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The Fight Against Anti Muslim Bigotry and the Need for Education

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By Mustafa Farooq

The last few months have been a tragic ones in the way that we have become all too familiar with – violence, violence wrought in the words of those who use hate as a shield and a sword. Whether in labeling a clock-building child as a potential terrorist, holding up the niqab as a symbol of evil and despair in Canada, or noting the inadmissibility of a Muslim to become the President, the spectre of anti-Muslim bigotry looms over Europe and North America.

In the midst of this trend, our leaders have taken to the airwaves, attempting to debate, shut down, or discredit those who blister with hate. We fight fire with water, attempting to calm, and dispute with those who would turn fear against a minority that is at a dangerous point in North America and Europe.

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This battle to defend the civil rights of the oppressed, whether in the workplace, at schools, or on the streets, is a noble one. As Canadian or American Muslims, we cannot allow ourselves to be treated as second class citizens. We are here; many of us were born here; the vast majority of us will die here. These are the countries where we give our blood and our sweat in labor. Thus, the fight against anti Muslim bigotry, to live our lives in peace in the countries we are proud to call our own, is a highly important battle.

Unfortunately, this battle against Islamophobia has largely missed the central point. If Islamophobia is about fear and hate directed against Islam, we need to ask ourselves a simple question:

Why do people hate Islam?

The answer is obvious. People do not fear in isolation. People fear what they do not understand. As the hadith is narrated:

Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud reported that the Messenger of Allah taught his followers:
“Narrating the account of one of the prophets [of Allah] whom was assaulted and wounded by his people; while wiping the blood from the face he prayed: ‘O Allah! Forgive my people because they do not know.'”12 (Riyadh al Saleeheen, p.359)

We must take on the Prophetic solution – teach them about Islam. Help them understand. Help them understand beyond the obvious lies and fear-mongering that they see all around them. Unfortunately, this is impossible as we stand today. And it is impossible for reasons that are far graver than the trend of Islamophobia facing us.

Why is it impossible? It is because to teach someone else about anything, you have to first understand it yourself.

We live in a time where knowledge of the deen, real knowledge, is a hard commodity to come by. Where the so-called Sufis spend their time in hagiography and the praise of “saints”, and the so-called Salafis spend their time designing brilliant refutations of those who seek to spread a little good. Most Muslims do not know the fundamentals of aqeedah, the usul-al-fiqh, or the maqasid-al-shari’a.

In other words, if our focus is just on “making Muslims seem normal”- i.e., if we think our biggest problem is Islamophobia not only will we be unable to effectively respond to it, but we will, in effect, ensure that Islamophobia wins.

When Dr. King, Malcolm X, and W.E.B. Du Bois wrote and fought against racial segregation, they fought a battle for civil rights for “black folk” in America. These were people who were hated for the color of their skin. Du Bois called this the “color line” problem in America. In other words, the African American community had to engage in the civil rights movement collectively, even if from a variety of strategic perspectives. The reason that they were hated was inalienable. They could not change the color of their skins, even if they wanted to. Survival in America could only occur, then, if they fought for their civil rights.

Muslim by Choice

Most Muslims do not have this problem. We are Muslims because of choice. We are Muslims because of our faith. So the question arises for our young people today, why choose to be identified as Muslim? Why choose this faith that you do not understand? Why choose this faith that is universally hated?

One merely has to change their name from Muhammad to Moe, and their last name from al Bukhari to Burgenstock, and their transition from being a despised Muslim to being an at least tolerable minority is complete. And whether we would like to admit it to ourselves or not, the vast majority of our youth are taking this path. Young Muslims are leaving Islam in droves, whether formally or only within their souls, finding little meaning in prayer, charity, the pilgrimage, and on and on.

In other words, if we do not educate ourselves, both young and old, about what Islam really is, than the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry will be, sociologically speaking, a moot one. Who will there be left to defend when there are no more identifiable Muslims in two or three generations?

As Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan alerts us, the solution is to go back to a deep reading of the Qur’an; to a broad understanding of the hadith; to an engagement with the sources of shari’ah; to a critical analysis of our scholarship; to a deep understanding of Arabic. The notion of ensuring that our children can read the Fatiha correctly with tajweed as being the only goal in Islamic education has to end today.

If we do not educate our children and ourselves, then the fight against Islamophobia will be non-existent. If our children do not choose Islam, there will be little gain in appearing on talk radio to shout down Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh, or the other talking heads. If our children do not understand Islam, how can we hope to battle Islamophobia by assuaging the fear of Americans and Canadians, in general, through understanding Islam?

We must begin again in the name of Allah. As we sit together over dinner, alongside discussing Ben Carson’s comments or the Irving clock fiasco or the niqab debate in Canada, we must begin to discuss Islamic education, and how to reinvigorate Islamic education in North America.


 

Mustafa Farooq is a Canadian law school graduate (University of Alberta) who is doing a Masters in Islamic legal theory (LLM) at UC Berkeley’s School of Law.

 

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. M

    October 22, 2015 at 3:03 PM

    This is a very timely article. It’s not just North America, Muslims all over the world need to reform themselves. Most of us carry on with their religious duties with no knowledge and understanding of they we do it. We sell our iman for a few bucks, and for a few minutes of pleasure. Scholarship among the Muslim community is almost nil, and our youth are only interested in either trivial matters or entertaining themselves. We need to fix ourselves before things get out of hand.

  2. John Howard

    October 22, 2015 at 5:17 PM

    For those of us non muslims we see the problem as the fact we do not see you as part of the wider community Unlike all other immigrants we see a deliberate separateness on your part. In the UK and the rest of Europe we have seen huge areas of our cities become non muslim areas where we are made unwelcome and where our values are attacked and abused by immigrants who have come to partake of the wealth of our pluralistic societies. You speak of the blood and sweat you have put into your new countries but we also see the other side where the taking outweighs the other and a disdain for us and our values. I very much suspect that the Canadian and American non muslims see the same. To date both in Europe and the Americas we have had our citizens murdered in the name of Allah we have taken in millions of your religion and continue to do so every day at a great cost to our nations both financially and to the web of our societies and yet we are always the ones blamed for your problems in our countries from Australia to Britain every day we see and learn of attacks either done or planned upon our citizens and all in the name of Allah. Is there any wonder that there is fear of your religion and its followers?

  3. Peter

    October 22, 2015 at 7:42 PM

    I agree with you on many many points. However you completely missed the solution.

    You missed the solution by a long, long way. You are correct that the fear of Muslims, is held by many many people.
    That fear is not irrational, it comes from the actions of a minority of Muslims who commit actions to induce that fear in the name of Islam.

    So when you say that the solution is to educate non Muslims about Islam, I say, are you for real?? The obvious solution to the fear of Muslims by non Muslims, is to acknowledge that the minority of Muslims who are deliberately going out of their way to cause this fear, need educating.

    How could you not see that? Muslims need to get the right message, to the Muslim community, not educate the victims, they need to educate the perpetrators.

    Every Muslim leader who comments in public that the perpetrators of Muslim terrorism are not following the true message of Mohammed. I have never, ever heard a Muslin cleric or spokesperson say that the victims of a terrorist attack could of been saved if they knew more about Islam.

    In effect, that is what you are saying.

    So before you say Muslims need to educate non Muslims about Islam, you better look at yourself. I have nothing against Muslims wanting to educate non-Muslims about Islam. In any religion I see that as noble. However you confuse that noble purpose, with reducing Islamaphobia.

    I find that particular term, Islamaphobia, just as offensive, as a non-Muslim labeling all Muslims as terrorists.

    A phobia is a irrational fear, with no or little basis in reality. Look at the news! Every day there is news of a Muslim committing an act of terrorism. To be fearful of Muslims is not totally irrational.

    To reduce that fear very real fear, Muslims need desperately to educate the minority of Muslims who are committing these acts. The failure of Muslims to educate Muslims about Islam is pretty clear, when most surveys show between 15% to 20% of Muslims hold extremists views, and a small percentage of that segment actually act on those extremist views.

    The Muslim leadership needs to look at the failure of educating up to 20% of all Muslims in Islam, and concentrate on fixing an obviously flawed method of education.

    If 20% of toasters made by a company was faulty, you would say you have a shoddy toaster manufacturer. It does not mean the design of the toaster is bad, it is how it is made. If 20% of an Airline’s Pilots were not trained how to land a plane properly, how safe would you think that airline is?

    The bulk of Muslims are people NOT to be feared, but there is a fault in the education system of Muslims. That is very clear, and that needs to be addressed as a priority.

    The fear of Muslims by non Muslims is not a result of not knowing Islam, that is simplistic at best, or just plain ignorant. The fear of Muslims stems from the actions of a minority of Muslims, who the bulk of Muslims accuse of not knowing and understand Islam. Yet you say nothing the contribution of Ignorant Muslims, to the problem of the fear of Muslims by non Muslims.

    Muslims need to drop the buzz word Islamaphobia, is a oxymoron. Yes, fear of Muslims is as a result of ignorance. However that ignorance is that of a percentage of the Muslim community. If Muslims address that ignorance of segments of their own community, that solve 2 problems at once.

    The greater of these 2 evils is the actions carried out by people, who believe strongly they are good Muslims. That due to ignorance, are not practicing Islam in the way it should be, but committing evil acting in the name of Islam. That is the problem.

    Muslims attempting to make, the victimization some innocent Muslims really do endure, the greater evil, is dishonest, and creates further distrust of Muslims by non Muslims.

    Education about Islam is desperately needed, but that need is within the Muslim community. Get that right and you may find the rest of the world is more receptive of your message. However the facts shows that up to 20% of all Muslims do not get the right message about what it is to be Muslim. You are one of those Muslims as you cannot see the true problem and solution.

    • Syed Ibrahim Badusha

      December 24, 2015 at 2:39 PM

      It was a wonderful piece of advice for all Muslims. Many thanks for taking the time to write this.

  4. Aafia

    October 25, 2015 at 2:08 AM

    Unfortunately,Islamophobia in America has become acceptable, if not respectable. Anyone pointing fingers at islamophobia is the one who is targeted and condemned.

    Islamophobia is a cumulative effect of the works of Secular Fundamentalists, Zionists, Fundamentalist Christians, pseudo-Islamic cults and, in some cases, Muslims themselves.I read a book by Nathan Lean’-“Islamophobia Industry-How the Right manufacture fear of Muslims”which explores the tactics,and motives of the politician to encourage Islamophobia for their personal interest.Here is a little more about this book..http://islamhashtag.com/islamophobia-in-america/

  5. Sadia Afrin

    October 26, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    Salam brothers and sisters,
    I agree with brother Peter on this.Every one can play the blame game here but this will not help the current situation to get any better.We need to reach out to every one,Muslims and non Muslims alike and take a clear stand against all the atrocities that is taking place and being falsely labeled “Islamic”. Our voices need to reach out to everyone and show the bad guys that we will no longer be the silent spectators.

  6. Mike Bee

    October 27, 2015 at 12:19 AM

    I have much to learn and appreciate from my muslim neighbors.

    I know you’re like me in wanting to give yourselves and your families opportunity for education and a comfortable life. I respect your attention to values and your families. I appreciated the fact that your culture and you contribute greatly to our way of life.

    You are not my enemy and you are welcome here!

    -kind regards

  7. Mohammed

    October 27, 2015 at 11:49 PM

    What about the fight against anti-kafir bigotry and the fight against anti-murtad bigotry in almost every muslim country? Will you write an article about that as well or are you a hypocrite?

    • Moroccan

      October 28, 2015 at 9:56 AM

      Yeah we can clearly see the double standards here, muslims only want to have it their way with absolutely no regards to the other side. Non belivers are persecuted on a daily basis in muslims countries but hey, who cares right?

  8. Zaid

    October 28, 2015 at 1:19 AM

    Islamophobia is real. I am no longer a Muslim, but I can still observe the effects discrimination has on people in the Muslim community.

    Also saying that being is a choice is a touchy subject. Just as a Christian or Jew is born into a religion, it’s not really up to them whether or not they can believe. Being a Muslim is a choice to some extant. If you “leave” Islam you will be shamed by members of the community and even your family. There is a huge struggle in leaving the faith. So a LOT of exmuslims (me included) are in the closet. That doesn’t seem like a choice does it?

    • Fawaz

      October 28, 2015 at 2:01 AM

      It seems murtadophobia is even more real. I wonder when we can read an article about this here. Add to that homophobia and anti-semitism.
      I am an ex-muslim as well, out of the closet and don’t care what others think. As a matter of fact, I made a lot of muslims leave their religion; I just point out all the errors and injustice in the koran. Most of them will start thinking and after a while will leave all by themselves. So the ‘muslims leaving in droves’ mentioned in this article is no surprise to me. Tell a young college educated muslim women living in the US that she should inherit less, earn less, can be beaten, has fewer rights, can be controlled by her husband who can have additional wives and she will just say ‘no thanks’ to islam and that’s it. Or tell a young muslim with a liberal/social leaning that gays should be killed, women have fewer rights, blacks were enslaved by the thousands by their perfect role model, and that Jews must be killed. Usually they say ‘that’s not true’ islam, but they cannot fool themselves (or me) for very long and eventually head for the exit because they cannot identify themselves with it and don’t want to be seen by others as someone who supports this. Interestingly, sending kids to a muslim school will not prevent this. There’s just no way these people will stay muslims and justifying that with ‘it’s god’s will’ without any proof of god besides circular evidence in the koran doesn’t do the trick any longer. We all know that. I have a lot of experience with such scenarios.

    • Marissa

      March 21, 2016 at 2:33 PM

      And you wonder why? Is there Hinduphobia or Buddhismphobia? No? Why do you think that is? Stop acting like it’s not obvious. It’s doing yourself a disservice.

  9. Dan T

    October 28, 2015 at 1:55 AM

    We are muslim by choice? I lol’ed at that one. It would be a dream come true if I could come out as an apostate without repercussions from my family or community.

  10. christine dorothy

    October 28, 2015 at 7:17 PM

    If Muslim youth are to learn more about Islam from the Koran, wouldn’t that turn them away from it? It says 50 times in the first 30 pages to kill infidels. It insists on anti-semetism. It rejects all who do not follow Allah and his Islam. In a free society that furthers individualism and freedom of expression, how does this work? Wouldn’t a student of the Koran who lives in a Western society figure this out?

    • Shaaz

      November 2, 2015 at 11:19 AM

      If Muslim youth gonna learn Islam from Qur’an it would attract them more towards it. You said first 30 pages of Qur’an says 50 times to kill infidel. Oh really?? I have been reading Qur’an since I was 7 yrs. old. First war verse came at 2:194 and that doesn’t within 30 pages.Let alone 50 times to kill infidels. And Qur’an insists on anti-semitism??? Do you really want me to bring your Bible verses in here to expose which book promotes anti-semitism??Can you deal with me if I do that?? Do one thing,go to the website Jew for Judaism and read what Rabbis say about your New Testament of being anti-semitic. Listen Christine Dorothy, being a fellow Human Being I am saying this to you with all due respect that, If you have question regarding Islam Ask A Muslim 100 times, but do not make false allegation. We learn through asking questions. And expand your study materials beyond Christian Missionaries & Islamophobes articles and books.

      • Shaaz

        December 25, 2015 at 10:17 PM

        Oh there you are.Thank you for revealing this.So, You read anti-islamic biased and prejudiced books and based on that you are giving your opinion. You never approached the authentic Islamic sources and the biographies of Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) because you are too scared of truth.
        Second thing you mentioned ISIS. The mainstream Muslim scholars condemned ISIS and issued fatwa against them based on Qur’an and Hadith and you are saying they are perfect follower. I mean height of hatred and bigotry from you.And I ain’t surprised as this is coming from you. Because I was expecting something like this as only few people use their bran,and rest just watch TVs.
        Thirdly you said there is no love and compassion in Qur’an.Again a lie from you.This evidently shows that you never opened Qur’an. There are so many verses on forgiveness.Religious tolerance,charity,helping poor,respecting parents,standing for truth and justice even against ones own people,commanding right and forbidding evil so on and so forth.
        Fourthly,Qur’an never used the word INFIDELS, It simply used the word Dis-believer.This shows how much biased you are and not open minded.Come out of the box Dorothy.The world is much spacious. Disbelievers are condemned by Allah as they follow their lusts and desires. And we all know who follow their lusts & desires.It’s indeed the beasts and animals.No second thought in that.

      • Sheikh Muhammad ibn Jaffer

        April 4, 2016 at 9:18 AM

        How can you admit that there are war voices in the Qur’an? You have to keep silent about those. They don’t exist brother. Salaam alaikhum.

  11. AK

    October 28, 2015 at 10:40 PM

    Why do people hate Islam?

    Some due to ignorance, and some due to arrogance, and some due to interaction with Muslims. In all the cases, as the brother said, we have to keep educating (learn & practice) ourselves, our children, our neighbors and others. Our goal should be more than just reading Quran with Tajweed.

    Thanks brother Mustafa Farooq.

  12. Kamala Khan

    October 29, 2015 at 3:32 PM

    I am glad to see a lot of people raising the issue of “murtadophobia” here. It is always ironic to me when Muslims claim of discrimination here in the US. No question it exists and it needs to be fought, but on balance many, many Americans step up to defend us. But the treatment of people who do not believe in Islam after being raised Muslim is very bad. This is morally wrong and on top of that, it fuels Islamophobia, because people do not respect our beliefs if they see we do not respect the beliefs of others. We must fight Islamophobia but we should realize that it starts with cleaning our own house first.

    • Marissa

      March 23, 2016 at 8:47 AM

      Thank you for your clarity and self-introspection.

  13. Pingback: » Understanding, and the Choice of Ignorance

  14. Fred

    November 24, 2015 at 1:53 PM

    Saint Francis said “preach the gospel ……….and only use words if necessary.”
    Arguments are almost futile.
    We must be kind to each other and realise no one is perfect.
    God help Muslims – it must be hard for them at this time.

  15. Marissa

    March 21, 2016 at 2:30 PM

    Islamophobia isn’t separate to Islamofascism. Do you want to get away with the former? Deal with the latter within your own Ummah. There is no way around it. Stop deflecting your grave issues onto other people as if others are the problem. Your defensiveness is why fewer and fewer non-muslims trust you and your sincerity.

    Your extreme lack of self-reflection, lack of gratitude, divisive, victim and entitlement mentality as a people is your downfall. Our fear of you and your religion isn’t irrational or baseless. We see the fruit of Islam every day in all its glory all around us especially in Europe, whatever apology and intellectual gymnastics you’re going to adopt to shift the blame somewhere else.

  16. Reason on Faith

    April 4, 2016 at 4:47 PM

    Salaams All,

    I believe many of us younger Muslims are leaving because Muslim leaders, even in the West, can be found in lectures avoiding difficult questions. When cornered on issues like the punishment for apostasy, they admit that in a Muslim country with the ideal sharia conditions in place, the Islamic punishment for apostasy is death. See this popular clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XRCYlZ4XOQ.

    Us Muslim youth also find the once promoted “Qur’an and Science” theme so heavily promoted but now seriously challenged, an issue.

    These are but a few reasons. I cite these not to inflame, but to ensure that the Muslim community’s earnest desire to serve its members, places its energy on the real issues and questions. It is not some media meme touting “Islamophobia”. If you believe that, you will continue to fail to address the true, underlying causes.

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