Archive for Religion News

Charles L. Worley, North Carolina Pastor: Put Gays And Lesbians In Electrified Pen To Kill Them Off

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by loonwatch

This is just plain craziness. All fundamentalists, of one stripe or another are terrified by the personal lives of homosexuals:

Charles L. Worley, North Carolina Pastor: Put Gays And Lesbians In Electrified Pen To Kill Them Off


The barrage of anti-gay sermons delivered by North Carolina-based pastors to hit the blogosphere continues with yet another disturbing rant caught on tape.

The pastor, identified on YouTube as Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., condemns President Obama’s much-publicized endorsement of same-sex marriage while calling for gays and lesbians to be put in an electrified pen and ultimately killed off.

“Build a great, big, large fence — 150 or 100 mile long — put all the lesbians in there,” Worley suggests in the clip, reportedly filmed on May 13.

He continues: “Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out…and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out…do you know why? They can’t reproduce!”

He also said that if he’s asked who he’ll vote for, he’ll reply, “I’m not going to vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!” Many of the congregants cheer and reply, “Amen.”

Worley added, “It makes me pukin’ sick to think about — I don’t even whether or not to say this in the pulpit — can you imagine kissing some man?”

The pastor’s comments seem in line with statements made by Ron Baity, founding pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and head of the anti-marriage equality organization Return America, who told his own congregation that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people should be prosecuted as they were historically, and Pastor Sean Harris of the Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville who advocated parents “punch” their male child if he is effeminate and “crack that wrist” if he is limp-wristed.

Similarly, Tim Rabon, pastor at Raleigh’s Beacon Baptist Church, condemned states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maryland which have already “re-defined” marriage to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples before asking his congregants, “What is stopping them from refining marriage from a person and a beast? We’re not far from that.”

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by loonwatch

Wildredo Amr Ruiz

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz

Is the oft-repeated phrase by both presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama, “We are not at war with Islam” just hollow political-speak?

Wilfredo A Ruiz discusses:

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have persistently affirmed: “We are not at war with Islam,” trying to assure 1.7 billion Muslims that the military actions of the so-called “war against terrorism” do not constitute belligerence against Islam or Muslims. This incessant message of denial is hard to swallow by many sectors of our society, and the world at large, since the United States has engaged in multiple wars of occupation in Muslim countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it conducts routine military incursions and bombardment campaigns on Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and other Muslim countries.
Furthermore, thousands of Muslim citizens around the world are subjected to arrest without formal accusations or due process of law. Incarcerations and even torture takes place at a network of international secret prisons and “black hole” locations operated or accessed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.Unfortunately, in the American political arena there is also the perception that the government security and intelligence agencies and military apparatus are at war with Islam and Muslims.
They substantiate this notion with continuous discriminatory and prejudiced policies affecting American Muslims and their institutions. Let us take, for example, the harsh experience New York Muslims are undergoing with the NYPD. They are subject to widespread and ongoing espionage policies from their own police department, which include the opening of dossiers based on ethnic and religious profiling.
This openly unconstitutional practice is not based on suspiciousness of them committing crimes or being engaged in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Rather, the information recorded documents the restaurants they frequent, the books they check out, and even the times and places where they conduct their daily prayers.Evidently, the constant Islamophobic discourses have resonated to the military branches, resulting in the offering of multiple training courses with discriminatory, bigoted and offensive materials.
Some of these academic materials recently discovered are taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., in which mainstream Muslim persons and organizations are characterized as radical, violent extremists. The course even calls for treating the Muslim civilian population the way the Japanese were dealt with at Hiroshima, with nuclear attacks on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and wiping out civilians.
It promotes a total war on Islam affirming that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. The military training course participants are encouraged to think of themselves as a “resistance movement to Islam.” Other various training courses with xenophobic and bigoted content offered to the FBI have also been exposed. These are not isolated and unique classes, but multiple trainings held at numerous venues to hundreds of military officers and intelligence agents that are responsible for the safety and security of our nation.
Notwithstanding the military and FBI’s promises to review their courses and purge the training curriculums of Islamophobic materials, we need ask ourselves: How many other courses (most of them classified as “Secret”) have been offered and, perhaps, are still being offered in these highly secured and secret agencies without public exposure?
The sad reality is that our nation has institutionalized vigilance based on stereotypical ethnic and religious profiling. Let us just examine for a moment the recent incident at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where an 18-month-old toddler, a daughter of American parents of Middle Eastern descent, was ordered off a plane by Jet Blue Airline’s officials who claimed she was on the TSA’s “no fly” list: a list obviously fed with the names of people selected based on ethnic and religious profiling. The toddler case is not the only one of its kind, as another 500 American citizens are also in these puzzling and sinister lists in the absence of due process. The lists are not only ineffective, but openly unconstitutional because individuals are included without notification or being told why they are on the list and without the chance to rebut the basis of their inclusion.

What will our political leaders do to try to erase the idea that the Nation is engaged in a war against Islam and Muslims? The major challenge they confront in this task is that the more time elapses, the more discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustices cements against American Muslims and their institutions.

President Obama still has the option and opportunity to rise to the occasion and confront this most delicate situation at the level it merits. He might, perhaps, start cleaning and straightening the Executive Branch from head to toe. The president should take steps that truly guarantee the elimination of racial and religious profiling exercised by law enforcement agencies and should swiftly end all the futile wars on Muslim countries once and for all. Perhaps, he should follow the Executive Order he signed back on Jan. 22, 2009, mandating the “Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantanamo” and the “Immediate Review of All Guantanamo Detentions.” Only such decisive actions will sustain the hollowed presidential words: “We are not at war with Islam.”

 Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

Why Islamophobia Must Fail – The Case of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by loonwatch

Why Islamophobia Must Fail – The Case of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

by Rabia Chaudry, Huffington Post

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the latest victim of an intricate web of half-truths and outright lies woven for political profit and as part of a broad, well funded, Islamophobia network. The Congresswoman was slated to be the keynote speaker at an April 21 event for the group EMERGE USA, but backed off after a scathing blog post by Joe Kaufman, who happens to be running for a Congressional seat for Florida’s District 20.

EMERGE USA is a non-profit committed to empowering minorities through increased civic engagement and education about the political process. The organization has strong roots in the community and has been publicly supported by one of Florida’s senior statesmen, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, an expert on terrorism and intelligence. However, the fact that EMERGE USA was founded and is run by Muslims seems to be the proverbial bee in Kaufman’s bonnet. Ultimately, Kaufman’s Glen Beck-esque acrobatics in trying to link EMERGE USA board members and staff to “questionable” organizations and associations can be easily dismissed because of factual errors and deliberate obfuscation.

The truly insidious aspect of this entire incident, however, is that it can be linked to a multi-pronged attack on Muslims nationwide through the creation of an Islamophobia network with deep pockets and an agenda to marginalize American Muslims at every turn. The Center for American Progress’s 2011 report “Fear, Inc.” thoroughly documents this network’s funding, messengers and reach. Its efforts have manifested in anti-sharia legislation in dozens of states, bigoted trainings for law enforcement and intelligence communities, the character assassination of mainstream national Muslim organizations and even promotion of the idea that President Obama is a Muslim.

The nightmarish narrative disseminated by the numerous think tanks, pundits and self-appointed “experts” on Islam and terrorism has not only successfully influenced the American discourse on Islam and Muslims, but has had significant political impact. The Islamophobia network focuses much of its time and energy on influencing and supporting politicians who promulgate its world view. It provides politicians with talking points, platforms and agenda items to keep the suspicion and fear of Islam and Muslims in the news. Examples of such politicians cited by the “Fear, Inc.” report include the following:

  • Rep. Peter King: held numerous hearings on Islamic radicalization
  • Rep. Sue Myrick: called for congressional inquiry on the CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, held hearings on influence of Muslim Brotherhood, leading Congressional fearmonger against Muslims
  • Rep. Trent Franks, Rep. John Shadegg and Rep. Paul Broun: supporters of the CAIR congressional investigation
  • Rep. Allen West: declared Islam as the enemy, claimed it is not a religion and held a briefing called “Homegrown Jihad in the USA”
  • Rep. Renee Ellmers: made the Park51 into an issue, calling it a ground zero victory mosque
  • Rep. Michelle Bachman: frequently raises concerns over homegrown Islamic threat and engages in anti-sharia rhetoric

While the influence of the Islamophobia network on right-wing politicians is more visible, the pressure it exerts on progressives is more troubling. Left-leaning politicians are also vulnerable to manipulation, as can be seen in Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s case. The Congresswoman is not the first Democrat to distance herself from a Muslim organization after being attacked by Islamophobes. To American Muslims who are mostly progressive in their politics, abandonment by Democratic politicians feels like betrayal.

The politicians who continue to be used to spread or confirm the network’s ugly narrative must realize something very important: while winning small battles, they are losing the war. History has proven that bigots, racists, xenophobes, anti-Semites and other variations on the same brand of fear and suspicion have never succeeded — socially or politically. Even genocide, the extreme expression of bigotry, has left nothing but failed ideology in its wake.

A simple understanding of the human psyche tells us that people tire of living in fear, worn out from perpetually being “anti-other.” Over time, we make up and move on. The battle of the Islamophobes will also eventually be lost because American Muslims and their allies will continue to push back against false narratives. The lifespan of Islamophobia in the United States will undoubtedly end up a sad blight on our history like other failed “anti” movements — but politicians, both Republican and Democrat, should ask themselves on what side of history they wish to be.

Rabia Chaudry is an attorney, President of the Safe Nation Collaborative, and an Associate Fellow of the Truman National Security Project.

Pastor Dennis Terry Introduces Rick Santorum: ‘We’re a Christian Nation; if You Don’t Like it, Get Out’

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2012 by loonwatch

Rev. Dennis Terry

Rev. Dennis Terry

The circus that is known as the GOP presidential primary is still undecided, and may likely remain that way up until the Republican convention. Rick Santorum has been one of the surprising success stories in this race, going from polling at 2% early on to now emerging as the greatest challenge to Mitt Romney.

This is shocking because many considered it a bygone conclusion that Santorum was an outlier, someone so far to the right that there was no way that he would have a chance with the mainstream in the Republican party.

Santorum’s problematic stances range from birth control and abortion to his interventionist position on Iran. When it comes to Muslims it is clear that he is a bigoted Islamophobe. He was featured as a regular speaker in David Horowitz’s “Islamofascism week” and also supports profiling Muslims.

Santorum was featured recently on Loonwatch for illustrating why the “Christian religious right” is one of the greatest threats to our nation, This is Why Radical Christians Are the Greatest Threat to the US Constitution.

Now here he is being introduced by Rev. Dennis Terry, delivering an unequivocal message that America is a Christian nation and implying that all who don’t agree with that can “get out.” For some reason I imagine Santorum, who believes the Church should have a role in the operation of the government, probably wholeheartedly supports such a proposition:

Pastor Dennis Terry Introduces Rick Santorum, Tells Non-Christians And Liberals To Get Out (VIDEO)


“I don’t care what the liberals say, I don’t care what the naysayers say, this nation was founded as a Christian nation…There is only one God and his name is Jesus. I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words.. Listen to me, If you don’t love America, If you don’t like the way we do things I have one thing to say – GET OUT. We don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammad, we don’t worship Allah, we worship God, we worship God’s son Jesus Christ.”

In a revival type speech, Greenwell Springs Baptist Church pastor Rev. Dennis Terry introduced Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Christians, according to Rev. Terry, are the conscience of the state and even the key to turning the economy around. The pastor offered some pointed words about abortion, gay marriage, and prayer in schools, shouting about ‘sexual perversion’ and putting God back in Washington, D.C., as Senator Santorum was seen clapping, if not cheering, in the background.

“I know what’s in his heart. It’s the fact that he’s a Christian,” said Vickie Raabe, a 69-year-old Baptist who told the Washington Post she would be voting for Santorum in 2012. Evangelicals have become Sen. Rick Santorum’s major source of support in the 2012 election as they turn out in record numbers for the Catholic candidate.

But as then Presidential hopefuls Senator Barack Obama, Gov. Sarah Palin, and Senator John McCain found out, endorsement from pastors can be a double edge sword.

At the end of the evening Rev. Terry prayed over the presidential hopeful asking for God’s will to be done in the upcoming election intoning: “God, have favor on Rick Santorum.”

British Government Says Christians Don’t Have Right To Wear Cross Or Crucifix At Work

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by loonwatch

After facing consequences for refusing to cover or remove their crosses at work, two Christian women are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. A group of ministers is set to back employer regulations banning religious regalia in the workplace, arguing that wearing crosses aren't a "requirement" of the Christian faith.

After facing consequences for refusing to cover or remove their crosses at work, two Christian women are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. A group of ministers is set to back employer regulations banning religious regalia in the workplace, arguing that wearing crosses aren’t a “requirement” of the Christian faith.

So let me get this straight, the state religion of England is the Church of England yet wearing a Cross or Crucifix to work is not allowed? While it may not be a “requirement” as hijab is seen to be by many Muslim women, how can this not be a needless infringement and violation of one’s freedom of religion?

British Government Says Christians Don’t Have Right To Wear Cross Or Crucifix At Work

(HuffingtonPost)

Two British women are headed to court to argue for the right to wear Christian crosses at their workplaces, but a group of Christian ministers is reportedly set to back employers’ rights to ban the regalia.

At the heart of the issue is whether or not the crosses are a “requirement” of the Christian faith.

According to a document leaked to the Telegraph that allegedly contains their arguments, the ministers are set to tell the court that crosses are not required by religious doctrine, thus supporting the government’s case that employers cannot be forced to allow such symbols.

Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin were both told by their employers to cover or remove the Christian symbol hanging around their necks. When they refused, they each faced consequences.

Eweida, a British Airways employee, was placed on unpaid leave in 2006 when she refused to remove the symbol, according to CNS News. She argued that coworkers of other affiliations were allowed to showcase symbols of their faiths. Eweida took the airline before a British employment tribunal alleging religious discrimination but lost the case.

The company eventually changed its uniform policy and rehired Eweida, but did not compensate her for the suspension period.

In Chaplin’s case, the longtime nurse was reprimanded for refusing to cover up a cross around her neck, RT reports. She was subsequently assigned to desk work instead of her usual rounds.

Now, it will be up to the European Court of Human Rights to decide if wearing a cross or crucifix is a right under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Article 9, “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” states the following:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. 2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Lawyers for the women allegedly plan to argue that right to wear a cross is covered under Article 9 as a “manifestation” of religious expression, CNS News reports.

But the British Foreign Office has already prepared the following statement, which was published in the Telegraph:

In neither case is there any suggestion that the wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was a generally [recognized] form of [practicing] the Christian faith, still less one that is regarded (including by the applicants themselves) as a requirement of the faith.

The case has been criticized by Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who was unhappy officials were “meddling” in the matter.

Sentamu expressed his feelings on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the Telegraphreports.

“My view is that this is not the business of government, actually,” he said. “I think that is a matter really for people and that we should allow it.The government should not raise the bar so high that in the end they are now being unjust.”

Andrew Brown, a blogger for the Guardian, questions what exactly qualifies as a “requirement” of the faith:

Does Christianity demand that its adherents wear a cross? The courts here have decided that it doesn’t, but I’m not sure the question is well framed. You might as well ask “does Christianity demand that you go to church on Sundays?” or “does it demand pacifism?” There are just too many Christianities for such a question to make sense.

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by loonwatch

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

As a brown-skinned Sikh with a turban on my head and a long beard on my chin, I deal with my fair share of racist and xenophobic harassment regularly, including in my home of New York City, the most diverse city on the planet. It usually takes the form of someone yelling or perhaps mumbling at me: Osama bin Laden/terrorist/al Qaeda/he’s going to blow up the /go back to your country/etc. Less often, someone might threaten me, get in my face, or in one case, pull off my turban on the subway.

My experience is not terribly unique for a turban-wearing Sikh in the United States. Especially since 9/11, we Sikhs have become all too familiar with racial epithets, bullying and violence. Just last month, a gurdwara in Michigan was vandalized with hostile anti-Muslim graffiti. Last year, in what we can assume was a hate attack, two elderly Sikh men were shot and killed while taking an evening walk in a quiet neighborhood in Elk Grove, Calif.

Many talk about the prevalence of anti-Sikh attacks as a case of “mistaken identity.” Sikhs mistaken for Muslims. Indeed, we are by and large attacked because of anti-Muslim bigotry. The Michigan gurdwara was targeted for that reason, and most of us who experience racist harassment as Sikhs in the U.S. experience it through the vilification of Muslims and/or Arabs.

Ironically, many Sikhs themselves vilify Muslims or at least distance themselves from the Muslim community at every possible opportunity. I remember in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, the first thing out of the mouths of many Sikhs when talking to the press, to politicians or even to their neighbors was, “We are not Muslims.” While this is of course a fact, the implication of the statement if it stops there is: You’re attacking the wrong community. Don’t come after us, go after the Muslims! Sikhs believe in equality and freedom and love our country and our government. But Muslims? We don’t like them either.

The roots of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Sikh community run deep in South Asia, from the days of the tyranny of Mughal emperors such as Aurangzeb in the 17th century to the bloodshed in 1947 when our homeland of Punjab was sliced into two separate nation-states. Despite these historical realities, Sikhism has always been clear that neither Muslims as a people nor Islam as a religion were ever the enemy. Tyranny was the enemy. Oppression was the enemy. Sectarianism was the enemy. In fact, the Guru Granth Sahib, our scriptures that are the center of Sikh philosophy and devotion, contains the writings of Muslim (Sufi) saints alongside those of our own Sikh Gurus. Nevertheless, historical memory breeds misguided hostility and mistrust of Muslims, especially in the contemporary global context of ever-increasing, mainstream Islamophobia.

What is it going to take for Sikhs and Muslims to join together in solidarity against the common enemies of racist harassment and violence, racial and religious profiling, and Islamophobic bigotry? Perhaps the recently exposed NYPD spying program (along with the “education” officers have received about Islam) will serve as a wake up call to my community (and other communities for that matter) about how bad things have really gotten. While we Sikhs confront bigotry on a daily basis from our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, employers and strangers on the street, our Muslim American counterparts are systematically targeted by our own government. (I should note that, of course, Sikhs too are profiled by law enforcement in less repressive, though still troubling, ways, especially at airport security).

Sikhism was born hundreds of years ago in part to stand up for the most oppressed and fight for the freedom and liberation of all people. If this isn’t reason enough for us to make the cause of rooting out Islamophobia from the NYPD and other law enforcement and government agencies our own, we only have to return to the bleak reality we Sikhs in the U.S. still face right now in 2012. A time when gurdwaras are still vandalized with anti-Muslim statements, Sikh kids are still being bullied and tormented at school every day, and I am called Osama bin Laden while walking down a Manhattan street for the 258th time (no I’m not counting).

“We are not Muslims” hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact “are not Muslim” will not get to the root of the problem. As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

I hope the NYPD’s blatant assault on the civil rights of our Muslim sisters and brothers propels us Sikhs as well as all people of conscience to action. Perhaps “We are not Muslims” will become “We are all Muslims,” as we come together to eradicate Islamophobic bigotry in all its forms.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin: If Tim Tebow Were Muslim, Would America Still Love Him?

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by loonwatch

If Tim Tebow Were Muslim, Would America Still Love Him?

The phenomenon that is Tim Tebow has extended outside the realms of the gridiron and into pop culture. Does he have God on his side? Would America love him if he was just as conservative and just as vocal, yet a member of the Islamic faith?

A version of this question was posed by Fox News recently. It was wrapped under the banner of their yearly “war on Christmas” with the subheading of a “war on Christians.” They argued that the voices calling for him to pipe down about his faith were anathema to a war on the Christian faith and that this is a growing and disturbing trend. They argued that the founding fathers initially came here for religious freedom and those freedoms were under attack.

To that last point I agree. Religious freedoms are under attack. Lots of freedoms are under attack. As a Muslim in this country there are countless examples of religious freedoms being questioned by the majority the least of which is this current fracas where the Lowe’s hardware store has pulled its money from ads on the “All-American Muslim” reality TV show. A show, from all accounts, that is neither universally reflective of American Muslims, but also, to right wing (nut) groups, does not expose Muslims for the real threat that they are.

So, it is in this cultural moment that we come to see Tebow Time every weekend. He plays terrible for three quarters and then, when all hope is lost, when the game is down to the wire, and the amazing defense of the Broncos (that love to watch him play instead of sitting when the offense is playing) puts him in a position to drive the team down the field, score to win or tie to go to overtime. They have done it consistently all season. The undefeated Green Bay Packers are now a side story to all that is the Denver Broncos led by Tim Tebow, probably the first home-schooled quarterback in American history. At the end of every game, Tebow, the child of Baptist missionaries, says the following: “First I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

I talked about this recently on Public Radio’s “The Takeaway.” It’s not like he is the first athlete to be vocal about his faith. In reality, football is a very faith-filled sport. The Lord’s Prayer is recited in almost every locker room in the country (save one town in Michigan that says the opening chapter of the Quran). As a Muslim, I know the Lord’s Prayer by heart because I played football for 13 years.

No, faith and football are not a new combination. What is new is Tebow.

What makes him irresistible is this collision of a series of factors: the media-saturated world we are in makes it so that we know far too much about athletes and public figures than ever before. Tebow is unique because he is both an underdog and a winner. He is both humble and non-judgmental — a dynamite combination for any human being. FInally, his fellow teammates love him, he does not drink, smoke or do drugs, he is celibate, unmarried, and he has a winning smile and personality.

People of faith should be cheering this model Christian on. Anyone of any passion should be exalting his independent thinking and supporting his right to speak freely about what he holds dear.

But what if he were Muslim? Americans look to people who are successful and they want to be like them. So, in some ways, young people want to be like him. If he were Muslim, would young people want to be Muslim? Would that scare people?

If he was Muslim would it be, as Fox News suggests, that everyone would be more careful when attacking him because the world is more sympathetic to Islam and on a march against Christianity?

Perhaps guilt that exists within Christians that were raised Christian but aren’t “practicing” Christianity in a particular way. They are uncomfortable about their faith. They see him out there with his public proclamations and it makes them feel like bad Christians. Would a “Muslim” Tebow, with all the qualities of humility and grace that Tebow exhibits, then make reactionary, and self-absorbed, Muslims feel like they were bad Muslims?

Tebow makes people that are faithful feel two ways. Some want him to be private about his faith and simply live by example. Others are like “Yes! That’s awesome!”

In general, some of the best people of any faith are too concerned about their own development and that challenges of living in this intensely secular culture to be worried about telling others what they should or should not be or do. That’s Tim Tebow. He’s concerned about his own development. That’s what everyone admires him for. He does not really care about what you think and you feel like he wants you to be as ecstatic about what you believe as he is. But would it be the same if he were a Muslim?

Finally, the big question: Is God on Tebow’s side? Obviously we will never know the answer. I will say this: If the Broncos continue at the pace they are going, make it to the playoffs, have a miraculous run all the way to the Superbowl, and if their defense is good enough to keep the game under 10 points and you give Tim Tebow the ball at the end of the game, then you might see Tebow as the Superbowl champion. Would we think he had God on his side this whole year?

And what if he did all that and the first thing he said in the interview was: “First, I would like to thank Allah and send blessings upon Prophet Muhammad.”

Would America think God was on his side then?

Follow Ibrahim Abdul-Matin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ibrahimSalih

Sahar Aziz: The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by loonwatch

The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

On the same day that Rep. Peter King held the fourth “homegrown terrorism” hearing focused exclusively on Muslims, the White House released its Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Despite the White House’s seemingly benign approach to counterterrorism, its implementation produces adverse effects similar to Mr. King’s confrontational tactics.

The White House Strategy proclaims, “Law enforcement and government officials for decades have understood the critical importance of building relationships, based on trust, with the communities they serve. Partnerships are vital to address a range of challenges and must have as their foundation a genuine commitment on the part of law enforcement and government to address community needs and concerns, including protecting rights and public safety.”

To someone unfamiliar with the history of community outreach to American Muslims, the strategy sounds ideal. However, the Obama Administration has sabotaged its own high-minded public position by adopting the Bush Administration’s counterterrorism model that punishes the broad Muslim community rather than targeting genuine threats. Thus, the Administration’s actual practices conform all-too-closely to Peter King’s vision of terrorism being synonymous with Islam.

While preventing terrorism before it happens is a legitimate strategy, the way in which it is currently implemented comes at a high price to a vulnerable minority — Muslims in America.

Expansive surveillance laws coupled with a relaxation of terrorism investigative standards have placed mosques under intrusive surveillance. Similarly, thousands of informants have been hired, for hefty payments, to induce inept and often mentally ill young Muslim men to join fake terrorist plots. Watch lists are bulging with Muslim names while those incorrectly listed lack due process rights to seek removal of their names. Scores of Muslims with no ties to terrorism are charged for making false statements to federal agents in retaliation for refusing to serve as informants. And attempts to locate “lone wolf terrorists” have resulted in the misguided conflation of Muslim orthodox practices with terrorism.

These assaults on Muslims’ civil liberties have strained relations between Muslim communities and law enforcement agencies.

Community outreach meetings, in theory, are supposed to provide the communities with an opportunity to work with government to keep counterterrorism efforts from violating civil rights and civil liberties. Unfortunately, officials routinely dismiss community grievances, reciting self-congratulatory boilerplate that the American government respects constitutional rights as it fights terrorism. Indeed, the government’s cavalier disregard of community concerns is so pervasive that many leaders have concluded that meetings with federal officials are merely pro forma, check-the-box events providing political cover to a government they believe is systematically and unlawfully profiling Muslims. Others have chosen to boycott the meetings altogether.

The government seems oblivious to the harm these counter-terrorism policies are doing to the potential for trust in Muslim communities. Making matters worse, the immense political pressure on the Justice Department to produce terrorism indictments, and congressional accusations that Obama is soft on terrorists, places the Muslim communities in an intractable dilemma: How can you be partners with agencies who misdirect adversarial behavior from actual terrorists to Muslim communities en masse?

If a young Muslim terrorist suspect manipulated into a phony plot has mental health problems and needs rehabilitative health services, for example, investigators and prosecutors nonetheless pursue the adversarial route — to prosecute and incarcerate. The combined effects of these entrapment efforts and over-charging obviously disturbed young Muslim men threatens to devastate Muslim communities in the same way that the mass incarceration of African American men has transformed the communities from which they have been removed.

Such concerns are validated by documents obtained through a freedom of information request by the American Civil Liberties Union, proving the FBI used community outreach meetings forcollecting intelligence on Muslim AmericansAccording to the ACLU, the FBI did not inform Muslims at outreach events, such as community meetings, religious dinners and job fairs, that conversations and names of those in attendance would be recorded in government files. A 2008 document shows that an FBI agent “collected and documented individuals’ contact information and First Amendment-protected opinions and associations, and conducted Internet searches to obtain further information about the individuals in attendance.” This may explain why individuals, including imams, who were active participants in government outreach programs have found themselves indicted or deported, sending a chill through Muslim communities.

If the government is serious about partnering with Muslim communities, it must stop behaving like an adversary. For starters, community outreach programs should not be exploited to spy on Muslims, recruit undercover informants, and make false promises.

Until the Administration translates its lofty rhetoric into tangible policy reforms, there will not be much difference between Mr. King’s and President Obama’s approaches to counterterrorism.

Sahar Aziz is an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is the author of Caught in a Preventive Dragnet: Selective Counterterrorism Against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asiansforthcoming in the Gonzaga Law Review.

Engy Abdelkader: Islamophobic Bullying in Our Schools

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by loonwatch

Is this innocent fun? Or does it cross the line into hateful bullying?

Islamophobic Bullying in Our Schools

by Engy Abdelkader

“You boys were so much fun on the 8th grade trip! Thanks for not bombing anything while we were there!” read the yearbook inscription penned by the middle school teacher.

The eighth grade yearbook was littered with similar remarks by classmates linking Omar to a “bomb.”

“To my bomb man!” read one note. “Come wire my bomb,” read another.

“What is this?” asked Omar’s mother incredulously. He had handed the yearbook over to her moments earlier when he arrived home that afternoon.

Omar answered quietly, “I know, Mom, I know.” He stared down at the kitchen floor. His eyes could not meet his mother’s but he began to tell her what had happened just one month earlier.

In May 2009, Omar joined his classmates on a school trip to Washington, D.C. As they toured the Washington Monument, visited area museums and passed by the White House, the kids repeatedly told Omar they hoped he wouldn’t “bomb” any of the sites. A teacher chaperoned the children, heard the comments and responded by doing… well, nothing, except leave a denigrating remark in Omar’s yearbook a month later.

It was clear to Omar’s mother that her American born and raised son was harassed because of his Muslim faith and Arab ancestry.

Unfortunately, this was not the first bias-based bullying incident involving Omar that school year. Only several months earlier a peer was intimidating Omar, calling him a “terrorist,” during an elective trade course. Omar finally told his mother about the bullying when his report card indicated that he was failing that same class, while acing the others where he was not subjected to such humiliating treatment.

Omar’s mother had addressed the bullying with the school Vice-Principal immediately afterwards.

But, when she spoke to her son’s school Principal regarding the D.C. trip and subsequent offensive yearbook comments (by a school teacher), the Principal was shocked to learn that Omar had been a prior victim of bullying earlier in the academic year. He had no knowledge of that incident in his school.

While the Principal assured her that he would take proper action against the offending teacher, nothing actually happened. The teacher denied hearing the bomb-related comments during the field trip to D.C. and excused her yearbook note as a “joke.”

Omar’s incensed mother took her case to the school Superintendent who in turn suggested scheduling a cultural sensitivity training about Arabs and Muslims for faculty.

That never came to pass, however.

In a written complaint Omar’s mother filed with a state government agency (with jurisdiction over such bias-based bullying incidents as the one involving her son) she observed:

“[O]ne day, there will be a child who is pushed beyond their limits, as we have seen in tragic events throughout the country, like Columbine and suicides of children being picked on for no other reason than being “different.”
What will we do then?
Must we wait for tragedy to create a safer and more open society for our community?”

By now Omar was a freshman in the public high school where the bullying continued, unabated.

In school, Omar was frequently referred to as “faggot.”

Omar never told his parents.

The verbal harassment culminated into physical “touching.”

A male student rubbed Omar’s shoulder while calling him “faggot.”

Still, Omar said and did nothing seeming paralyzed by his fear and shame.

Then, during a fire drill at school a group of boys yelled out to Omar, “Call off your tribe so we can go back into school!”

That was it.

Omar told his parents what was happening. He explained to his mother that he tried to keep the bullying a secret because he did not want to “hurt or upset” them.

Omar’s mother complained to the Principal, Superintendent and state agency… again.

This time, the high school held a cultural sensitivity training focusing on American Arabs and Muslims and geared towards faculty members, only.

Some mistakenly believe that bullying is a rite of passage which children must endure. It is worth noting the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify school bullying as a “public health problem.”

In fact, bullying has been recognized as a form of child abuse when perpetrated by other children. Studies have shown that victims of bullying may suffer school phobia, increased truancy and reduced concentration and classroom achievement. Bullying victims may also suffer sleep disturbances, bedwetting, abdominal pain, high levels of anxiety and depression, loneliness, low self-esteem and heightened fear for personal safety.

While anti-bullying legislation plays a critical role in protecting bullying victims, proper implementation and enforcement of those laws is key. Case in point: over 45 states have such legislation in effect (including Omar’s home state) yet bullying — and bias-based bullying — persists in epidemic proportions.

And, what happens when a disappointing report card or offensive inscriptions in a child’s yearbook does not tip off a parent that his or her child is a target of such bullying conduct? Many children refrain from sharing such details with family members sometimes out of a sense of shame and embarrassment but often because they are attempting to shield parents from being hurt or upset, as we saw in Omar’s case above.

Preventative measures geared at faculty, students and administrators are necessary to stop bullying from occurring in the first instance. Indeed, evidence suggests that bullying behavior can be significantly reduced through prevention curricula.

According to a new report published by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) titled, “Global Battleground or School Playground: The Bullying of America’s Muslim Children,” bias-based bullying against American Muslim children (or those perceived to be Muslim) is on the rise and such school bullying is largely attributed to cultural and religious misunderstanding.

The report finds that a primary factor underlying the persistent harassment, ridicule and discrimination against American Muslim children is the American mainstream’s general misperception of Islam and Muslims.

The ISPU paper calls for intensive and pervasive efforts to educate American society about Islam and Muslims. It suggests that such cultural information should be provided to libraries, knowledge bases, teachers and school administrators.

Such facts and figures about Muslims and Islam — compiled with the assistance of diverse community groups and advocates — should also be featured in educational materials and resources, school curricula, popular Internet sites, television and films.

Not surprisingly the report identifies the media as a problem source for stereotyped images of Muslims as terrorists and the outside group in the “us” versus “them” dichotomy.

Perhaps it is time for “Hollywood” to consider positive associations for the Muslims it portrays on the big screen and in our family rooms. American Muslims are doctors, lawyers, engineers, make-up artists, photographers, engineers, information technology specialists, law enforcement agents, teachers, professors, bankers, community advocates, humanitarians, etc. — isn’t it time we portray them that way?

Children’s programming can also play a critical role in addressing this issue.

Note the influence of Sesame Street, for instance: a 1996 survey found that 95 percent of all American preschoolers had watched Sesame Street by the time they were three. More recently, in 2008, an estimated 77 million Americans had watched the program as kids.

In my view, Sesame Street should feature more American Muslim, Arab American and South Asian celebrities, children and characters in its regular programing.

The children’s show has made great strides in promoting diversity and multiculturalism and recently introduced its first South Asian character to the regular cast. To further promote increased diversity, it could throw a party with authentic Middle Eastern food and music for its American viewing audience, for example.

Musicians could play the tabla — an Arabic percussion instrument which produces a great beat — while guests enjoy pita chips and hummus. Mangos, a popular fruit in the Arab and Muslim world, could also make an appearance where celebrating children learn how to count all the mangos.

And, during ‘The Word on the Street’ segment, Murray could imaginably interview a young Sikh man with a turban or a young American Muslim girl or woman who wears a hijab or headscarf. This may help address the growing phenomenon of “hijabophobia.”

Further, The Daily Show‘s Asif Mandvi, who happens to be an Indian-American Muslim in addition to being funny, could make a cameo appearance to help define and explain a new word (e.g. the word jocular) to the young viewing audience. I am willing to offer my consulting services free of charge to help realize progress in this way.

The answer does not lie with Sesame Street alone, however. Countless other children’s programming could help as well and impact continued positive change. For instance, in addition to Dora, Diego and Ni Hao, Kai-lan, perhaps Nickelodeon could consider adding similar programming with Arab, Muslim and South Asian heroes and heroines.

You may be wondering about Omar and his family. His mother organized and conducted cultural competency training on American Muslims and Arab Americans for her son’s school district. It was well-received.

As for Omar — with the help of his family he has a great new attitude towards bullying which prompts him to stick up for other children targeted in the way he was.

Please note that names have been changed to protect the child’s identity according to his parent’s wishes.

Muslim Reality Show, All-American Muslim, To Premiere On TLC

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by loonwatch

All-American Muslim to Premiere on TLC

Muslim Reality Show, All-American Muslim, To Premiere On TLC 

What’s life like as a Muslim-American?

A new eight-part series on TLC that premieres November 13 will try to answer that question by following the lives of five very different Muslim-American families. The show, “All-American Muslim”, was filmed in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit that’s known for it’s large Arab-American population. It promises to go “inside the rarely seen world of American Muslims to uncover a unique community struggling to balance faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world,” according to a press release.

Producers picked a diverse crowd to profile, from sisters who are polar opposites (one wears a headscarf and prays daily, the other has tattoos –generally frowned upon in Islam – and is married an Irish Catholic) to a high school football coach to newlyweds, in order to show people who “share the same religion, but lead very distinct lives that often times challenge the Muslim stereotype.” The series will also address issues such as the post-9/11 life for Muslims and gender roles in Islam.

The show, which is rare for its focus on Muslims, has generated much buzz in the Muslim-American community as well as non-Muslims. Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he is looking forward to watching the series.

“It’ll give us a taste of the lives of Muslim-Americans in both their aspirations and concerns. I think the show will be good and humanizing for the Muslim community of Dearborn,” said Walid, who is friends with one of the cast members. Walid cautioned that, in terms of ethnic background, Muslims are “much more diverse than what Dearborn may show. Dearborn is an anomaly in the American Muslim landscape for its large Arab-American population and concentrated Muslim population.”

The first episode of “All-American Muslim” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern time on TLC.

Here is a run-down of the show’s characters, courtesy of TLC.

Suehaila and Shadia: Suehaila wears a traditional headscarf and follows daily prayer rituals – while Shadia, her outspoken sister, is decorated with piercings and tattoos and recently married Jeff, an Irish Catholic who is converting to Islam.

Nader and Nawal: Newlyweds expecting their first baby, Nader and Nawal are working to strike the right balance between their traditional Muslim roots and American culture.

Fouad: As head coach of the Fordson High School football team, Fouad has pioneered a shift in his team’s summer practice schedule by flipping to night workouts from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. since a majority of his team are Muslim and are fasting for Ramadan.

Mike and Angela: Mike, a deputy chief sheriff, and his wife Angela, a consultant to a major auto manufacturer, are juggling their busy careers with raising their four children in a modern Muslim family.

Nina: A strong, independent Muslim businesswoman, Nina’s family runs the premier wedding and banquet hall in Dearborn — but against their advice, she is trying to venture off on her own to open a nightclub.

Samira and Ali: Samira and her husband of seven years, Ali, struggle with fertility issues and are pursuing numerous options including conventional fertility techniques, dietary alternatives and Muslim supplication prayers. After years of unsuccessful attempts, Samira considers putting on the Hijab in order to be closer to God and hopefully be blessed with a child.

Check out a slideshow of some of the cast members below.

CLARIFICATION:An earlier version of this story stated that tattoos are illegal in Islam. This has been clarified to reflect that most Islamic scholars consider tattoos illegal and that the legality is debated among a minority of scholars.

Was Christopher Columbus On A Religious Crusade?

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by loonwatch

Christopher ColumbusChristopher Columbus

Was Christopher Columbus On A Religious Crusade?

By Josef Kuhn
Religion News Service

(RNS) Two recent books argue that explorers Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama were more like Christian crusaders than greedy mercenaries or curious adventurers. Other historians, however, remain skeptical.

The books, released in the weeks leading up to Columbus Day (Oct. 10), claim the reason the famous navigators sought a direct trade route to India was to undermine Islam.

“I think historians have known about this, but they haven’t taken it seriously,” said Carol Delaney, author of “Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem.” Delaney, a retired anthropologist, is currently a research scholar at Brown University.

Delaney’s book argues that Columbus wanted to find gold to finance a new crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims, believing that Jerusalem must be in Christian hands before Jesus’ Second Coming.

“People don’t usually look at Columbus in the religious context of his time, which was very powerful,” said Delaney.

Nigel Cliff, the author of a new book on Columbus’s Portuguese contemporary Vasco da Gama, agrees that seeing the explorers through a religious lens is “a change of emphasis.” Historians in the 19th century tended to regard Columbus as a heroic figure who embarked on a “disinterested intellectual adventure,” whereas those in the 20th century tended to “focus on economics, to the exclusion of much else,” he said.

Cliff said mere economic advantage wasn’t a medieval concept.

“Faith is the burning issue that impelled the great Portugal (exploration) campaign for 80 years,” said Cliff, a British writer and amateur historian.

Da Gama became the first person to reach India directly from Europe by sailing around Africa in 1498, six years after Columbus discovered the Americas for the king and queen of Spain.

Cliff’s book, “Holy War,” claims that da Gama’s arrival in the East marked a turning point from Muslim to Christian ascendancy in global trade against the backdrop of an ongoing “clash of civilizations.”

But other historians say the new books’ bold claims are backed by poor scholarship. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a historian at the University of Notre Dame who has written extensively on Columbus, harshly criticized the books in The Wall Street Journal.

In his view, Cliff and Delaney “assume the veracity and authenticity of sources of doubtful authorship and unreliable date” and make the mistake of taking Columbus at his word although he was notoriously disingenuous.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, a historian at UCLA who has written on da Gama, said religion for da Gama was “significant, but not the sole motive.” The explorer was more interested in “personal advancement,” as well as ensuring that trade routes would be controlled by the Portuguese nobility rather than the crown.

Fernandez-Armesto called Cliff’s theory of a “clash of civilizations” between Christianity and Islam “a figment of contemporary imaginations”; Subrahmanyam said it is “sensationalizing history by linking it with contemporary events.”

According to Subrahmanyam, there is “no evidence whatsoever” that da Gama wanted to take back Jerusalem and prepare for Christ’s return, although there is some evidence that Columbus may have had those ambitions.

For instance, Delaney points to the mysterious “Book of Prophecies,” a gathering of mostly biblical pronouncements that seem to lend divine significance to Columbus’s voyages. The book was supposedly compiled by Columbus himself.

Fernandez-Armesto also points out that the Spanish court that commissioned Columbus’s voyages had long been obsessed with the idea of Jerusalem.

However, “there is no evidence that Columbus was particularly religious until … he turned to God following the failure of his worldly ambitions,” he said. Columbus died a disappointed man because he had not found the quantities of gold and the passage to India he had sought.

Read the rest: Was Christopher Columbus On A Religious Crusade?

Murfreesboro Mosque Controversy Sparks Islamophobia, Threats And Vandalism

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , on September 13, 2011 by loonwatch
Islamic Center of MurfreesboroIslamic Center of Murfreesboro

Murfreesboro Mosque Controversy Sparks Islamophobia, Threats And Vandalism

by Janell Ross via Huffington Post

By some accounts, Anthony Mijares is a bit player in the story of Murfreesboro, Tenn., a small city 40 minutes south of Nashville. In Murfreesboro, a growing Muslim community’s plan to build a new mosque has unleashed a public furor, produced threats and counterthreats, and revealed just how far fear of another terrorist attack has spread across the United States.

Since the mosque won local government building approval in May 2010, Murfreesboro’s 250 Muslim families have taken an undesirable spot at center stage. Unidentified individuals vandalized a sign that had marked the future worship space site for months and in a separate incident, someone set ablaze a piece of construction equipment. On Labor Day an anonymous caller threatened the group again. A bomb, the caller said, will explode over the September 11 weekend inside the office space where Murfreesboro’s Muslims currently worship. Local law enforcement, the FBI and ATF are investigating the incidents and will not comment on their status.

But Mijares, a retiree and Roman Catholic, is also the lone voice behind a letter-writing campaign to discourage companies from displaying or advertising in a local paper that he believes is helping to fuel the local controversy. For more than a year, the paper has featured stories about the planned mosque, Islam and the alleged threat they pose to Murfreesboro. And this summer, that publication launched its own campaign against Mijares, publishing his home address in an ad that called for readers to “combat” his efforts.

“Yes, I consider that a threat,” said Mijares, 54. “What else could it be when every local right-wing nut, some militia member in Idaho or some Aryan (Neo-Nazi) in West Virginia can read the words ‘combat’ printed next to my address online? The Rutherford Reader knows what it’s doing. That wasn’t a mistake.”

What is happening to Mijares may be the final proof that the crisis in Murfreesboro has been created by nothing more than irrational fear and hate, not legitimate concerns about safety, said Reavis Mitchell, a historian at Fisk University in Nashville who specializes in 20th Century American history.

“There is a long line of people who have been branded an outsider, a troublemaker of some kind, because they won’t tolerate injustice silently,” said Mitchell.

Historically, community crises like the one in Murfreesboro have been resolved, or at least calmed, after the name-calling, threats, acts of intimidation or actual violence begin national attention turns to the troubled town or ringleader, Mitchell said. During the McCarthy anti-Communist campaign and The Civil Rights Movement, that’s the point at which change occurred, he said.

CNN, Time Magazine and international publications have covered the mosque controversy in Murfreesboro. But Mijares and his campaign have remained largely unknown.

In April 2010, just a few weeks before the new mosque won local government approval, Mijares picked up a copy of The Rutherford Reader, a free weekly newspaper, at a Murfreesboro Kroger. Mijares had scannedThe Rutherford Reader before, but that day Mejares was appalled. In stories, editorials and hard-to-describe items where opinions and facts were commingled, the paper called for a halt on “Muslim immigration” and described Islam as “dehumanizing” and “defiling.”

Mijares decided to contact Kroger. Within weeks, the grocery chain directed its distributor to stop making room for The Rutherford Reader on its free publication racks.

Mijares insists that he isn’t a fan of censorship, arguing that The Rutherford Reader can print what it wants and distribute it anyway that it can. But businesses that keep The Rutherford Reader afloat by supplying advertising revenue and access to consumers should think about this carefully, Mijares said, or they risk offending their own customers.

Over the next year, Mijares sent similar letters to the owners of local stores, restaurants and the local Chamber of Commerce. When seven stores, restaurants and chamber locations decided to stop displaying The Rutherford Reader on their free publication racks, Mijares expanded his efforts to advertisers.

“This is hate speech, pure and simple,” Mijares said. “I thought advertisers should know that The Rutherford Reader has taken a turn.”

Pete Doughtie – The Rutherford Reader‘s editor, publisher and owner — did not respond to multiple requests for comment left at his office and home. But this week, Doughtie’s column posed a revealing challenge.

Muslims are not in America to assimilate. They are here to change our system … Our preachers should go beyond telling us more than ‘we must love our enemies.’ That is simply passing the buck. They should be getting every Christian ready and armed with the Word of God and an understanding of the Quran and Hadith, to defeat those who are out to destroy Christianity, and our American way of life.

(Hadith is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the prophet Muhammed.)

Since the mosque project was approved, Doughtie -a self-described white Christian American – has described Islam in his column as a “political ideology,” rather than a religion. He has told readers that Islam compels violence and attempts to implement sharia, a code of Islamic laws. He has described Mijares as a Muslim. And he has described as “terrorists” Mijares and other locals who have objected to The Rutherford Reader‘s content and the vandalism and arson at the mosque.

“Pete Doughtie is a bully and a bigot,” said Mijares. “I may be a 5’4″ Italian-American guy with a big nose and olive skin who gets looks around town. And I know that he cannot fathom that there are non-Muslims who do not agree with his ideas. But I am, in fact, not a Muslim. I am not a terrorist. And I am not afraid of Pete Doughtie.”

Mijares is a retired international cargo expeditor who spent September 11 directing cargo traffic at the panic-stricken Los Angeles Airport, so he does not scare easily, he said. He moved to Tennessee to care for his ailing mother in 2005.

The Rutherford Reader is a right-of-center publication that represents the community’s concerns, said Kevin Fisher, an unpaid Rutherford Reader columnist. Fisher, who is African American, is a corrections officer and also the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that aims to stop construction of the new mosque.

“I take civil rights seriously and I wouldn’t participate in anything that tramples on people’s rights. I wouldn’t write anything that intentionally offends anyone,” said Fisher. “If I have, I am sincerely sorry. But I know Mr. Doughtie and I’ve always thought he was a really nice guy.”

Fisher objects to the lack of detail included in the public meeting notice where the mosque project was approved. The notice — which included the same information as other planning commission announcements -– allowed the mosque to escape comment from people who oppose it, Fisher said. But that is not his only concern.

“We don’t know enough about the motivations here. It’s only been 10 years since 9/11,” said Fisher, who has sought and lost two bids for public office since 2008. “In the blink of an eye, foreign students went from students to terrorists. And I think that this is why our whole thinking as a nation changed. We have to judge the issue of terror and the potential for Islamic radicalization a little differently. We certainly have to look at that potential in our own community.”

Fisher would not comment on the ads featuring Mijares’ complete home address. But, Fisher said, Mijares invited the attention when he began his campaign.

When Mijares says that the ads may be dangerous, he is right, said Eric Allen Bell, a documentary filmmaker. In 2010, Bell moved to Murfreesboro planning to take a break. Instead, he wound up making a documentary about the mosque controversy. A full-length version of that film, “Not Welcome,” will be released next year, Bell said.

While Bell was making the film, he wrote a series of editorials that criticized the mosques’ opponents, including The Rutherford Reader. The weekly’s subsequent issue included Bell’s picture beneath a headline that read, “The Rutherford Reader’s Free Speech is Being Threatened.”

Bell began to receive death threats via email, he said. Bell hired a private security to accompany him to certain public events. Then one particularly scary threat arrived over Facebook. When Bell approached local law enforcement, he was reminded that an official complaint would become a matter of public record and would include his home address. A police officer warned him that this might put him in greater danger, Bell said.

“I was advised by people who know that community that you probably need to take this seriously and leave town,” said Bell, who returned to California in November 2010.

It is not a coincidence that when the small but vocal group of Murfreesboro residents who oppose the mosque describe their concerns, the sorts of claims made in The Rutherford Reader often come up, said Saleh M. Sbenaty, a board member of Murfreesboro’s mosque and a professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

“There are people and publications in this city that specialize in making false accusations,” said Sbenaty, who moved to the United States from Syria, 30 years ago around the same time that Muslims in Murfreesboro formed the city’s mosque. “They insist that all Muslims are dangerous. And unfortunately, there are a small number of nut jobs who will take that seriously.”

Late Wednesday, the mosque’s board voted to suspend usual weekend activities at the mosque because of the bomb threat. On Saturdays, the mosque typically holds religious education classes for children. On Sundays, there are sports or community events for kids.

“It is quite unfortunate that our children are bullied in school and now are the subject of a new threat,” said Sbenaty, a father of two.

Threats, or what some people consider threats, are becoming common in Murfreesboro.

Back in May, Mijares noticed a Rutherford Reader ad for a Nissan dealership. Mijares contacted the dealer. And since the Japanese car company’s North American headquarters are located in nearby Franklin, Tenn., he also called Nissan’s community relations staff.

“After he (Mijares) made us aware of the publication where this ad was placed,” said Paula Angelo, Nissan’s director of corporate communications, “it was clear immediately that its content does not align with Nissan’s core values.”

Mijares contacted corporate headquarters on May 24. The dealership makes independent decisions about advertising, but there was a conversation between the business and corporate officials, Angelo said. On June 8, Angleo contacted Mijares to advise him that the dealership had purchasedRutherford Reader ad space in May and June but that additional ads would not be placed, he said.

On July 18, The Rutherford Reader began running its series of full-page anti-Mijares ads.

“Murfreesboro, to borrow a phrase, is the ground zero of Muslim bashing in America right now,” said Faiz Shakir, vice president of the Center for American Progress and one of the researchers behind“Fear, Inc.,” a six-month study released in August by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank that examined the rising tide of anti-Islamic sentiment.

The study found that small groups of individuals have funneled the same pieces of questionable research to activists, commentators and politicians, who have then stirred or led groups such as the one that opposes the Murfreesboro mosque, Shakir said. In August, one of those individuals, Frank Gaffney, testified in the Murfreesboro case hoping to help stop the mosque. Fisher first met Gaffney in the courtroom, he said.

“I am nobody’s puppet,” Fisher said.

On August 30, a judge ruled that the mosque’s construction could move forward. The decision will be appealed, Fisher said.

Inside Murfreesboro, some people suspect that The Rutherford Reader‘s interest in covering the alleged threats posed by Islam may be driven by profit. In Tennessee, local governments are required to list public notices -– advisories about government meetings and other activities -– in general interest publications. These ads generate revenue for newspapers.

“I think it may be Mr. Doughtie’s goal to write just enough about this local controversy to drive up his circulation and meet the definition of a general interest publication,” said Ernest G. Burgess, Rutherford County mayor. Murfreesboro is the largest city in Rutherford County and Burgess is the county’s chief executive officer.

In late August, the ads with Mijares’ home address disappeared. Mijares received a few nasty letters and emails. But, Mijares says, he won’t stop his letter-writing campaign.

“I’ve never been terribly social. In fact, some people may call me a misanthrope,” said Mijares. “I don’t mind if some people don’t like me. I just don’t appreciate anyone threatening my family.”

If the ads continue, Mijares said he will post Doughtie’s home address online with a description of Doughtie’s activities and ideas in Arabic.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by loonwatch

A good piece from Kari Ansari.

Open Letter to President Obama from a Muslim Family

Dear President Barack Obama,

Along with many American Muslims, my family and I listened to your speech today on the Middle East and North Africa. While I appreciate your encouraging statements to the people of the Muslim world — particularly to those who are currently fighting for dignity and civil rights in their own lands — I also couldn’t help feeling that many Americans are not setting the example of which you spoke when it comes to our own Muslim citizens.

Currently, 20 states have introduced anti-Muslim legislation, with more pending. Some of our country’s lawmakers and politicians have made very bigoted inflammatory comments about Muslims and Islam. Very recently, Tennessee, under extreme pressure, rewrote a bill that would have made it a crime punishable by 15 years in prison for Muslims to worship together in groups of two or more. Organized groups are staging hate rallies against Muslims building houses of worship around the country. Local municipalities are playing the zoning game by zoning Islamic schools and mosques out of the community. Mosque playgrounds are being torched. Muslim family homesproperty, and mosques are being vandalized. Children are being bullied and harassed because they are Muslim. Shockingly, last week the Editor of the Gainesville Times in Florida published a letter that called for the expulsion of all Muslims from America. Recently, several Muslim clerics, and also a young Muslim woman were pulled off airplanes for no other reason other than they were dressed in recognizable Muslim attire. This is all being seen through the modern technology’s “window into the wider world” that you mentioned in your speech, but like all windows, you can also look from the world outside and see what’s happening inside.

What does it say to the world when our President speaks about rights for people in the Muslim world that “include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion” when our own people are being hindered from building mosques, and schools, and our right to worship freely is even being threatened?

Mr. President, Muslims in America know that you do not stand with this kind of bigotry and hatred. During your announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden you said,

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.

We appreciated this statement, however, judging by the uptick in anti-Muslim incidents since the death of bin Laden, the words weren’t enough to resonate with those in America who feel threatened by their Muslim neighbors.

Mr. President, Muslims need your leadership, your strong voice, and your support in this regard. You are a friend to the world’s Muslims, especially those fighting for their freedom, but Muslims need your friendship here on our own soil. Anti-Islam bigotry is getting worse in America — not better.

In our home, we love and respect you as our President; will you show us the same love and respect as a patriotic American family by speaking out strongly against this growing trend of anti-Muslim bigotry?

Follow Kari Ansari on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KariAnsari

Muslim Leaders Kicked Off Flight

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2011 by loonwatch

Reportedly, they were heading to an Islamophobia conference.

Muslim Leaders Kicked Off Flight

By RANDALL DICKERSON

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two Muslim religious leaders say they were removed from a commercial airliner in Memphis on Friday and were told it was because the pilot refused to fly with them aboard.

Masudur Rahman, who is also an adjunct instructor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, said by telephone from the terminal at Memphis International Airport that he and another imam had already been allowed to board their Delta Connection flight to Charlotte, N.C., before they were asked to de-board.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Jon Allen in Atlanta confirmed the incident and said it was not initiated by that agency.

A Delta Air Lines spokeswoman said the flight was operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which is also based in Atlanta. ASA didn’t immediately respond to telephone calls seeking comment.

Rahman said he was dressed in traditional Indian clothing and his traveling companion was dressed in Arab garb, including traditional headgear.

Rahman said he and Mohamed Zaghloul, of the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis, were cleared by security agents and boarded the plane for an 8:40 a.m. departure.

The aircraft pulled away from the gate, but the pilot then announced the plane must return, Rahman said. When it did, the imams were asked to go back to the boarding gate where Rahman said they were told the pilot was refusing to accept them because some other passengers could be uncomfortable.

Rahman said Delta officials talked with the pilot for more than a half-hour, but he still refused.

The men were taken to a lounge and booked on a later flight.

They called the Council on Islamic-American Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

“It’s racism and bias because of our religion and appearance and because of misinformation about our religion.” Rahman said. “If they understood Islam, they wouldn’t do this.”

He said a Delta manager apologized for the pilot’s actions, but that he and Zaghloul never spoke directly with the pilot.

Ibrahim Hooper, of the Islamic-American organization, said the group will follow up with the airline and with the TSA to help ensure such incidents do not continue to occur.

Hooper said airline officials at Memphis tried to resolve the situation, but the pilot refused.

Fight Erupts At NYC Sikh Temple; Seven Charged

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by loonwatch

Sikh on Sikh violence. 7 people were charged with disrupting a prayer service and yet where is the media on this? If this were Muslim on Muslim violence imagine what would have happened.

The HuffPo title actually seems to have gotten it wrong, those weren’t swords but musical instruments that they were using.

Sword Fight Erupts At NYC Sikh Temple; Seven Charged

(HuffPo)

NEW YORK — A brawl involving cricket bats and small swords at a Sikh temple in New York City has led to riot and assault charges against seven people.

Police say the defendants interrupted prayer services at the Baba Makhan Shah Lubana Sikh Center in Queens on Sunday. They were arraigned Monday.

Temple president Jamail Singh told the Daily Newsthat the fight was instigated by a dissident group of followers who are opposed to opening up membership.

The dispute is at the center of a lawsuit in state Supreme Court.

Some of those arrested Sunday also were charged with disrupting a religious service.

Gothamist posted a video of the brawl.

WATCH:

Wajahat Ali: Understanding Sharia Law

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2011 by loonwatch
Wajahat Ali

Another great piece from Wajahat Ali.

Understanding Sharia Law

(Huffington Post)

In the past year, a group of conservative pundits and analysts have identified sharia, or Islamic religious law, as a growing threat to the United States. These pundits and analysts argue that the steady adoption of sharia’s tenets is a strategy extremists are using to transform the United States into an Islamic state.

A number of state and national politicians have adopted this interpretation and 13 states are now considering the adoption of legislation forbidding sharia. A bill in the Tennessee State Senate, for example, would make adherence to sharia punishable by 15 years in jail. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for “a federal law that says Sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States.”

The fullest articulation of this “sharia threat” argument, though, is in the September 2010 report, “Sharia: The Threat to America,” published by the conservative Center for Security Policy. The authors claim that their report is “concerned with the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time: the legal-political-military doctrine known within Islam as ‘Shariah.’” The report, according to its authors, is “designed to provide a comprehensive and articulate ‘second opinion’ on the official characterizations and assessments of this threat as put forth by the United States government.”

The report, and the broader argument, is plagued by a significant contradiction. In the CSP report’s introduction, the authors admit that Islamic moderates contest more conservative interpretations of sharia:

Sharia is the crucial fault line of Islam’s internecine struggle. On one side of the divide are Muslim reformers and authentic moderates … whose members embrace the Enlightenment’s veneration of reason and, in particular, its separation of the spiritual and secular realms. On this side of the divide, Sharia is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.

The authors later assert, however, that there is “ultimately but one shariah. It is totalitarian in character, incompatible with our Constitution and a threat to freedom here and around the world.”

The initial concession that Muslims interpret sharia in different ways is accurate and of course contradicts the later assertion that sharia is totalitarian in nature.

But by defining sharia itself as the problem, and then asserting the authenticity of only the most extreme interpretations of sharia, the authors are effectively arguing that the internecine struggle within Islam should be ceded to extremists. They also cast suspicion upon all observant Muslims.

It’s important to understand that adopting such a flawed analysis would direct limited resources away from actual threats to the United States and bolster an anti-Muslim narrative that Islamist extremist groups find useful in recruiting.

It would also target and potentially alienate our best allies in the effort against radicalization: our fellow Americans who are Muslim. According to the “sharia threat” argument, all Muslims who practice any aspect of their faith are inherently suspect since sharia is primarily concerned with correct religious practice.

This brief will explain what sharia really is and demonstrate how a misrepresentation and misunderstanding of sharia — put forth in the CSP report and taken up by others — will both harm America’s national security interests and threaten our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

What is Sharia?

The CSP report defines sharia as a “legal-political-military doctrine.” But a Muslim would not recognize this definition — let alone a scholar of Islam and Muslim tradition. Muslim communities continue to internally debate how to practice Islam in the modern world even as they look to its general precepts as a guide to correct living and religious practice.

Most academics studying Islam and Muslim societies give a broad definition of sharia. This reflects Muslim scholars struggling for centuries over how best to understand and practice their faith.

But these specialists do agree on the following:

  • Sharia is not static. Its interpretations and applications have changed and continue to change over time.
  • There is no one thing called sharia. A variety of Muslim communities exist, and each understands sharia in its own way. No official document, such as the Ten Commandments, encapsulates sharia. It is the ideal law of God as interpreted by Muslim scholars over centuries aimed toward justice, fairness and mercy.
  • Sharia is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observance such as prayer and fasting, and not with national laws.

Any observant Muslim would consider him or herself a sharia adherent. It is impossible to find a Muslim who practices any ritual and does not believe himself or herself to be complying with sharia. Defining sharia as a threat, therefore, is the same thing as saying that all observant Muslims are a threat.

The CSP report authors — none of whom has any credentials in the study of Islam — concede this point in several places. In the introduction they say, “Shariah is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.” Yet the rest of the report contradicts this point.

The authors, in attempting to show that sharia is a threat, construct a static, ahistorical and unscholarly interpretation of sharia that is divorced from traditional understandings and commentaries of the source texts.

The “sharia threat” argument is based on an extreme type of scripturalism where one pulls out verses from a sacred text and argues that believers will behave according to that text. But this argument ignores how believers themselves understand and interpret that text over time.

The equivalent would be saying that Jews stone disobedient sons to death (Deut. 21:18- 21) or that Christians slay all non-Christians (Luke 19:27). In a more secular context it is similar to arguing that the use of printed money in America is unconstitutional — ignoring the interpretative process of the Supreme Court.

In reality, sharia is personal religious law and moral guidance for the vast majority of Muslims. Muslim scholars historically agree on certain core values of sharia, which are theological and ethical and not political. Moreover, these core values are in harmony with the core values at the heart of America.

Muslims consider an interpretation of sharia to be valid so long as it protects and advocates for life, property, family, faith and intellect. Muslim tradition overwhelmingly accepts differences of opinion outside these core values, which is why sharia has survived for centuries as an ongoing series of conversations. Sharia has served Muslims who have lived in every society and in every corner of the planet, including many Americans who have lived in our country from before our independence down to the present day.

Recent statements from Muslim religious authorities, such as the 2004 Amman Message, show the dynamic, interpretive tradition of Islam in practice. In fact, the Amman Message is a sharia-based condemnation of violence. So if CSP wants Muslims to reject sharia they are effectively arguing Muslims should reject nonviolence.

The fact that the Amman Message is a sharia-based document shows the problem with the “sharia threat” argument: By criminalizing sharia they also criminalize the sharia-based message of nonviolence in the Amman document.

It is surprising that a group claiming to be invested in American national security would suggest that we make nonviolent engagement criminal.

Suspicion Based on Religious Misinterpretation

The CSP report’s contradictions can only be resolved through unconstitutional means. And the authors propose doing so with no sense of irony.

They argue that believing Muslims should have their free speech and freedom of religion rights restricted: “In keeping with Article VI of the Constitution, extend bans currently in effect that bar members of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan from holding positions of trust in federal, state, or local governments or the armed forces of the United States to those who espouse or support Shariah.”

The authors have already conceded that even mainstream Muslims espouse sharia. So by the report’s own analysis, CSP are recommending that even mainstream American Muslims, who follow sharia in their personal lives, be prohibited from serving in the government or the armed forces.

The authors cite Quran verses that “are interpreted under Sharia to mean that anyone who does not accept Islam is unacceptable in the eyes of Allah and that he will send them to Hell,” concluding, “When it is said that Sharia is a supremacist program, this is one of the bases for it.”

It is no secret that many Christians interpret their own faith to mean that non-Christians are destined for Hell. Is this too a form of supremacism?

Many advocates of the “sharia threat” also refer to taqiyya, an Arabic word that means concealing one’s faith out of fear of death, to mean religiously justified lying. Not all Muslims subscribe to the theological concept of taqiyya, however. In fact, it is a minority opinion.

The charge of “taqqiya” is often deployed by “sharia threat” advocates when confronted with evidence that refutes their thesis. Under this methodology one cannot trust any practicing Muslim. Even if a Muslim preaches and practices nonviolence the CSP authors would say that person is either not a true Muslim or is practicing taqiyya.

They have, in fact, used this tactic against Muslim-American leaders who advocate strong civic engagement. Responding to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s assertion that the proposed Park 51 Islamic Center in New York would be a venue for interfaith dialogue, CSP’s Frank Gaffney wrote in The Washington Times: “To be sure, Imam Rauf is a skilled practitioner of the Sharia tradition of taqqiya, deception for the faith.”

While providing a mechanism for critics to ignore any disconfirming evidence, adopting such an interpretation of taqiyya would almost certainly result in every observant Muslim being branded a liar.

The authors of the CSP report are clearly aware of this, and they try to temper their conclusions: “This is not an argument for trusting or mistrusting someone in any particular instance,” they write. “It is, though, an argument for professionals to be aware of these facts, to realize that they are dealing with an enemy whose doctrine allows — and at times even requires — them not to disclose fully all that they know and deliberately to misstate that which they know to be the truth.”

In other words, all Muslims are suspect simply by virtue of being Muslims.

Biased Premises Lead to Bad Policy

The CSP report’s premise is that sharia is the problem and that observance of sharia results in extremism. The authors do not acknowledge that sharia is something the extremists are attempting to claim.

This purposeful misconstruction of the security issues America faces ignores multiple data points and turns all Muslims into traitors. According to a report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 85 percent of all terrorist victims are Muslims. The Muslim community, therefore, has good reason to ally with American interests to defeat extremists. Those who assert the most extreme definition of sharia agree with the extremists’ definitions of Islam and help create an environment of alienation and distrust — which serves extremist interests, not American interests.

Adopting the CSP’s analysis — and the hysteria over the “sharia threat” that it is clearly intended to provoke — will prevent us from working with our natural allies and weaken our ability to protect ourselves. The war against extremism cannot be labeled as a war against Islam. Taking such a civilizational, apocalyptic view could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Further, we actually allow extremists to operate more freely without a clear identification of the threat and a consistent and constitutionally defensible system for recognizing and tracking extremists.

It is important to recognize that Muslims are in an ongoing conversation to define what their faith will look like. They have engaged in that conversation for centuries. But the challenge of faith and modernity is not unique to Muslims, and we cannot single them out for their beliefs.

Finally, it’s important to note that even if the most extreme interpretation of sharia were the correct one, there is no evidence that the U.S. legal system is in any danger of adopting tenets of sharia.

To put this in perspective, the extreme Christian right in America has been trying for decades to inscribe its view of America as a “Christian nation” into our laws. They have repeatedly failed in a country in which more than three-quarters of people identify as Christians.

It’s extremely unlikely that an extreme faction of American Muslims, a faith community that constitutes approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population, would have more success. We need to both respect constitutional freedoms and understand that the Constitution and our courts guarantee a separation between church and state.

The “sharia threat” argument is so irresponsible as to almost demand a comic response, were it not for the disastrous consequences of adopting it. It’s important that its claims be interrogated rigorously, in order to understand that they should not be taken seriously.

This article was co-written by Matthew Duss, National Security Editor at American Progress. It was first published at the Center for American Progress.

Matthew Duss is the National Security Editor at American Progress and Wajahat Ali is a Researcher for ThinkProgress.

Additional contributions from Hussein Rashid, associate editor, Religion Dispatches, and Haroon Moghul, executive director, The Maydan Institute.

Follow Wajahat Ali on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WajahatAli

She’s Hot and Hezbollah: When Women Are Wielded as Ideological Weapons

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by loonwatch
98% of men reading this article are disappointed that Danios chose Haroon Moghul’s picture over Miss America

by Haroon Moghul

Some of my fellow Americans are sure that Miss USA 2010, Lebanese-American Rima Fakih, is a Hezbollah plant, an effect of the liberal treachery that’s handing America over to Islam. Some Muslims are angry that Fakih, who showed herself off in a barely-there bikini, is identified with their religion and getting positive press for it. She might be a means by which certain types of Islam, liberal in behavior, are celebrated, while others are pushed out of bounds. Who gets to decide which Islam is OK?

The sillier reactions have rightly — and hilariously — been put down by playwright Wajahat Ali, writing for Salon. But what do we make of the apprehension with which Muslims approach Fakih, unsure whether they should ignore, cheer, or shrug at her? Because it’s hard enough being a conservative Muslim woman in the West. Especially when things like the French burqa ban happen.

Then along comes a pretty pageant winner, letting the world know that Muslims are “normal” — and we are — but her normal is, in part, bikinis, unreal beauty exploited to capitalist benefit, and the negative pressure it smacks down on women worldwide. Janan Delgado, writing for AltMuslima, gets the consequent stresses. My sympathies rush to reach my co-religionist sisters struggling to prove that piety isn’t reactionary, that covering your head doesn’t mean covering your mind.

Because pressures to prove we’re Western come from two sides, right and left. Many on the rightest fringe just want us behind fences, but some on the leftest edges cannot fathom how or why religion survives in the modern world. (They might limit fences to religions, which is fine except that religions only exist in — and on — people.) How do we prove our Westernness? And why do we have to? Here I am, with a better command of English than most of the people who push English-only laws.

So Fakih could, with her descriptions of swimsuit normality, hurt those women who cover and contribute to and care for the world around them. They’re already made to feel like their sartorial philosophy pushes them outside the fringes of civilization, anti-burqa laws bringing new meaning to “pro-choice.” But then I think of all the women in countries that tell them what (not) to wear (Belgium,France, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc.), punished if they stray, and I’m confused all over again.

While I’m not so naive as to imagine that there is a pure, unadulterated individuality, we sometimes underestimate the great harm in being forced or even pushed to conform. Sometimes it’s your family; sometimes it’s advertising. (Are those equal forces? Capitalism, Marx would say, could kick traditional patriarchy’s behind. In part by unveiling and selling it and making us feel socially acceptable only if we have it and flaunt it.) Wear “modest” clothes, dress how the stereotyped Muslim does, and you risk alienation, with the eyes of the world damning and excluding. Do the opposite, and you win the world’s applause. (It works the same way, but backwards, in many majority Muslim lands.)

Very few issues can be easily condensed into right or wrong, judged by more clothes or less. Fakih will doubtless be wielded as a weapon, more often than not to tell women what they’re wearing is wrong. For far too long, women — or, rather, women reduced to their bodies — have been the fields on which ideas, identities, and now corporations do battle. It’s sadly ironic that feminine beauty incites so much ugliness.

source: Huffington Post