Blog Archive

Blog Archive – September, 2012

Ignore the Stupid Thing? Not So Easy.

September 27, 2012

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I too said I was going to ignore that film. Even when I felt offended and repulsed after viewing just a few moments of the stupid video, I resolved to leave it behind. But speaking with others, equally disgusted, or despondent, and learning about people overseas hurting and dying in defense of their dignity, of hollow arguments for free speech, I wonder if one can really ignore what created the video, the objections to it, and now further ramifications.

One more insult to all Muslims comes at a time when in general, we see evidence of islamophobia increasing across the USA. Only this week we have a US judge deciding in favor of the posting of undisguised anti-Muslim ads in NY city and other public transit systems around the country.

We also are put on the spot when even sympathetic associates ask us for our response, our feeling about these spiraling events. Can I just walk away asserting ‘it’s stupid and nobody cares’. Can I tell others to ignore it? Can I say it’s a media hype that focuses only on a isolated angry groups that represent no one? Or, it’s a right wing electioneering tactic? Can I say it’s a passing thing and will blow over? Can I say they (the video-makers and protesters too) have a right; this is democracy? Can I blame A, B, or C? Can I say: look at the real advances Muslims are making with their democratic transitions?

Yes, I too wish it would blow away. Eventually we will move on. But move to what? We go from one outburst like this to the next, one insult to the next…somehow seeing little headway in what is now not a post-2001 rise of anti-Muslim episodes but a long history of confrontation. It accelerated in the last century following Iran’s Islamic revolution, receiving injections of fury from the West with the 1991 first Gulf War, and again in 2001. This confrontation is going to be with us for years to come, and we had better start doing a better job than we have to date to reverse its course. I believe it can and must start with American Muslims. We count a lot of really fine, talented people in our ranks.

A few organizations said to represent us here meekly advise caution; meanwhile there is no creative and courageous leadership for us to look to, and no public protests to join. Maybe unhappy events like those we witness today will finally inspire the leadership we need.

[ Ignore the Stupid Thing? Not So Easy. ]

American Muslims-- Gains and Setbacks

September 17, 2012

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The position of Muslims in America should be improving, not worsening. We have dedicated civil rights lawyers, defending wronged citizens and advocating justice. We have articulate scholars explaining the history and theology of Islam. We have comedians, writers, actors and directors telling stories that engagingly express our problems, history, values and shared foibles and dreams. We have journalists employing their skills and their knowledge of our society to show the real lives and concerns of individual Muslims. We have professors debating and publishing. We have countless citizens answering misconceptions and setting the record straight in forums , blogs, and opeds. We have abundant interfaith dialogues. We have government grants supporting programs that educate Americans about our history and many nations. Usually, I feel encouraged by the efforts that thousands of fellow Muslims are making. As many of you know, through RAWI and RadioTahrir, I’m personally and professionally involved in this work.

 

So why the increased incidence of bullying of Muslim children in our schools? Why rising attacks against our institutions? Why ongoing insults shouted at us in the street? Why community protests at Arab street festivals and why neighborhood opposition to our local mosques? Why physical attacks on individuals, and vicious racist calls? Why continual suspicious looks, and expanded government surveillance of our student organizations, our cafes and our neighborhoods?

 

Many Americans insist that our president Barack Obama is Muslim, alleging this is something reprehensible. As former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell responded to this charge: “What if he is? That should not be an issue one needs to deny… as if it were shameful.” Surely this was a line for the US President himself. On a more modest personal level, the debate over Muslim women’s headscarf goes on and on; the media and our putative feminists just won’t let it go.

 

Now, over the past week, anyone who has tried to demonstrate that Islam is a religion of peace, has been forced into silence. How can we continue to argue this in the face of many hours of TV images of mobs of angry Muslims assaulting Americans every time they turn to watch the news?

American Muslims, who demonstrate so much creativity and optimism, still have a lot of work cut out for us.

And please, you tell me—are we really making any progress here?

[ American Muslims-- Gains and Setbacks ]


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