright argues that homophobia is waning among many quarters across the country primarily because Americans have persistently been exposed to gay individuals over time. To support his claim Wright points to data showing that among frequent churchgoers in the US, attitudes towards homosexuals over the past three decades have warmed (today 70% of this group are okay with homosexuality). The theory that explains why homophobia has faded among conservative Christians is called the “bridging” model theory. This model holds that the closer one is to a member of the “out-group,” the more comfortable he or she will become with all adherents of that “out-group.” Wright illustrates: “If, say, your work brings you in touch with gay people or Muslims — and especially if your relationship with them is collaborative — this can brighten your attitude toward the whole tribe they're part of. And if this broader tolerance requires ignoring or reinterpreting certain scriptures, so be it; the meaning of scripture is shaped by social relations.”

Because of this “bridging” model, Wright argues that over time Americans have become more comfortable with gays. And as a result, “…by the time gays started coming out of the closet, the bridges had already been built.” Wright frames this phenomenon as a “vicious cycle,” 1) straight Americans accept gayness due to the bridge model 2) more gays feel comfortable uncovering their identity 3) the “more openly gay people there were, the more straight people there were who realized they had gay friends, and so on.” So, does the “bridge” model work for Muslims?

Unfortunately, based on the scientific explanations Wright uses to derive his conclusion, the “bridge” model will be unsuccessful in helping to integrate Muslims. The reason is that “being a small and geographically concentrated group makes it hard for many people to know you, so not much bridging naturally happens.” According to this theory, because Muslims are populated in enclaves throughout the US, there is less of a chance that they can socialize and interact with the broader society – thus making it difficult for them to change nasty public opinion about them. On the other hand, in terms of population, gays have historically been dispersed throughout the US – “the gay population, though not huge, was finely interspersed across the country, with  representatives in virtually every high school, college and sizeable workplace. And straights had gotten to know them without even seeing the border they were crossing in the process.”

So what is the solution that Wright proposes? According to the columnist “it's a matter of bringing people into contact with the “other” in a benign context. And it's a matter of doing it fast, before the vicious circle takes hold, spawning appreciable homegrown terrorism and making fear of Muslims less irrational.” Is he correct, or are there more substantive explanations beyond this superficial one?

First, from taking several courses on race and ethnicity in college I learned that the oppressions faced by two minority groups can not be compared hierarchically. You can't say “black women are more oppressed than white women because black women are dually oppressed as a result of their gender and race.” I feel like the narrative of oppression for Muslims and gays in America are different – therefore making their comparison troubling from the outset. Beyond that, one missing piece of the puzzle that Wright overlooks is the media. One reason, I believe gay Americans have been able to better integrate into American culture is because of the way the media portrays them relative to how Muslims are portrayed. Even before 9/11, it is well documented that Arabs and Muslims were vilified in Hollywood movies and television – Lawrence of Arabia anyone? Yes, homosexuals haven't always been treated well in the media, but nowadays, shows such as “Modern Family”  and “Grey's Anatomy” to name a few depict homosexuality as part of the cultural fabric. I don't think the same can be said for Muslims.

What about the power of lobbying? Combined, are CAIR and MPAC as strong as prominent gay rights advocacy groups on Capitol Hill? When you answer these questions for yourself, you find that Wright's comparison of these two groups is filled with blind spots and glaring omissions. Readers should feel free to fill them in also.

Perhaps the firing of Juan Williams was a monumental victory in the fight against hate speech toward Muslims – or was it? Contrast that to what happened when Anderson Cooper condemned the use of the word “gay” in the preview of the new movie “The Dilemma” starring the actor Vince Vaughn, Universal quickly cut out the scene. Hopefully, someday Muslim Americans will gain similar if not more of the political and social clout that many other minorities presently enjoy.

51 Responses

  1. Hassan

    In last two years there is increased islamophobia in media and people are openly saying things that they did not even after 9/11. (this could be for any reasons, perhaps Obama being black, or allegedly secret muslim, or could be just people do not have jobs and economy is bad so they turn towards hatred).

    As the islamophobia increased, so did the fight back, and leading this fight is mostly left (Jon Stewart, Colbert, Daily Kos etc). The fight back has been quite encouraging, and it seems point may be reaching (in not far future) that it may become un-acceptable to say bad things about muslims. Just like Rick Sanchez got fired saying bad things about jews.

    But there is still some piece of puzzle missing, and it may remain missing forever. Why? Well:

    1. The right hates anything, so we have to depend on left
    2. The left hates bigotry, but they hate religion in general as well. So they can not have same affection to muslims as they have towards gays, specially practicing muslims.
    3. Being muslim by definition is never going to be easy anyways.

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    • Safia Farole

      Hassan I think your right about the fact that the push against anti-Islamic/Muslim statements has been lead by progressive, “leftist” groups/indivduals such as Jon Stewart; and this is promising. I also agree that the predicament faced by Muslims is generally unique from that faced by other groups.

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  2. Joshua

    I think the context of Williams’ remarks is interesting. His larger point was that we shouldn’t confuse all Muslims with extremists, but that he feels a visceral discomfort about Muslims because of 9/11. If everyone used the rationality of the former to overcome the latter, we’d be in pretty good shape.

    Part of the problem of geography is overcome by technology. People who don’t know any Muslims personally may know Aasif Mandvi of the Daily Show. Blogs, periodicals, everything else provide an opportunity to drive a wedge in the minds of the public as to the difference between moderate Muslims and extremists.

    I think the trouble comes when people don’t see tolerance as a two way street. Muslims need to be very open about the problem of extremism in the Muslim world: Hamas, Hezbollah, those who give death threats to anyone who shows the image of the Prophet (PBUH). It should be clearly stated that extremists exist, they have a warped view of the Qu’ran and they influence a significant portion of the Muslim community in many parts of the world, but these are as much enemies to Muslims as they are to the world at large.

    I think this is something Muslims *do* say, but when the problems are glossed over, when, for example, a Seattle Cartoonist goes into hiding because of death threats and Muslims say, “You should be more tolerant! You’re feeding extremism!” it sound like extortion, not like mutual respect.

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    • Safia Farole

      Joshua it may be correct that the geography issue can be overcome by technology. But my point is that even beyond media, homosexuals, compared to Muslims, have established a strong impression on this culture (although the fight for civil rights for any group is hardly ever complete). Someone gave me the example of the fashion industry. The gay presence in this industry is enonormous – practically any form of fashion (whether it be mainstream or high fashion) involves this group. So for Muslims, I don’t think its just simply about exposure as it is about the broader issue of influence.

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  3. Bin Muhsin

    I think it’s great to have celebrities becoming Muslim, becomes they have such a wide sphere of influence, but I think we often underestimate the “advertising” power of one average individual.

    Maybe part of the reason for people not knowing about Muslims or being afraid of Muslims as poor Juan honestly admitted to, is because Muslims don’t take the opportunity to interact with non-muslims enough. If Juan was flying and he sees a Muslim in Muslim garb and gets all fidgety, and the Muslim notices this and does his part to ease the atmosphere by striking a conversation with Juan – I’m sure Juan’s fears would be profoundly addressed in a positive way.

    Personally, I’ve encountered many “muslims” who simply are ashamed of many parts of their faith, and often try to keep their faith as hidden as possible. Even when it comes to their names!

    I like to think of Islam this way – it’s a gem – all we have to do is take it out and display it confidently. Unfortunately I think alot of us living in the West are (along with non-muslims) getting caught up in this phobia-inducing media frenzy and are starting to suffer from an inferiority complex which is stopping us from being confident and open about our religious practices.

    Maybe this is also part of the reason for such ignorance regarding Islam.

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  4. SonicSoriyah

    I’ve noticed how much analogy plays into discussions of Islam and Muslims today. I’ve heard (or read) so many times Islamophobia compared to homophobia, antisemitism, etc. Or comparing aspects of Islam to aspects of Christianity or Judaism. I’ve also wondered the limits of using analogy. Analogy is limited in that you may never realize the true extent or meaning of what you are comparing something to. Homophobia or antisemitism may be like Islamophobia in certain aspects but homophobia is not Islamophobia. Islamophobia is produced under certain societal influences that operate differently from those that create homophobia. For example, homosexuality is generally better accepted in Europe than in the US, yet even though Europe is more excepting of gays, it still has a prevalent streak of Islamophobia. I think more than anything it shows how Americans do not have a frame of reference (or general knowledge of) when it comes to Muslims and Islam, so they always have to rely to analogies because on there own, they cannot conceptualize Islamophobia, Islam, or the cultures and practices of Muslims.

    I also don’t think the bridge model is a perfect explanation for bring different groups together. If this was the case then race relations in the South should be much more pleasant, because Blacks make up a much higher percent of the population there than in any other place in the US so the opportunity for Black-white interaction is much higher there, yet race relations there remain strained. In fact, interactions “the Other” may only reinforce certain stereotypes of the Other and preconceived differences and divisions may also be realized.

    Also, I don’t think the idea of Muslims being concentrated in certain areas (therefore limiting interaction with non-Muslims) is all that true either. Muslims live all over this country from rural areas to cities from the Mid-west to Alaska, etc. Sometimes you find masjids and Muslims in the most random little towns and places.

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    • Safia Farole

      Really good points were raised here. The example of Blacks in the South and how the bridge model doesn’t help to explain that sitatuion is another dubunking of the over-simplification that Wright offers. And you’re right – Muslims are all over the place.

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  5. SonicSoriyah

    Also, wouldn’t this mean fertile ground for an alliance between Muslims and gays in the shared fight against homophobia and Islamophobia? That would be interesting to see, but I don’t see that happening from either camp since homophobia is so rampant amongst Muslims and Islamophobia is so rampant amongst gays (see Jasbir Puar’s idea of “homonationalism”)

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    • Gavin

      good point, I think the facists like BNP are playing each off each other to spread hatred. I dont know of any gay people who had a problem with muslims before hearing about the gay teenagers in Iran. If Islam becomes more gay friendly it will be welcomed more in Europe.

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  6. Owen

    One interesting point worth considering is: are muslims willing to discard their own homophobia after having suffered from Islamophobia? By and large, Islam is one of the most anti-gay religion in the world.

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see muslims becoming more gay friendly for a change.

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    • Siraaj

      Hi Owen,

      Following religious doctrine which speaks against homosexual behavior does not make one homophobic. It would be like saying that because Islam speaks out against heterosexual intimacy outside of marriage, we are also heterophobic.

      The reality is that our religion teaches us that these behaviors are abhorrent to our Creator and that we should abstain from them. But by and large, in the West, we deal with both those who engage in such behaviors amicably and respectfully. Even if we disagree with such private behaviors, it’s the business of those engaged in it, not ours. Respect us, and we will respect you.

      Where homophobia comes in is when hating the sin turns into hating the sinner as well. I believe there have been a number of high profile cases where this has led to either the murder of gay individuals, or suicide of such individuals due to social pressure.

      So, in summary, I don’t think disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle choice necessarily leads to discriminating and harming them.

      Siraaj

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  7. satyr

    @Siraaj “So, in summary, I don’t think disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle choice necessarily leads to discriminating and harming them.”

    But is that, what we say about islam ,and people disagreeing with islam ?.

    Maybe a lot of socalled islamophoebes, just do not agree with the message in islam, even find it abhorrent to their values. Especially homosexuals, since they see their peers persecuted and executed in OIC countries.

    On the other hand you dont choose to be gay, the way you choose to become a muslim. The same with skin color or handicaps. You dont choose that yourself.

    Islam is a choice by the individual. Whereby he accpets the morale and codes inherent in the Quoran, hadhitts, shariah etc.

    You are free to leave the faith of islam and convert to hinduism or become a catholic and vice versa in america. In that way ones religion is never ones race, but like an ideology like scientology, communism or fascism….

    People who dont agree with the message or the way an islamic society works according to islam, including shariah and womens legal staues etc should be able to openly critizie those values without being called bigots or racist.

    We are talking about ideological differences about how society should evolve, and a lot think that the islamic way is very wrong, or they oppose it and talk against it as is their right.

    Racism is not disagreeing with the values of islam and staiting so in public.

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    • Siraaj

      Hi Satyr,

      Thanks for the response. I believe that the idea that homosexuality is a genetic trait is one that is still debated, but leaving that aside, assuming that one has homosexual tendencies due to genetics, the lifestyle remains a choice.

      While it is true that religious identity is a choice, in the West, it is also a right. Therefore, to say that it’s ok to be Islamophobic (i.e. discriminatory) towards Muslims because of they are exercising their right to freedom of religion is nonsensical.

      If one wishes to hold negative views of and disagree with the religion itself, that’s the business of the individual – they have that right and Muslims are not trying to block that. What we care about is discrimination made against Muslims because they are Muslim.

      Siraaj

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      • Owen

        “I believe that the idea that homosexuality is a genetic trait is one that is still debated, but leaving that aside, assuming that one has homosexual tendencies due to genetics, the lifestyle remains a choice.”

        It baffles and frustrates me to see that there are still people nowadays who think that being gay is a lifestyle choice. One only needs to ask another gay person to find out if he or she had indeed chosen to be gay. In fact, one can also ask oneself: did you choose to be straight? To suggest that homosexuality is a choice is hurtful and harmful to the gay community who have suffered, just as the muslim community has suffered, the various discrimination and prejudice in society. To say that homosexuality is a choice implies that the gay person chooses this lifestyles, it is his or her own choice, hence he DESERVES the prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and the harm and threats to his or her life.

        I concur to what Satyr had said and thank Satyr for his eloquent comments.

        And I would really expect the muslim community which has experienced this deep level of prejudice at this period of time, to look deep down within themselves, and to see that they themselves have very often become the perpetrators of hatred, discrimination and bigotry against other minority groups themselves.

        The gay community doesn’t hate the muslim community. And there are evidently gay muslims around too. But the muslim community clearly vilified and demonized the gay community all this while, and this is obviously a gross act of injustice.

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      • Siraaj

        Hi Owen,

        Holding homosexual feelings may or may not be genetic – I don’t have the academic credentials to discuss the issue intelligently, so it’s not my place to make the attempt. Nor have I read the research conclusively proving it, so I take a neutral stance on nature or nurture in that part of the discussion.

        But in terms of lifestyle, that’s all choice. As a heterosexual, my lifestyle choices can reflect one that keeps intimate behavior within marriage, takes it outside of marriage, or not at all – self-imposed celibacy.

        As I mentioned in my response to you earlier, disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle choice doesn’t have to entail discriminating against them. There are plenty of practicing Christians who disagree with my choice of Islam as my religion and disagree with my rejecting Jesus as the son of God – that doesn’t make them Islamophobic, anymore than my rejection of homosexuality makes me homophobic.

        The problem is when we are all given specific rights under the law of the land, and those rights are violated by others due to lifestyle choices we have the right to make.

        Siraaj

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      • Omar

        Hi Owen,

        Firstly, thank you for your frank discussion.

        As Siraj explained, we see this as an unnatural behaviour detested by God. Regardless of whether the attraction is a choice or not, if something is morally wrong, having a desire for it – no matter how strong or built in – does not justify acting upon that desire.

        For example, men might be attracted to beautiful women, and desire to have relations with them outside of marriage, or to cheat on their wives, but acting upon this desire is a choice, and a sin within Islam. There are also countless examples of people who have had homosexual urges, but got over it, and ended up in happy heterosexual marriages.

        We do not drink, and see alchohol as a sin and a social ill. But we do not scorn or shun all those who drink. It is their choice.

        To make this clearer from your perspective, suppose a man and his sister were attracted to each other (the BBC had a couple of articles on real cases of this relationship in Germany and Austria). They had no choice in this attraction, it just happened. When you fall in love, you have no choice, you just want that person and nobody else. And he decides to have a vasectomy so there are no genetic risks. Does that mean it is ok to act upon that desire?

        Almost any social deviancy you can think of can be justified through an uncontrollable desire (which is often created as a result of long term exposure to unhealthy external factors). In fact, it almost always is a desire that is out of one’s hands to control. What is a choice, is turning it into reality. Controlling one’s desires is a value integral to the Islamic ethos, and downplayed by secular liberalism which focuses on individual freedom.

        I do not mean to offend you or be confrontational, and apologies if I came off that way. I am simply being intellectually honest. We will not change our religion or our morality on these issues, and will not water down our faith to accommodate the current trends. But we are more than willing to cooperate with others who have different world views and lifestyles we disagree with, on the common good and positive values we all share, and have been doing that for a long time.

        There is plenty we agree on, and we need not dwell on our points of difference.

        peace

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  8. Ify Okoye

    Interesting case here of a school board member forced to resign for anti-gay comments, somehow, I doubt there would be much furor is he substituted gay for Muslim, although maybe, as the comments were pretty egregious.

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  9. satyr

    Still being gay is not a free choice, like being black, white or yellow, even redhaired etc.

    Being christian, muslim, hindu or catholic is not something you are born with. Its an opinion like being republican, democrat, You can discard your faith, but you cant discard ther color of your skin eyes.

    Opinions arent fixed, they can change. Every muslim cant chose to convert to any other faith, or even nonfaith, in america.

    So opposed to blacks or yellows who cant change and arent responsible themselves for their genes, muslims can change or accept criticism, as they themselves can be opposed to others way of living.

    A muslim can be any color of skin. A black can only have one color. You can be muslim today and atheist tomorrow. Its your own choice

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    • ummousama

      Still being gay is not a free choice, like being black, white or yellow, even redhaired etc

      Oh yes, it is a free choice! The colour of the skin is not though! And, even if it is an urge, you have the choice to act on it or no. It all depends upon your values.

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  10. Homophobic

    Assalamu alaikum,

    I would like to address the issue of lumping muslims and homosexuals in the same group. It is not appropriate from our religious points of view and also the media supports homosexuals and their behavior, while condemns muslims and makes up their own perception of Islam.

    As muslims, we cannot go and endorse homosexuals in the media and daily lives because this is endorsing their behavior publicly. This leads to many problems.

    For the youth who generally want to be accepted in every way, look at the message spread by the people on the media and take it that society can accept a different and perverse sexual life. Some of the youth fall prey to this message and get involved with the homosexual acts and when it surfaces, they find that people are not accepting and perhaps commit suicide, or cause harm to themselves.

    Instead of feeling shame as any person doing harm to themselves, they feel like they should be accepted because this is what the media is telling them.

    I know how this works, because before I was muslim, I didn’t see anything wrong with homoseuality and had a few close friends who were. After they “came out” boldly and bravely as they say, one of them ended up at the hospital and rehab for suicidal attempts. I was confused because no one had condemned his actions, and mostly he was a well liked guy at the school.

    So as a muslim, I believe the most appropriate thing to do is make dua for these people who practice these acts, wish guidance for them and speak out against their actions.

    And I urge you all to watch perished nations and the story of Lut by Muhammad Alshareef.

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    • Gavin

      People are either born straight or gay, it is not chosen and both are equal. The levels of homophobia in islam is a cause of islamaphobia. If muslims treated all people equally regardless of gender , sexuality, religion ect there would be a lot less problems. People in the west are fearfull of muslims because of the threat to human rights and equality. If you want to be accepted as equal you must acept others too, I have no problems with religious beliefs but when it comes to pushing them on others there are huge problems. Human rights are more important tan religious befiefs

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  11. Sagal

    Somehow the premise that one cant help but be gay is bogus, in my opinion. I have always wondered why some people equate the color of skin to being gay. We do have choices in life. I personally feel that a lot has to do with the environment one is brought up. Lets look at Hollywood. It is practically normalized and almost campaigned being gay. Almost every show (drama or comedy) has a gay character where I found myself sympathizing with their plight. This is from someone who when she came to Europe saw couples (heterosexual) kissing in public as the most shocking ever. On the issue of dealing with a homosexual person, of course I meet them at work, they are neighbours, part of society. Whilst I hate the sin, I would treat them respectfully as it is their business. Ultimately it is between them and their Lord whatever they do behind closed doors. I just wish they would just keep it there, behind closed doors instead of being shoved in out faces.

    As for muslims in the public arena, most dont even associate themselves with issues that involves the everyday muslims. I am talking about the UK ones. Sport celebrities (some of whom i used to follow) worry about where their next Rolls is coming from rather than publicizing and standing up to islamophobes.

    Allah knows best.

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    • Owen

      “Somehow the premise that one cant help but be gay is bogus, in my opinion.”

      Did YOU choose to be straight? When did you choose to be straight?

      There are many people who continues to demonize islam because of their ignorance of the religion. This is truly unfortunate. At the same time, there are many people too, and many muslims in particular, who also continue to demonize and condemn the lesbian and gay community, calling their lifestyle a perverse and unnatural one. This too, is truly unfortunate, especially coming from a religion which is supposed to preach justice, fairness, and the importance of knowledge.

      It is indeed baffling why people still regard homosexuality as a choice. Would anyone voluntarily choose to live such a difficult life, and expose oneself to harm and threat of being killed? Would you, Sagal? Would you, Siraaj? Would you, homophobe?

      There have been countless scientific papers documenting the homosexuality in the animal kingdom, indicating that homosexuality is indeed part of the spectrum of normal sexuality. There have also been evidence pointing out the futility of homosexuality conversion experiments because human sexuality is simply not a pathology that can or needed to be treated. Various psychology/psychiatric scientific papers have pointed out that homosexuality is not a pathology. On the other hand, HOMOPHOBIA is.

      Just look at countries which have laws protecting gay rights, where the society treats their gay citizens equally (I repeat, equally, not specially) like any other citizens. Their gay and lesbian citizens are able to live lives that are just as productive and fruitful as their heterosexual counterparts. Being gay is not an obstacle to fulfilling one’s greatest potential as a human being. Being gay is not an obstacles to being happy and well adjusted.

      On the other hand, there are many young gay people committing suicide. Why? This is precisely because there are just too many callous, ignorant, cruel people out there who would not cease telling them that they are sinful, that they are wrong, abnormal and perverse. These unfortunate young people, fully realizing that they do not have a choice to choose their sexuality, are now stuck and on finding out that there is no way out, kill themselves. Would anyone choose to die if they have the choice to choose to be straight? What injustice! But please see that muslims are guilty in perpetuating this cruelty. Everyone who has voiced out their abhorrence and “spoke out” against gay people are guilty in causing the death of thousands of these innocent young people.

      There is ABSOLUTELY no valid basis in saying that homosexuality is sinful, other than “because the book says so”. I challenge, anyone here, who is a thinking human being, to tell me, on what basis do you say that homosexuality is sinful. None of the arguments given so far by anyone I know can withstand scrutiny.

      Perhaps this is a time for everyone here to learn a lesson.

      Nobody is asking Islam to endorse homosexuality. But it is simply unacceptable for muslims to continue perpetuating the myth that homosexuality is sinful. Learn to start respecting people who do not believe in the same things as you (ie: stop calling them sinful), and then people will start respecting you and your religion.

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      • Siraaj

        Hi Owen,

        Would love to continue the discussion, but I think Safia wants us to stay on topic, and I’ll have to respect that from here on out :)

        Siraaj

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      • Homophobic

        I think you do bring some legitimate concerns one outside of Islam might have over the issue of sins. The issue is very lengthy and really requires ones humility, listening and understanding none of which I feel you will offer. But if you would, perhaps a muslim brother can volunteer to explain and you can exchange e-mails and have a nice discussion.

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      • Owen

        Islam is guilty of asking for the acceptance it will not provide others.

        Very sad indeed.

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      • DrM

        There is a huge difference between acceptance of faith and spirituality and carnal filth, and your inability to understand that difference is not only sad, but a reflection of failed society with no values.

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    • Gavin

      One question, what age were you when you decided to be straight? Answer= you never decided to be straight as it is not a choice, look after your own relationships and do not interfere in others

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    • samaritan

      thats kind of what everyone wishes muslims to do.
      why equate muslim to the very discrimination they cant help but feel proud to claim?

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  12. Imran Khan

    The whole campaign of portraying American Muslims as potential threat to United States, a country of which they have been a part and parcel now for decades, by media outlets in general and Fox News in particular is nothing but a campaign that is based on an irrational yet valid “fear”. That this fear is irrational, albeit at some level it could be classified as somewhat rational, is not too far-fetched to understand. I would describe it as “valid” due to the fact that there is no denying the obvious link between the violent acts perpetrated in the name of Islam and the civilian casualties that have occurred due to these acts. Again, my intent is not to delve into an academic argument that refutes the militant ideology which allows indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations, but as a Muslim living in the United States with my entire family, who has invested so much here and has too much at stake to lose if the militants are allowed to sabotage “public opinion”, I am extremely concerned about the potential fallout that may result if we were to see another “911 style” attack in this country. As Muslims, it would be very naive for us to expect that our enemies will ever show us in a positive light. Even if there were no militants and no attacks, they would still seek to undermine us as such is the nature of some men. However, as individuals and as a group it is incumbent upon us to fight this negative steriotypical image that shows us as potential terrorists capable of committing the worst of atrocities in the name of Islam. All of us are already doing this at some level with our daily interactions with our co-workers and neighbors. My point here is that there is no weapon more potent to counter the effect of negative steriotyping than displaying the morals of Islam as conveyed to us by our prophet (peace be upon him). If we, by our word and action, prove to American laity that we are a civilized nation that lives by a moral code which rejects extremism and militancy it would help raise the question in their minds as to what exactly then are the roots of this militant extremism they see on TV and read in newspapers, a core question to this entire debate, that is oftentimes obfuscated by media linking it to an out-of-context explanation of certain verses of the Quran that deal with a specific situation. In summary, education coupled by positive societal interaction is the key to shape the public opinion.

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    • chuck hird

      What Mr Kahn says in his comments is what I want to believe, however I continue to be bombarded by quotations from the Muslim Holy Books that seem to contradict the idea that Islam is a peaceful religion. I am struggling to sort these things out.

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  13. John

    Islamophobia, Homophiobia= childish name-calling & intellectual laziness by liberals who are losing an argument.

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    • DrM

      What makes you think you ever had an argument? Islamophobia is a reality, not “intellectual laziness,” something which the [edited] of the Tea Party exhibit. The criminals pumping out Islamophobia today are the same snakes who invented the WMD lies about Iraq.

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      • Owen

        Just as Islamophobia is a reality, Homophobia that YOU yourself exhibit is as much a reality as well. The criminal pumping out Homophobia are the same snakes who tortured and murdered hundreds and thousands of innocent homosexual individuals in muslim countries.

        There is a huge difference between acceptance of basic human rights and fanatical religious dogmatism, and your inability to understand that difference is not only sad, but a reflection of religious extremism with no respect for democratic values.

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  14. christinej

    I think one key difference is that there is no gay movement that is going about planning assassinations, bomb attacks, putting lectures on the internet discussing how one ought to kill the non-homosexuals etc. etc.

    There is no gay ideology or book that says to be a good homosexual, you must convert or kill others who are not gay.

    That to me, as a non-Muslim, is a HUGE difference. What have I to fear from a gay person? Absolutely nothing. Nothing. Their choice is their own and any judgment on them is between them and their God. I have no influence and no bearing and no remit to interfere beyond if they were to ask my opinion and I would give it and I would say that in my opinion (as with sexual relations outside marriage) it – for reasons that perhaps are beyond our limited understanding – it is damaging to their soul and if they are concerned with the non-material aspect of their life and wish to promote that side of their life, they need to choose celibacy or chastity as an option.

    Muslims, on the other hand, can see me as a legitimate target to murder and kill by virtue of the fact that I am not Muslim (or Muslima) so do I fear Muslims? Absolutely. 100%.

    I can realise that perhaps not all Muslims hold on to this “jihad” anti-kuffar agenda but how can I tell which one does and which one doesn’t? I can’t.

    So you may label me as an Islamophobe, I will grudgingly accept that term – although I do not accept exactly the “phobe” part because phobia is understood to be an “irrational fear” and I do not accept that my fear is irrational at all, I think it is extremely rational.

    I am well aware of the “us and them” sermons preached in mosques across the UK, I am well aware of websites like IslamicAwareness with constant posts detailing and espousing hatred of the kuffar and praise for Al-Awlaki and Roshanara Choudry.

    I have also recently travelled to Thailand where I was surprised to see pictures of two Thai plantation workers beheaded (not even on the first page) on their way back from the fields due to them not being Muslim. Explain that, why don’t you and then explain why it is a “phobia”. These are individual Muslims and Muslimas choosing to murder random civilians, can I tell whether you are a Roshonara Choudry? A Umar Abdulmuttalab? Or any number of the faceless criminals who attack Christians and Animists in Nigeria or Buddhists Thais in Thailand or Spanish commuters in Madrid or people celebrating birthdays and eating in Mumbai hotels or Americans going to work in financial buildings or dancing Australians in Bali or a whole cosmopolitan section of Londoners on tubes and buses?

    Why is it that we have every single other religion and I don’t even know HOW many nationalities all living peacefully here in London? How is it that Sikhs, Jews, Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, Agnostics, Hare Krishnas, Animists, Wiccans, Jehovah’s Witnesses et al can all live in peace together without threat, without fear? What makes Islam so violent, so different, so prejudiced, so bigoted, so problematic?

    So is it to be said that I am irrationally afraid? Really? I am not afraid of any other group, regardless of skin colour (I am white btw), so there is no skin-based racism in my make-up or outlook.

    Indeed, I fear Nazism and some forms of Communism as much as I fear Islamism and those are predominantly white creeds. These ideologies, in the past, seemed to promote the same sort of utopic outlook which excuses any action, regardless of how violent, with an “end justifies the means” rebuttal. That if it takes a million or more deaths of women, children, men or whatever to bring about the “caliphate”, the “mir” world communism, the “purified Aryan” world then that is absolutely fine.

    I disagree and what is more I fear ideologies like that. I always will. So if I see someone walking around clearly demonstrating by their clothing or discussions that they choose such an ideology, should I not fear them?

    Islam, from the point of view of an outsider – a “kaffir” as you may like to call me, is violent, clearly violent and clearly promotes violence against the “other”. How can you then justify calling me “phobic”? Would a Jew be Germanphobic if he feared the Nazi ideology that deliberately discriminated against him – simply because not all Germans ascribed to it? Would an African in the 19th century be Europeanphobic if he feared his capture and future slavery simply because some Europeans disagreed with the policy of slavery? I don’t think so, the ideology is clearly there and the targets are clearly delineated and any Jew who remained in Germany thinking, “Oh, but this ideology doesn’t mean ME” or any African (had he the chance and education to know of it) who went about thinking but “slavery or racism will not apply to ME” or any Russian aristocrat who thought that the communist ideology was not directed at them was clearly idiotic! It DOES apply to you, it may not happen to you but clearly the ideology applies to you – you ARE the target, whether it happens to you or not. It is spelt out. Word for word. It is being said, loud and clear.

    In the same way, am I not clearly – as an English kaffir – am I not clearly the target of extremist Islamic fundamentalism and if not me, an educated, free-thinking, English female with independent financial means and wealth and freedom of religion then who exactly?

    I am sure you all have your own views on this and your own views on American/UN/European troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan but this is simply to show the view from the side of the non-Muslim and one who is an Islamophobe. It may or may not be useful to you.

    I, personally, do not wish for any more Muslims to be allowed to immigrate into the UK, that is how strongly I feel on the matter. I think the presence of the burka, the intimidation by Anjem Choudry and similar, the “no-go areas” for non-Muslims in parts of Birmingham, the preaching of jihad, al-takkiyah, dar-al-harb, dhimmitude, stoning, women inequality in law, child marriage, sharia law – these are all concepts that I believe to be harmful to our society in the UK and not just to myself as an individual. The providing of halal food in schools and arenas and events where the majority are not necessarily Muslim and the forced wearing of the niqab by private Islamic schools in the UK – these are all detrimental to the British way of life. The apologies by police for recruitment adverts which featured a “black” police dog (that offended Muslims), the changing of police uniforms to incorporate the hijab, the insistence that non-Muslims respect fasting restrictions in some councils – these are all unacceptable encroachments into the British way of life. So, equally, I am “phobic” of these constant pushing of Islamic attitudes. Personally, I have seen from afar (only) Islamic countries that have sharia and I am revolted and disgusted by them. The corruption, dishonesty and vile hypocrisy not to mention the violence against women, children and consenting homosexuals is not something that I wish to have ‘imported’ and is something, again, that I am “phobic” about importing into the UK.

    The values of Islam are not our values. I dislike Islamic values as I understand them and I wish them to remain far, far away from British values where we support our citizens, offer housing, welfare, freedom, healthcare, education, opportunity for all regardless of faith or skin colour or gender or sexuality. Those are values that I support. Doing the right thing without fuss or trumpeting. Indeed I met a Hindu gentleman the other day, who said that in the Hindu faith all their teachings constantly speak about providing for all and the innate “dignity” of the human and yet when he steps off the plane in Delhi, he sees nothing put that dignity ground into the very dirt on the street where the impoverished children beg to survive and here in the UK, where nobody trumpets religion those very values put into practice daily and hourly. That is the Britain I love. I don’t wish it to change.

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    • Safia Farole

      christinej, please try getting to know average Muslims. Honestly, when you do that (i.e. share tea and crumpets) with every-day, law abiding, proud-to-be-British Muslims, then all of your fears of Muslims will disspear.

      And since you appear to be so abhored by extremist Muslim activity, check out the bloody history of Christian extremists (i.e. the likes of Christopher Columbus, the crusaders, the conquestadors) while your at it. Notice how I am astute enough to write “christian extremists” because I have a lot of respect for other religions, and I don’t attempt to conflate average, every-day, British Christians with extremists and terrorists who happen to be Christian. I expect you to do the same.

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      • Owen

        I would like to point out to you that the “bloody history of Christian extremists” happened in the past, which is hundreds of years ago. Whereas the bloody carnage of Muslim extremists and terrorists are happening now, and is probably growing in frequency and intensity.

        It will be more helpful if moderate muslims can own up to this reality of their religion because only then can they attempt to reform their religion from within. Bringing up history and trying to equate what is happening now with what is happening in the past is just a form of denial that will not help at all. Just own it up and do something about it, instead of trying to put the blame on others.

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      • DrM

        The bloody carnage of white western terrorists is happening now, Owen. Yes, it’s true you’re the one in denial, the vast majority of terrorists in the world are NOT Arabs or Muslims, they are white males from North America and Western Europe. Proof? Overwhelming empirical evidence, my dear ignoramus. To quote Samuel Huntington :

        The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do —— The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 51.

        The question is are westerners capable of reforming themselves?

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    • Gavin

      One one level a very good point, gay people do not wish to kill or harm anyone and do not infringe on other peoples rights. I dont understand why ignorant people feel the need to attack innocent gay people they dont even know. Some muslims do, what we see in the media must be the worst type of facist , homophobic, sexist, violent, terrorist muslim. However, they cant all be like that. If they were all extremists we would be in the middle of world war 3 as the free world defeated nazism and will not surrender to islam. I dont believe in islam but a lot of people do and we should respect their befliefs as long as they are not fanatics. Give them a chance, time will tell if we can co exist

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    • Hazara

      “I have also recently travelled to Thailand where I was surprised to see pictures of two Thai plantation workers beheaded (not even on the first page) on their way back from the fields due to them not being Muslim.”

      Unless you have actually visited southern Thailand (and no, Phuket and Bangkok do not count so don’t even), I don’t think you should comment on something you have clearly no clue about.

      Try reading this article to give you a better idea on the conflict in southern Thailand which should help you avoid the Muslim/non-Muslim dichotomy.

      This isn’t a Muslim vs. non-Muslim conflict, FYI.

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  15. christinej

    Hello Safia

    Thank you so much for your response. I was genuinely unsure whether the comment would be moderated and I am glad that it has not been because, after all, here is my chance to get to know an average Muslim as you suggest! :-)

    I would be the first to criticise, (in fact as a schoolchild I did much of that, much to the annoyance of my schoolteachers!), the crusades and the cruelties and iniquities of the Inquisition and slavery and and all the indignities inflicted on Africans and on Jews by the Nazis. I absolutely loathe, with a passion, any sort of ideology that puts people into an “us and them” or, far worse, a human and less human. To me, the biggest and most evil thing that any human can do is to ‘dehumanise’. That is a sin beyond all others in my viewpoint. To say, as was said, that Africans weren’t “fully human” and therefore it was ‘okay’ for them to be treated worse than animals is disgusting beyond all belief. To say, as did the Nazis, that Jews were not quite human and therefore could be dragged into gas chambers and murdered and experimented on and discarded is the worst thing in the world. It is beyond inhumane. It is beyond it.

    So you see, my limited understanding of Islam (or perhaps more targeted Islamism, I don’t know and am not sure) is that it does EXACTLY that. Kuffar. Them. Other. Non-Muslim. Dhimmi. WRONG. Just my opinion… and not just wrong but terrifying and wrong.

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  16. christinej

    Hello again Safia

    I have just re-read my post and it comes across VERY strongly now that I read it again! A sort of an escaped plea or howl of fear, perhaps? What I did want to do was highlight to Muslims where the fear comes from in those who seem antipathetic to Islam (and I am always open to hearing the view from the other side) but I do also want to point out that I do believe the answer to fear is love and that hatred based on fear is always overcome by love rather than more hate. :-) I think you must be right, making connections and making friends and developing interaction, as you have mentioned, is clearly key.

    I wish we didn’t have these barriers imposed. You – me. Us – them. Ooooh, how I wish we didn’t have that!!! But I suppose it must be inevitable, it can’t be otherwise.

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  17. Safia Farole

    Thank you christinej for being open about this issue and about being willing to hear other points of view. Its is only when we as average citizens (and I start with myself, first and foremost) begin making these one-on-one connections that we can give these issues their due. These barriers have been imposed by extremist voices on both sides, and we as citizens can break them down. The barriers are not inevitable. Take care.

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    • christinej

      Thanks Safia

      And I would add that I have much empathy or sympathy (or I am not sure what the word is exactly that I mean) but I don’t like perhaps is the way to say it … the fact that in almost every media publication, anything that is connected with Muslim is connected with negative.

      I realise that it is partly inevitable because news generally tends to be about bad news or shocking news. We don’t hear about the person who has just had a great day, a promotion, a new baby child, a visit from an old friend, a marriage proposal or bought flowers for his wife — rather we hear about the person who was shot or mugged, or had a miscarriage of justice, or was corrupt or dishonest or inept… such is news! However, I do somewhat empathise in that every single time Muslim is mentioned in the press it IS mentioned in connection with bombings, violence, corruption etc. etc. and never (at least I have never seen) an article about a Muslim person saving a life, or doing something positive or uplifting and that must be very discouraging and disconcerting.

      Having said all that, I do wish somehow that Muslims would acknowledge the pressure that is emanating from the sections of the Muslim community that are so very anti-Britain, anti-anything that is not them/Muslim. Acknowledge would be the first part and then DO something, if possible, following that acknowledgement. Peer pressure is enormously influential but it seems the peer pressure is always going the other way — pressure to be seen to be anti-Western (perhaps that is not true and is just media bias?)

      And then, because I don’t want to be unfair explain or ask us to acknowledge things that are bugging or bothering you. There clearly needs to be more dialogue as you mentioned above but nobody wants to be held to ransom on either side – by threats of violence etc. etc.

      And I would be interested to know what you think of this point too — I don’t think the growth of Islamic extremism is connected with the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. I genuinely don’t think they are connected. I think they are two separate issues. The reason I think this is because I have a very close Nigerian friend and weirdly she is half Christian/half Muslim (although she is essentially non-religious those were the two religions of her parents) and often she would go and stay with her Muslim grandmother in one area of Nigeria and then, at other times, with her Christian grandmother. It wasn’t a problem when she was growing up — and yet now she tells me the violence is enormous between Muslim and non-Muslim (including Animist).

      To me, you cannot connect Nigeria with the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. The same goes for Thailand and all sorts of places and the last point to make is that more often than not, the people most affected by Islamic fundamentalist violence are other Muslims – whether that is Sufis or Ahmaddiyas or the whole Sunni/Shia (which I don’t entirely understand) conflict.

      So it seems to me, that there is a whole different agenda that is entirely unconnected with any war in Afghanistan or Iraq that is driving this extremism and that it is wrong to conflate the Iraq/Afghan situation with the rise in extremism.

      Having said all of that, these are prickly subjects and if you don’t wish to discuss them with someone like myself, who is pretty uninformed on this, then I respect that entirely! :-)

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  18. christinej

    Oh and I wanted to add that I like this site and I like your articles (I have read a few of them now) so I know I can come across as a bit intense or serious when I am worried about things or want to find out more about things — so I thought I better add that because one never really knows how one comes across!

    It is good to dismantle barriers. I do remember reading about two women in Rwanda one Hutu and one Tutsi who both having seen their own children hacked to death in front of their eyes by the other side, somehow managed to come together and cross those barriers. So surely, you are right, it is NOT inevitable.

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  19. Lami

    “the media supports homosexuals and their behavior, while condemns muslims and makes up their own perception of Islam.”

    Maybe homosexuals are generally more accepted than Muslims in the west because there aren’t gangs and governments of the former in the world demanding that everyone else become gay, and imprisoning or carrying our terrorist attacks against those who don’t comply. Not all or most Muslims by any means, but a violent, loud and influential minority.

    “There is a huge difference between acceptance of faith and spirituality and carnal filth, and your inability to understand that difference is not only sad, but a reflection of failed society with no values.”

    And still you wonder why so many people are reluctant to extend the sympathy you demand for Muslims you express such hatred against another minority. and so things continue as before.

    PS good thread nonetheless, Safia, and some interesting comments by most.

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