Tag Archives: islamophobia

Islam as a “conservative” religion?

Asalamu Alaikom and a Ramadan Kareem to all. I apologize for my hiatus, but I had to tend to some family obligations the past two weeks. Nontheless, it is time to catch up on what we have missed in the past two weeks (aka time for me to rant about conversations and readings I have encountered recently).

I shall begin with a scenario that occurred roughly two weeks ago. A friend and I were discussing various community issues and social spaces (and the discrimination sometimes found within them) in the American Muslim community. The conversation steered towards the taboo subject of homosexuality and homosexuals in Islam. While I would not like to delve into details of the debate, we both came to the conclusion that bigotry resulting from heterosexism unfortunately alienates LGBTQ Muslims within Muslim spaces, often to the point where they must choose ridicule or the rejection of faith. When I said that this was a phenomenon that needed to be combated, my friend responded with a statement that I found extremely puzzling. He said something along the lines of, “Like it or not, Islam is, and has always been, a conservative religion.” Not wanting to get into a debate regarding semantics via text message, I let this statement go unchecked. However, it has been bothering me for weeks, and I would like to address it now.

I do not know exactly but what is meant by “Islam being conservative.” Perhaps this idea results because we cannot escape our own tempocentric understandings of the liberal/conservative binaries. So what makes Islam conservative? Does it favor Bush tax cuts? Is it opposed to a strong, central government (bad news for those who want to reinstate a global caliphate, right?)? Is Islam socially conservative? Is it anti-choice? What is meant by the term conservative?

When people claim that Islam is a “conservative” religion, what I believe they truly mean is that it is a religion that values modesty. I cannot disagree with that as there is a famous hadith in Abu Dawood that says the following: “Every Deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty (haya).” However, what we must realize is the idea of modesty is specific to its cultural context and can be dictated by time, space, and even topography. Thus, modest behavior in one place on the planet is not necessarily modest practice in another. We are obsessed with finding cultural universalities that most likely do not exist. In doing so, we invent hierarchies of Muslims based on cultural understandings of modesty. This can place an emphasis on outward manifestations of faith that can alienate a sister who doesn’t wear hijab, a brother who does not have a beard (or wears shorts), an individual who doesn’t fit the heteronormative standard of gender performance, and other valuable members of our Muslim community.

I digress…

I understand where the conflation of “conservative” and “modest” may arise, but let us explore the claims that Islam has always been a “conservative” religion. I, personally, whole-heartedly disagree with that statement. In many regards, the message of Islam was an extremely radical one that came to challenge many societal norms of 7th century Arabia upon its inception. Many reforms introduced by Islam, even by today’s standards, would be described as “liberal” ones as Islam:

1) gave more rights to women (in terms of inheritance, property rights, right to life (female infanticide was a common practice at the times), etc)

2) began abolishing constructed racial hierarchies (by introducing reforms to slavery and encouraging its abolition)

3) challenged aristocratic privilege and plutocracy

4) challenged socially accepted views of masculinity (Islam discouraged the idea of muruwwa which emphasized bravery, pride, revenge and other aspects of patriarchy).

Even fiscally, the Muslim state (under command of Umar Bin Khattab), introduced the idea of bayt-ul-maal (house of money) which many historians refer to as the first modern welfare state. As it can be seen, Islam introduced reforms that were extremely “liberal” and progressive both in the social and fiscal realms.

Sadly, we have abandoned the importance of historical contextualization and have allowed the progressive dynamism of Islam to take a back seat to established, rigid (maybe antiquated?) rules. In terms of spirit, Islam was never intended to be summed up as a “conservative” message. Islam has always carried a message of social justice; of treating others with love and kindness. Islam came to challenge the customs of the ruling elite and reassess the status quo. Islam is inherently progressive. This Ramadan, as we see countless acts of violence and oppression, from Hama to Aurora, let us not forget Islam’s commitment to social justice.

I will end with a beautiful quote by Muslim poet Mark Gonzales found in the book All American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim (which is a great read and should be read by all!):

“I love that infinite Justice is an attribute of Allah, for shedding oppression is the purest form of prayer.”

I pray that these words resonate with all Muslims during this holy month and for the rest of our lives. It is our duty to recognize our own privilege, as well as combat the oppression and discrimination we find around us. This is not to say that we must only combat Islamophobia, but we must oppose ALL oppression and discrimination. It is our duty to speak out against all types of unlawful hegemony because standing for any form of oppression, is still supporting oppression.

As an Arab, I apologize for not leaving when I said I would, but I will end (seriously this time) with another quote from the book mentioned earlier, this time by congressman Keith Ellison.

“Those who seek the divine want to make the world a better place.” He goes on to say this is best accomplished by service to humanity. This should be our goal: to serve God by ensuring the rights of all humans in the world regardless of race, creed, religion, gender, ability, or sexual orientation. Let us remember this purpose during Ramadan and keep on praying that we may one day achieve this goal. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.

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Wait, Islam is a religion? Louisiana Republican has to be reminded that it is

The state of Louisiana recently passed a voucher program that would allow for state funds to be used for religious schools. This seems to violate the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state, but Obama (and those damn liberals) have launched a war on religion, so it only makes sense to violate a core constitutional idea to make sure faith isn’t totally extinguished by that Muslim, Socialist, immigrant president.

The scenario, already humorous, became even more laughable, when Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson) said she had no idea that the voucher to use these public funds for private schools included giving money to Muslim schools. She believed that the money would only be used to fund the religions of the “Founders.” (Someone should recommend that she read a biography of Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson to really see if she understands what the religious views of the “Founders” really were). Perhaps Hodges simply forgot that Islam is the second-largest religion in the world with nearly 2 billion followers. Honest mistake, right? Well, no, because she released the following statement after the passing of the bill:

“Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “We need to insure (sic) that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.

Hodges turns to playing the radical Islamist card. No surprise here. All practicing Muslims are terrorists, right? If that is the case, then Hodges is funding terrorism by voting for this bill, no? Oh, wait, I forgot only Muslims can support terrorism. Congressmen Peter King (supporter of the IRA) and Newt Gingrich (applauding the MEK) can publicly hail terrorist groups without being accused of having ties to terrorism. However, when Arabs buy cell phone parts, it’s time to start finding the link to Al-Qaeda. Islamophobia is a result of ignorance, as can be seen by the actions and statements of Representative Hodges.

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Muslim Brotherhood is “penetrating” the US government?

After Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi,officially became the first democratically-elected president of Egypt, it wasn’t long before idiots politicians, went on to renounce the elections (and renounce democracy), while also spewing Islamophobic rhetoric. Former presidential-hopeful Michelle Bachmann (lunatic-MN) channeled her inner Joseph McCarthy and publicly stated that the Muslim Brotherhood had “infiltrated” U.S. government and influenced policies. This, to her, is a trend welcomed by president Osama Obama.

What is most concerning about these ridiculous, conspiratory remarks, is the fact that they often go unquestioned. The “threat” of “Islamism” is even a more preposterous idea than Bachmann’s belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old. Have we learned nothing from the “Red Scare?”

Islamophobia is so prevalent in congress, that representatives like Alan West (R-FL) denounced the democratic process in Egypt because the Muslim Brotherhood had won the elections. West’s head almost exploded when it was proven to him that democracy and Islam could harmoniously coexist, going against all the propaganda that brainwashed him into being an Islamophobe. Rather than questioning his views, he resorted to hate-speech rather than have his beliefs challenged.

I simply do not understand how representatives like West claim the U.S. is an advocate and protector of global democracy then call to repudiate (“refudiate?”) democratic results. 

One thing I must say about these Islamophobes. They give us Muslims a lot of credit. For painting Muslims as backwards morons who know nothing about democracy and long to reinstate antiquarian ways of life, Muslims can effectively launch a “stealth internal Jihad” against the United States by engaging in government and influencing the democratic process. Does that make any sense?

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Full Cooperation = “Admitting” that I am a terrorist and a threat

Today marked the beginning of Congressman Peter King’s (R-NY) fifth hearing on “Muslim radicalism” in the United States. This hearing focused  on “Prislam” a term coined by King to refer to Islam practiced in the prison system. Rather than having a serious conversation of the many ills of the U.S. prison system (The U.S. is the country with the largest percentage of its population incarcerated), the hearing focused on how Islam has somehow “infiltrated” prison systems, causing prisoners to become even more dangerous. Or perhaps the discussion revolved around an absurd idea that Muslims are more likely to go to jail? Whatever the connection between Islam and the prison system was supposed to be, it was lost behind bigoted testimonies by non-experts and seemingly self-loathing Muslims. 

The few who actually had something of substance to say exposed the hearings for what they really were: bigoted attempts to allude the public from worrying about real issues such as the economy, U.S. foreign policy, racism, the prison system etc, and instead instill fear of Islam into the hearts of many so that the important issues could be avoided, or better yet, blamed on Muslims. 

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of these hearings is that Peter King was known to be an avid supporter of Irish terrorist-group, the IRA. How does a supporter of terrorism lead a hearing on counter-terrorism efforts? Your guess is as good as mine. The hypocrisy is almost comical. 

It is important to say, however, that Peter King, doesn’t hate all Muslims; only most of them. Muslims that care about their civil liberties are despised by King, but right-wing, Zionist Muslims who say that Muslims are inherently hostile towards American values (unless they choose to praise all American government’s foreign policies, intrusion of privacy, as well as all the glories of free-market capitalism), like Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, are praised by Peter King. King and Jasser are personal friends and have contributed money to organizations founded by one another, so how is there no conflict of interest in Jasser’s testimony? Jasser seems to clearly be in it for the money: As long as he is the Muslim that bashes Muslims, he is the Muslim that gets a big paycheck from former AIPAC board member and avid Daniel Pipes supporter, Nina Rosenwald. 

Congressmen King continually says there is a lack of cooperation from Muslim communities, without giving numbers or specifying what cooperation entails. Although 79% of American mosques engage in inter-faith work, and 44% are reported to be involved in social justice endeavors, mosques and Muslims aren’t doing enough. Even when Muslims turn in an FBI informant who tried to stir-up support for a terrorist plot, they still aren’t cooperating!?!? It seems clear to me that “cooperation” for Mr. King means for Muslims to denounce their faith and say, “the Quran demands that we all watch baseball, eat apple pie, and praise America as a savior of global democracy.” 

 

Here is an extra for your reading enjoyment: The 6 dumbest things said at the Peter King Hearings:

http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/the-6-dumbest-things-said-at-kings-muslim-witch-hunt-so-far/question-1574009/?link=ibaf&q=&imgurl=http://s-ak.buzzfed.com/static/imagebuzz/web05/2011/3/10/13/tearful-attempts-at-changing-the-subject-cannot-11638-1299780412-15.jpg

 

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