Spread of Islamophobia Continues to Endanger American Lives

Update: I am dismayed to report that a member of this community responded to this post by sending me a PDF file in Arabic and English alleged to be the “Muslim Brotherhood strategy” circa 1991. Whether or not this is an authentic document–I’m in no way enough of an expert to opine on that–the use of it and the language in the email, “read it and weep,” indicates that there is at least one active member of our community (I will not name him, though he appears to have used his real name) who believes that the mistreatment of an ethnic and religious group of millions is justified because he possesses a spurious document from 1991 that reads like what Rush Limbaugh thinks a mean ol’ Muslim jihadist would say. It may be authentic. Lawd knows, there are some CRAZY Muslims in the world.

But more importantly, this incident serves to illustrate that what to some of us seems like stating the obvious–everyone has a right to religious expression, and racism is wrong–is actually kind of a scary thing to do these days. Kind of like saying during the McCarthy era that you don’t think every member of the American Socialist Party should be executed. Kind of like saying during Japanese internment that you think some Japanese immigrants are loyal Americans. Kind of like saying during the Roosevelt era that you’re willing to do business with Jews.

I suppose this Pols member expected me to read his document, and (in his words) weep for America, then retract my support for American Muslim communities. Nothing doing, sir. I support the civil rights of every American and I support the US Constitution as a document that may not be bent or broken based on the prejudices of an era. Good day to you, sir, and Ramadan mubarak to the American Muslim community.

[Original post below]

Pols community, we really, really need to talk about Islamophobia. Not just bitch about it or link to examples of it–we need to start talking about what we can do about it. Because this shit is getting scary, and Colorado is right in the middle of it.

Exhibit A: The Western Conservative Summit, where John Andrews and Kevin Grantham praised Dutch reactionary Geert Wilders for his hateful rhetoric condemning Muslims.

Exhibit B: Last week, Romney chose Denver to meet with Lt. General William Boykin, a fellow so Islamophobic that he got a scolding from then-President George W. Bush for his outrageously nasty comments in 2003.

Thankfully, Michelle Bachmann presumably has absolutely no intention of moving here, and Pamela Geller is installed in New York for the foreseeable future. However, while those two WHARGARBL about Muslims on the eastern side of the country, Romney is declining to distance himself and is instead meeting with one of their fellow hatemongers, right here in the Centennial State.

And what happens when a concerted hate campaign against a minority becomes an acceptable platform item for a mainstream political party?

After the jump…

(Warning: This is a long post. There’s a little levity, but mostly it’s scary and sad. If you are already scared enough and/or sad enough, skip to the end for what we can do.)

We all know about the Sikh temple shooting and Joplin mosque burning this week. But did you know that…

Muslims in Minnesota weren’t allowed to build a worship center in an office building’s basement. Citizens called Islam “evil” and “violent” at a meeting inviting public comment on the proposal. Those evil, violent Muslims in the area responded by hosting a free iftar meal for their neighbors, hoping to share their cultural traditions with people of all faiths.

In Tennessee, Muslims on their way to worship will pass 13 white crosses installed by a pastor who says, “We wanted them to see the crosses and know how we felt about things.” The installation of the crosses was a final gesture following community members’ unsuccessful efforts to block the mosque, including arguing in court that Islam isn’t a religion. No plans to set them on fire on Muslims’ front lawns have been announced (yet).

The number of hate groups in America has doubled since 2000, while “The Patriot Movement,” a radical anti-government militia, has grown by 755% in three years.

Rhode Island Muslims asked for police protection after a man smashed their sign with a hammer and stole a piece of it, immediately following the torching of Joplin’s mosque.

Arson and vandalism at mosques have occurred recently in at least seven states.

Even Whole Foods–usually considered a progressive employer–allegedly fired a Muslim employee for planning to travel for Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca that most devout Muslims attempt at least once in their lives.

Hey, America, remember this shining chapter in the history of the land of the free and home of the brave?

During internment, various anti-Japanese groups formed up and down the West Coast.  In Seattle , the two most prominent anti-Japanese groups were the Remember the Pearl Harbor League (RPHL) and the Japanese Exclusion League (JEL).  Though they formed during the war, their most active periods, at least according to newspaper accounts in the Seattle Times, Seattle Post Intelligencer, and the Seattle Star, were during the debate over resettlement at the end of 1944 and in early 1945.

The anti-Japanese groups used methods such as flyers and word of mouth to gain members.  They also used newspapers to generate publicity by writing letters to the editors. The groups’ leadership and members came mainly from organized labor, veteran’s organizations, and agricultural interests who felt threatened by competition with Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Through their political connections, they were able to get partial support from Seattle’s mayor, Washington State ‘s governor, and its politically powerful Congressmen-Warren Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson. These groups’ leaders used their public meetings to preach an anti-Japanese ideology that while supposedly about American national security on the surface, often suggested that issues of race and economics were driving opposition to Japanese and Japanese-American return.  

Or perhaps you recall this one?

During the 1930s and 1940s, right-wing demagogues linked the Depression of the 1930s, the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt, and the threat of war in Europe to the machinations of an imagined international Jewish conspiracy that was both communist and capitalist. A new ideology appeared which accused “the Jews” of dominating Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, of causing the Great Depression, and of dragging the US into WW2 against a new Germany which deserved nothing but admiration. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was derisively referred to as the “Jew Deal”.

In a 1938 poll, approximately 60 percent of the respondents held a low opinion of Jews, labeling them “greedy,” “dishonest,” and “pushy.” 41 percent of respondents agreed that Jews had “too much power in the United States,” and this figure rose to 58 percent by 1945. In 1939 a Roper poll found that only thirty-nine percent of Americans felt that Jews should be treated like other people. Fifty-three percent believed that “Jews are different and should be restricted” and ten percent believed that Jews should be deported. Several surveys taken from 1940 to 1946 found that Jews were seen as a greater threat to the welfare of the United States than any other national, religious, or racial group.

Let’s face it: Whenever a single racial or religious group in America is targeted for harassment for reasons of “national security,” it leads to the loss of American lives and the restriction of Americans’ civil liberties. And that’s happening now. It’s been happening since September 11th, 2001, and right-wing politicians are only getting bolder and more blatant as they face no personal or political consequences for their behavior. This is not new–it’s just the new Southern Strategy, another way of keeping the marginalized on the margins while predominantly white, predominantly wealthy Christian Republicans capitalize on their suffering.

So what the hell do we do about it?

(Start reading again here, if you don’t need convincing and didn’t want to read the disturbing/windbaggy parts!)

Go to Dinner

It turns out there’s an organization working in Colorado that’s done a lot of good in the name of unity between Abrahamic (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) religions. It’s called the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation, and not only did they find Congressman Mike Coffman, they actually got him to smile for this photo with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan:

And it turns out they’re inviting you to dinner this Sunday to hear speeches on fasting in Abrahamic religions. Featured speakers will represent Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. Dinner is served at 8:10 PM, in keeping with the Muslim tradition of iftar (fast-breaking) at sunset during the month of Ramadan.

Date: Sunday, August 12th 2012

Time: 6.30pm Reception

Venue: Multicultural Mosaic Foundation 2600 S. Parker Rd. Building 2 Suite 100, Aurora, CO 80014  

Attending an iftar meal is an annual opportunity to learn about Muslim communities and traditions, and this venue seems especially conducive to the asking and answering of questions about religion. This is my first encounter with the organization, so I’m afraid I have no information beyond what’s publicly available, but I urge those who are able to attend.

How about the media?

The Denver newspaper has, surprisingly, done a good job lately of covering Muslim issues in Denver, with articles pointing out that Colorado Muslims attended vigils for the Aurora shooting victims and that Muslim community leaders are wondering why it’s so much easier to catch people stockpiling weapons when they’re brown.

But they haven’t mentioned this Lt. General Boykin thing, and I think they should. If you do too, send them a letter about it. Feel free to use/modify my boilerplate, below:

Dear Editors:

As a Coloradan and an American, I am concerned about the effects of Islamophobia on my neighbors and community. I was dismayed to learn that Governor Mitt Romney met with Lt. General William Boykin during his visit to Denver. Boykin’s vituperative rhetoric about Islam earned him a rebuke from George W. Bush in 2003, but in 2012 the presumptive Republican nominee included Boykin in a secret conference. During the same week, Romney also refused to distance himself from Michelle Bachmann’s hateful comments about American Muslim Huma Abedin.

In the wake of recent attacks on Sikh and Muslim places of worship, I call on Colorado’s politicians and community leaders to reject Islamophobia and to advocate for the First Amendment rights of all Americans. Especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, free and open religious expression should not mean risking one’s life.

Stay Informed

Subscribe to email from CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They seem to send one or two news updates by email each day. It’s a high volume compared to other email newsletters, but many of these stories will not be reported in national media or by Colorado outlets. Facing the problem is the first step toward solving it, and we all owe our Muslim, Sikh, and otherwise non-white, non-Christian neighbors our attention to the increasing risks their racial and religious groups face.

“Ramadan mubarak”

Ramadan continues through August 18th. If you have a friend, colleague, or neighbor who is fasting for Ramadan, wish them a “Ramadan mubarak.” It’s also polite to offer to host an iftar meal, if you’re close to someone who is fasting–but if it’s your first time, ask your friend’s advice on what to serve, as Islam involves some dietary restrictions (just like Judaism and, to some extent, Catholicism).

Talk to your place of worship

I’ve been occasionally attending interfaith lectures hosted by a Methodist church near me. If you attend religious services, ask your spiritual leader to consider inviting a guest lecturer from the Muslim community to speak to interested congregants. If you need a lecturer suggestion, email me and I’ll put you in touch with the pastor who’s been coordinating these things.

Know the facts

Things to mention when you talk to someone who seems to be uneducated about our Muslim friends and neighbors:

Of more than 14,000 murders in the United States last year, experts attributed zero to Islamic extremism.

Although Muslims do not worship any entity other than the Almighty God (the same God as Jews and Christians), they acknowledge Jesus Christ as a religious leader and praise him in the Quran.

Muslims (like Jews and many Christian denominations) are obliged as part of their faith to give to charity. This practice of zakat is one of the “five pillars” of Islam.

There are more verses in Jewish religious texts than in Muslim texts limiting the rights of women. Most restrictions on the rights of women in Islamic states stem from cultural norms that predated Islam but have become intertwined with religious law in those countries.

Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, among other predominantly Muslim countries, have elected female heads of state (the USA, of course, has not). Islam was the first Abrahamic religion whose religious laws give women inheritance rights and the right to own property independent of their husbands.

Share some Resources

CAIR has two incredibly valuable resources for Muslims coexisting with neighbors unfriendly to their religious expression:

Community Safety Toolkit

Guide to Combating Islamophobia

These resources encourage proactive cooperation with law enforcement, hosting open community events, documenting incidents of discrimination in the workplace, and other basic strategies that can help American Muslims stay safe and discourage Islamophobia.

Okay — I’ve said my bit, and I’m shutting up now, until the next time the outrage at how my fellow Americans are being treated bubbles over. I may be preaching mostly to the choir here, but I hope this post moves at least a few people to take action on behalf of American Muslims’ civil rights and essential safety. And if you’ll be going to the Mosaic dinner, please comment so I know to look for you! <3

This post was written with help from a few friends met through Reddit’s r/Islam, who kindly suggested organizations to follow and vetted my Ramadan suggestions for cultural compatibility. Any remaining cultural ignorance is my own and I would appreciate being corrected/educated.

About ProgressiveCowgirl

Colorado native, young professional, progressive cowgirl. 4-term FPE (aka masochist).

3 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    I hope the ded govs added  a little something to the check this week.

    If not- I’ll get your dinner.

  2. parsingreality says:

    On the one hand, we have those who think every Muslim has a bomb under his/her tunic.  On the other, individuals and liberal religious sects that think all Muslims just wanna make S’mores and sing Kumbaya.

    Both perspectives are true.

    Many Muslims DO want to kill us or destroy Western Culture.  Most terrorist activity around the world is rooted in Islam.  (Not to overlook recent Catholic/Protestant “difficulties,” or “homegrown” versions, just looking at the predominance.)

    We also have to see that some “Muslim terrorists” – think Mohammed Atta and Friends – have less to do with Islam than some kind of general Arabic pissed off at the West mentality.  

    I have absolutely no suggestion how to bridge the divides.  At the least, both sides of the issue need to accept that there are many individual variances.

    In closing, I’ve said for years, “Cultures clash.”

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