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RE: CNN “Cain’s message — Muslims need not apply” some thoughts on tactics & strategy for US Muslims

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Dear Dean of Comedy,

Asalaam Alaikum,

I am a fan, so please take my comments as constructive criticism, insha’Allah, a conversation starter for American Muslim activists to examine our messages, strategies and tactics.

In response to your piece on CNN, I would like to make the following points:

Point #1 – Please do not add fuel to a fire: “Not only is Cain’s policy regarding American Muslims morally wrong and illegal, how would it work from a practical standpoint? How could he tell if a person is Muslim? Job applicants could lie about their religion in order to have a chance at a job, especially in this tough economy.” – A major smear against our community is the “taqqiya” (lying to or deceiving of non-Muslims to get the upper hand over them) concept. It has been used so effectively with some segments of the population that they will not accept anything a Muslims says or does. The above quote actually will read to those folks as “see, I told you them Muzlims will lie to get what they want!”

Point #2 – Muslims should consider ourselves equal to anyone and everyone else: With regards to your analysis of Romney and McCain in 2007, McCain also said that cabinet level appointments should be based on merit and qualifications alone. This is a very American standard and one that Muslims should adopt so that we are not putting ourselves on the path to entitlement thinking. In 2007, Romney said that the American Muslim population was not significant enough to warrant a cabinet level appointment. So while Romney’s position has moved in a more just direction, Muslims should continue to focus on producing some of the best educated and most successful members of society. That is what we have done and what we must continue to do to determine our long-term success. The path Romney described in 2007 is one of a special interest group.

Point #3 – Islam & Muslim are not terms that equal to a race. Muslim diversity must be promoted: While I love the Reagan quote you used to close the article, the way you structured your piece conflates the very different forms of bigotry that Reagan saw fit to list as separate threats. Yes, the fact of the matter is that Herman Cain is against Muslims as a group. Yes, the majority of the American Civil Rights movement is one of racial tension. While anti-Semitism provides a middle ground, Muslims do not have a single racial, ethnic  or cultural background which makes the defamation we face much closer to the founding fathers concerns over religious persecution.

American Muslims are as diverse as America itself so what better way to respond to the so-called “constitutionalists” than to show them how they are going against the Framers of the Constitution desires for our nation?

We are not a race and should be very careful of using racial analogies to frame our modern issues. Want proof? Look to the same Gingrich statements you paraphrase in your piece. Gingrich makes ridiculous analogies between Islam, Communism and Nazism. Silly arguments like this can only be made if Muslims are allowing ourselves to be seen as a monolith. Racializing Islam sets the stage for the artificial analogy between Muslims and Nazis and Communists because the rich diversity of our Ummah is ignored and we are then seen as a tribe rather than a religion. The argument has become that by virtue of simply being Muslim (if seen as a monolith) we have joined a totalitarian doctrine. Our diversity of thought, diversity of religious interpretation along with the greater Muslim community’s richness of spanning vast ethnic divides can all be seen with suspicion rather than the admiration it rightfully merits.

Point #4 – Good work on not using tired, problematic terminology: I applaud you for not using the term Islamophobia, which re-enforces the problems I list in point 3. The use of the term ultimately leads to the logical conclusion of Huntington’s the clash of civilizations theory. When we say that fear of Muslims is Islamophobia, non-Muslims can be made to believe that Islam itself is the problem. This is because we did not address the fear. It does not matter if the fear is misplaced, it only matters that it exists. By simply telling someone who is terrified of small spaces that they are claustrophobic, I have not given them any therapy, I gave their fear a label. As someone not suffering from claustrophobia, it may give me a sense of satisfaction to know a term that describes the condition, but did it help me deal with the claustrophobe?

This open letter is nothing more than an opportunity to discuss some key strategic and tactical issues. I did in fact really appreciate your piece and applaud your effort. Thank you for a great opportunity to examine how we see ourselves and how we challenge anti-Muslim defamation. Thanks for making us laugh and by all means keep destroying stereotypes with humor!

JazakAllahu Khairan,

Iesa Galloway

Paul "Iesa" Galloway is a native born Texan. He was recently called "the Yoda of interfaith affairs" by a colleague from his daytime gig. After hours Iesa serves as a consultant, messaging strategist and trainer on media, government and community relations. Iesa is a product of the "Military Brat" experience of the 1990's on US Army bases in Germany he has traveled extensively, for extended periods in Kenya, Hungary and Communist Poland on missionary trips, visited Communist East Germany with the Boy Scouts of America, as well as enjoyed time in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland and Austria. Since embracing Islam, Iesa was asked to be the founding Executive Director of CAIR-Houston, where he served the community from 2002 to 2006, he has completed the Hajj pilgrimage, participated in an interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Society for Biblical Studies and completed a study abroad program on the history of Islamic Spain, Morocco and Andalusian Philosophy with the University of Houston. Iesa's education is rooted in History and Public Relations and he has a interfaith and multiracial background.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abu Sumaiyah

    June 19, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    You are writing a letter addressing a non-Muslim. it is not appropriate to wish peace and blessings to a non-Muslim. It is also not appropriate to ask Allah to reward him with good. For example, when the Prophet of Allah heard a Muslim sneeze he would invoke the blessings and or mercy of Allah upon him. However, he would not do the same for the non-Muslim.

    Therefore, why are you saying something which the Prophet did not? Let’s refer to the Quran and sunnah as the best source for our deeds and actions.

    • Avatar

      Abu Fatimah

      June 20, 2011 at 7:45 AM

      where is your evidence that he is a non muslim? He has a muslim name so i would not be so quick to call him a non muslim as you could end up a non muslim yourself. watch your tongue, dont be so loose with these kinds of things, its very dangerous, fear Allah and fear the hellfire

    • Avatar

      Carlos

      June 20, 2011 at 7:41 PM

      Abu Sumaiyah, with all due respect, you are proving the point of Islamaphobes.

  2. Avatar

    Iesa Galloway

    June 20, 2011 at 2:25 AM

    Asalaam Alaikum Abu Sumaiyah,

    I am not ready to make takfir (saying someone is not a Muslim) on Dean Obeidallah. Insha’Allah you actually got something out of the strategy and tactics suggestions (which was the point of the article).

    Iesa

  3. Avatar

    ahlam

    June 20, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Who’s the guy in the pic? Im sure its not Dean..

    JazakAllah for the article!

    • Avatar

      Iesa Galloway

      June 20, 2011 at 4:00 PM

      That is Herman Cane… he is a former pizza restaurant chain CEO and a middle ranking presidential contender trying to secure the Republican party’s support to challenge Obama in the 2012 election.

  4. Avatar

    Carlos

    June 20, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    U.S. Constitution, Amendment I: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    U.S. Constitution, Article VI: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

    These, my Muslim friends, are the only two mentions of religion in the U.S. Constitution. The fact that our Constitution was written by learned men of the Enlightenment cannot be doubted. The U.S. is, without a doubt, a secular nation-state, regardless of what the Tea Party faithful or the Republican right wing or al Qaeda would have us believe. This is not, a “Christian nation,” as so many incorrectly say.

    You, Muslims, should be thankful for that, as should anyone else who does not want to follow the majority’s religion. You are free to practice your religion as you see fit. I am also thankful, as an atheist, that I am free to be free of religion. Nobody can punish me for blasphemy, whether because I disbelieve God or Allah or Zeus or Thor or Isis or David Koresh or L. Ron Hubbard or etc.

    For Herman Cain to say he would require a loyalty oath from Muslims officials goes directly against the Constitution. There is already an oath or affirmation, that all officials must take, to support and defend the Constitution. To require a special oath or affirmation from members of one religious group is patently unconstitutional. No religious oath or affirmation shall be required. As long as an official promises to support and defend the laws of this land, one is free to follow one’s conscience in all other matters. In America, one’s religious or racial or ethnic or tribal group is legally irrelevant. Group politics leads only to conflict. Freedom of the individual is paramount. Individuals are judged upon their own merit.

    The founding fathers of this country were truly enlightened. I am proud to be part of the American tradition. I hope you are too.

  5. Avatar

    sebkha

    June 20, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    I think Dean’s words are being taken out of context in Point #1. He’s absolutely right that there’s no practical way to prove someone’s a Muslim if they were to lie on a job application and say they weren’t Muslim when they really are. None of that has anything to do with taqqiya. It’s just that someone’s “Muslimness” is not the kind of thing that comes up in a background check they way a criminal history would, or a check to see if someone really graduated from the university they say they did on a job app. It would require an extremely convoluted reading of Dean’s words to get anything remotely suggestive of taqqiya from what he wrote, but that is not his fault, and not his problem. The nutters are going to believe whatever they want, regardless of anything Dean or anyone else says.

    Point #3 doesn’t make any sense to me either. Did the author actually read the Ronald Reagan quote in question? Here it is again, with certain emphasis placed on words Iesa seemed to have missed.
    “We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever.”
    Bigotry is not merely about racism. It’s any kind of prejudice against another group of people, who are distinct as a group, either through gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnic origin, etc. The quote specifically addresses religious bigotry, in addition to racism, and all other forms of bigotry. Dean
    does not allege Herman Cain’s bigotry has anything to do with race, or assert that Islam = a race, or any other such nonsense, neither through the quote he chose, nor in any of his other words. Dean doesn’t make any racial analogies at all. I think the quote is fitting. It covers all kinds of bigotry that exist in the United States, and condemns them equally. It does not lump religious bigotry in with racism at all. They are two separate issues, and Dean never makes any attempt to suggest that they are the same.

    • Avatar

      Iesa Galloway

      June 21, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      Asalaam Alaikum Sebkha,

      JazakAllahu Khairan for bringing the discussion back to the article. Perhaps I was not clear enough in stating that this article is not a critique of Dean. My point is to examine the language and the strategy American Muslims often employ both consciously and subconsciously in our messaging to others.

      In order to examine how we communicate with non-Muslims we have to understand a very basic element of communication. That is what is important is not what we meant to convey, it is what the reader/audience understood from our statement. True “nutters are going to believe whatever they want.” With people like that a policy of containment is the best approach. What we are failing to get here is that many Muslim haters have very large platforms due to their cross-pollinating with overlapping demographics. In short our statements should be crafted to minimize the opportunity for foes to capitalize on them.

      Now with regards to taqqiya, the idea that some Muslim haters employ is one of inoculation. This is similar to when with the Qurayesh would tell people to put cotton in their ears so they would not hear the Prophet. The difference is that the Qurayesh could not call the Prophet a liar as he had already earned the name El Amin. There are reasonable people out there who have never met a Muslim. All they know of Islam is what the news and people they know tell them about us. Remember that we are less than 1.5% of the US population and we are concentrated in urban settings. With that in mind look at the statement “Job applicants could lie about their religion in order to have a chance at a job, especially in this tough economy.” This statement would/could actually reinforce someone’s fears.

      It was never about Dean suggesting taqqiya, that would be missing the point. If we are to message to others than we should craft messaging that would avoid reinforcing other peoples fear-mongering.

      About point #3, you do realize that your argument against my first point leads to supporting the third point? You said, ” there’s no practical way to prove someone’s a Muslim” and ” someone’s “Muslimness” is not the kind of thing that comes up in a background check “.

      Dean said in his piece:

      “My Italian grandparents encountered similar discrimination when they immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and were met with signs informing them: “Italians Need Not Apply,” meaning they would not be hired simply because they were Italian.

      And before them, Irish immigrants were infamously “welcomed” with signs telling them: “Irish Need Not Apply.”

      Now, Herman Cain wants to bring us back to the good ole’ days of hateful discrimination against an American minority group — to return us to a time before the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination by employers based on religion.”

      So yes there is a leap from a racial group to a religious minority, one might call that a racial analogy.

      Again my point is not about Dean. It is about messaging accurately and for the largest possible cross-segment of the population. The key idea here is to highlight our diversity.

      Lastly on this when it comes to the language “keeping it real” and referencing the civil rights act of 1964 (which thank Allah the drafters of the bill included religious prosecution) the main issue the act was designed to address was systematic racial oppression.

      Here is another way to see the issue of the quote :

      ““We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism,anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever.””

      and that is to understand that it lists these as different types of bigotry. I agree the quote is fitting and does not lump religious bigotry with racism it actually separates them as distinct, even unique problems. So while Dean may not have meant to conflate them, I am saying that Muslim activists and especially our spokespersons in the mass media should avoid conflating them as well.

      In short, embrace the diversity in the Muslim communities, message to audiences (emphasis on multiple groups) and do not define ourselves by our opposition to something, instead we should stand on our principles before and during times when we must oppose hate or injustice.

      Iesa

      • Avatar

        sebkha

        June 21, 2011 at 2:31 PM

        Wa salam Iesa, and thank you for your reply. I don’t disagree with you at all that very special care needs to be taken in the approach and words chosen, etc when a Muslim like Dean is approaching an audience that includes many non-Muslims, and many of those non-Muslims have never even met a Muslim before. Everywhere you turn, there are plenty of bigots just looking to tear our words out of context, or distort our messages to tear down our credibility. I don’t know if I necessarily agree that the only way to counter this though is to engage in increasingly complex verbal acrobatics. It’s like we’re being forced to all be tightrope walkers while the rest of society gets to walk on normal ground, and now we’re being told that the tightrope is about to be whittled down to just a few scant threads. That’s not sustainable. And I don’t know if I agree that it’s even helpful to our position in general. If what we’re speaking about is true, if the message that’s being conveyed is faithful to the fundamentals of our Deen, the truth of that message stands on its own. A balance needs to be struck, but I don’t know if that’s possible if every Muslim is completely ham-strung in their efforts to speak up and out about Islam because we’re all afraid someone, somewhere may distort our words and their meaning. We can certainly try to minimize that happening, but again I don’t know if I agree that the same level of verbal acrobatics is necessary that you might say is necessary.

        I will attempt to discuss the second point a bit more later, but I think it’s important to realize too, that in American history the issues with discrimination many immigrants faced most definitely had a religious component to them. Italian immigrants to this country were overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, as were Irish immigrants. The prejudices inflicted on them by the WASPs already here, (white, Anglo Saxon Protestants) were nationalist, but were also undoubtedly of a religious nature as well. That religious conflict had waged on for centuries in Europe, and it’s not as though it magically disappeared in the 19th or early 20th centuries when immigrants from Catholic countries began arriving in earnest on the shores of a WASPy America. Eastern European immigrants were faced with it too, as many of them were Jewish, and some were Orthodox. Their skin color though, for the most part, was virtually indistinguishable from the WASPs too.

        • Avatar

          Iesa Galloway

          June 21, 2011 at 5:43 PM

          Sebkha,

          The way to craft messages to the broadest possible audience is not by engaging in complex verbal acrobatics. The daily barrage of messages that assault our senses alone dictates that we should employ, short, simple and plainly worded messages.

          Rather than complex verbal acrobatics, Muslims need to speak to the core issues and concerns of the our audiences in honest, plain, and definitive language.

          Again — putting Brother Dean aside — most of us hold distorted views of our various audiences. Your wording “Everywhere you turn, there are plenty of bigots just looking to tear our words out of context, or distort our messages to tear down our credibility.” in my mind makes this fairly clear. We do have committed foes, but if we believe that a substantial portion of the population are bigots just waiting around to attack us, then we have internalized a state of combative existence, not to mention a serious sense of delusional, self-centeredness where the American Muslim community is stuck in the role of being a victim.

          That mindset is exactly what I am trying to challenge.

          You see, if every person that is ignorant about Islam is a bigot, then you have to resort perpetual conflict, a “us” verses “them” mode with a foe that can never become a friend.

          While people like this exist, the whole idea is problematic. Look to example of our Prophet (Who would adjust his dress and Arabic to respect, relate to and honor the people he was reaching out to) and the verses of Surah Fussilat, 41:33-34 which read “And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims.’ And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” all suggest that Muslims are a outreach community that places dawah over conflict.

          Of course there is truth in history you describe with regards to religious components to the discrimination against Italian and Irish immigrants. How that demonstrates that Muslims should or should not racialize our approach to empowerment is not clear. These communities were more monolithic than the American Muslim community.

          What I am advocating for is embracing our community as it is. Which I believe will make it harder to attack all Muslims because the sweeping indictments cast against us will be more self-evident as… well, silly.

          Yes, there is strength in numbers, no doubt. Yes, we need to have principled & strategic relationships with other minority communities. No, we should not blindly duplicate their efforts. YES we should learn from them.

          The best way to craft language that will resonate with an audience is to know the audience and to know yourself.

          Where most Muslims fail after not having a accurate understanding of many American demographic groups is that we speak to too narrow an audience. (this polarizes people) Our organizations also make the mistake of using mass media outlets to reach their own constituencies. Lastly, we too often prefer the immediate gratification of sticking it to a bigot (more points if they are a “WASPy” type) than to take the highroad of building relationships by speaking to the issue not the person.

          Iesa

          • Avatar

            Carlos

            June 21, 2011 at 7:54 PM

            Your words makes sense, Iesa.

  6. Avatar

    Carlos

    June 20, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    Your words make sense, Sebkha.

  7. Avatar

    Muhammad 'abd al-Haqq

    June 25, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Salam alaikum brother Iesa,

    I am sorry but I am going to have to disagree with your objections to the use of language here, especially the part about Islamophobia.

    Firstly, it really isn’t the job of us Muslims to make non-Muslims “feel better” about Islam. The Qur’an clearly states that non-Muslims will never be satisfied with anything we say or do until we become converted to their way of life. With this truism in mind it becomes incumbent upon us to realize that our only job with respect to non-Muslims is to be the best Muslims we can be, thereby setting a living example, and accurately conveying the message of Islam.

    On Point #1 I think we can agree, however, maybe if you could clarify some our your points than my objections may themselves become moot.

    Point #2 –” In 2007, Romney said that the American Muslim population was not significant enough to warrant a cabinet level appointment. So while Romney’s position has moved in a more just direction, Muslims should continue to focus on producing some of the best educated and most successful members of society. That is what we have done and what we must continue to do to determine our long-term success. The path Romney described in 2007 is one of a special interest group.”

    I think that as the so-called leader of the free world, in a nation described as such it is shameful that a Muslim is not in a Cabinet level position. And in a nation that is a democracy, Romney’s argument is what we call “weak sauce” and amounts to thinly disguised tyranny of the majority. So while I disagree with Cain on almost everything he says, the only thing that really matters with respect to a Muslim being appointed to a cabinet level position is merit and qualifications. And the idea that Muslim interests in America amount to “special interests” simply because we represent a small percentage of the overall U.S. population amounts to our concerns being relegated to “special pleading” rather than being about “equal rights”.

    Point #3 – “Islam & Muslim are not terms that equal to a race. Muslim diversity must be promoted:….We are not a race and should be very careful of using racial analogies to frame our modern issues. Want proof? Look to the same Gingrich statements you paraphrase in your piece. Gingrich makes ridiculous analogies between Islam, Communism and Nazism. Silly arguments like this can only be made if Muslims are allowing ourselves to be seen as a monolith. Racializing Islam sets the stage for the artificial analogy between Muslims and Nazis and Communists because the rich diversity of our Ummah is ignored and we are then seen as a tribe rather than a religion. The argument has become that by virtue of simply being Muslim (if seen as a monolith) we have joined a totalitarian doctrine. Our diversity of thought, diversity of religious interpretation along with the greater Muslim community’s richness of spanning vast ethnic divides can all be seen with suspicion rather than the admiration it rightfully merits.

    As a social scientist and a Muslim I feel obligated to iterate that it is not Muslims who racialize ourselves, rather we are being racialized. Where I come from(the Caribbean) we distinguish between being “racial” and being “racist. Racia describes being bigoted on account of perceived racial differences(since social scientist recognize the concept of race a a social construct, with no biological basis or reality). Racism is something that can only be enacted by those in power. This is the meaning of “blacks cannot be racists, but plenty are racial”. The social construct idea is essential to understanding that bigotry against Muslims, rightly called Islamophobia, involves the racialization of Muslims. Bigots essentially imagine Muslims as an “other”, and this “otherization” involves monolithically perceiving this “other” as a separate racial group. Let’s be honest, most anti-Muslim bigots are white racists/bigots who cannot perceive of Muslims as anything beyond brown and black people living “over there”. The Chinese, white American, and European Muslim perplex the Islamophobic mind precisely because of this “racialization”.

    It’s not about racializing Islam, but combating the racialization of Muslims, which sets up the inevitability of demonization and dehuminazation of Muslims through the positing and perpetuation of otherness. Allah, swt, has already said that humanity is one, such that all racism and racialization becomes bogus.

    Point #4 –” Good work on not using tired, problematic terminology: I applaud you for not using the term Islamophobia, which re-enforces the problems I list in point 3. The use of the term ultimately leads to the logical conclusion of Huntington’s the clash of civilizations theory. When we say that fear of Muslims is Islamophobia, non-Muslims can be made to believe that Islam itself is the problem. This is because we did not address the fear. It does not matter if the fear is misplaced, it only matters that it exists.

    While I agree that we must offer up the cure for the fear, as well as address the fear itself, I strongly disagree with your characterization of Islamophobia. Fear of Muslims is in fact Islamophobia, simply because a phobia is a sometimes intense, irrational fear and hatred that invariably leads to bigotry. We as Muslims recognize that there is nothing wrong with Islam, so we should not be afraid to recognize and articulate that fear of Muslims/Islam is in fact not rational. Non-Muslims mostly already believe that there is something wrong with Islam, as intimated earlier, they will not be satisfied until we renounce and abandon Islam or reform it into irrelevance the same way other religions such as Christianity have been. Is it really our responsibility that this fear of Islam exists, or is our only job,really, to faithfully and accurately convey the message?

    In short, embrace the diversity in the Muslim communities, message to audiences (emphasis on multiple groups) and do not define ourselves by our opposition to something, instead we should stand on our principles before and during times when we must oppose hate or injustice.

    What exactly do you mean by diversity, since I understand Islam to be one? I think this eucemenical approach to Islam, full of aphorisms like “there are many interpretations of Islam” only do us Muslims a disservice. Legitimizing obviously false “interpretations” of Islam such as all the various forms of ghuluw, including but not limited to liberalism, terrorism, militarism, suficism, and shi’ism, obscures the reality of Ahl as-Sunnah from the non-Muslims as well as the Muslims. We have to be able to show that totalitarianism is not normative Islam, without resorting to ideas about multiple interpretations of Islam. One Allah. One Humanity. One Deen.

    The way to craft messages to the broadest possible audience is not by engaging in complex verbal acrobatics. The daily barrage of messages that assault our senses alone dictates that we should employ, short, simple and plainly worded messages.

    The Western mind is accustomed to “sound-bite knowledge” and believes that simplicity of the message is an indication of its Truth. Yet the ultimate Truth, al-Haqq will never be fully comprehended in His Essence by the fallible, finite human mind. In addition it is well known that the Truth is always simple to those who possess it and “complex, verbal acrobatics” to those who are lost in the darkness of ignorance. Again I must stress that we only convey the message and not be reactionary, tailoring our messages to what we think might be palatable and acceptable to non-Muslims. They are our brothers and sisters in humanity so deserve the truth,not a sugar-coated version designed to make them feel better.

    Rather than complex verbal acrobatics, Muslims need to speak to the core issues and concerns of the our audiences in honest, plain, and definitive language.”

    This is true, except that my point is that no matter what a Muslim does or says his “honest, plain, and definitive language” will be seen as nothing more than “complex verbal acrobatics” to those whose hearts are hardened to the Truth.

    “….but if we believe that a substantial portion of the population are bigots just waiting around to attack us, then we have internalized a state of combative existence, not to mention a serious sense of delusional, self-centeredness where the American Muslim community is stuck in the role of being a victim.

    The victim mentality is alive an well in the Muslim community, but I believe you are wrong in your understanding. The Prophet(as) has told us that as Muslims we are strangers in this dunya, and the idea that the world is full of bigots waiting to attack us is not that far-fetched. However you are correct that we should never be reactionary/combative or delusional about the extent of enmity towards Muslims.

    Barak Allahu Feek
    Wasalam

    • Avatar

      Muhammad 'abd al-Haqq

      June 25, 2011 at 3:47 PM

      Please excuse my typos since there is no edit button here. Also this section:

      “What exactly do you mean by diversity, since I understand Islam to be one? I think this eucemenical approach to Islam, full of aphorisms like “there are many interpretations of Islam” only do us Muslims a disservice. Legitimizing obviously false “interpretations” of Islam such as all the various forms of ghuluw, including but not limited to liberalism, terrorism, militarism, suficism, and shi’ism, obscures the reality of Ahl as-Sunnah from the non-Muslims as well as the Muslims. We have to be able to show that totalitarianism is not normative Islam, without resorting to ideas about multiple interpretations of Islam. One Allah. One Humanity. One Deen.”

      should not have been bolded as the bolding of sections was to indicate quoting and these are my own words not a quote of Br. Iesa’s words.

      Jazak Allahu Khair

    • Avatar

      Iesa Galloway

      June 27, 2011 at 3:43 PM

      Walaikum Asalaam Muhammad ‘abd al-Haqq,

      JazakAllahu Khairan for taking the time to write and think through the points in my post.

      I definitively agree with you on this “our only job with respect to non-Muslims is to be the best Muslims we can be, thereby setting a living example, and accurately conveying the message of Islam.”

      With regards to why the phrase Islamophobia is hurting the Muslim Community I would ask you to read and discuss here: http://muslimmatters.org/2010/10/11/islamophobia-is-stupid-part-i/ or here: http://muslimmatters.org/2010/10/11/islamophobia-is-stupid-part-i/

      It was McCain not Herman Cain that said that people should be appointed based only on Merit. The idea I was promoting about becoming a special interest group is not saying that we abandon legitimate civil rights or that we not try to improve foreign policy, the idea is that we embrace the fact that we are citizens, that we ARE Americans and that we participate and care about issues that effect our neighbors just as we do with issues more specific to our communities’ needs/wants. We have to be a a fully functional part of society so that the good our community and our Deen have to offer can be seen and appreciated.

      ” Racism is something that can only be enacted by those in power. This is the meaning of “blacks cannot be racists, but plenty are racial”.” – Just note that power is dependent on the situation. Different power roles play for one event another. This very idea is what the scare mongering of Creeping Shariah is all about. This type of differentiation between racist and racial is in my mind trying to lay guilt at the majority for being the majority. Bigots deserve to be marginalized but as Muslims we should be inviting people to Islam … that comes from knowing we have a Prophet sent to ALL humanity.

      “The social construct idea is essential to understanding that bigotry against Muslims, rightly called Islamophobia, involves the racialization of Muslims. Bigots essentially imagine Muslims as an “other”, and this “otherization” involves monolithically perceiving this “other” as a separate racial group.” My point here is that we are using tactics that helps them see us as another rather than dividing the bigots from the fair-minded and building relationships with fair-minded people. Again please see my series on Islamophobia.

      “I think this eucemenical approach to Islam, full of aphorisms like “there are many interpretations of Islam” only do us Muslims a disservice. Legitimizing obviously false “interpretations” of Islam such as all the various forms of ghuluw, including but not limited to liberalism, terrorism, militarism, suficism, and shi’ism, obscures the reality of Ahl as-Sunnah from the non-Muslims as well as the Muslims. We have to be able to show that totalitarianism is not normative Islam, without resorting to ideas about multiple interpretations of Islam. One Allah. One Humanity. One Deen.”

      You said you come from the Caribbean, I come from Texas. This is what I mean by embracing our diversity. Instead of our Masajid dividing over Humas or Dhaal we should be celebrating each others cultures based on a firm hold on the rope of Tawheed.

      First with regard to strange, one hadith on this goes ““Indeed Islaam began as something strange. And it will return as something strange the way it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers”.” authenticated by al-‘Allaamah al-Muhaddith al-Albaani in his Sahih al-Jami’ as-Sagheer

      What is “strange” is our beliefs and has levels of meaning from foreign to withdrawing. It does not mean that we should look at ourselves as victims… in fact the opposite we should be confident. I can tell you as someone who is in outreach by my profession most people do not understand their own religion and are too consumed by the day to day stress and challenges of their lives to sit around trying to find ways to be anti-Muslim. And if you ever talk to someone that is anti-Muslim then you will see that their fears more often than not are related to if or how Islam is going to effect their lives through compulsion.

      Allahu Ahlim,

      Iesa

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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#Current Affairs

From Sri Lanka – The Niqab Ban and The Politics of Distraction

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This article was originally published on Groundviews

 

As of last Monday, Sri Lanka is taking a seat at the table next to a list of 13 other countries from across the world who have passed legislation banning the niqab or face veil.

Amidst incensed murmurs from certain parliamentarians, and following a discussion with the country’s main Islamic theological body, the All Ceylon Jammiatul Ulema (ACJU), the President’s office has announced that ‘any garment or item which obstructs the identification of a person’s face would be barred.’ Sri Lanka has been under emergency regulations following the Easter Sunday attacks which killed over 250 people. The ban will hold until emergency regulations are lifted.

Ever since the identification of the all-male terrorists behind the massacre as members of militant group ISIS, Muslim women -for some inexplicable reason- were to bear the hardest brunt. Instances of headscarved Muslim women being refused entry at various supermarkets and prominent establishments, was followed by the usual scaremongering via alarmist infographics doing the rounds yet again ‘educating’ the public of the differences between the burqa, hijab, and chador.

A victory indeed for both anti-Muslim voices, as well as to many within the Muslim community seeking to audibly amputate themselves from a supposedly dated form of Islam – one that they claim has no bearing to inherent Sri Lankan Muslim identity.  A view that discards the notion that any religious or ethnic identity is fluid, in flux, and subject to constant evolution.

The grand slam however is primarily for the current political establishment, members of whom are probably high-fiving each other as a result of this kneejerk symbol-politics manoeuvre on having supposedly successfully placated the public of their fears of homegrown terrorism. A move that bleeds hypocrisy for it comes at the cost of subliminally ‘othering’ an already marginalized segment of a minority community, while at the same time PSA’ing for peace and coexistence in this time of crisis.

What is most insulting to the intelligence of our society however, is that amidst all this brouhaha, only few have questioned the actual relevance of this new ban to the current state of our security affairs.

No eye witness report nor CCTV footage showed that any of the suicide bombers from any of the coordinated attacks across the country were on that day wearing the niqab/burqa/chador at the time of inflicting their terror. The men were in fact dressed in men’s attire, with faces completely exposed. It might serve to add here also that they weren’t dressed in traditional Muslim man garb either.

How then did the face veiling Muslim woman get pushed under the bus as the most identifiable sign of radicalism?

It is obvious that the government was cornered into passing this legislation, as was the ACJU too in having to support this move. While all communities have only their praises to sing for the exceptional work of the security forces in tracking down the attackers within only just hours, the country’s elected leadership was in dire need of respite following what many experts claim was a massive intelligence failure, a blunder involving the wrongful identification of a terror suspect, and incompetence in the handling of events overall. A distraction was desperately required. Something needed to give, and it just so happened that the niqab-donning Muslim woman was the easiest scapegoat.

To an outsider unfamiliar with Muslim religious symbolism, the face-veil can come across as alien, even unnerving. And while our first instinct is to otherize in an attempt to help deal with the discomfort of dealing with any unknown, a woman out in the street in a niqab is -for as long as anyone can remember- most certainly not an oddity that has compelled anyone to stop and recite their final rites.

The misguided belief that the face veil is a marker of extremism isn’t and hasn’t ever been based on any empirical research. If studies were to be carried out, results would show that Muslim women in general -let alone those with a face cover- have a little role to play, if any, for acts of terror committed in all the countries that have banned them.

Contrarily, there is a clear proven relationship between terrorist attacks and increases in recorded Islamophobic incidents against Muslims, with women being disproportionately targeted. One can then dare infer that being visibly Muslim carries a greater risk to oneself, than to the people around them.

The niqab ban has been put in place as a security measure they say – a flexing of muscles towards any semblance of radicalization that will deter any future acts of terror in the country. Naturally, the perpetuating of this ideological hegemony is doing Muslim women no favors. If anything, the ban is a wholly counterproductive one, in that it ostracizes an already marginalized segment of a minority community – a sliver of a percentage out of the 10% that is the country’s Muslim population.

If -as commonly believed- veiled Muslim women are being hopelessly persecuted, the ban will serve only to increasingly confine these women to their homes, under the control of the men accused of governing their lives, and further disconnected from being able to assimilate with society. Even more dangerous, there are studies which prove that having to live in an environment that is aggressively policed on the basis of belief is more likely to harbour radicalization.

Absurdity of the non-connection of the attacks with the niqab ban aside, this in itself should be a war cry for secular feminists advocating for everyone’s basic right to the civil freedoms of a liberal society. Where now are the proponents and ambassadors so wholly soaked in the ‘Muslim woman saviour complex?’ A segment of Muslim women has been forbidden from wearing what they feel best represents their Sri Lankan Muslim identity. They were not consulted before this legislation was passed, nor were they given the chance to show their willingness to cooperate on instances where identification was required.

Ludicrously, discourses surrounding veiled Muslim women are paradoxically lobbed back and forth according to the convenience of the times. In times of world peace, they are oppressed and subservient to patriarchal whims and fancies, while in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack there are hostile and threatening, capable of devising all kinds of evil. They are either victims of violence or the perpetrators of it.

This age-old preoccupation with Muslim women’s attire is in actuality a gross conflation of conservatism with extremism. In claiming that a strip of cloth holds the answer to combatting a severe global threat is trivialising the greater issues at hand. If there was a direct correlation between the attacks and veiled individuals, legislation forbidding the covering of the face in public would be wholly justified. But there is none.

Muslim women shouldn’t be faulted for the cracks in the state’s china. In not being able to answer the hard questions of accountability, lapses in acting on available intelligence, and general good governance, those at the top should leave well alone and consider hiding their faces instead.

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