Professor Jack G. Shaheen and actress Shohreh Aghdashloo on the history of Arab stereotypes, commenting on TCM’s July, 2011 Arab Images On Film programming.
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/23/11) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender today released a report based on available data and interviews with experts that documents growing Islamophobia in the United States and offers recommendations about how to challenge the troubling phenomenon.
American Muslim reflections on Islamophobia in the United States occur in full recognition that virtually every minority in our nation has faced and in most cases continues to face discrimination. Islamophobia is close-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. An Islamophobe is an individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against or hatred of Muslims. It is not appropriate to label all, or even the majority of those, who question Islam and Muslims as Islamophobes. Some individuals, institutions and groups deserve recognition for their outstanding contributions to pushing back against Islamophobic trends during the period covered by this report: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Loonwatch.com; Congressional Tri-Caucus; Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN); Jon Stewart, Aasif Mandvi and The Daily Show; Keith Olbermann and Countdown with Keith Olbermann; Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report; Media Matters for America; interfaith leaders; and Rachel Maddow and The Rachel Maddow Show. Some individuals, institutions and groups were at the center of pushing Islamophobia in America during the period covered by this report: Pamela Geller and Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA); Robert Spencer and Jihad Watch; Brigitte Gabriel and Act! for America; Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy (CSP); Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT); Newt Gingrich; the four members of Congress who called for an investigation of Muslim Capitol Hill interns; Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and other violent extremists; and Daniel Pipes. According to those interviewed for this report, on a scale from 1 (best situation for Muslims) to 10 (worst possible situation for Muslims) Islamophobia in America stands at a 6.4. Interviews were conducted in September and October of 2010.
THE FURY surrounding New York Representative Peter King’s March hearing on the radicalization of Muslim-American communities was an embarrassment for the House and its Homeland Security Committee. Not a single meaningful recommendation came from the politically charged investigation. The only memorable moment was when Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, broke down as he spoke of a falsely accused Muslim New York City paramedic who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
Today, King will hold a second hearing that will look at the radicalization of Muslims in US prisons. It lacks the drama and emotion of the first. Indeed, the silence surrounding it is deafening. Likely, after the death of Osama bin Laden, it is more difficult for King to whip up fears that the Obama administration is going soft on terrorism.
But, as with King’s first hearing, there is a germ of truth in his concerns, if not his intensive focus on Muslim-Americans. Radicalization is clearly a growing problem in prisons. A 2008 study by the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice showed a link between prison gangs, radicalization, and violence. Many corrections officers are now trained to identify prisoners who adopt extreme views.
In a statement released after King’s hearing, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said:
“Reasonable people must question why no official with the Federal Bureau of Prisons testified today at Representative King’s agenda-driven hearing. This omission is yet another reason interest in King’s show trials of the American Muslim community diminished significantly after his first hearing.
“The one witness who has conducted extensive academic research on the issue was Professor Bert Useem of Purdue University, whose research was funded by institutions affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. In his written testimony, Useem concluded, ‘My core argument, then, is that U.S. prisons are not systematically generating a terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.’
WESTBURY, N.Y. — Members of several New York organizations Tuesday decried the next round of hearings by Rep. Peter King on what he calls the radicalization of the Muslim-American community.
King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee, has scheduled a Wednesday hearing in Washington focusing on radicalization in U.S. prisons. He said he plans to call several law enforcement experts to testify on recent examples of terrorist recruitment among inmates.
“This is a real concern; this is a real issue,” the lawmaker from New York’s Long Island said in a telephone interview following a news conference by a group called Long island Neighbors for American Values. The group is a coalition of religious leaders and civic groups who contend King’s hearings are fostering negative stereotypes.
“Unfortunately, these people are living in denial,” King said of his foes. “Al-Qaida is attempting to recruit in our country and it is a reality we cannot afford to hide from.”
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The National Jewish Democratic Council blasted what it said was a Republican “obsession” with Muslims.
An NJDC statement termed as “utterly unnecessary” a second hearing convened Wednesday by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Commitee, on Muslim radicalization.
“Taken together with examples such as Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s and Herman Cain’s deeply disturbing comments in Monday night’s debate, these hearings are a manifestation of an upsetting GOP obsession with American Muslims,” the statement said.
In the GOP presidential debate Monday, Gingrich defended proposed loyalty tests for Muslims by likening them to past loyalty tests aimed at ferreting out communists and Nazis. Cain attempted to explain past comments in which he said he would not be comfortable with including a Muslim in his Cabinet.
“Once again, King has singled out the adherents of the Muslim faith, calling into question the loyalty of an entire community,” NJDC said. “All Americans who treasure the freedom of religion should be concerned with the growing suspicion of Muslim Americans by the Republican Party, which seems to be a requirement among its 2012 contenders.”
Republicans pointed out that King’s hearing Wednesday focused specifically on Muslim radicalization among prisoners, a topic that congressional Democrats have addressed in the past.
SAN FRANCISCO — An unlikely coalition of Jews and Muslims on Wednesday filed a lawsuit to block a San Francisco ballot measure that would ban the circumcision of male children, a procedure widely practiced by members of both faiths.
The case filed in San Francisco Superior Court asks the court to remove the voter initiative from the city’s Nov. 8 ballot, arguing that California law bars local governments from restricting medical procedures.
The plaintiffs include five Jews, three Muslims, two physicians who regularly perform circumcisions, the Anti-Defamation League and the local chapter of the Jewish Community Relations Council.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Fordson High School in Dearborn, Mich., is similar to many high schools in the state of Oklahoma. The students are energetic and boisterous on occasion, the faculty and staff are supportive of the students and the football team is a source of pride and enthusiasm for the entire school. The story of that school is told in the documentary film “Fordson” that was made by a talented Arab American filmmaker, Rashid Ghazi. Dearborn, Mich., was the site of a large Ford plant in the early decades of the last century and thousands of Arab immigrants, the majority of whom were Muslims, came to work there.
And that community, we are told, is now home to the largest concentration of Muslims in the U.S. Oklahomans should take note that no efforts have been made to introduce Sharia law into the Dearborn municipal code. The images of Dearborn include a variety of small businesses that cater to the Muslims and it explained that those businesses helped to reinvigorate that community after the Ford plant closed years ago.
The story contained in the movie is a familiar one, high school athletes who are supported by family and an inspirational coach, a school principal who can be stern, and a game against a rival team at the end of the season. But the majority of the football team at Fordson and the coach and principal are all Muslims, and while the players struggle during practice to not eat or drink during the daylight hours in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, that is the only discernible difference between this and any other story of a high school football team in the American Heartland.
It’s not just Herman Cain…
As you may have heard, Cain, the longshot GOP presidential candidate, told Think Progress last week that if elected president, he would not consider any federal appointments of Muslims. Cain explained: “There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.”
This wasn’t Cain simply being entrapped by a wily questioner. Cain had expressed similar anti-Muslim sentiments in an interview with Christianity Today a few days earlier.
Appealing to your base’s id is a tried-and-true method dark horse candidates use to garner attention. This is why Donald Trump has spent the last couple of weeks expressing doubts about the president’s birthplace. But frank expressions of anti-Muslim animus are also coming from mainstream GOP contenders.
All of this makes it fair to ask whether some of this anti-Muslim sentiment reflects opposition to Obama generally, and whether dislike for Obama, combined with the mistaken belief that he is a Muslim, has actually contributed to the mainstreaming of Islamophobic conspiracy theories on the right. If so, pandering to Islamophobia may be an easy way for a Republican candidate to communicate his or political instincts to the base, and thus may become an enduring and unalterable feature of the 2012 presidential race that will only intensify as the campaign develops.
Several debate participants have history of promoting anti-Muslim bias
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/13/11) — The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT*), a national coalition of major Muslim organizations, today called on Republican presidential candidates to repudiate growing Islamophobia in American society during tonight’s GOP debate in New Hampshire.”
In a statement, AMT said: “We call on all the participants in tonight’s GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire to state clearly that they will not promote or exploit growing anti-Muslim sentiment to gain political advantage. While appealing to fear and religious intolerance may score some cheap political points with a vocal minority in American society, our nation and its values of diversity and inclusion are harmed in the process. “American Muslims deserve the same rights and respect as other citizens.”
AMT says several of those taking part in tonight’s debate hold Islamophobic views or promote unconstitutional measures targeting American Muslims. For example:
• Herman Cain first said he would not appoint a Muslim to a cabinet position, but later modified that stance by calling for an unconstitutional “loyalty” oath for Muslim appointees.
• Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum calls Sharia, or Islamic principles, “an existential threat” to America. In a “lecture on Islam,” Santorum falsely claimed the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, was written in “Islamic.”
• Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has suggested a federal anti-Sharia law. He also said: “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they [his grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists. …” Gingrich once issued a statement calling for a ban on all mosques near Ground Zero “so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”
• In response to a 2005 debate question about French Muslims, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said: “Not all cultures are equal. Not all values are equal.”
• Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty touted his cancellation of a Minnesota agency’s Sharia-compliant mortgage program designed to help Muslim homebuyers.
• Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said in 2007 that he would not consider Muslims for cabinet posts. Romney stated: “. …based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.” (Romney later disputed the accuracy of that quote.)
An audience of 150, a mix of Muslims and others at the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring, meet Fazal’s alter ego, a brash but flirty character who relishes asking the kinds of questions most young Muslims wouldn’t dare pose to parents:
Why must she and her father stay in separate rooms at a party at the mosque? If a woman must cover her hair in front of men who are not part of her family, how about a lesbian — must she wear a hijab in front of all women?
“Why do I have to be the ambassador for Islam? Why do I have to represent Pakistan when I’ve only been there twice?” Zed demands in her one-woman show, “Headscarf and the Angry Bitch.”
Zed is a child of 9/11, an in-your-face Muslim who rocks out yet still covers. Born in Libertyville, Ill., Fazal grew up in a home that was liberal by Muslim standards and conservative in the eyes of her Christian friends. Her family wasn’t much for going to mosque, but some parental rules rendered Fazal and her sisters different.
But in the aftermath of Sept. 11, she became uncomfortable with her father’s decision to go on local TV to try to explain that Islam was a religion of peace. She grew exasperated over having to somehow prove her patriotism to strangers and angry when her dad’s name temporarily popped up on a no-fly list because it was similar to that of some bad guy.
In the past 18 months alone, U.S. Muslims have felt compelled to explain — to themselves and their non-Muslim neighbors — the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre, the attempted bombing of Times Square, the backlash against a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, and sting operations that led to the arrests of alleged Muslim proto-terrorists from Portland, Ore., to Ashburn.
The more Muslims feel singled out, the more they focus on painful divisions in their own ranks, between young and old, native and newcomer, secular and devout, militant and moderate. Two-thirds of this country’s Muslims are immigrants, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, hailing from scores of countries.
“In the ’60s and ’70s, we built mosques only to pray,” the imam says. “In the ’80s and ’90s, we built schools to educate our children. Now we are building cemeteries because we want to die in America. We are saying, ‘We are here. This is home.’ ”