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Anti-Muslim Bigotry

The Summer of Islamophobia and the November Election

The fiercely contested 2012 US presidential election is gathering steam, with less than two months remaining until Election Day. While endless partisan bickering over policy issues typically dominates the echo chamber characterizing the summer news cycle, some of the major headlines this summer illustrate the growing antipathy toward religious minority groups – particularly Muslim Americans. With events such as the mosque burning in Joplin, Mo., the false allegations of infiltration against Muslim public servants, and the widespread political acquiesce toward the illegal surveillance of Muslims, the increasingly visible profile of Muslim life in America is being challenged. While some may dismiss this observation as alarmist, evidence suggests that these ideas of intolerance, hitherto espoused by fringe elements of society, are seeping unmistakably into mainstream politics.

No sooner had the Joplin mosque been burned to the ground than did support from the broader Muslim American and non-Muslim community pour in. Within a matter of days, the mosque was able to raise more money than it had anticipated.  The rapid response toward this act of violence demonstrates the vitality of the Muslim community in responding to national tragedies targeting their places of worship. Although the arsonist hasn’t been caught, and the motives are unknown, the destruction of property in this case is part of a rising trend of hate crimes that have swept the nation since the election of Obama, as documented by anti-hate crime organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Amidst the dismaying reality of mosque burnings taking place in the year 2012, in other news, a positive turn of events have resulted after the two year struggle to open the mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Since the Islamophobic fallout from the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy in the summer of 2010, the Muslim community behind the Murfreesboro mosque has fought grassroots and national opposition in order to build and worship in their mosque.  In a blow to religious intolerance, local authorities granted permission for the community to occupy the mosque. Across the nation, while the construction of Muslim places of worship continues to be challenged, the successful ending for the mosque in Murfreesboro illustrates that Islamophobia can only be confronted with a united Muslim front, the irrevocable commitment to not back down in the face of hate, and the hope that common sense will prevail in the justice system.

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Not only have virulent attacks been waged at Muslim private property this summer, but even the participation of Muslim Americans in public life – particularly in government, has been contested. The most prominent victim of the right-wing’s fear mongering over the steady creep of “sharī‘ah” into the US government has been Huma Abedine, a longtime Hillary Clinton aid and wife of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner. In June, Michele Bachmann, a conservative Tea Party congresswoman from Minnesota sent a letter to the State Department claiming that Abedine has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the flimsy accusation, high level government officials from across the aisle, such as president Obama and John McCain came to Abedine’s defense, citing her good character and stellar record as a government employee.

As can be recalled, this is not the first time Obama has been confronted with the opportunity to distance himself from Muslims (see here and here). Since the early days of his campaign, elements of the right wing and the mainstream Republican Party have wanted to label him as a foreigner, whose very legitimacy as president can be questioned. Since the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, coordinated efforts by well-funded right wing groups have been fanning the flames of anti-Muslim rhetoric, and if they continue to have their way, witch hunts such as those which have targeted Abedine and others will become more commonplace.

While the mosque burning in Joplin and the Abedine affair have received some attention in the mainstream media, one other issue of great consequence to Muslim Americans has gone under the radar. After it was revealed earlier this year that the NYPD had launched a six-year long surveillance of Muslim communities across the East Coast, this month the NYPD admitted that this spying program lead to no leads or useful intelligence on terrorism investigations. After secretly tracking the mundane activities of countless Muslims, including the activities of Muslim Student Associations, it is no surprise that the NYPD came up with no leads. That’s because numerous studies have found that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens who do not sympathize with terrorism.

Rather than devoting their resources toward combating the real threat of white supremacy movements, taxpayer money was wasted on the illegal surveillance of an innocent community. Imagine the outrage by politicians if any other community (read: those whose votes are of consequence to the reelection of politicians) would have been targeted by this extrajudicial spying. Take for example, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who in the past defended the appointment of Muslim judge Sohail Mohammed to the state bench against sharī‘ah fear-mongerers. However, almost a year later, with regards to the NYPD’s Muslim spying activities in his state, not only does Christie believe it to be legal, but the governor has only tepidly criticized the program. Unfortunately, the American political establishment remains slow in questioning the surveillance tactics being deployed by national security entities, which disproportionately target Muslims. For more on the shockingly public assault on Muslim civil liberties, listen to a segment of NPR’s ‘This American Life’ featuring a tell-all by an undercover FBI informant  (aka “mosque crawler”) spying on Muslims in a Southern California mosque.

As it currently stands, Muslims have become fodder for both political parties in the US. For the Democrats, any factor connecting Obama to Muslims is political kryptonite, especially given that this is an election year. Meanwhile, the Republican Party establishment is becoming ever more co-opted by ultra-nationalist right wing personalities, who have benefited politically from engaging in Muslim bashing. For those doubting that these voices of intolerance are having success in mainstream parties, there is reason to believe that the GOP will include an anti-sharī‘ah stance in their party platform at this year’s Republican national convention. Extremist ideas are steadily morphing into acceptable political dogma, with no end in sight.

While the political marginalization of Muslim Americans is certainly bi-partisan, it comes as no surprise that a recent poll conducted by the Arab American Institute found that compared to Democrats, Republicans feel least favorable toward Muslims and Arabs, and are more troubled of the idea of these groups in government. The results of this poll illustrate that public opinion and the action of political leadership exist in tandem – so long as political leaders remain irresolute about protecting minority rights, the opinion of the masses will follow suit. Unfortunately, this vicious cycle continues to be fed during each election season.

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Safia Farole is a second year PhD student in the department of Political Science at UCLA. She studies in the areas of Comparative Politics and Race, Ethnicity and Politics, focusing specifically on the politics of identity, public opinion, and immigration and integration in Western democracies.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    September 10, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    DeleteDelete

  2. Avatar

    Nahyan

    September 10, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    Unfortunate reality is no one’s trying to gain the Muslim vote, ie. looking into our community interests/rights. We’re just collateral damage from them flexing their political muscle.

    ps. Very well written article mashaAllah, impressed by how many ideas/references it encompassed.

  3. Avatar

    Waleed Ahmed

    September 10, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    Well written and well said : )

  4. Avatar

    Zorro

    September 13, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    So which American diplomat do you want to kill next, in the name of…

  5. Avatar

    Anon

    October 30, 2012 at 5:50 AM

    Such incidences will only increase. Muslims will never be integrated into the West as its prevailing culture – or at present, lack thereof – is anathema to Islam.

    This may be seen as “sad”, and certainly from the point of view of Muslims in the West, it is. However, Islam is a strong religion which stands out from what it is not, and cannot be ‘assimilated’ into Western culture without losing its identity.

    This is laudable, and shows that our deen is complete, and not an accessory to add on to your personality. It may mean that in 100 years Islam is kicked out of Europe and America. If it means that it becomes more distinguished from other religions and cultures, so be it. I’d rather have the true Islam , than a watered-down, liberal version of it.

    Muslims currently living in the West can always relocate. Their families did it before them, and they can do it again, if needs be.

  6. Avatar

    One United Ummah

    December 20, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    mashaalh Anon you said so perfectly.

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#Current Affairs

Democracy, Citizenship, And Islamophobia: The Making Of A New India

When tracing the political genealogy of modern India after its partition in 1947, historians identify the two defining principles used by the state as secularism and democracy. Yet the idea of India, post-1947, a newly born nation-state and now-market of 1.4 billion people, as a home for multiple religious, ethnic and linguistic denominations continues to unravel under the contradictions of historicity.

While the Union of India was historically seen as a progressive multi-ethnic secular democracy, throughout the past few decades the policies and politics of inequality for minorities, violent objectification based on castiesm, virulent manifestation of Islamophobia, and clampdown on all forms of democratic political dissent show a paradoxical paradigm shift from its founding principles.

Tracing the Genealogy of Partition

In the early years after independence, the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the ruling Indian National Congress (or Congress Party) advocated for an Indian brand of secularism designed to hold the country’s disparate communities together under one roof.

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This idea was formally attested in the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in 1976, the Preamble to the Constitution proclaim that India is a secular nation. 

Yet this idea of a nation that tolerates religious and ethnic minorities was contradictory of Hindu nationalist ideology, first collated in the 1920s by V. D. Savarkar in Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?. Savarkar defines India culturally as a Hindu country and intended to transform it into a Hindu Rashtra (nation-state).

Hindu nationalists view India as a Hindu nation-state not only because Hindus make up about 80 percent of the population but also because they see themselves as the rightful sons of the soil, whereas they view Muslims and Christians as the outcome of bloody foreign invasions or denationalising influences.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argues in his path-breaking work The Argumentative Indian:

“the enthusiasm for ancient India has often come from the Hindutva movement—the promoters of a narrowly Hindu view of Indian Civilization—who have tried to separate out the period preceding the Muslim conquest of India.”

The case for  secularism, with its own historical pitfalls, really started to shake when Hindu nationalists populated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its various ideological affiliates and started promoting a starkly different worldview; envisioning India as a majoritarian Hindutva nation-state, not a country with diverse multi-religious and cultural history.

The question of the viability of India’s secularist tradition, and the tensions inherent in these competing visions of Indian nationhood have come to the fore in recent years, since the BJP’s landmark electoral victory in 2014. 

Politics of Otherisation 

After India’s parliament revoked article 370 in Kashmir (called out as constitutional blasphemy), it passed a bill in the parliament offering ‘amnesty’ to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries.

It was a major step towards the official marginalisation of Muslims that would establish a religious test for migrants who want to become citizens, solidifying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda.

The bill offers citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), argued “this will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution”, while forcing Muslims, many of whom do not have any official documentation, of re-registering as Indian citizens.

This is one more step towards realising the grand project of creating a Hindutva Nation.

Arundhati Roy, one of India’s most famous writers, compared the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the Nazis’ 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which blocked Jews from German citizenship. 

The ruling BJP government itself includes the Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji) political party, which actually sought inspiration from Nazi Germany.Click To Tweet

In 1967, Bal Thackeray said, “it is Hitler that is needed in India today,” in an interview to Time magazine. In 1993, he said, “If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word “Jew” and put in the word “Muslim,” that is what I believe.”

This new reality of India clearly manifests the reductionist understanding of religion and use of politics as a means to achieve religious goals inspired from the Hindutva theology with all institutions working in tandem to promote the politics of exclusion. 

Take the case of the Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya, which was demolished by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992. Then, last year India’s Supreme Court awarded the disputed site to Hindus for the construction of a temple for the Hindu deity Ram.

Hindu hardliners, including BJP supporters, say that Ram was born at the site of the Babri Mosque, which was built 460 years ago during Mughal rule in the subcontinent.

The unanimous verdict of the Supreme Court in the Ayodha dispute“gives precedence to faith and belief over available documented archaeological evidence”, according to Kashmiri political analyst Sheikh Showkat Hussain.

The case of the Babri Mosque dispute, if read in continuation of other steps taken by the BJP government is another move towards the delegitimisation of Muslims’ citizenship. 

Just as it is illustrated in Brad Evans and Natasha Lenard’s Violence: Humans in Dark Times,the increasing expression and acceptance of violence-in all strata of society has become a defining feature of today’s world.

In December, while China was fighting the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan, the government of India was dealing with a mass uprising by hundreds of thousands of its citizens protesting against the brazenly discriminatory anti-Muslim citizenship law it had just passed in parliament.

There was punishment to be meted out to Delhi’s Muslims, who were blamed for the humiliation. Armed mobs of Hindu vigilantes, backed by the police, and attacked Muslims in the working-class neighborhoods of north-east Delhi. Houses, shops, mosques and schools were burnt and more than 50 Muslims were killed.

Covid and Islamophobia

While much of the international response to the coronavirus pandemic was unity and shared responsibility, , the battle against Covid-19 in India metamorphosed into Muslim-bashing.

Coming just weeks after pogroms based on religious hatred ended up 36 Muslims dead in Delhi, the outpouring of intolerable tweets manifest how concerns over the coronavirus have merged with longstanding Islamophobia in India, at a time when the Muslim minority — 200 million people in a nation of 1.3 billion — feels increasingly targeted by the ruling Hindu nationalists.

Since March 28, tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times and potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter, according to data shared with TIME by Equality Labs, a digital human rights group.

Coronavirus is just “one more opportunity to cast the Muslim as the other, as dangerous,” says Ali, an assistant professor of political science at JNU in Delhi. 

Antagonism towards the minority community, which had already spread its tentacles in society, intensified amidst the nationwide lockdown. By singling out an Islamic religious congregation as a major source of the spread of the infection, the authorities inflamed communal tensions and reports of Islamophobia poured in from various quarters across the country.

The mainstream media has incorporated the COVID story into its 24/7 toxic anti-Muslim campaign. An organisation called the Tablighi Jamaat, which held a meeting in Delhi before the lockdown was announced, has turned out to be a “super spreader”.

That is being used to stigmatise and demonise Muslims. The overall tone suggests that Muslims invented the virus and have deliberately spread it as a form of jihad.India has continued with this claim of being a progressive secular democratic nation even though systematic pogroms have been going on against the Muslim population. Islam and Muslims seen as an immediate ‘other’ die a silent death under different pretexts. 

“One of the key features of anti-Muslim sentiment in India for quite a long time has been the idea that Muslims themselves are a kind of infection in the body politic,” said Arjun Appadurai, a professor of media, culture and communication at New York University who studies Indian politics.

“So there’s a kind of affinity between this long-standing image and the new anxieties surrounding coronavirus.”

The left-leaning newspaper The Hindu published a cartoon showing the world being held hostage by the coronavirus—with the virus itself depicted wearing clothing associated with Muslims.

The Nehruvian secularist project and Modi’s communal project are not fundamentally all that different, in that both demand India’s minorities to “integrate” into the national majority which means giving up their socio-cultural way of life.

Modi’s model is to make all minorities homogenous by saying everyone is a Hindu and, therefore, they have to stop being anything else. The other is a secular model whose template is taken from the dominant religion, Hinduism, and, therefore, is cast upon everyone.

Arundhati Roy accused the Indian government of exploiting the coronavirus in a tactic reminiscent of the one used by the Nazis during the Holocaust. 

“The whole of the organisation, the RSS to which Modi belongs, which is the mother ship of the BJP, has long said that India should be a Hindu nation. Its ideologues have likened the Muslims of India to the Jews of Germany,” Roy said.

“And if you look at the way in which they are using Covid-19, it was very much like typhus was used against the Jews to get ghettoise them, to stigmatise them.” Click To Tweet

Hatred against Muslims continues after the massacre in Delhi, which was the outcome of people protesting against the anti-Muslim citizenship law.

Now, under the cover of Covid-19 the government is adamant to arrest young Muslim students; already Sharjeel Imam, Safoora Zargar and Umar Khalid have been booked them with anti-terror Laws like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

It seems the idea of India being the largest secular democratic country has disguised an organised Islamophobia campaign and an institutional oppression of Muslims that has existed for decades.

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Africa

Top 10 Books On Black Muslim History

The history of Black Muslims seems to be trapped between Bilal raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) and Malcolm X. While these are particularly bright supernovas in the pantheon of giants from Muslim history, they are far from being the only stars in that history.

Recent events have meant that many Muslims want to actively close that gap in their knowledge of Black Muslims. This isn’t just an academic interest, it is one of the recurring pieces of advice given by Black Muslims themselves when asked what the rest of the Muslim community can and should do to actively fight against racism in all its forms.

When you don’t know the story of a people, it becomes easy to belittle or even dehumanise them.

So here, in no particular order, are my Top 10 books on the history of Black Muslims in the English Language.

  • Centering Black Narrative: Black Muslim Nobles amongst the early pious Muslim by Dawud Walid and Ahmed Mubarak

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There are many reasons why tokenising Bilal ibn Rabaah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) is embarassing. One of them is because there are just so many other Black Sahaabas out there to talk about. This great book showcases so many of the greatest generation who, we may not have realised, were black. I actually did a prior book review on this that you can check out here.

  • The history of Islam in Africa edited by Levtzion & Pouwels 

This is less a book and more like a mini-encyclopaedia. This is for the serious student of history and a good reference book. If you want to tell the difference between the Songhai and the Sanussi or want to tell apart the different Tariqahs – this is your encyclopaedia. I mean book.

  • Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam by Habeeb Akande

Habeeb Akande is one of the most prolific Black Muslim writers out there on a range of topics. This book offers a sweeping narrative dealing with history, social issues like interracial marriage and the concept of race as dealt by scholars such as Al-Suyuti. As expected, this book is well researched and well written so a good primer for those new to the topic.

  • Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa by Ousmane Kane

Timbuktu and West Africa was for a time one of the richest centres of Islam in terms of wealth and intellectual tradition. To read about this time read this book by the Harvard professor Ousmane Kane. To all those who believe in the idea of racial superiority, you’ll be quickly disabused of that notion when you realise that this is the intellectual depth of a book about the intellectual depth of Black Muslims in West Africa.

  • The Black Eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire: Networks of Power in the Court of the Sultan by George Junne

In almost every Muslim Empire, the Sultans and rulers might change but there is a constant presence just off centre if you look closely enough. Eunuchs, who were often but not always of Black heritage, were right there at the centre of power. While the institution that brought them there was horrific and inhumane, the power they wielded was serious and far reaching. This book goes through the lives of a group of Black Muslims who shaped the Muslim world in ways that may surprise you.

  • The African Caliphate: The Life Work & Teachings of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio by Ibraheem Sulaiman

In a part of the world that gave us the world’s richest known person, great kings and warriors – you have to be pretty special to stand out. Usman Dan Fodio was more than special. He was one of those people who excelled as a military leader, a teacher and a person. He revived the sunnah and stands as one of the giants in the history of Islam. Learn about the man they call simply “Shehu.”

  • The Caliph’s Sister: Nana Asma’u, 1793-1865, Teacher, Poet and Islamic Leader by Jean Boyd

History tends to be His story far too often. It is the history of great men doing great things. 50% of the world is missed out with women far too often playing cameo roles as femme fatales or spoils of war. Well, the story of Nana Asma’u bucks this trend. She was not just a towering figure. If her father conquered lands, Nana conquered hearts. Learn about her story. Herstory – get it? Just read the book.

  • Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas by Sylvaine Diouf

The story of how enslaved Muslims struggled to hold on to their faith and values, to not just survive but to actually thrive is fascinating and should be required reading. While there are other books that deal with the subject in a more detailed manner, this book is accessible and touches on all the main themes from revolts to literacy levels. Ms Diouf does a lot to shine a light on one of the darkest institutions in Islamic history.

  • Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

It is a measure of the man that despite being the greatest sportsman of all time, it was still only the 2nd most interesting part of the life of Muhammad Ali. How this young scrawny kid from Louisville went from being Cassisus Clay to one of the most recognisable human beings on planet Earth is not just a biography of a superstar but the story of the struggle of a people, the many missteps on the road to that struggle and the ultimate redemption that awaited. Long after the name of the Presidents and Kings of his era will be forgotten, the name of Muhammad Ali will live on.

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X with Alex Haley

For me, even though it speaks to a specific person, place and struggle, this is by far the greatest of all the books out there on the history of Black Muslims . This is the denouement of a centuries long struggle for the survival of faith against the greatest odds and how slavery, racism and enforced conversions all came crashing down when one man of rare intelligence decided that it was time to overcome “by any means necessary.” If you have not read it, what are you waiting for? It will change you.

As I argued in a previous article called Erasing Race: Problems with our Islamic history, the history of Islam without Black Muslims isn’t really a history at all.

Whether you decide to read any of these books or check out some YouTube videos or articles about the history of Black Muslims, let us all educate ourselves. Only then will we all be able to start helping to build a more just world. Only then will we all be able to breathe.

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#Current Affairs

This Eid And Beyond Boycott Goods Made With Enslaved Labor Of Uyghurs Even If It Is Your Favorite Brand

Bidding farewell to Ramadan, celebrating Eid?

Well, the Muslims of East Turkestan under Chinese occupation had neither Ramadan nor will they have Eid…

Not only that, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) run government has transferred Uyghurs and other ethnic minority citizens from East Turkestan to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Nike, Gap, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Carters and others. Read Uyghurs for Sale for more information

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CCP is also pressuring governments across the world to extradite Uyghurs back to occupied East Turkestan.

Here is what you can do to help them:

Action Items

  1. Keep making dua for the oppressed of East Turkistan and the world.
  2. Boycott Chinese products! Do not be complicit in slave labour. Start with focusing on the companies in the graphic. Share it with #SewnWithtTears, #StopChina, #BoycottChina. Write to them and demand that they do better.
  3. Raise awareness on the plight of Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause. Learn more at SaveUighur.org
  4. Work towards reducing your country’s economic dependence on China.
  5. Build alliances with all people of conscience to demand a cessation of China’s oppression of all faith groups, be it Muslim Uyghur, Hui; Chinese Christian; or Tibetan Buddhist.
  6. Encourage and promote fairer trade and commerce with Muslims and others rather than China.
  7. Inquire about Uyghur diaspora members in your area. Organize to help out orphans, widows, and students.
  8. Pressure governments to provide legal protection to Uyghur refugees-exiles by granting either citizenship or refugee/asylee status. Stop the “extradition/repatriation” of Uyghurs to China!
  9. Get your universities/endowments to divest from China. Raise awareness about Chinese espionage and hired guns in academia. Demand academic and financial support for Uyghur scholars and students. Request more academic attention and funds for Central Asian, Uyghur, Turkistani studies. 

Read a greater discussion of action items in A Response to Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments on the Uyghurs, which also contains a greater discussion on East Turkistan’s history and its current situation. A condensed Arabic version of the article can be found here

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