Muslims in the Crosshairs of Hate

Linda Sarsour is a Muslim activist who has been under constant attack.

Human history is peppered with dreadful accounts of minority communities who were deliberately demonized before atrocities were committed against them. Though the global Muslim community is not under a clear and present danger, dark clouds are indeed gathering. The upsurge of belligerent Islamophobia and violent ethnic nationalism in the West, the mass deportation of refugees in US and other Western countries, and the institutional ethnic-cleansing of the Rohingya—a Muslim minority community in Myanmar—should raise red flags.

Yes, there are some Muslims out there who wreak havoc; who cause destruction of lives and properties only to get themselves, their people, and nations destroyed. Whether they are ISIS, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram or any other, they have been the fatal curse that destroyed or gave the pretext for mightier nations to invade and destroy many Muslim nations.

That said, in America and many parts of Europe, false narratives concocted to collectively demonize Muslims dominate hate radio, pockets of social media, right-wing and alt-right public forums and publications. There has been little or no public scrutiny against these hate-mongers, let alone outrage.

The Indoctrination Process

The Fear, Inc. has established a well-funded and well-coordinated echo chamber of such potency that it makes any dreadful false narrative a credible news or finding. The process routinely begins with a bizarre claim by any member of the anti-Muslim cabal. This is followed by meticulously orchestrated referencing and quotations by like-minded groups.

Hate radio has virtually taken over the AM broadcasting. One talk show after another, Islam is negatively woven into almost every story. Programs such as Focal Point Radiohosted by Bryan Fischer, the Sean Hannity Show and Sandy Rios In The Morning. Rios is not just a radio personality; she is the American Family Association’s governmental affairs director. And AFA is a right-wing powerhouse.

On April 12, while defending the Muslim Ban, Rios made a passionate appeal to her audience to protect their white race. “The fabric of this nation is changing” and “We need to regain our national identity,” she said. Like her colleagues, Rios deliberately ignores the fact that there are approximately three million indigenous Muslims and that only one fifth of the global Muslim population is from the Middle East, and that most Islamic countries have not been the victims of dysfunctional foreign policies. Why? Because that feeds into the right-wing and alt-right paranoia, hence paints the average Muslim as a stereotypically irrational Middle Eastern male who is obsessed with ‘Sharia law’ and jihad.

Like their colleagues in Europe and Australia, these hate radio programs use the same anti-Islamic talking-points and soundbites. And any goodwill person who calls to reason with them and to set the record straight regarding Muslims and Islam is silenced with venomous attacks or is immediately cut off to continue their fanatically deceitful narrative.

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject,” said Winston Churchill.

Institutionalization of Hate

Shortly after right-wing evangelical leaders met president Donald Trump in the Oval Office and “laid hands” on him, a Vatican vetted magazine has published a critical article on the threat of evangelical fundamentalism, their ill-conceived Biblical interpretation, hostilities toward migrants and Muslims and their connection to the White House.

The article underscored how the chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, is the architect of what the authors aptly descried as “apocalyptic geopolitics”- similar to ISIS’ world view. Even more dangerous than Bannon’s white supremacist values and his advocacy for inter-religious doomsday is his raw lust for power and who inspire him. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power,” said Bannon about his role models.

No wonder President Donald Trump has been silent on a few Islamophobic attacks that made national headlines. The latest being the domestic terrorism targeting the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center near the Twin Cities. Trump has been the beneficiary of the current environment of suspicion, fear and ethno-centric nationalism.

Think(not) Tankers that Inform Policy

Notorious Islamophobes such as Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy have been fanning the flames of paranoia with the claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is replacing the US Constitution with Sharia law and its government with a Caliphate. He and David Horowitz of the Freedom Center insist that Islam is “a totalitarian political ideology” and not a religion. Therefore Muslims should be excluded from any constitutional protection when facing religious discrimination. Gaffney, who is considered by Steve Bannon as “one of the senior thought leaders and men of action in this whole war against Islamic radical jihad,” now has a direct access to the Trump White House.

In their crosshairs are those Muslim leaders, scholars, intellectuals, activists, and organizers whose world view is inspired by their faith and by the good they extract out of wide spectrum of civilizations of the human race. This particular class, for lack of a better description, are considered most dangerous because the range and depth of their understanding and articulation of critical issues dividing the world. They defy stereotype—image of the furious extremist caricatures—used to dehumanize Muslims.

Neocons have always considered the Muslim Brotherhood as their biggest threat due to its unwavering stance on Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

Hate Breeds Self-righteous Savagery

Most of us know about the Crusaders and the atrocities that they’ve committed against Muslims and Jews, but few about the ill-famed Siege of Ma’arra. What happened there is arguably the worst thing that any human-beings have done to others of their kind.

“On this day in 1098, the Siege of Ma’arra, a long and infamous siege during the First Crusade in which some Crusaders massacred and feasted on their Muslim enemies, took place in the city of Ma’aarat al-Numan, in modern-day Syria.” Hate led to those Crusaders to cannibalized their Muslim victims in the name of Jesus.

So, why this horrific episode of hate expression is still hidden in dark pages of history? Why is it not taught in every Islamic school and brought up in every conversation or is the opening of every TV and radio programs?

Because doing so defies Prophet Muhammad teachings. He taught that holding grudges against people is an obstacle to transformative change. He taught that people are innately good, though they possess diabolical tendencies. And that Christians and Jews are People of the Book therefore any wholesale condemnation toward them is blasphemous. That is why Muslims cannot reciprocate when Christians and Jews spread lies or direct curse Prophet Muhammad, or worse, Allah.

Recommendations

In addition to the rising Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims, one of the most serious threats facing Muslims is that we are being defined and framed by those who are determined to demonize us without any significant push-back from us.

Muslims should explore outside of the box ways of defusing and exposing these hatemongers. And hate radio should be the first target. Muslims should purchase Ads highlighting Muslim accomplishments and contribution to the society or simply announcing mosque events. Let these hatemongers either shamelessly hide behind hypocrisy or come out in the open. My personal preference would’ve been Sean Hannity announcing a CAIR event.

Push-back against the disinformation that the Qur’an promotes extremism and terrorism. If there a grain of fact in the argument and that the real problem is ‘religiously sanctioned violence’ then the Torah and the Bible would’ve been banned before the Qur’an.

Contrary to the Islamic no showboating etiquette, Muslims must openly highlight their philanthropic contributions to societal causes of common good. The World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists could take the lead.

In the meantime, people of fairness and conscience should speak against this growing danger and help set up platforms where honest dialogue and discourse on faith and foreign policy—the oft ignored culprit—could take place. Silence is a morally and intellectually repulsive if not a complicit option.

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