Wednesday, 11 August 2010

So! am I really a terrorist?

“Are you worried about terrorism?
Concerned that you might be living next door to the next suicide bomber?
Are you afraid your suspicions are unfounded and are looking for some guidance on how to identify the warning signs?
Fear not! You are not a freak! You are not jumping to Conclusions! If some one you know is aloof, quiet and doesn’t interact with his neighbours, if he/she tends to pay for every thing using cash rather than a credit card, or if he/she generally keeps their curtains closed at home, then, you may well be living next door to your community’s next big threat! Don’t be shy! Its your duty! Report them Now, don’t wait till its too late! Call …….,”

You might think I was being flippant just there, but believe it or not, the above lines were taken from an advertisement which was presented to Ofcom 2 months ago. The UK government wished to launch a national campaign, encouraging the public to identify Muslim terrorists from amongst them, and the above would apparently empower Jo-Public with the relevant pointers he/she could use to filter out negative elements and label those who needed watching, by dobbing them in to the government!! Fantastic! After all, I am not too friendly with my neighbours in this block, its not because they are mostly drug addicts, or because the private rentals next to me mean that tenants change quicker than the weather, its because I’m too busy building weapons of mass destruction in my bed!!
Oh and the fact that I keep my lounge curtains closed has nothing to do with the fact that I live in a ground floor apartment, its because I don’t want passers by to see the copious amounts of uranium I’m storing in there! and the cash thing? Well, that’s nothing to do with the fact that I’m jobless, and don’t own a credit card, its because I don’t want the authorities uncovering the multiple identity cards I own: I’m saving those up for when I need to book my plane tickets when I head out to the next terrorist training camp!!! (OK, so I was being flippant that time).
As Ramadhan draws closer, the behaviour of Muslims becomes all the more pronounced, especially for those in public life, or those who simply have to work along-side non-Muslim colleagues, and as a result, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is concerned by such inflammatory and baseless campaigns!
Moreover, it appears to have become entirely acceptable to categorise, judge and discriminate against Muslims, that is, providing the uneducated majority have their fears put to rest, presumably the end somehow justifies the means!
Believe it or not, I do have sympathy with the terrified: I’m scared of terrorists too! And as many of you will know from my earlier posts, the new wahabi uprisings we see across the world fill me with nothing but dread! But does that give me the right to discriminate? Or, as a non-Muslim, is the best reaction to remain ignorant and fearful of things that I’ve never even tired to understand?
Not every one has taken this stand, when I had the fortune of working for ‘Meem Consultancy, we were inundated with requests for Islam awareness training. Every one from chief Executives to taxi drivers wanted to understand Islam, Muslims and where terrorism fitted in (if any where!). I was initially terrified of facing what I assumed would be a completely hostile audience, but by the end, we had all warmed to each other, and most importantly, had brushed up and thrown away those unfounded, preconceived notions we had of one another! Change is coming, but in other parts of the world, the ignorance is only spreading further, the walls between communities get higher, and the government rhetoric spouts only more hot air!
The below article extracted from yesterday’s ‘Huffington post, illustrates the scale of the problem far better than I can, I only pray that this Ramadhan, Muslims use their coming together as a platform to change, challenge and battle some of the prejudice we seem to be encountering on an almost daily basis, rather than remaining silent and becoming a part of the barriers we are supposed to be fighting!

Islamophobia:

A Threat To American Values?
__________________________

By: John L. Esposito
University Professor and Founding Director of the
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University
_________________________

Posted at The Huffington Post: August 10, 2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-l-esposito/islamophobia-a-threat-to_b_676765.html

We are passing through difficult and dangerous times. The impact of staggering economic crisis and fears of a continued terrorist threat have spawned a
culture of hate that threatens the future of our American way of life and values.
The legacy of the 9/11 and post 9/11 terrorist attacks has been exploited by media commentators, hard-line Christian Zionists and political candidates whose
fear-mongering targets Islam and Muslims. Islamophobia is fast becoming for Muslims what anti-Semitism is for Jews. Rooted in hostility and intolerance
towards religious and cultural beliefs and a religious or racial group, it threatens the democratic fabric of American and European societies. Like anti-Semites
and racists, Islamophobes are the first to protest that their stereotyping and scapegoating of these "others" as a threat to all of us, incapable of integration
or loyalty, are not Islamophobic. Yet, examples that illustrate the social cancer of Islamophobia that is spreading across the United States, infringing
upon the constitutional rights of American citizens, abound:
List of 7 items
• Across the US a major debate has erupted over building an Islamic community center a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. Amidst the voices
opposing this venture, even the ADL (the organization devoted to fighting defamation and prejudice) decided to oppose the building, not because Muslims
do not have a right to build the center but rather to protect the feelings of those opposed! Is this a criterion the ADL has used or would subscribe to
in its own struggles against anti-Semitism? The ADL's position contrasted sharply with that of J Street, rabbis and Jewish activists
• Today, opposition to mosque construction with claims that all mosques are "monuments to terrorism" and "house embedded cells" in locations from NYC and
Staten Island, to Tennessee and California, has become not just a local but a national political issue.
• In California, a Tea Party Rally to protest an Islamic Center in Temecula, encouraged protesters to bring their dogs because Muslims allegedly hate Jews,
Christians, women, and dogs.
• Christians from a right wing church in Dallas, Texas traveled to Bridgeport, Conn. Mosque to confront worshippers. These Christians, shouted "Murderers!"
at the young children leaving the mosque. Carrying placards, they angrily declared "Islam is a lie," ..."Jesus hates Muslims" ... "This is a war in America
and we are taking it to the mosques around the country."
• Politicians use fear of Islam as a political football. Newt Gingrich warned of the danger of Shariah taking over American courts. Republican Rex Duncan
of Oklahoma, declared there is a "war for the survival of America," to keep the Shariah from creeping into the American court system. Even the new Justice
Kagan is being accused of being "Justice Shariah"
• Congresswoman Sue Myrick from NC and Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia recklessly charged that Muslim student interns were part of a secret infiltration
of Muslim spies into key national security committees on Capitol Hill
• Hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise across the country.
list end
What constitutes an Islamophobe? Islamophobes believes that:
List of 7 items
• Islam, not just a small minority of extremists and terrorists, is the problem and a threat to the West
• The religion of Islam has no common values with the West.
• Islam and Muslims are inferior to Judaism and Christianity
• Islam is an inherently violent religion and political ideology rather than a source of faith and spirituality
• Muslims cannot integrate and become loyal citizens
• Most mosques should be monitored for embedded cells
• Islam encourages its followers to launch a global jihad against all non-Muslims but in particular against the West
list end
What fuels the fires of discrimination against Muslims?
There is no lack of hate speech in the media and in print to empower Islamophobia. The media, whose primary driver is sales and circulations, caters to
explosive, headline events: "What bleeds, leads." The primary focus is often not balanced reporting, or even coverage of positive news about Muslims but
on highlighting acts and statements of political and religious extremists. Political and religious commentators write and speak out publicly about Islam
and Muslims, asserting with impunity what would never appear in mainstream broadcast or print media about Jews, Christians and other established ethnic
groups. If one takes out the word "Muslim" and substitutes "Jew" or "Catholic" in many of the articles targeting Muslims, the negative public reaction
would be monumental
The net result? All Muslims have been reduced to stereotypes of Islam against the West, Islam's war with modernity, and Muslim rage, extremism, fanaticism,
and terrorism. The rhetoric and hatred of a violent minority has been equated with the "Anti-Americanism or anti-Westernism of a peaceful, mainstream majority,
all lumped together in the question (more a belief) "Why do they hate us?" Islam and Muslims, not just the small minority of Muslim extremists and terrorists,
are cast as the peculiar and demonized "other" with serious international and domestic consequences.
What do many Americans think about Islam?
In the Gallup World Poll, when U.S. respondents were asked what they admire about the Muslim world, the most common response was "nothing" (33 percent);
the second most common was "I don't know" (22 percent). Despite major polling by Gallup and PEW that show that American Muslims are well integrated economically
and politically, a January 2010 Gallup Center for Muslim Studies report found that more than 4 in 10 Americans (43%) admit to feeling at least "a little"
prejudice toward Muslims -- more than twice the number who say the same about Christians (18%), Jews (15%) and Buddhists (14%). Nine percent of Americans
admitted feeling "a great deal" of prejudice towards Muslims, while 20% admitted feeling "some" prejudice. Surprisingly, Gallup data revealed a link between
anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, that contempt for Jews makes a person "about 32 times as likely to report the same level of prejudice toward Muslims."
Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism, will not be eradicated easily or soon. We all (governments, policymakers, the media, educational institutions, religious
and corporate leaders) have a critical role to play in countering the voices of hate, the exclusivist theologies and ideologies. Islamophobic campaigns
force even the most moderate and open-minded Muslims to question the value of integrating into the larger society when the leaders of that society look
at all Muslims with suspicion and prejudice. This is not reconcilable either with Judeo-Christian ethics or the civic moral values of America and Europe.
Attempts to limit public discourse and debate, to silence alternative voices speaking out against ignorance, stereotyping and demonization of Islam, discrimination,
hate crimes or threats to the civil liberties of Muslims must be turned back if America is to be preserved as the country of unity in diversity and free
speech and opportunity for all. Education in our schools and universities and seminaries (as well as our churches and synagogues) that train the next generation
of policymakers, religious leaders, educators, and citizens will be critical. What is at stake is the very core of who and what we are as a nation and
a society, the foundation of our identity. Islamophobia and its culture of hate is not only a threat to the civil liberties of Muslims but also the very
fabric of who we are and what we stand for, the principles and values embodied in our constitution and which have historically made our democracy strong.

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