Islamophobia as an Integral Part of the Political Platform

The general mood in the United States has grown increasingly intolerant towards Muslims. Charlotte Wiedemann was in New York and spoke with Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Afro-American and President of the Islamic Leadership Council, on the mood in this election year and about his criticism of some Muslims for what he sees as opportunism

Imam, you stood on the street with a sign that said “Muslims demand equal rights!” Against what were you directing your protest?

Talib Abdur-Rashid: The surveillance of Muslim communities, mosques, meeting places, and student groups is a grave violation of the American constitution. Under the pretext of security, the New York police and their “Intelligence Division” have assumed the right to snoop around wherever they like. We will not put up with this. The matter must be decided by the courts.

Opinion polls indicate that almost every other American holds a negative view of Islam. And every third Republican supporter calls Barack Obama a Muslim, here synonymous with being un-American. Is religious tolerance in the USA a thing of the past?

Rashid: The atmosphere today is even more negative for Muslims than after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. We were all traumatized by 9/11, but back then there were efforts to support each other as Americans and not to fall into the trap of a collective guilt mindset. Today, the Republicans and, in particular, the Tea Party, have made Islamophobia an integral part of their political platform. They utilize fears, traumas, and a lack of knowledge to further their political aims. We have observed in recent times that there is a rise in anti-Islamic emotions during every election year. This was the situation at the time of Obama’s election and equally the case in local elections in New York two years ago.

Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance

Under the glistening dome of a mosque on Long Island, hundreds of men sat cross-legged on the floor. Many were doctors and engineers born in Pakistan and India. Dressed in khakis, polo shirts and the odd silk tunic, they fidgeted and whispered.

One thing stood between them and dinner: A visitor from Harlem was coming to ask for money.

A towering black man with a gray-flecked beard finally swept into the room, his bodyguard trailing him. Wearing a long, embroidered robe and matching hat, he took the microphone and began talking about a different group of Muslims, the thousands of African-Americans who have found Islam in prison.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” said the visitor, known as Imam Talib.

One thing stood between them and dinner: A visitor from Harlem was coming to ask for money.
A towering black man with a gray-flecked beard finally swept into the room, his bodyguard trailing him. Wearing a long, embroidered robe and matching hat, he took the microphone and began talking about a different group of Muslims, the thousands of African-Americans who have found Islam in prison.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” said the visitor, known as Imam Talib.

Protesters to NYPD: ‘We are unapologetically Muslim and uncompromisingly American’

NEW YORK — Hundreds of Muslims prayed in a lower Manhattan park and marched to New York Police headquarters Friday to protest a decade of police infiltrating mosques and spying on Muslim neighborhoods.

Bundled in winter clothes, men and women knelt as the call to prayer echoed off the cold stone of government buildings.

“Being Muslim does not negate our nationality,” Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid told the crowd of about 500 gathered in Foley Square, not far from City Hall and local courthouses. “We are unapologetically Muslim and uncompromisingly American.”

Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance

Only 28 miles separate Imam Talib’s mosque in Harlem from the Islamic Center of Long Island. The congregations they each serve – African-Americans at the city mosque and immigrants of South Asian and Arab descent in the suburbs – represent the largest Muslim populations in the United States. Yet a vast gulf divides them, one marked by race and class, culture and history. For many African-American converts, Islam is an experience both spiritual and political, an expression of empowerment in a country they feel is dominated by a white elite. For many immigrant Muslims, Islam is an inherited identity, and America a place of assimilation and prosperity. For decades, these two Muslim worlds remained largely separate. But last fall, Imam Talib hoped to cross that distance in a venture that has become increasingly common since Sept. 11. Black Muslims have begun advising immigrants on how to mount a civil rights campaign. Foreign-born Muslims are giving African-Americans roles of leadership in some of their largest organizations. The two groups have joined forces politically, forming coalitions and backing the same candidates. It is a tentative and uneasy union, seen more typically among leaders at the pulpit than along the prayer line. But it is critical, a growing number of Muslims believe, to surviving a hostile new era. Muslims will not be successful in America until there is a marriage between the indigenous and immigrant communities, said Siraj Wahhaj, an African-American imam in New York with a rare national following among immigrant Muslims. There has to be a marriage. The divide between black and immigrant Muslims reflects a unique struggle facing Islam in America. Perhaps nowhere else in the world are Muslims from so many racial, cultural and theological backgrounds trying their hands at coexistence. Only in Mecca, during the obligatory hajj, or pilgrimage, does such diversity in the faith come to life, between black and white, rich and poor, Sunni and Shiite (…) African-Americans possess a cultural and historical fluency that immigrants lack, said Dr. Khan; they hold an unassailable place in America from which to defend their faith. For Imam Talib, immigrants provide a crucial link to the Muslim world and its tradition of scholarship, as well as the wisdom that comes with an unshattered Islamic heritage. Both groups have their practical virtues, too. African-Americans know better how to mobilize in America, both men say, and immigrants tend to have deeper pockets. (…)