It’s time saner minds prevailed

Muslim Americans are being forced to question why the country they call home is branding them as being unpatriotic

The real battle is being waged over the fundamental rights of Muslims in America. They are the last ethnic and religious minority who continue to be negatively stereotyped, lampooned and attacked with impunity.

The respected James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), captured the charged atmosphere in the lead-up to the ninth anniversary of 9/11 in his recent column: “Now, nine years after 9/11, the hate and anger are back and it is not only Muslim Americans who are at risk, but the very soul of America; preachers of hate [both neo-conservatives with their anti-Muslim and anti-Arab axes to grind]; irresponsible mass media [including Fox News and a whole host of talk radio shows]; and politicians [some eager to exploit fear for political advantage and others too afraid to demonstrate leadership]. All have combined to create the current situation.

For Muslim Americans, this year’s anniversary of September 11 may be the most stressful one yet, and possibly the most consequential. A confluence of events and political developments has produced a situation more volatile than any since the immediate aftermath of the horrific terror attacks of 2001.”

Former US president George W. Bush, addressing the American people in the aftermath of Al Qaida’s attack, had said: “Our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of very deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.” He then launched three wars: the so-called war on terror; the Afghanistan war, and the Iraq war. All these wars have been inconclusive.

These wars, along with the media frenzy about 9/11, are influencing the behaviour of fringe elements in some radical Islamic movements, who have contributed to the anti-Muslim atmosphere. The flames are further fanned by anti-Muslim elements in the mainstream political and media establishments, spearheaded by the pro-Israel lobby, and those who would like to lead the US on a worldwide ‘crusade’.

In a recent article, I opined that Islamphobia disgraces America and its people. I highlighted the controversy and the polarisation surrounding the proposed construction of the Cordoba Islamic Centre near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. This, in my opinion, disgraced the US and put to test the much cherished concepts of constitutional rights, respect for all faiths and freedom of worship and alienated moderate and well-meaning Muslims who represent the Islamic mainstream.

The real battle is being waged over the fundamental rights of Muslims in America. They are the last ethnic and religious minority who continue to be negatively stereotyped, lampooned and attacked with impunity. And there are hardly any consequences for those who are waging such bigoted campaigns.

The real threat today is from those who are mouthing racist remarks or from cowards who are silent and not speaking out against such a venomous campaign. The likes of Sarah Palin and former US speaker of the House of Representatives and other influential figures in the Republican party are feeding the frenzy. And some, such as Bush, are maintaining a cowardly silence.

Palin and Gingrich are mainstream figures in the Republican party and possible candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Both have campaigned against the Cordoba Islamic Centre and have not come out strongly against the Quran burning stunt. Palin called on “peaceful Muslims” to “repudiate” the “ground-zero mosque” because it would “stab” American hearts. While Gingrich, said that “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington. There is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center”.

It seems this bigoted bunch are emboldened by opinion polls. One poll found that almost 40 per cent of Americans believe Muslims should carry special identification cards! Other polls, like the recent Washington Post and ABC News poll, seem to validate these views. It found that two-thirds of Americans oppose building the Islamic centre near the former site of the twin towers.

Four in five of those opposed say their opposition is strictly because of the location. But 14 per cent of the opponents (or 9 per cent of all Americans) say they would oppose building it anywhere in the country. The Post-ABC News poll found that roughly half the country (49 per cent) holds an unfavourable view of Islam, compared with 37 per cent who have a favourable view. That is more negative than eight years ago.

In October 2002, 47 per cent said they had a favourable view of Islam and 39 per cent said they had an unfavourable view. About a third of the country now believes that mainstream Islam encourages violence against non-Muslims, while 54 per cent see the religion as peaceful. The percentage seeing it as peaceful has varied little over the past nine years, but the percentage saying they believe it encourages violence is about double what it was in 2002.

The lasting scar of such tragic and deliberate policy is validating the conspiracy theory that the US is in a clash with the 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world. The alienation of millions of American Muslims, many of them third-generation citizens, is precipitating an identity crisis for them and forcing them to raise legitimate questions about how the country they call home is betraying them and branding them as unpatriotic and untrustworthy, simply because they belong to a faith which seems under siege.

Something’s got to give and saner people must show the courage and reverse this trend before we face an inevitable clash of civilisations.

By – Dr Abdullah Al Shayj, Chairman, Political Science Department, Kuwait University.

3 thoughts on “It’s time saner minds prevailed

  1. Pingback: World of Islam » Blog Archive » World of Islam Episode 23 5 of 5

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