City of Brass

City of Brass


no political home for muslim Americans

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The trend of increasing Islamophobia on the conservative right continues. The latest is a new book by Andy McCarthy, who has a new book called The Grand Jihad – How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. The conflation of political enemies with religious enemies is nothing new for the far right, but it is worth highlighting these examples of how entrenched the bunker mentality of conservatism has become.

RedState has some excerpts from the book that realy illustrate the degree of hostility towards not just extremist, but mainstream islam:

…It’s fair to say we are confronted by a horrifyingly large pool of potential terrorists. But the terrorist threat pales beside a lurking reality: the massive fundamentalist pool is churning out legions of activists who wish to end our way of life and who believe that there are plenty of avenues besides mass-murder for pursuing that goal.

(…)

In common parlance, someone is a “radical” Muslim only if he is a practitioner of jihadist terrorism, as if it were perfectly normal to want exactly the sharia state the terrorist wants as long as one refrains from terrorist methods in seeking it. The U.S. government, as well as our states and municipalities, clings to this connotation. At all levels – administrations of both political parties, intelligence agencies, law-enforcement, members of Congress, the federal bench, state and local authorities – officials would rather stick pins in the their eyes than grapple with the incontrovertible nexus between Islamic doctrine and the savagery committed by Muslims throughout the world for decades. We are led to believe that the only real “radicals” are the terrorists. Any other Muslim, no matter how supportive of terrorist goals, is deemed a “moderate” so long as he doesn’t seem, right this minute, to be plotting the next Armageddon.

(…)

Dawa is the missionary work by which Islam is spread. But don’t be fooled by the term “missionary.” Dawa no more resembles the Western connotation of “missionary work” than Islam resembles the Western notion of religion. Just as Islam aspires to domination rather than a place at our ecumenical table, dawa is not mere proselytism but… the key to “victory.”

Mr. McCarthy uses quotes to imply that his interpretation of Islamic terms is authiritative, but these are really just his own fevered imaginings, readily and eagerly swallowed by his gullible and paranoid audience.

McCarthy argues that theres a “large pool” of terrorists, but even after including the Times Square and Fort Hood incidents the total number of muslim Americans who have engaged in violent behavior remains far less than that of violent rightwing Christian extremists – all hailing from the Right, not the Left.

But McCarthy’s broader argument is that the larger threat is the non-violent one, of activism by muslims to end the American way of life. But if you look at the demographics of muslim Americans, the overwhelming majority are people who came to America believing in the American Dream of hard, honest work, and the pursuit of happiness. The rapid integration of muslims into American culture is a process that is unstoppable – as the example of Miss USA, Rima Fakih shows (which provoked a collective freak-out from the Islamophobic right, and genuine debates about feminism within the female-muslim blogsphere).

The proposal to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York is probably the more visceral stimulus to which the Islamophobes are reacting. To McCarthy, it is just evidence of Dawa – and Dawa must also be redefined as something sinister. But what, exactly? McCarthy cannot provide any examples of specific threats, because he has none – the entire argument rests on, Islam is not Christianity (true), America is Christian (debatable), therefore anyone who converts to Islam is no longer American (false). In order to support this risible line of pseudo logic, he is required to throw every ordinary muslim American citizen under the bus as a “radical” and deny that we are equal participants in civic society.

This is what sells books in conservative circles. It truly is a GOP War on Muslims.

Unfortunately, there’s no refuge on the Left either, because of the innate secularist hostility towards faith (see this comment thread at DailyKos for example). So muslims are still stuck between secularists to our left and polemicists on the right. We have to articulate our own political identity that exists independently.



  • Hitch

    Aziz, I think you basically trolled that DailyKos thread. Let me explain why:
    “But as you set out to defend free speech by engaging in hate, understand that you are only caricaturing yourself. And my Prophet SAW is beyond your comprehension.”
    You prejudge. You basically told the crowd that any depiction is hateful. And you condescend, assuming that they cannot comprehend what you do. Are you surprised that people weren’t storming to your side?
    Heck if I posted
    “All you say is engaging in hate, and my views are beyond your comprehension”
    on Talk Islam I’d rightfully been torn to shreds.
    Also I think you misunderstand what secular means. Secular is not hostility to faith. Secular is the separation of faith from state. In fact American pluralism of religion and religious tolerance is a consequence of secularism. Some people have come to use secular as being virtually the same as atheism, but this is incorrect. But even if you look at most secular atheists, they uphold religious toleration.
    All you cannot do is demand that everybody agrees with you. That doesn’t work too well. Or if you come in staking your position, you cannot expect that it needs agreement to make friends. In general it doesn’t.
    To criticize religions is not the same as hostility. In the Western European discursive tradition that is in fact the key part of the enlightenment. Voltaire is misquoted as saying: “I vehemently disagree with you but I will fight for your right to say it”. This is what tolerance means and what allows coexistence of what would be otherwise conflicting world views and faiths, that would indeed be hostile without that recognition of the mutual respect for opinion even if conflicted.
    Enlightenment incidentally is not, as I read in Muslim circles, the starting point of colonialism, but rather it is the starting point of tolerance that allowed multiple religions to coexist independent of state interference. And the starting point of modern democracies, where view points of the individuals in some way influence government and how law comes about.
    I think it might be worthwhile to explore the gentler side of the secular left or the gentler side of the secular right if you look for a tolerant home. Avoid too religious christian groups because they often reject toleration and are absolutist in their position. Neither RedState nor DailyKos is a good place to start. They are the battle grounds of the grassroots right and left. But I think if you come in with less of a sledge hammer you might actually find that the DailyKos is more accessible. But you’ll have to move in without the prejudging and the “My prophet is better” banner.
    You can also try the anti-authoritarian left. Chomsky for example. He certainly agrees with your position on the Danish cartoons and likely (I assume) on Palestine. But then he is more interested in political deconstruction and commentary and what he says about Afganistan or saudi arabia may not be your cup of tea.
    You can also try interfaith efforts. Eboo Patel runs a particularly pro-Muslim interfaith group. I dislike his circles because they bash most atheists, but that might not be a problem for you too much.
    Or yes, you can try to define your own. No matter, don’t start telling people that they will never comprehend… in virtually all cases that’ll be a wrong foot forward.

  • kenneth

    More brilliant thinking by the GOP. Maybe if we just marginalize young Muslims socially and economically, they’ll all go away…. It’s worked so well in Paris and Hamburg and the UK, after all. But then that’s the paradox of fundamentalist loons of all stripes. As much as they profess to hate each other, they have a sick symbiotic relationship. They happily feed oxygen to each other’s flames.

  • http://muslimmatters.org/ amad

    I hear you… it’s a tough world out there for Muslims. Our “natural” instincts to align with the party projecting moral values on the right are overshadowed by the hostility and Islamophobia prevalent there. And our instincts to align with party projecting values of compassion on the left are compromised by liberalism that stretches the moral instincts (and hostility to religious values as you point out).
    But there is little choice except to work with the left with whom we have much more in common these days. At least their tent doesn’t have a “no Mooslims” sign posted outside it.

  • Aziz Poonawalla

    The purpose behind these depictions in particular IS hateful – it’s to say to muslims, “we will offend you because we can”. Yes, of course you can. But why do it?
    If we had a “Call black people by the n-word” day or “paint swastikas on sidewalks” day these would also be expressions of free speech which anyone is perfectly free to do. No one suggests that these actions should ever be made illegal. But we dont do it, and for very good moral reasons.
    As far as secularism goes, it’s only pure separation in teh abstract ideal. In practice, it is outright hostility. You can argue from the ivory tower if you like but you WILL find a histility to spiritualism among every self-styled “secular humanist” intellectual out there in the public sphere. The secularists who are respectful of faith are few and far between, outliers.
    keep in mind that its solely separation of church and state that leads me to have repeatedly declared on my blog over the years that America is the greatest Islamic country on earth. I am not anti-separation. But secularism lays monopolistic claim to that principle, and you are buying that line of baloney PR. the qur’an says, “to you be your faith and to me mine”

  • Aziz Poonawalla

    i agree to an extent, amad. certainly my voting pattern makes me indistinguishable from a Democratic partisan.
    We can work with them, but we cant let our selves ever forget that they are NOT “with” us. Three words: Dubai Ports World.

  • Hitch

    To declare anything you dislike hateful doesn’t define hate. I don’t hate Muslims. I hate violent bullies. I hate intolerance, in the real meaning of intolerance.
    Here is what I have drawn. A smiling stick figure with a common male name next to it. Nowhere does it mention that it’s the prophet (pbuh), people choose to read it that way. People want it to be the prophet (pbuh) and want to claim that I hate.
    That is not the case. To this day I have not drawn the prophet (pbuh) yet I have still be called hateful. But even if I chose to draw the prophet, that should be OK. Because I don’t hate the prophet or believers. I just am not a believer, so your religious mandates and expectations don’t hold for me and you should consider judging me from just a tiny bit closer to my perspective.
    There is deep intolerance here and deep negative and quick judgments. If you do not understand this then you will not find friends in any political movement that believes in pluralism and tolerance, because drawing a smiling stick figure is not hateful per se and Muhammad is a common male name, not hateful per se either. And joining them neither makes it the prophet nor hateful.
    So we get neither the benefit of the doubt nor tolerance. All non-Muslims have to obey what offends. Should we also stop eating pork? That is also offensive (btw I don’t eat pork, but I defend any persons right to make that decision and I will defend them against charges of being hateful).
    Tolerance, Aziz is to allow things that you don’t like. So can you allow a smiling stick figure? Fairness is to not put negative intentions on people that they don’t actually harbor. So don’t tell people they hate when they don’t.

  • Aziz Poonawalla

    you’re ignoring my example of N-word/swastika days. I am sure that i f I, personally, drew a swastika on teh sidewalk it wouldnt be out of any histility or hatred. But it crosses a line, regardless of how smily and happy i make it. Thats not to say I should be stopped from doing it, but simply that the deliberate decision to do so (entirely within my rights) will cause pain. Its the provocation that is hateful – but it is precisely because I am tlerant that I support your right to draw your stick figure.
    you confuse tolerance with acceptance – you are theone, not me, who cant accept something you dont like. namely, the fact that no matter hhow happy smiley you make your stick figure, it will still be personally ffensive to me. You cant accept that so you label me intolerant.
    i think weve reached the end of our fruitful debate again. so lets agree to disagree; to you I am intolerant. okay?

  • Cyrus

    In all honesty Aziz, there is no reason for anyone on the left to interact with the “right” in this country anymore. As a political liberal, you are seen as a traitor, and as a Muslim, the enemy. That is the reality of it, I am sorry to say. Dialogue will do nothing to change this. It is their state of mind. At the very least, they view you as pathetic. At the most, something that needs to be destroyed.
    As for Muslims Americans, the sooner they come to terms with this reality, the better. For their sake.

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