“The Net Effect of Being an Islamophobia Industry Affiliate”
With two great recent investigative reports – Max Blumenthal along with Electronic Intifada have unearthed the shadowy ecosystem of multimillion dollar foundations, nonprofit groups, and even some Muslim organizations in helping perpetuate “the Islamophobia Industry.” By highlighting the influence of these dark-money sources, many eyes across the world were opened as to the nature of the shady, back-door dealings of the industry.
Even though the overwhelming response to the articles has been positive – there has also been a noticeable backlash as well. Interestingly, one of the first defenses of the American Islamic Congress was the Sheldon Adelson funded, anti-Islam conspiracy site “The Clarion Project,” (formerly RadicalIslam.org.) Additionally, some critics and apologists are brushing off the links in funding as a stretch – asserting that these foundations are serving nothing more than the role of a bank in these cases.
So what’s the real answer here? Are the critics who are brushing off these developments right? Are these findings truly insignificant? To put it bluntly, the answer to both questions is: NO. These findings are EXTREMELY significant. For those of us who have been impacted by and have been researching the epidemic that Islamophobia for years, the fact is that there is a huge measurable impact that has and continues to be felt by not only Muslims – but all Americans as well.
Sheldon Adelson – The Money Man
First, let’s ask this question: Why would any Muslim or Muslim-group willingly take money or support from Adelson – the world’s 12th richest person, who famously said this? Or what about the time he referred to Palestinians as “an invented people?”
In fact, Sheldon Adelson is infamous for being the single-largest purchaser of influence in American politics– and he readily admits as much. It is a known fact that his key reason for donating eight-figures to Newt Gingrich was to influence the national conversation on Israel. So, when people come to defend beneficiaries of the casino magnate’s money as some sort of glorified bank transaction – they are being disingenuous. Sheldon Adelson’s money ALWAYS comes with a price.
Not only does the billionaire channel his immense assets in the area of promoting pro-Israel policy, he also channels it toward spreading anti-Muslim paranoia. This is done via his Clarion Fund – which has produced anti-Islam propaganda films such as “Obsession” – which was distributed widely in newspapers nationwide. The Clarion Fund made a follow up a few years later entitled “The Third Jihad,” an agitprop piece that outlines a scheme for a “cultural jihad” being waged on American soil using “Muslim Brotherhood front organizations.” We’ll talk about that film in just a bit – but let’s take a look at some of Adelson’s primary operatives for accomplishing his dirty work.
Frank Gaffney – The Beltway Insider
Even though the Islamophobia Network includes more media-savvy hate mongers such as Pam Geller or Robert Spencer – there is perhaps no more influential figure in the spread of anti-Islam hate in the U.S. than the highly-connected Center for Security Policy head, Frank Gaffney. His influence stems from his position in the Reagan Administration, which he has parlayed into a network of wealthy, paranoid conservative donors who lap up his litany of conspiracy theories.
The primary conspiracy theory peddled by Gaffney –is that of “creeping Sharia” – the irrational fear that Islamic law (known in Arabic as sharia) is being implemented via a stealth conspiracy, which involves the Muslim Brotherhood along with any major American Islamic organization. Aside from the absolute absurdity of the claim – Muslims represent a maximum of 1.5% of the American population, along with the fact that there is not a single group that is talking about/attempting to implement sharia – conservatives continue to take this theory and run with it. As of 2012, 78 anti-sharia bills had been introduced across 31 state and local legislatures in the U.S. In 2013, we have seen this trend continue with bills introduced in Florida, Missouri, Kansas, and most recently – North Carolina.
Read the talking points that legislators in states like NC parrot out such as:
“”I’ve always wanted to depend on our own constitution, but we have seen that document put in, frankly, grave danger” – Rep. John Blust (R-NC)
Behind each one of these panicked quotes, lies Frank Gaffney and his close ally and front-man for authoring the anti-Islam bills, attorney David Yerushalmi. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have flowed between Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and Yerushalmi with the express purpose of spreading anti-Islam panic throughout the U.S.
He is also the source of the smear campaign against any Muslims who happen to be working or affiliated with the administration – labeling names like Huma Abedin, Sohail Khan, Eboo Patel among others as “Muslim Brotherhood Operatives.”
With his influence among elected officials, we have seen a step up in the Islamophobic rhetoric being spewed from elected officials – on a local, state, and national level. Most famously amongst these examples – is the anti-Muslim witch-hunt led by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. From 2010-2012, Bachmann, Louie Gohmert (R-TX,) Joe Walsh (R-IL,) and Allen West (R-FL) made up what was known as the “Islamophobia Caucus.” Who is their tutor, you ask? Frank Gaffney, of course. Only Bachmann and Gohmert remain in Congress today, but all are active in attending conferences geared to the anti-Islam industry. Oh by the way, there’s one coming up in November sponsored by David Horowitz, featuring Gaffney, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Bachman among others – in case you’re interested.
In fact, Gaffney’s viewpoints are so extreme in nature, that he has been disinvited from a number of Conservative circles – including the influential “Weyrich lunch.”
Think about that for a second. Frank Gaffney’s views are too extreme for the Republican Party. In the aftermath of being shunned by the lunch, Gaffney then planted the rumor that tax reformer Grover Norquist (who’s married to an Arab-American) is part of the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy.
Gaffney’s activities are narrowly focused upon degrading the public’s perception of Islam and Muslims in the U.S. He has successfully peddled his influence among fringe lawmakers to help precipitate and foment anti-Islam hysteria in the U.S. – which as resulted in the absurd anti-Sharia bill movement across 60% of states in the union. The introduction of these bills has effectively served as a “Trojan horse” for fostering a more hostile environment for Islam and Muslims within these states as well. In Tennessee for example – the Muslim community is living under the persistent specter of Islamophobia in the aftermath of the bill’s introduction. This includes a vitriolic attempt to block the establishment of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, to irrational fears about a mop-sink in the state legislature, to elected officials openly posting calls to violence against Muslims.
This has also resulted in the spewing of false allegations against individual Muslims and Muslim organizations, which has negatively impacted the lives of those affected. One of Gaffney’s colleagues has been key in pushing forth this agenda.
Zuhdi Jasser – The Islamophobia Industry’s Favorite Muslim
As mentioned in Blumenthal’s article – Jasser is also affiliated with the American Islamic Congress – a group that has received immense funding from key members of the Islamophobia Industry – including Sheldon Adelson, the Klarman Foundation, and the Donor’s Capitol Fund. He also sits on the Clarion Fund Board of Advisors alongside Gaffney, Walid Phares (former Ariel Sharon ally) – and the man known as the “Godfather of Islamophobia in the U.S.” – Daniel Pipes. But even though critics of the investigation brush this off as “money changing hands” – the reality is that figures such as Jasser take a much more active role in the day to day activities of the “Islamophobia Industry.”
So how is it possible for someone who claims to be a devout Muslim to be an active participant in helping the promotion of anti-Islam sentiment? Therein lies Dr. Jasser’s value to this multi-million dollar machine – to play the role of the “good Muslim.” Conspiracy theorist and Islam-hater Glenn Beck terms Jasser as “the Muslim we have all been waiting for after 9/11.” Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey (winner of Gaffney’s Freedom Flame Award) is also an admirer or Jasser. Although seemingly unbecoming of a former AG, Mukasey subscribes to Gaffney’s Muslim Brotherhood takeover conspiracy theories – and takes every opportunity to highlight that Jasser is the only hope for American Muslims. With glowing recommendations like these, it is no surprise that the Scottsdale physician is a frequent Fox contributor along with other conservative media.
In the 24 hour news-cycle, self-styled “experts” must forge a niche for themselves – Jasser has thrived off smearing and creating a shadowy narrative when it comes to the mainstream Muslim organizations in America. Before Dr. Jasser’s emergence as the narrator of the Adelson funded propaganda film, “The Third Jihad” – the term “Islamist” was infrequently used in the media. However, with the film’s extensive circulation, along with Jasser’s constant use of the word as an epithet in his interviews and writings – the word has jumped into the mainstream, almost becoming generic in nature.
Those who think the influence of such films is insignificant should think again. The NYPD used “The Third Jihad” as a training video “on a continuous loop” for nearly 1,500 of its officers. In fact, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly participated in the film – which only adds to the department’s horrendous record of spying on and mapping out innocent Muslims throughout the northeast. In addition to Jasser’s active role in the film, he also held a pep rally alongside Rep. Peter King to support the NYPD’s invasive spying program on Muslims.
Smears Against Webb, MSA, CAIR, and other prominent Muslims
One of the most well known Muslim leaders in the U.S. – Suhaib Webb was slated to represent our community at the Boston interfaith service, featuring President Obama. In reality, Webb likely the most recognizable Muslim cleric in the United States and his moderate perspective has gained a huge following among all segments of the Muslim community. And although he was extremely gracious when the virtually unknown Weddady replaced him at the service – this was just the beginning of an attempt to defame and smear his good name. As Jasser made the rounds in the aftermath of the tragedy, he also used this as an opportunity to deliberately cast shadows of doubt upon Webb – claiming “Up in Boston, this imam Webb has been linked to the (Muslim) Brotherhood” – in addition to questioning the nature of the imam’s work. It also completely ignores the fact that Webb has been a leading voice among Muslim clerics to condemn extremism for well over a decade.
This is nothing new for Jasser – who takes every opportunity to cast aspersions upon the major Muslim groups in America – such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA.)
Part of Jasser’s methodology of casting doubt upon individual organizations is utilizing whatever hyper-partisan, conspiracy-theory websites are available in this ultra-paranoid echo chamber in order to reinforce his viewpoint. Here, he uses the birther-affiliated website “The Daily Caller” in order to create a false sense of causality between Dhzokhar Tsarnaev and the MSA.
In reality, the MSA is has been a great source of organizing and self-identity for American Muslim students for decades. Students of all levels of religiosity utilize this platform to meet lifelong friends, compete in intramural sports, and organize events while exploring their own religious self-awareness. And while every other religious and ethnic demographic are encouraged organizing in ways such as this – Jasser and his allies promote the falsehood that this is a “breeding ground for Islamism” and a “Muslim Brotherhood legacy group.” By poisoning the well with discourse such as that of the Daily Caller article – the intent is to damage the reputation upon those law-abiding participants in these activities. As mentioned earlier, the toxic law-enforcement environment actually resulted in an extensive spying program upon MSA’s, gathering information on their participants and events throughout the northeast. The results of the investigation, you ask? “Zero actionable intelligence.
Dr. Jasser, along with Gaffney take extra care to smear the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in America – CAIR. You would be hard pressed to find an interview where he does not attempt to cast doubt upon CAIR (even though his father in law is also a Chapter President) and its chapters by labeling them with the buzzword “Islamist” or “Brotherhood front groups.” As his media profile rose during the Boston devastation, his attacks on CAIR rose as well. In an article for the Arizona Republic, Jasser claimed that CAIR was playing the victimization card – specifically cherry picking a single sentence quote by me, in order to frame his narrative that CAIR “was admonishing Americans not to seek retribution” against the Muslim community. Let’s put aside the fact that there have been no less than half a dozen reports of violence and harassment reported against Muslims and those who appeared to be Muslim in the aftermath of the Boston tragedy. Let’s also put aside the fact that in the last year, there was a sharp increase in attacks on mosques – including the arson that destroyed a mosque in Joplin, MO and nearly destroyed a mosque in Toledo, OH. Let’s ignore the fact that the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric is so high, that it has resulted in violent backlash against or even murder of Sikh and Hindu individuals. Aside from these facts, let’s look at the reality of what was really said.
You want to know what CAIR spokespersons were really saying in the Boston aftermath? Click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. Sometimes, reality doesn’t conveniently fit into the pre-fabricated narratives that the Jasser’s, Gaffney’s and their allies attempt to present about American Muslims. However – these guys are making a living selling their ideas to an audience (Fox News, WND, Daily Caller) who are known to be the least informed among the American public – even less informed than those who watch absolutely no news.
In the end, it is unsurprising that those such as Jasser ignore the good that the mainstream Muslim orgs are doing – and are focusing on reinforcing a false narrative of the Islamophobia industry. In reality, they are linked inextricably with one another – as in the case with Jasser appearing in Steven Emerson’s “Grand Deception”, or sharing a stage and with known hate-group leader Robert Spencer at one of the aforementioned David Horowitz-funded retreats. The pull, the power and the influence of the money provided by these foundations and shell organizations prove to be too tempting to pass up, apparently.
In the end, it is highly significant when ties to the key players in the Islamophobia Industry are uncovered –as in the case of Blumenthal’s expose. When money and influence start making their way into legislative circles, we start seeing bitter fruits being harvested. Some of these examples include a draconian spying program at the behest of the NYPD against segments of the Muslim community, specifically MSA members. We see officers and homeland security personnel being trained by propaganda films such as “The Third Jihad” – which can create a monstrous view of Islam in the eyes of those who are there to protect and serve. We have seen witch-hunts on Capitol Hill – such as the Gaffney-inspired Bachmann and Gohmert, along with the formation of the “Islamophobia Caucus.” Finally, we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of bias related crimes targeting Muslims, Sikhs and persons of color since the influx of this dark money into the political and media sphere. For those who think that the money and influence outlined in the previous EI articles is somehow insignificant – it is time to think again.
We are now 3 days in the aftermath of the horrific Boston Marathon bombing – where at least 3 people were killed, and over 170 injured. As search continues for who exactly is behind the attack – we are also in the midst of a full-on media meltdown, as they pursue the scoop on this story.
And while we take a reprieve from the air of tragedy, to laugh at (and rightfully so) at the likes of CNN for their ongoing comedy of errors – there is a much more egregious and reckless form of reporting done by the right wing media – specifically the New York Post.
But Wait….It’s the New York Post.
Nobody considers the Post to be anything more than the paper-manifestation of the xenophobic, right-wing echo-chamber – as this is their stock and trade. However – the publication somehow continues to outdo itself, profiteering and fear-mongering off a national tragedy. The race-baiting began before the smoke was literally even clearing from the crime scene – as the Post was the first to perpetuate the fallacious story about a “20 year old Saudi national” who roused suspicion because he was running away from the explosion – like everyone else. As it turns out, the Saudi was not a suspect – nor a person of interest in the bombing. Rather – he was a victim of the horrific attack, being treated for injuries at a local hospital. Those are the real facts.
Facts don’t matter though – for all intents and purposes, once the Post ran with the Saudi story, Islamophobes smelled blood in the water. The equally repulsive Drudge Report kept the false Saudi story up for the next 2 days. Glenn Beck told his legions of tinfoil-cap wearing fans that “this is likely the work of Islamists.” This fervor has caused one of the “godfathers” of Islamophobia in the U.S. – self-desribed terrorism expert Steve Emerson to emerge from the woodworks.
After other mainstream outlets put the silly “Saudi” rumor to sleep – NY Post and Emerson continue to double down on their conspiracy theories. Add that to the fervor that CNN caused – citing that an arrest had been made of a “dark-skinned male” in the case, and we are now seeing the seeds being planed for a whole new backlash against Muslim and Arab-Americans.
Have The Islamophobic Backlash Started?
So far, in the last 2 days – there have been reports of a Bangladeshi man being attacked and left semiconscious with a dislocated shoulder in the Bronx. A Palestinian-American was also assaulted and harassed in Boston. Less than 72 hours in, the seeds of “dark skinned” or Arab suspicion have now started to bear their bitter fruit.
We’re not done yet. The Post has committed its most egregious and reckless piece of “journalism” yet – when it decided to double-down on the “Saudi” conspiracy and publish the photos of a so-called “potential suspect” – who turned out to be an innocent 17 year old track athlete at a local high school. Now, young Salah Barhoun – whose image has been put out there in the most horrendous context, for the entire world to see – is now doing everything he can to clear his name.
This gets to the heart of the matter of just how irresponsible and detrimental to society those who fan the flames of Islamophobia in the U.S. are. There is no punitive action – other than in the “court of public opinion” for those who are willing to jeopardize the safety of individuals or communities for the sake of generating headlines. Fox News contributor Erik Rush sent out a tweet that alluded to “killing all Muslims“ in the direct aftermath of the attacks – and has not yet received any type of reprimand or removal from his role with the network. Rush has now doubled-down on his comments, evoking jargon such as “dhimmi” that has made Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer household names. While these hate-mongers continually spew misinformation (Geller and Spencer are loving the Saudi conspiracy theories, btw) – they take shelter under the guise of free-speech. While they can surely claim freedom of speech, it is also known that hate-speech can manifest itself in violent endings – as Geller, Spencer and Emerson were all cited in Norway killer Anders Breivik’s anti-Islam manifesto prior to his murder of 77 innocent individuals.
Violent Effects of Unchecked Rhetoric
Last year, we saw the same cause and effect relationship between Islamophobia and violent action for a man who was just sentenced to 20 years in prison for the arson of a Toledo, Ohio mosque. After Randy Linn was apprehended for the blaze that almost destroyed the Muslim house of worship – he stated that the only information he knew about Islam – he got from Fox News, which happens to be the New York Post’s sister company. We saw a violent wave of attacks on Muslim houses of worship as well as a hate-fueled, murderous attack on the Oak Creek, WI Sikh Temple. As we move forward from this heightened state of fear-mongering and finger-pointing, do we have more of the same to fear?
And what about 17-year old Salah, who undoubtedly has faced xenophobia and bullying even prior to his image being blasted into millions of homes – falsely labeled as a suspect in a terror attack? Will he be able to put the pieces of his life back together? For young Arab and Muslim immigrants trying to fit into the school system over here – the environment of bullying and racism has never been higher. It is commonplace to be heckled, be labeled a terrorist, and to be alienated from other classmates and even teammates. Having your name thrown out there with no fact-checking or journalistic principles during a time of such heightened emotions can have a devastating effect on a young child. We can only hope and pray that he is able to recover his good name from this.
As we can see, the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim wagons are circling – facts be damned. We will continue to see the echo-chamber, headed by the NY Post – whose irresponsible reporting is adding fuel to an already heated situation. The reports of attacks on brown-skinned and Muslim individuals in the aftermath of the marathon bombing are a harsh reminder of the effects of such poisonous rhetoric and yellow journalism. Now we must ask ourselves, what lies in the coming days ahead of us?
In case you missed the first episode – check it out here:
This will be an exciting new format to explore moving forward – as there are so many personalities out there who are contributing positively to fighting racism, hate and Islamophobia in the U.S & abroad. This type of format gives us a chance to tell their stories, what paths they took & highlighting their great works.
Even though Islamophobia hasn’t been dominating the headlines nationally in the past few months – it doesn’t mean that the hate has died down…one…bit.
Just check out headlines from today in Tennessee - they’re so afraid of “creeping sharia” over there, that lawmakers mistook a mop-sink for a Muslim “foot-bath” for making wud’u (ablution before prayers.)
In NYC, SF and Chicago – Islamophobes are ramping up their anti-Islam bus and subway ad campaigns; the amount of money pouring into this industry is astonishing. How is the community standing up to this hate? We plan to highlight these type of stories moving forward – so stay tuned!
by Imraan Siddiqi
On Tuesday night, the stormy skies that many Muslims faced in the political spectrum started to clear up a bit. We saw the defeat of two well-known sitting members of Congress – Allen West (R-FL) and Joe Walsh (R-IL), while a third – Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was taken down to the wire, and eventually prevailed. All three politicians were purveyors of far-flung conspiracy theories involving a purported “Muslim takeover of America” – and all three were huge beneficiaries of Islamophobic money. Along with the more-established candidates, we saw the defeat of a litany of Islamophobic challengers in many congressional races.
One of the most respected Progressive members of congress – Raul Grijalva was being challenged tooth-and-nail by right-wing foe Gabriela Saucedo-Mercer. The challenger was renowned for being an immigrant from Mexico herself – yet harboring what could only be described as shocking set of views toward immigration. In an interview last year, Mercer stated that Middle-Easterners should not be able to migrate to the U.S. – “Either legally, or illegally.” In the same interview, she alluded to the fact that “prayer rugs and Qurans” were found in the Sonoran desert, along with headless bodies – which she seemingly attributed to Middle Easterners or Muslims sneaking through the border. Thankfully for Arizonans – Grijalva was able to retain his seat with ease, defeating Mercer by a wide margin.
The positive trend continued in races across the nation – as Minnesota’s Chip Cravaack and Florida challenger Adam Hasner were all sent packing in their races. So the question is: Is there hope that we will see the level of Islamophobia subside within the American political sphere, specifically in the Republican Party? The reality is, that for years the GOP has given this bigotry sanction, and that the party’s more established members have done almost nothing to speak out against it. On Tuesday, America spoke out against it at the polls.
Since the 2010 mid-term elections – Islam has been used as a wedge issue. Newcomers into the fray – namely among the Tea Party movement made it a specific part of their platform to essentially drum up and create a national panic on Shari’ah Law. Within this theater of the absurd, we saw 78 bills or amendments introduced across 31 states that aimed to thwart the “looming Shari’ah threat.” The well-documented Islamophobia industry now had a foothold in our national and state legislatures – and was only growing in influence.
Within this new overtly Islamophobic set of legislators – Allen West, Joe Walsh and Michele Bachmann stood out as its most unhinged and high profile members. Along with TX Rep Louie Gohmert (who remains in Congress,) the group has focused less upon bring the country forward – and more upon sound bytes (“terror-babies,” anyone?) and divisive rhetoric (Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to take over America.)
This poisonous rhetoric has unfortunately progressed from the dark corners of the GOP, to becoming an actual part of the Party Platform for the Presidential election of 2012. In the past few months, we saw Muslim-Americans who have dedicated their lives to civic duty – such as Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, targeted as being part of a Muslim conspiracy to infiltrate politics – their names smeared, and their careers being put on the line – just for being a Muslim American in the political realm. The echo-chamber of hate in the Islamophobic blogosphere and right-wing media has perpetuated these absurdist conspiracies, questioning the “loyalty” and “patriotism” of American Muslims. What we saw on Tuesday – a rejection of many of those candidates and principles shows a great deal of hope for civically engaged Muslims moving forward.
Applying this same framework to the Presidential election – in some ways I was happier that Obama got re-elected in 2012, than I was in 2008. Policy-wise, I – along with many in the Muslim community have many unresolved issues with how he governed in his first term – namely in the area of drone warfare, civilian casualties caused by said drones, the failure to close Guantanamo, the failure to prosecute torturers and the passage of the NDAA. As we move forward into his second term, Americans will be charged with holding him accountable and scrutinizing him on his promises. These issues will persist forward, but at the very least – the election of Obama speaks well to the fact that America was able to withstand some of the nastiest and most divisive racially charged rhetoric since the Civil Rights Movement.
Obama’s legitimacy as the President has been challenged by many bigots and Islamophobes since his inauguration in 2009. He has been labeled as a “un-American,” a Muslim, a Kenyan, a Socialist – and this was all before he stepped foot inside the White House. The epithets that were lobbied at him prior to governing were merely thinly veiled resistance to having an African-American govern this country. As I have said many times before – they call him ‘Muslim’ because the ‘n-word’ is not socially acceptable anymore. Or is it???
And although the Romney campaign thankfully did not engage in the birtherism and delegitimization of the President’s patriotism – nearly all of the GOP candidates vying for the nominee walked that line. Although Obama hasn’t visited a single mosque – yes a single mosque in his first term – at the very least, he knows what it is like to live under the murky cloud of Islamophobia. And in spite of the upswing in racism, xenophobia, and hate that has engulfed the national conversation – he was still re-elected. From that standpoint, it looks like minorities have a lot to look forward to in our country’s future.
There is a great deal of hope in seeing other traditionally non-represented minorities continue to break through into national politics. The first Hindu was elected into Congress – Tulsi Gabbard, from Hawaii. Mazie Hirono became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate. Many other minorities are finally seeing their communities find their voice in this election cycle.
The Muslim community has seen its two Congressmen – Keith Ellison and Andre Carson re-elected in landslide victories this past Tuesday – all in spite of the fact that there was a concerted effort by the Islamophobia industry to unseat them. A 3rd potential Muslim – Syed Taj was defeated in his Michigan district, however we see that there is definitely hope for our community’s future in holding and retaining elected office.
As we move on from this contentious election cycle – the hope is that the specter of Islamophobia will slowly dissipate once and for all. Is it gone, with the defeat of West, Walsh and the rest of the crew? Definitely not- however we do see that the amount of money and resources spent on fanning the flames of Islamophobia do not translate into success on the political scale. The hope is that the Bachmann’s and Gohmert’s of the world will move away from their divisive rhetoric (not likely) and focus on the real issues. There are still a great deal of elected officials who harbor anti-Islam sentiment – too many to even name in this article. With that being the case, our community has to replicate its effort from this last election – speak up in condemnation of hate, and remain steadfast and unafraid to speak to truth and justice within the political realm.
Hate’s Busy Week
by Imraan Siddiqi
For the Muslim community – as the song goes: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – or at least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Almost everyone now knows that we are in the midst of the holy month of Ramadan. Within this blessed month, the last 10 nights are the most blessed nights of the entire year –and this is the time where you find Muslims locking down even further: Praying more in the night, reading more of the Quran, spending more time in reflection. Muslims pray in the hope of receiving the blessings of Layl-at-ul-Qadr, or The Night of Decree, which is outlined in the 97th Surah in the Quran:
Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree.
And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree?
The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter.
Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.
Narrated through the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we are told that this blessed night occurs within the last 10 nights, likely to be one of the odd nights, i.e. 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th. As the surah above tells us, worshipping on this night carries more credit than worshipping continuously for 1000 months – almost 84 years. To put it simply – the last 10 days of Ramadan are like the Olympics of worship in Islam.
With that being said, the lead-up to this last portion of our holy month has been riddled with a sharp upswing in hate, violence and intolerance – which for many, is putting a damper on such a blessed time of year. Within the last few days alone, mosques across the American landscape have been hit with bullets, paintballs, lemons, pigs’ legs, and acid, along with being the subject of vandalism:
A Rhode Island mosque is vandalized when an assailant damages the center’s sign.
The lone mosque in Joplin, MO was burned to the ground in an apparent arson
Ontario, California – pigs legs were thrown out on the driveway of a future Islamic Center – where worshippers gathered to observe prayers at the mosque site. Witnesses say two women in a pickup truck were the perpetrators of the crime.
Shots were fired outside a Morton Grove, IL mosque – luckily nobody was injured. Authorities have arrested a 51 year old white male named David Conrad – who allegedly fired his high-powered air-rifle at the house of worship.
An Oklahoma City mosque was shot by an assailant with a paintball gun in the late night hours.
*All these attacks come in the aftermath of the devastating attacks in Wisconsin, where half a dozen Sikh worshippers were killed in cold blood by white-supremacist, Wade Michael Page.
*This also comes in the aftermath of the Hayward, CA Mosque attack, where teens were arrested for throwing lemons at the Muslim center: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_21266516
A Spike in Rhetoric, a Spike in Attacks
Within the last 2 years, we have seen the level of Islamophobia spike to unprecedented grounds. Starting with the Park 51 controversy in 2010, the level of vitriol and anti-Muslim rhetoric has risen to levels unseen even in the aftermath of 9/11. Additionally, the amount of money put into feeding the Islamophobia industry has grown into the tens of millions of dollars. As we have seen from comments made by elected officials such as Reps Michele Bachmann and Joe Walsh, Islamophobia is not a tactic for those on the fringe anymore – it is now mainstream.
Candidates and politicians utilize this tactic in order to stir up their base, in order to get a short-term bump in the polls – and to increase fundraising. And this tactic seems to work – as seen by Michele Bachmann’s $1 Million fundraising spike, in the aftermath of her Muslim Brotherhood government infiltration comments last month. As we can see by the actions of the last week alone – these irresponsible comments have a larger, more negative impact on society.
It is a sad truth that Islamic centers in the U.S have become accustomed to vandalism in some way, shape or form within the last few years. Any disrespect to a house of worship should be considered a threat to religious freedom in this nation – but there is a demarcation point between acts like teens throwing lemons – as in the Hayward case, and the gun violence that has now rocked the faith community for the last week. The Oak Creek case, along with Joplin and Morton Grove are key examples of how the rhetoric is allowing some deranged segments of society to justify lethal tactics as a manifestation of their hate.
It remains to be seen whether the same right-wing leadership that stokes fear of Islam in America will come out in defense of our community in the wake of this ever-growing cluster of attacks – but we’re not holding our breath. There is no doubt that there is some sort of correlation between the elected officials’ comments and the upswing in violence – but rather than taking a step back from this dangerous rhetoric, the lunatic fringe is doubling down.
Reviving the Spirit of the Last Ten Days
One can’t help think morbid thoughts when faced with a cluster of such hateful actions within such a short timeframe. Thankfully within this seemingly endless string of bad news – arose some good news – in the hardest hit of all the mosques – Joplin, Missouri. If there was any community that desperately needed some good news – this would be the one. The town entered the nation’s conscience last year when it was hit by a deadly tornado, killing nearly 200 residents. As they continue to rebuild the city, the community has now been struck with a new plague: Hate. The Muslim community was targeted just over a month ago, when an individual was caught on surveillance throwing an incendiary device on the roof of the mosque, causing damage to the building. The perpetrator was never caught, and the community seemingly would put this scary event behind them. Last Monday, the mosque was once again targeted – this time burnt to its foundations. Even though this looks to be a time of despair and grief for Joplin’s Muslims – we have seen the true spirit of community arise from all over America to help rebuild this house of worship.
Within a few days of the attack, a donation site was put up in order to help raise funds to rebuild Joplin’s mosque. The fundraising goal for the project serving this small community was ambitious – raise $250,000 within 45 days. In the old days, it took more along the lines of 45 months for small communities to raise such a large amount of money. However this cause has struck a chord within the American landscape – and the fundraising goal was met in a mere 60 hours – 2.5 days. You can view the donation site here – as you can see the great outpouring of love and generosity has helped push their project forward and up to now has nearly raised $350k. Joplin churches have come together to host the Muslim community for an iftar (breaking the fast at sundown) – in a sign of solidarity.
As the American Sikh community still recovers from the Wisconsin shooting, there has also been an outpouring of compassion from Americans of all faiths in order to show unity. Candlelight vigils and interfaith memorial services have been held in many major cities throughout the nation. As we can see, the spirit of love and shared humanity can overcome the most unthinkable acts.
But the question is, how do we stop this endless cycle of hate and disrespect for our houses of worship? The true American spirit is one of tolerance, religious freedom and embracing of differences. However, throughout this nation’s history there have always been those forces that have rebelled against this concept – whether that is with rhetoric or violence. Those previous dark chapters were thought to have been put to bed – but as we can see, hatred does not sleep easily. In these most blessed nights of the year, it is worth our prayers to put an end to all these senseless attacks for good.
Imraan Siddiqi is a CAIR-Arizona Board Member, Editor of StopIslamophobiaNow.com, & an Entrepreneur. He writes on the experiences of Muslim Americans as well as the subject of Islamophobia. He has been published in outlets such as The Dallas Morning News, The Oregonian, Huffington Post, CounterPunch, SuhaibWebb.com, altMuslim, among many other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @imraansiddiqi.