Saturday, May 3, 2008

People's phobia of Muslims

I have read several articles by Matthi Kuruvila and we have published on this forum. It is good to see the main stream paper present a truthful view of Islam. Please send him a message and let him know that we appreciate it.

Mike Ghouse
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Looking at people's phobia of Muslims
Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Does the fact that Barack Hussein Obama's last name rhymes with that of the al Qaeda leader mean that he loves terrorists? Or how about that dangerous middle name? Should all women who wear head scarves be searched for weapons by airport security? Do we "know," as some allege, what terrorists look like?

The fear surrounding what makes a Muslim, from appearances to beliefs, has been defined in recent years as Islamophobia, an issue permeating politics, pop culture and even the price of gas. A group of professors and academics from around the nation are gathered this weekend at UC Berkeley to discuss what it means.

At what is believed to be the first academic conference focused on Islamophobia as a concept, the professors aim to study and understand how a religious identity of 1.2 billion people around the world has become fused with a monolithic set of beliefs and racial category. Under this dynamic, the beliefs of a Muslim engineer in Silicon Valley are rendered the same as those of a shopkeeper in Baghdad or a Hamas politician.

The "Muslim" racial category can be defined by a woman with a head scarf or a brown-skinned man with a beard. In reality, adherent Muslims include Chinese people, African Americans, whites and Latinos, as well as women who do not wear head scarves.

Just as black people, Jews and colonized groups have historically been defined as exceptionally dangerous "others," Muslims are today, conference participants said.

The professors hope to foster a new field of academic research. While Islam has been examined as a religion, and Muslim nations have been scrutinized in political science departments, it has not been placed within the context of ethnic studies. Those departments often focus on gender issues as well as specific ethnic groups, like African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos.

Contentious issues
Placing Islamophobia within the context of ethnic studies would allow researchers to look more broadly at the confluence of race, culture, ethnicity and religion that define the American Muslim experience today.

That's no trifling issue.

Islamophobia entails "some of the most contentious issues in the United States or worldwide," said Professor Evelyn Nakano Glenn, director of UC Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender, which sponsored the conference.

Friday's panels touched on issues ranging from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. immigration to European anti-Semitism and the legacies of colonialism. For some, the importance of studying Islamophobia also was a matter of more intimate concern.

Glenn said that her own family paid the price for how its group was defined as "the other" in a past era of the United States and subjected to persecution. During World War II, she said roughly 30 family members were "incarcerated" in internment camps due to perceptions about Japanese American beliefs. Those camps also interned Italian Americans and German Americans.

"I have a personal interest in this particular topic," Glenn said.

UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian defined Islamophobia as "unfounded hostility toward Muslims and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims." As a result, Muslims are painted as monolithic, unable to adapt to modernity and dissimilar to other major faiths. Islamophobes present Muslims as inferior to the West, archaic, barbaric and irrational, Bazian said.

Organizers also hope that the creation of such a field would allow them to more systematically document the phenomenon, one that has gained momentum in the presidential race and the candidacy of Obama, a Christian.

Pundits and politicians have referred to the Illinois senator as "Osama," mockingly connecting him to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Others, like Rush Limbaugh, refer to him by his middle name. When Obama wore Somali garb on a visit to Kenya, the country of his ancestors, it was proof for others of purportedly insidious beliefs.

Yet, in the numerous paradoxes of race and religion, aspersions that "construct" Obama into a "Muslim" are often put forth by the same people who criticize Obama's house of worship, a Christian church.

"Whether Obama is a Muslim or not can increase or decrease his election chances, depending on who is asking and who is responding to it," said Bazian, a conference organizer. "This is part of public discourse."

Panelists at the conference traced the roots of Islamophobia well before Sept. 11, 2001: They include slavery, colonialism and the Spanish Inquisition against Jews and Muslims beginning in 1492.

Cultural phenomenon
Marquette University Professor Louise Cainkar presented a paper about hate crimes against those of Arab origin, a category that includes Christians but is often conflated with Muslims in post-Sept. 11 pop culture. In analyzing patterns in the Chicago area, she found that hate crimes were fewest in African American neighborhoods in the South Side, despite the high prevalence of Arab shopkeepers. But anti-Arab hate crimes were highest in "white flight" suburbs. A mosque in a southwestern suburb of Chicago came under a "three-day siege" by neighbors after the Sept. 11 attacks and had to be protected by more than 100 police officers in riot gear, Cainkar said.

Cainkar believes the results showed, in part, that Islamophobia is a cultural phenomenon. The black neighborhoods had a history of community organizing around concepts of race and did not buy into treating Arabs as "the other."

"Islamophobia can be defeated through work at the local level," she said.

Online resources
The conference on "Deconstructing Islamophobia" continues today and is open to the public. For more information, go to

E-mail Matthai Kuruvila at

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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 ( 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.


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.