Why this perfect response to negative stereotypes about Islam is being shared again

An interview with an author who criticised negative stereotypes about Islam is being widely shared online again after the Paris attacks. Reza Aslan’s interview on CNN, in which he was asked ‘Does Islam promote violence?’, initially made headlines in September last year.

He was asked to appear on the news channel after comedian Bill Maher made controversial comments about Islam. On his chat show, Maher claimed that “vast numbers of Muslims around the world believe that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea, or drawing a cartoon, or writing a book, or eloping with the wrong person”. He added: “Not only does the Muslim world have something in common with Isis, it has too much in common with Isis.”

Iranian-American academic Aslan, who released best-selling book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth in 2013, was questioned about female genital mutilation in Muslim countries during the CNN interview.

“This is the problem. These conversations that we’re having aren’t really being had in any kind of legitimate way. We’re not talking about women in the Muslim world, we’re using two or three examples to justify a generalisation. That’s actually the definition of bigotry,” he replied. “The problem is that you’re talking about a religion of 1.5billion people and certainly it becomes very easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush by saying, ‘Well in Saudi Arabia women can’t drive,’ and saying that’s representative of Islam. That’s representative of Saudi Arabia.”

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim by Amina Wadud

August 21, 2014

No doubt about it, the news of late has been dismal, heart breaking, soul crunching. Pick a place or theme and see where you end up: Ebola in parts of Africa, Israel and Hamas; Ferguson, Missouri; Ukraine, U.S., and Russia; unaccompanied minors from the south crossing over into U.S. borders; the assault of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) on Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, Shi’ahs and journalists. This list could (should) be augmented by many other conflicts and areas of strife which have been on-going for longer than the last several weeks.

I don’t know about you, but I draw my weary attention to the latest news each morning with knots in my stomach and a heavy weight on my shoulders. Meanwhile, even if I am not directing my attention to the news per se, the same events are all over social media and I confess I check into facebook and twitter each day even when I try to maintain a casual posture over usage and to keep upbeat attitude in how I engage (or ignore) the latest hash tag or hot button issues.

For weeks I have been thinking I should blog about an important lesson I have learned as best articulated in the book by Sharon Welch: A Feminist Ethic of Risk. In a world riddled with problems of proportions greater than can be solved by any one person, one group, one country or over one life time, how does one continue to be ethically engaged, avoid crippling despair and pointless cynicism, or just plain fall into apathy?

Welch outlines the problem of an ethical model that is predicated on success in the face of inherent crisis, obvious human rights violations, or even catastrophes of nature. The success is achieved in part as a result of an on-going imbalance of power. This imbalance operates on the basis that any intervention will guarantee the sought after results: tyrants will be put down, enemies of the state will be subdued, and the victor will come home to accolades of support. This presumes that all others are not equal and so if any should transgress “our” territory or sensibilities, we will just go blow them away. (This by the way is the set-genre of US hero films). All it takes is for our hero to come into his or her full prowess and all evil doers will be vanquished, order and beauty will be restored. In short, we can go on about our lives unconcerned about lesser mortals because not only are we safe from terror or the threat or terror, we have proven we have the means to kick butt should any arise.

Naturally she compares this model with patriarchy and imperialism.

“Muslims Condemning Things” Tumblr shows many Muslims speaking out against terrorism

In America, there are a lot of stereotypes about Muslims, ranging from the ill-informed, like thinking all Muslims are Arabs, to the downright harmful, like thinking that all Muslims are terrorists or at the very least have terrorist sympathies. Although this is obviously not true, people still expect Muslims to condemn terrorist actions in order to “prove” that they aren’t secretly rooting for the extremists — and then as soon as a new story breaks, the questions begin again about why the Muslim community hasn’t condemned these actions. But now a new Tumblr, Muslims Condemning Things, has appeared to combat this ridiculous cycle.

The Tumblr is exactly what it sounds like: it show instances of Muslims condemning extremist actions, terrorist groups, instances of persecution in the the Muslim world, and just about everything that people continually insist that Muslims should condemn. The site’s curator writes,

This site is not meant to be a comprehensive catalog of instances of Muslims condemning violence and terrorism. Rather, it’s a sampling, and one that we hope will convey the idea that the vast majority of Muslims around the world reject extremism, violence and fanaticism.

Examples range from individual Muslims speaking out against ISIS to Iranian Muslims protesting the persecution of Christians in Iran. And just a quick glance should drive home the point that most Muslims, are not, in fact terrorists.

‘Tyrant,’ FX’s Middle East drama, draws complaints of Arab and Muslim stereotypes

June 25, 2014

It’s no secret that FX’s new drama “Tyrant” — about the son of a Middle Eastern dictator who leaves his comfortable California life to return to his troubled home country — has had problems since its inception. Ang Lee was supposed to direct the pilot, but dropped out. People criticized the hiring of a white lead actor to play the main Middle Eastern character. The Hollywood Reporter has a long story about the struggle of making the show, which involved lot of behind-the-scenes issues for its creators.

Most notably, however, as the first episode aired Tuesday night, the series is getting many complaints for one particular issue: Arab and Muslim stereotypes.

“In the pilot of FX’s ‘Tyrant,’ Arab Muslim culture is devoid of any redeeming qualities and is represented by terrorists, murderous children, rapists, corrupt billionaires and powerless female victims,” said CAIR’s national communications director, Ibrahim Hooper. “In ‘Tryant,’ even the ‘good’ Arab Muslims are bad.”

Previously, CAIR had requested a meeting with FX to address potential “Islamophobic stereotyping.” Hooper did say that a producer told him that future episodes will be more nuanced. THR reported that showrunner Howard Gordon (behind “Homeland” and “24,” also heavy on Middle Eastern themes) has talked with the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Muslims on Screen and Television in regards to the show. He also hired a Palestinian to serve as a consultant on the series, which films in Israel.

In the Los Angeles Times, critic Mary McNamara said, “In attempting to mix West with Middle East, the show too often seems content with stereotyping both.” Time’s James Poniewozik pointed out in comparison to other shows, “If ‘Tyrant’ is meant to expand on the portrayals of the Middle Easterners peripheral to stories like ’24,’ it fails badly.”

NPR’s Eric Deggans sums up: “Most every Arab character outside of Bassam is seriously flawed,” he wrote, noting Jamal and another brutal general. “This is a show about the Middle East as seen through Americanized eyes, with little of the nuances in Arab or Muslim culture on display. The unfortunate effect is a constant, not-so-subtle message: If these people would just act like Americans, everything would be so much better.”

ABC Family Drops Alice in Arabia Pilot After Complaints from Muslim Groups

March 22, 2014

 

ABC Family recently ordered a pilot of a potential new series called Alice in Arabia, about an American teenager who’s kidnapped and kept as a prisoner at a distant relative’s home in Saudi Arabia. The pilot script was written by Brooke Eikmeier, who previously worked as a cryptologic linguist in Arabic while serving in the U.S. army, but it came under intense fire from Muslim advocacy groups for concerns it would paint unfair, broad stereotypes of the Muslim faith.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations panned a leaked copy of the script, with its “familiar narrative of a beautiful girl kidnapped from the United States by sinister Arabs, held against her will in the desert, and threatened with early marriage.”

And now ABC Family has officially shelved the pilot for good. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee touted the victory against a show that “perpetuates demeaning stereotypes” about Muslim individuals, and used the opportunity to highlight other issues they believe ABC should be addressing as well.

Mediaite.com: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/abc-family-drops-alice-in-arabia-pilot-after-complaints-from-muslim-groups/

CAIR-AZ Condemns ADL’s Stereotyping of Muslims in Bill 1062 Debate

February 28, 2014

 

The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ) today called on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to apologize for stereotypical statements made about Muslims during recent debate over Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which would have shielded businesses from lawsuits if employees acted on religious beliefs to discriminate against customers.

In testimony before a state Senate committee the ADL’s assistant regional director posed a scenario in which, “A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”

“It is unconscionable that a group purporting to defend civil rights would resort to religious bigotry to promote its political agenda,” said CAIR-AZ Board Chair Imraan Siddiqi. “The introduction of this stereotypical scenario gave way to the narrative that Muslims are in some way serial abusers of ‘religious freedom based denials of service,’ which is completely baseless.”

Siddiqi noted that Muslims, like the majority of other Arizonans, believe that those serving the public must treat all customers equally, or be prepared to seek another line of work.

In 2010, CAIR’s New York chapter called on the ADL to retract its statement against the construction of an Islamic community center in New York City.

Cair.com: http://cair.com/press-center/press-releases/12390-cair-az-condemns-adl-stereotyping-of-muslims-in-bill-1062-debate.html

‘Salaam, Love’ counters stereotypes of Muslim men

January 31, 2014

 

Oppressive. Boorish. Misogynist: Those are the popular images of Muslim men and how they treat women.

But there’s more to it than that, thought Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, the editors of “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.”

Many Muslims welcomed the two women’s 2012 collection of 25 stories as an overdue conversation starter. Soon they got flooded with requests for a male version.

They initially dismissed the idea, assuming men wouldn’t want to write so openly about such intimate matters. But as the queries kept coming, the two editors decided a Muslim male version wasn’t that far-fetched, and given the stereotypes of Muslim men, much needed.

“So much has been said about Muslim men, we thought it was time for them to tell their own stories in their own words about what’s important to them,” said Mattu, 41.

The result is a collection of 22 stories, “Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy,” to be released next week by Beacon Press. The writers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, hold beliefs that range from secular to orthodox, and include straight, gay, single, married, and widowed men. The editors received more than 100 submissions over five months.

“Salaam, Love” seeks to counter stereotypes of Muslim men by offering stories of men who bare their emotions, admit mistakes, bask in memories of true love, recall heartbreaks, and reflect on caring for a dying wife.

The stories range from humorous to heartbreaking, while shedding light on who makes up Muslim Americans.

Sam Pierstorff’s opening chapter, “Soda Bottles and Zebra Skins,” takes the reader on a journey that starts with puppy love, veers into frank tales of teenage lust, and ends in courtship and true love.

RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/01/31/salaam-love-counters-stereotypes-muslim-men/

Muslim Artists Perform to Break Stereotypes

November 12, 2013

 

For decades, Arab actors have been successful in Hollywood. Among the most successful are Omar Sharif, Tony Shalhoub, and F. Murray Abraham; the latter won an Academy Award for his role in Mozart. However Muslims, openly proclaiming their religion, are a minority in the U.S. population and an even smaller minority in the U.S. entertainment industry. Those who are breaking in are trying to use their talent to discredit negative stereotypes. Several showcased their work at a recent gathering of predominantly American Muslims in Los Angeles.

Dean Obeidallah is not just an American comedian.

“My ethnicity and my faith make me a little different than many other comedians,” said Obeidallah.

He is a Muslim with Palestinian roots, and says his identity has not created barriers for him. However, he also says that stereotypes of what he represents do exist in the U.S.

Obeidallah uses comedy to talk about misconceptions and about what it means to be Muslim. He has co-directed a comedy documentary on this theme called, The Muslims Are Coming! Obeidallah said he has received positive reviews from both Muslims and non-Muslims, but sometimes non-Muslims don’t know how to respond to his jokes.

American Muslim poet Amir Sulaiman points out that some Muslims feel uncomfortable listening to him perform.

“Some people they feel nervous. Some things I say are not politically correct. They’re not fashioned and perfected in a political kind of way. Some people will say we don’t want you to say this; we don’t want you to say that as a Muslim person. When you are an artist or a public figure, many times you automatically become a spokesperson for millions of people. All these people have different points of view and different way that they want to be portrayed, but every artist can’t be responsible for everyone,” said Sulaiman.

 

Voice of America: http://www.voanews.com/content/muslim-artists-perform-break-stereotypes/1789097.html

Plurality and integration

March 9

 

Federal President Joachim Gauck has met young Muslim immigrants prior to the annual young Islam conference. During the conference, young Muslims are given the opportunity to show their societal engagement and discuss political and social issues with politicians and local experts.

 

Albeit, most participants expressed their satisfaction about the event, some see the need for action towards more tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Stereotypes in media would increase Islamophobia. Arman Kuru a student candidate for the police department and participant of the conference understands “plurality as a treasure”. A further issue is the legal equal treatment of Islam as a religion in Germany.

 

Dr. Naika Foroutan from the Humboldt University of Berlin understands integration as a commitment for all members of the society. Hence, the conference members demand the acceptance of dual citizenship.

 

University of Toronto gets Muslim chaplain who hopes to fight stereotypes

News Agencies – September 28, 2012

 

The University of Toronto hired its first full-time Muslim chaplain and the man taking up the post hopes to combat stereotypes surrounding the faith. Amjad Tarsin is a 28-year-old of Libyan descent who hails from Ann Arbour, Mich. He began to devote himself to the religion when he was in university, dropping out of law school to get a degree in Muslim chaplaincy.

Tarsin sees himself as a different kind of Muslim chaplain, one who has travelled the world and identifies himself as a movie buff — especially when it comes to Japanese samurai films and the Lord of the Rings series. Tarsin’s goal is to have an open dialogue with students and create a strong Canadian Muslim identity on a campus with close to 5,000 Muslim students. To fill the position, the Muslim Students Association raised $70,000 with an online campaign that began in June. Funding came from around the world, with contributions pouring in from as far away as Denmark.