Sheila Musaji: Rational and Legitimate Concerns are not the Same as Bigoted Stereotypes

Rational and Legitimate Concerns are not the Same as Bigoted Stereotypes

by Sheila Musaji

In a recent article Eric Allen Bell Chooses to Retain “Ridiculous Prejudice”, I discussed an article this individual posted on Daily Kos claiming that the Loonwatch site was “in fact a terrorist spin control network.”  I discussed his arguments and the reasons that I believe them to be Islamophobic.  In about a week, he has posted a total of three such articles, and been joined in his rantings by Robert Spencer.  You can see all of the updates with links at the bottom of my article about this saga.

In his second article Eric Allen Bell says:

But what about the rational and legitimate concerns that people, such as myself, voice about the theology of Islam and some of the ways it is practiced, in certain parts of the world, which violate human rights? Is the expression of such concerns something that should be dismissed and branded as yet more “Islamophobia”?

According to Loonwatch.com – a well known Islamophoiba [sic] watchdog site – there is no distinction. Loonwatch unconditionally attacks criticism of Islam but they refuse to criticize the many, many Islamic clerics and terrorists who are hurting people in the name of Islam. Should a person have something to say publicly questioning the funneling of monies from Islamic charities to Islamic terrorist networks, Loonwatch is there to call them a “Loon” for even raising the question. That’s quite a clever system – a form of radical Islamic McCarthyism it seems – with the first line of defense being a blogoshere of misinformed infidels who will blurt out the word “Islamophobe” at the slightest mention that within Islam there might be a problem brewing. What a clever design.

Should an article be written about forced marriages of Muslim child brides overseas or the stoning to death of a Muslim woman as punishment for being raped, or the many young boys who are brainwashed in Islamic madrasas only to become radicalized Islamic militants, or the Muslim men who were arrested in the UK for distributing fliers to Londoners saying that Homosexuals should be punished by hanging because their lifestyle is against Islam – any article written to express concern about these developments will likely lead the writer of such article to be branded a “Loon” by Looonwatch.com and have his name put out on the street.

Bell also said “But for LoonWatch.com any criticism of the Koran or of violent Jihad – even those criticisms that might have some legitimacy to them – even of radical Islam, are branded as Islamophobia and anyone who dares to raise questions about the nearly constant acts of Jihad going on increasingly around the world today is labeled a ‘Loon’ – thus the title of their blog, LoonWatch.com.”

And, his new friend Robert Spencer found this statement to be “entirely true observation”.

This particular claim is often made by Islamophobes, and it is becoming tiresome.  Voicing legitimate concerns is not a problem, bigotry is a problem.

In this case, a claim was made first about Loonwatch whose sole purpose is narrowly focused on discussions of anti-Muslim bigotry.  However, by Bell’s third article, and in the course of Spencer’s entire career, it is obvious that the claims are actually being made against the entire Muslim community and all of Islam.

However, even though Loonwatch is not in the business of themselves publishing anything other than information on Islamophobia, is it true that they would not tolerate criticism of Muslims?

Would writing or publishing articles raising any criticism of extremism or terrorism within the Muslim community lead to being labeled a “loon”?  Would any criticism of extremist interpretations of Islam lead to being labeled a “loon”?

Here on The American Muslim, we have published thousands of articles, many of them discussing issues such as:

— speaking out against the repulsive customs of – child marriage  including discussion ofparticular cases, – and punishments for victims of rape, – and female genital mutilation, etc.
—against the views of extremist clerics like Anjem Choudary, or Sheikh Abdullah El-Faisal, orAnwar Al AwlakiAyman Zawahiri, etc.
— against the views of extremist groups like Hizb-ut-TahrirMajlis, South Africa, etc.
— against particular actions of Islamic organizations like the Canadian Shia Muslim Organization (CASMO) publishing an article by David Duke, or some British Muslims threatening Imam Usama Hasan because of his views on the compatibility of the theory of evolution with Quranic teachings regarding God’s creation of the world and human beings, or the Arab European League (AEL) publishing an offensive cartoon against the Jewish people on their website
— against individuals or organizations promoting extremist views about various issues like – Salwa Al Mutairi suggesting that sex-slaves are allowed in Islam, – or the Malaysian Catholic Herald being told that it could no longer use the word “Allah” to mean God, – or Dr. Zakir Naiksaying that Muslims can’t wish Christians a Merry Christmas, – or the Darul Uloom Deoband’sdivorce by phone fatwa, , – or the Saudi forced divorce case, etc.
— about particular individuals or organizations accused of particular crimes,  – like the Florida Imams arrested for aiding the Pakistani Taliban, etc.
— publishing condemnations of particular acts of extremism and violence such as – the attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, – or the killing of U.N. workers in Afghanistan, – or attacks on Christians in Muslim countries, – or the Fort Hood massacre, – or the deaths of 15 Saudi schoolgirls in a fire because they weren’t “properly dressed” etc.
— or publishing condemnations of extreme reactions to various current issues like the South Park cartoonMolly Norris and “Draw Muhammad Day”, Opus cartoon
—publishing statements and articles advocating for   – protection of religious minorities and houses of worship, – and guardianship reform in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pertaining to male control or ‘guardianship’ over women, – and [http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/confronting_online_radicalization_of_muslim_youth]confronting online radicalization[/url] of Muslim youth, – and freedom of faith and right to change one’s faith, – and freedom of speech, – and a spiritual jihad against terrorism, – and welcoming LGBT Muslims in mosques, – and a moratorium on all corporal punishment, including the death penalty, – and responsibility of Muslims to defend the Constitution of the U.S., – and condemning holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, – and promoting the value of being faithful Muslims and loyal Americans etc.
— publishing and regularly updating Muslim condemnations in statements, fatwas, articles, etc. of every form of extremism and terrorism as a major part of the work of The American Muslim

On TAM, we regularly call out those within the Muslim community that I identify as the “lunatic fringe”, discuss various interpretations of aspects of Sharia, condemn any interpretations that violate human rights.  The list above is a very short list of the thousands of articles on such subjects that we have published, many of which I have written myself.

According to Bell any article written to express concern about these developments will likely lead the writer of such article to be branded a “Loon” by Looonwatch.com and have his name put out on the street.

And yet, what has been the result of my discussion of all of these concerns on TAM been?  Loonwatch named me one of the “Anti-Loons of 2011”.

Muslims themselves discuss all of these issues and are more than happy to align with others who are concerned about a particular human or civil rights issue to work cooperatively to solve the problem.  As one example among many, Muslims are working actively with representatives of other faith groups as part of an Interfaith Coalition against domestic violence.  We are not interested in giving any credence to those who are not really concerned about a particular issue, but only in using it to further their bigoted Islamophobic agenda.

We have seen this sort of devious tactic too many times.  Just one example was that two years after American Muslims had initiated a statement Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam initially signed by 100 Islamic scholars and activists, a group called “Former Muslims United” produced their own pledgeand demanded that Muslims sign it.  And, as I said at that time “This FMU pledge is simply another attempt to create propoganda (planting the idea that American Muslims have not taken a position against punishments for apostasy) and to attempt to make it seem as if only former Muslims can stand for what is right, and frankly to attempt to increase the visibility of the FMU at the expense of the Muslim community.  This is shameful behavior (although typical of members of this group who go beyond denouncing Islamic radicalism to denouncing all of Islam) and is simply another example of attempting to marginalize the Muslim community and bolster the false claim that Muslims don’t speak up against injustices, extremism, etc.”

There is a reason that many outside of the Muslim community see such behavior as Islamophobic.  There is a reason that the ADL (A Jewish anti-defamation group) has said that Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) is a “group that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”.  There is a reason that The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group, and that they are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.  There is a reason that Geller and Spencer are featured prominently in the Center for American Progress “Fear Inc.” report on the Islamophobia network in America.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack:  The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security.  There is a reason that the SIOA’s trademark patent was denied by the U.S. government due to its anti-Muslim nature.  There is a reason that they are featured in our TAMWho’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.

These people consistently promote what I call the what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims.  They generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam.  When they are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence.

This particular claim that “truth tellers” are being accused of Islamophobia for no reason other than their legitimate concerns about real issues and that in fact there is not even such a thing as Islamophobia is nonsense.  The further claim that the fact that there are fewer hate crimes against Muslims than against Jews also proves that Islamophobia doesn’t exist is more nonsense.

The reason that this is so obvious to so many is that rational people can tell the difference between legitimate concerns and bigoted stereotypes.  The Islamophobia of these folks is very real.

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