Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Manufacturing Islamophobia

Manufacturing Islamophobia
By Ram Puniyani
21 February, 2007Countercurrents.org

A friend's son Murali, a bright engineer, was studying in US. Murali is amongst the commonest of names amongst Hindus. This word Murali stands for flute, the musical instrument of Lord Krishna, which acted as a big lure for Gopikas (daughters of milkman) to fall in love with the Lord. But my friend's son Murali had a different fate. The US security agencies thought this is a name in disguise for a Muslim called Moor Ali, and the rest was the usual harassment meted out to the Muslim youth, resulting in Murali, returning to his home town, swearing at the US security agencies and all else concerned notwithstanding.

Post 9/11 the demonization of Muslims has gone several notches up. As such the demonization of Islam, Islam being presented as the new threat coincided; on one hand with the decline of Soviet states, and on the other with the coming to power of Ayatollah Khomeini, who succeeded in coming to power on the crest of the revolution which threw away the US stooge, Raza Shah Pehlavi. US was making merry with the Shah, who in turn was installed after the overthrow of democratically elected Mossadeq. Incidentally Mosaddeq to the great annoyance of US interests, nationalized Iran oil, and so was overthrow by a coup engineered by US agencies.

The phenomenon overlapped in time to pave the way for US media and other propaganda mechanisms to project 'Islam as the new threat', the earlier threat as per the US was Communism. This propaganda picked up by and by and today, God forbid, if you have a Muslim sounding name or face or any other characteristic, the 'security' hounds will get for themselves enough work to show their prowess. The average person on the street will think twice before shaking hands with you, the lurking fear being that you may be carrying some bomb hidden on your body somewhere.

Immediately after 9/11 2001 a Sikh was murdered in US, as the killer took him to be a Muslim. In many a European countries, the Muslims have faced intense intimidation, which is going up lately. The situation has gone to the extent that even the state governments have to wake up now if they want harmonious sailing of their affairs. Starting from innocuous looking jokes against Muslims, the matters have gone to the extent that a full fledged attempt is on to project Islam as the religion preaching hate and violence and Muslims as the intolerant fanatics. Every other person will tell you as to how Islam preaches to kill the Kafirs, How Jihad is an integral part of Islamic teaching and as to how Jihadis are mere Islamic soldiers. Here in India there is a long list of charges against Muslims, starting from the misconceptions about Muslim Kings breaking temples to humiliate Hindu religion to every Muslim having four wives twenty children to everyterrorist being a Muslim. As such of course, whatever be the underlying cause of these misconceptions, currently there had been enough number of incidents in which Muslims have been involved in such acts, to give a pretext to the political forces benefiting from this, to give bad name to the whole Muslim community.

To add to the problem, here in India, this Islamophobia, and fear of Muslims has come on the top of ongoing RSS project of spreading Hate against Muslims which has been in operation since last more than seven decades. The interesting point is that a numerical majority has been indoctrinated to believe that this minority is a threat to them. The US propaganda and RSS designs match to a great extent. This outfit has been spreading hate against Muslims using the distorted view of history and lopsided presentation of their current social life. This propaganda succeeds as an average person will not exercise her critical faculties at every juncture when seeing the content of what is beamed on the tube of idiot box or what one keeps reading in print over and over again. As such Gobbles did grasp this mechanism to the hilt and could create the phobia against Jews, as a prelude to the genocide launched by his mentor, Adolf Hitler. Even today one is not interested in the historical content of the use of word Jihad or Kafir, or one has nothing to do with the fact that no religious community can be uniform. But this phobia against the minorities has a serious political role to play. It forms the ground on which violence stands. Which in turn ghettoizes the community, intimidates its large chunk and its political rights are taken away despite the formal operation of democracies.

Culture as a disguise for religion; is shown to be at odds with the culture of others. Power stalks in the apparel of religion or culture. While this phobia plays it role in legitimizing the aggression against some countries or the carnage launched against them, it in turn also creates a society with deep fractures along the religious lines. The phobia directed outside also turns inside, to create scare amongst the more powerful sections within the community itself. Most of the retrograde processes are bidirectional. Hate outside creates intimidation inside. Creation of phobia against the outsider, the increase in insecurity within.

Even if we grant that the communities such targeted will become used to a new rhythm of survival under stress and fear, the bigger question is; can democracy survive in such states/ communities? While the political goals and purposes of imperialist powers on one hand and social elite on the other are well served in such an atmosphere, surely the progress of society is the victim on the altar of atmosphere of phobia against others. In this political scenario it is no coincidence that the sectarian understanding of communities thrives. One such sectarian nationalism was propounded by RSS chief, Golwalkar (We, or our Nation hood defined), where he asserts that Indians are basically Hindus, so others have not to be given equal citizenship. This proposition put forward in 1938, has made a strong social and political impact during last two decades. On similar lines, one does not know if there is an inspirational connection, the current US ideologue Samuel Huntington, in 'Who are we?' argues that US is essentially Anglo Saxon and others are a threat to the American ethos. While Golwalkar is the local sectarian ideologue Huntington is currently playing the similar divisive tunes at global level. The similarity between these two ideologues is striking on one hand and the coincidence of the latter coming precisely in the decades of nineties with Hindutva, Gowalkars ideology, picking up nineties, is not just coincidental.

The maters have gone too far. The targeted hate against the Muslims, the construction of phobia against Islam has crossed the threshold. While it served the US to attack many a countries for the sake of oil wealth, while it has helped the Hindu right to appropriate the social privileges, at the same time it has played and more so now than anytime before; is playing a counterproductive role to those states/societies and communities themselves. The schism between communities is acting on the nerves of democracies and weakening them as the process of societal development is getting retarded. It surely will have the impact on weaker sections of society and also will affect the economies worldwide. Humane values have taken a back seat during this period. This era of dark sectarianism needs to be overcome as soon as possible. The rise of right wing, rise of religious right at various places is a warning to the democracies and the progressive liberal elements all over the World that if this Islamophobia is not checked, the acts of terrorism will continue. The reality in the World is standing on the head many a times; though it seems currently as if terrorism is due to violence inherent in Islam and Muslims, the fact is that it is the political lust of vested interests that Islam is demonized.

We need to work on intercommunity relations, on spreading the words of harmony and peace, to look at religions as a set of moral values and not just a set of rituals or identities. We need to have the humane spirit prevail over the machinations of the interests of those out to grab the global and local resources for their own selves.

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Voice of Moderate Muslims

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797



We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.

URL- http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html

Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.