A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY relies on the contributions of its citizens in everything from launching technology companies to managing the PTA. Discrimination against an identity group in a democratic society is not just a violation of its dignity, it is a barrier to its contribution.
The contributions of Muslims to American civilization are impressive and wide-ranging, captured well in the speech President Barack Obama gave in Cairo on June 4, 2009. “American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch.”
But the atmosphere of Islamophobia in the Trump era has created special hardships for Muslims, a dynamic that hurts both the Muslim community and the nation to which they seek to contribute.
Muslim-American women are more afraid, less assimilated, and dislike President Donald Trump’s policies more than Muslim-American men, in large part because they are more easily identified as Muslim, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
There are so many loud and shrill voices in various religions today, ones filled with fear and self-righteousness and arrogance and judgement and hatred — the very things that faith tells us to avoid. Those voices try to divide us and diminish us. They twist religion into the opposite of what it’s meant to be, hoping to advance their personal agendas.
In a political environment in which the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. is particularly strong, and Europe is facing backlash against refugees and minority populations, a timely new anthology, Mirror on the Veil, offers a refreshing and important look at the very visible practice of veiling among Muslim women.
"This tragic case appears to be the result of a road rage incident involving the suspect," a police statement said. "Our investigation at this point does not indicate the victim was targeted because of her race or religion."
In a nation founded on violence, how are we to respond when young indigenous people are beaten to death by police or young black men are shot in the front seat of their cars? What do we do when young Muslim women are assaulted on the way to say prayers with their community? In an attempt to protect ourselves from violence, we actually bring violence to our schools and neighborhoods, because we live a gospel of violence perpetuated over time by our attitudes of hate and racism toward one another.
There are times when just being appalled by bigotry isn’t enough, when just opposing racist words is no longer adequate, or only being a critic of hateful and violent rhetoric is morally insufficient. There are times when must find the courage to speak and to act — and to intervene in situations of violence and hate on behalf of those who are being attacked.
This is one of those times.
Federal appeals court judges on Monday peppered a U.S. Justice Department lawyer with tough questions about President Donald Trump's temporary ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority nations, with several voicing skepticism that protecting national security was the aim of the policy, not religious bias. Six Democratic appointees on a court dominated by judges named by Democratic presidents showed concerns about reviving the Republican president's March executive order that prohibited new visas to enter the United States for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for three months.
IN HIS BOOK The Islamophobia Industry, author Nathan Lean points out that two months after the attacks of 9/11, Pew research showed that 59 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Islam. That was a 14-point increase from a similar poll taken in March 2001, several months before the Twin Towers fell. This was likely because U.S. leaders, including President George W. Bush, stated publicly and repeatedly that Islam and Muslims were not to blame for terrorism—terrorists were.
By October 2010, nine years later, only 39 percent of Americans expressed a favorable view of Islam.
What accounted for this dramatic drop? Yes, Muslims committed 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during that period, attacks that tragically took the lives of 33 people, but this hardly seems overwhelming in a nation that experienced 150,000 murders in the same time span. Lean concludes that the “spasm of Islamophobia that rattled through the American public is the product of a tight-knit and interconnected confederation of right-wing fear merchants ... the Islamophobia industry.”
The controversy the “industry” generated around Cordoba House (the original name for what became known as “the Ground Zero Mosque”) was its first taste of sustained mainstream public influence, but it would not be the last. A few years later, many denizens of this world were either in or orbiting the Trump campaign and later his White House. “Fringe, Sinister View of Islam Now Steers the White House” was how a New York Times headline described it.
Trump himself appears to embrace this worldview. During the presidential campaign, he repeatedly made comments such as “I think Islam hates us” and threatened to enact this worldview into policy.
Anti-Semitic incidents have been rising in the U.S. in the past few years, and many Jews and others fault the Trump administration for only belatedly calling out anti-Semitism, and for failing to explicitly denounce those who have heralded his election as a victory for white people.
And Jewish and Muslim groups have banded together in unprecedented ways, in recent months, as mosques and Jewish institutions have been targeted.
Judge Watson’s ruling came from a lawsuit filed by Hawaii, according to the Guardian. In the case, the state of Hawaii claimed that the ban hurt Hawaii’s tourism industry and negatively affected businesses and universities’ ability to recruit talented individuals from the banned countries. They continued to point out that the ban hurts families bringing up the example of Ismail Elshikh — an imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii — whose Syrian mother-in-law’s visa is still on hold and might not denied with the new restrictions of the ban.
“Language matters. The use of the term ‘honour’ to describe a violent criminal act … can be explained only as a means of self-justification for the perpetrator. It diminishes the victim and provides a convenient excuse for what in our society we should accurately and simply call murder, rape, abuse, or enslavement,” Ghani said when introducing her crime-against-women bill Jan. 31.
“It is a thinly-veiled reference to stereotypes about Islam and Muslims,” said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “This reference to honor killings is part of a broader effort to smear an entire faith by the extreme acts of a few and its inclusion in this order bolsters the argument that this is simply another attempt at a Muslim ban.”
The Rev. Leah Daughtry stood in front of fellow black Christian leaders and told them they will need to work harder for social justice.
“If you’ve been feeding them, now clothe them,” said the Pentecostal pastor and 2016 CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee at a conference last week. “If you’ve been clothing them, now console them. If you’ve been at a march, now lead the march. If you’ve been at a rally, now organize the rally.”
Seeing the parallels between Micah’s time of unease and ours, it would behoove us to lean in for a listen when Micah writes, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. What does God require of you? That you act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Popular films like American Sniper reduce places like Iraq to dusty war zones, devoid of any culture or history. Fears and anxiety manifest themselves in Islamophobic actions such as burning mosques or even attacking people physically.
At the heart of such fear is ignorance. A December 2015 poll found that a majority of Americans (52 percent) do not understand Islam. In this same poll, 36 percent also said that they wanted to know more about the religion. Interestingly, those under 30 years were 46 percent more likely to have a favorable view of Islam.
Imagine receiving this message on your voicemail: “Dear Mr. Gonzalez, we regret to inform you that your heart surgery has been canceled. The medical professionals scheduled to perform it, Doctors Sarna and Latif, have discovered that they have serious disagreements about Middle East politics. Consequently, they are refusing to work together. We will do our best to find you other doctors, before your condition becomes fatal.”
Seem far-fetched? In my mind, it is the logical outcome of the manner in which many Jewish and Muslim groups have chosen to engage each other in recent years. Or, rather, not engage.
The American Civil Liberties Union collected more than $11 million and 150,000 new members. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Twitter account gained 9,000 followers. And the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and other bigotries, saw donations increase fiftyfold.
In the days since Donald Trump won the presidency, these spikes, in support for groups that defend religious and other minorities, speak to a fear that the president-elect will trample on their rights — or at least empower those who would.
We know you are fearful. We know you are still feeling the loss — the loss of a hoped for America that valued diversity, or perhaps the loss of your faith community whose white majority voted for an embodiment of our worst natures.
But we also know that you are ready to resist. You are ready to join the millions who will repeat daily that this ugly rhetoric and dangerous policy proposals cannot become normalized. Racism should not continue as normal, misogyny can’t remain normal, and threatening the well being of those God calls us to welcome cannot become normal.
And so we make this commitment to you: We at Sojourners are all in for whatever is required over the next four years and beyond, as a publication, as a resource, as a community, as a network of activists. Here’s how we get started.
The day after President-elect Donald Trump appointed a man accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as his chief strategist, two of the nation’s largest Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups formed an unprecedented partnership to fight bigotry.
The American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America, on Nov. 14, launched the new national group: The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. Though Jewish and Muslim groups have cooperated before, the size and influence of these two particular groups — and the prominence of the people who have joined the council — marks a milestone in Jewish-Muslim relations.