PBS series ‘Life of Muhammad’ explores diverse opinions of prophet

The portrait of the Muslim prophet, which emerges from a PBS documentary “Life of Muhammad,” may surprise some American viewers.

 

“As major polls by Gallup, Pew, and others have reported, astonishing numbers of Americans, as well as Europeans, are not only ignorant of Islam but have deep fears and prejudices towards their Muslim populations,” said John Esposito, professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University who appears in the three-part series that debuts Tuesday (Aug. 20) on PBS.

 

Esposito praised the series’ “balance,” and its attempts to describe controversial aspects of the prophet’s life with a diversity of opinions.

 

Produced for the BBC in 2011, the series examines the world into which Muhammad was born and his marriage to his first wife, Khadijah. The second hour focuses on the “Night Journey to Jerusalem,” his departure from Mecca and the eight-year war with the Meccan tribes. The third analyzes events during his later life, including the introduction of the moral code known as Shariah and the concept of jihad.

 

Narrated by Rageh Omaar, a Somali-born journalist, the series presents Muhammad in a respectful, positive light, though it doesn’t shirk from the controversies that surround Muhammad, who was born in Mecca in 570 A.D.

 

Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at University of Oxford, says in the film, “We never represent or have any images of any of the prophets.”

 

Omaar’s signoff at the end of the three-hour documentary attempts to contextualize all of the stories—flattering and damning—surrounding the prophet.  “He left Arabia a better place than he found it,” Omaar says.

English Defence League backs Ukip in local elections

The UK Independence Party (Ukip) faced embarrassment last night after it received the unwanted endorsement of the far-Right English Defence League for next month’s local council elections. Currently third in UK polls and is fielding up to 2,000 candidates in the contests, rapidly distanced itself from the “abhorrent and stupid” anti-Islamic organisation. Under Mr Farage’s leadership, Ukip has striven hard to lose its reputation for extremism following accusations that it is the “BNP in suits”. David Cameron once described it as a “bunch of fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists, mostly”. The article also reports that a senior Labour source said: “Ukip should be ashamed that their rhetoric and policies have such appeal to those on the far-Right who want to stir up hatred.”

How the Faithful Voted: 2012 Preliminary Analysis

In his re-election victory, Democrat Barack Obama narrowly defeated Republican Mitt Romney in the national popular vote (50% to 48%)1. Obama’s margin of victory was much smaller than in 2008 when he defeated John McCain by a 53% to 46% margin, and he lost ground among white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics. But the basic religious contours of the 2012 electorate resemble recent elections – traditionally Republican groups such as white evangelicals and weekly churchgoers strongly backed Romney, while traditionally Democratic groups such as black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews and the religiously unaffiliated backed Obama by large margins.

Vote Choice by Religion and Race

Religiously unaffiliated voters and Jewish voters were firmly in Obama’s corner in 2012 (70% and 69%, respectively). Compared with 2008, support for Obama ticked downward among both Jews and religiously unaffiliated voters in the exit polls, though these declines appear not to be statistically significant. Both of these groups have long been strongly supportive of Democratic candidates in presidential elections. Black Protestants also voted overwhelmingly for Obama (95%).

 

At the other end of the political spectrum, nearly eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants voted for Romney (79%), compared with 20% who backed Obama. Romney received as much support from evangelical voters as George W. Bush did in 2004 (79%) and more support from evangelicals than McCain did in 2008 (73%). Mormon voters were also firmly in Romney’s corner; nearly eight-in-ten Mormons (78%) voted for Romney, while 21% voted for Obama. Romney received about the same amount of support from Mormons that Bush received in 2004. (Exit poll data on Mormons was unavailable for 2000 and 2008.)

Jews accounted for 2% of the 2012 electorate, and Muslims and members of other non-Christian faiths together accounted for 7% of the electorate. The religiously unaffiliated made up 12% of 2012 voters; the religiously unaffiliated share of the electorate is unchanged from 2008, even though the religiously unaffiliated share of the adult population has grown significantly over this period.

Islamophobic candidates are big losers in 2012 election

Friday, 11.09.2012, 06:39pm
Several candidates for Congressional elections known for making anti-Islam statements were defeated during this week’s election, much to the delight of American Muslims and tolerant U.S. residents in general who have grown tired of the unwelcoming climate.

“These encouraging results clearly show that mainstream Americans reject anti-Muslim bigotry by candidates for public office and will demonstrate that rejection at the polls,” Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, according to the website OnIslam.net.

Candidates known for their hostile, ignorant rhetoric were defeated in several states, another win for tolerance coming off of the failed campaigns of similar presidential candidates such as Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum.

Book Review: Nathan Lean’s “The Islamophobia Industry, How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims”

Ahmed Sharif was a 44-year-old Muslim Bangladeshi taxi driver in New York City. It was August 24, 2010, a time that marked the height of vitriolic protests against a planned Islamic center to be located in lower Manhattan, a few blocks away from the site of Ground Zero. Sharif picked up 21-year-old Michael Enright for an early evening ride. Everything was going smoothly until Enright, three blocks away from his stop, yelled at Sharif, “this is a checkpoint, motherfucker, and I have to bring you down.”

Enright, a filmmaker who kept a diary filled with strong anti-Muslim sentiment, pulled out a knife and slashed Sharif across the throat, face and arms. Enright tried to escape, but was arrested by the New York Police Department. Sharif survived, but he packed up and moved to Buffalo, in upstate New York. It was a crime that seemed to fit in with the general climate of hysteria over Muslims that developed that summer.

This is how Nathan Lean begins telling the story of how a small group of bigots seized upon the frustrations and fears of post-9/11 America and exploited those feelings to create a circular industry of hate. Lean’s new book, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, is a compact and punchy look at this industry stretching across continents that has sowed hatred of Muslims into the fabric of Western society.

The American Muslim: http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/book-review-the-islamophobia-industry-how-the-right-manufactures-fear-of-mu/0019469

Why American Jews and Muslims backed Obama by huge margins
In addition to having similar dietary laws, customs and rituals, we found out on Nov. 6 that American Jews and American Muslims have another thing in common; each community gave 70 percent or more of its vote during Tuesday’s presidential election to President Obama.

According to two national exit polls, about 70 percent of American Jews supported President Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney. A poll conducted in the Muslim community in late October showed that 68 percent of American Muslims backed Obama.

What do these similar vote totals in support of President Obama say about our two communities? First, the results show that majorities of American Jews and American Muslims support President Obama’s vision of an inclusive society where people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds have a chance to succeed. Jews and Muslims alike embrace the vision the president has articulated that “we are all in this together” and that government-as well as religious communities–should be ready and willing to extend a helping hand to members of our society in desperate need.

by Alex Kane

CAIR to Release Poll of Muslim Voters on Presidential Pick

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2012 — Results show Muslims may be key voting bloc in swing states nationwide.

 

On Wednesday, October 24, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), along with the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT*), will hold a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to announce the results of a poll of American Muslim registered voters.

“The results of our survey show that, because of the razor-thin margins in several swing states, American Muslim voters could be a key voting bloc,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

 

CAIR’s survey, conducted by an independent research firm in the first two weeks of October, indicates how many American Muslim registered voters are still undecided about who to vote for in the November presidential election and how many will turn out at the polls.

 

The survey also outlines which issues are important to Muslim voters, which political party Muslims favor, how many Muslim voters have experienced discrimination or kindness post-9/11, and what Muslims think of major foreign policy issues.

 

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization has taken similar polls in past election cycles.

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.

Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years

Trends in American Values: 1987-2012

Overview: As Americans head to the polls this November, their values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years. Unlike in 1987, when this series of surveys began, the values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than gender, age, race or class divides.

Overall, there has been much more stability than change across the 48 political values measures that the Pew Research Center has tracked since 1987. But the average partisan gap has nearly doubled over this 25-year period – from 10 percentage points in 1987 to 18 percentage points in the new study.

Nearly all of the increases have occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. During this period, both parties’ bases have often been critical of their parties for not standing up for their traditional positions. Currently, 71% of Republicans and 58% of Democrats say their parties have not done a good job in this regard.

Billy Graham’s son: Obama, on gay marriage, has shaken fist at God

Franklin Graham — son and legatee of Billy Graham, the traditional spiritual advisor to the nation’s presidents — is lashing out at President Obama for his support of gay marriage, saying that Obama has “shaken his fist” at God, and lamenting “a sad day for America.”

Graham’s three-paragraph statement, released on the association’s website, noted that voters in his home state of North Carolina had approved a constitutional amendment that allows only heterosexual marriage. Overall, 38 states have adopted some kind of prohibition on gay marriage, and the president said that the states should be able to determine whether to accept homosexual unions.

As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama had said that he opposed gay marriage, but more recently said that his position was evolving.

“In changing his position from that of “Senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage,” Graham said. “It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more.

“The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media,” Graham continued. “The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change God’s definition. This is a sad day for America. God help us.”

Graham, 59, has insinuated previously that he’s not a big fan of the president. On Feb. 21, on MSNBC’s  “Morning Joe” show, he was asked whether Obama was a Christian.

“I think you have to ask President Obama,” he said. Because Obama’s father was a Muslim, Graham added, “under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim.”

Elsewhere, Graham has called Islam “wicked and evil.”

Amnesty International on the distress of calling yourself Muslim

29 April 2012

According to an Amnesty International report released this week, Muslims in Europe face discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in employment and education. After analyzing the situation of those who profess this religion in Belgium, Spain, France, Netherlands and Switzerland, the NGO said that the opinion polls reflect “fear, mistrust and negative opinions about Muslims and Islamic culture.” ‘Go to your country’ “The most common phrase we hear is’ go to your country.” I’m tired and I do not answer … it does not enter the head of many that I’m not a foreign, I’m Spanish, Basque “complains Jennifer Chamizo, now 25 years old and who embraced Islam (expression that Muslims prefer to the word ‘convert’) when she was 20.

Amnesty International collected a study that sets the number of Muslims in Spain on about 2.3% of the population. Many of the enquired people acknowledged having to hide at work that they are Muslims. Sources familiar with the Muslim community in Madrid say that, with rare exceptions, those who go to mosques to make the ‘Shahada’ never do it accompanied by their family, despite being a very important event for them. “Many believe that Spain is tolerant, I also thought so, but when you’re the different one, you understand, and feel, that there is still a lot of rejection,” says Habiba. 37% of the Spanish believe it is acceptable to expel a student from school simply because she is wearing headscarves and the same percentage said to have supported protests against the construction of Muslim places of worship, according to the AI report.