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2009: Another hard year for American Muslims

By       Message Abdus Sattar Ghazali       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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- Minnesota Congressional candidate says Islam promotes criminal behavior and that the US constitution does not apply to Muslims.

- In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, vandals spray-paint "go home sand n**ger" and Nazi swastikas on a truck owned by a Muslim of Mideast descent. The victim also finds a racist flier from the Aryan Nations on his lawn.

- In Gresham, Illinois, a Muslim woman was verbally abused by a security guard at a Citibank branch because she wears a religious head scarf, or hijab.

- Al-Fatiha Masjid in southern California is vandalized. It was the 4th mosque vandalism reported nationwide within one month.

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These episodes this month symbolize the dilemma of American Muslims in the post-9/11 America. More than eight years after the tragic event, the seven-million strong American Muslim community remains under siege with constant attacks on their faith and infringement of their civil rights through reconfiguration of American laws, policies, and priorities. It will not be too much to say that the 9/11 tragedy is still being used as an excuse to greatly magnify the hostility toward Muslims and cloak it in pseudo-patriotism. Unfortunately, Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States. Bigots' venom against Islam and Muslims, once shocking has become the mainstream.

Fort Hood Massacre: American Muslims react with grief & fear of backlash.

As the story of Fort Hood, Texas, shooting of Nov 5 - in which 13 people were killed and 30 injured - unfolded, the American Muslims, like other fellow Americans, were shocked and grieved but they also feared a backlash as the shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hassan, happens to be a Muslim. All major Arab and Muslim organizations were swift in unequivocally condemning this heinous crime. Within hours after the attack, all major civil advocacy Arab and Muslim groups and Islamic Centers vehemently denounced the vicious attack and stressed that "No religious or political ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence."

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At the same time, American Muslim groups urged the national political and religious leaders and media professionals to set a tone of calm and unity. However, predictably this tragic incident once again provided fodder for talk shows and websites, which exploit such isolated events to ratchet up Islamophobia. For example: Fox News host Shepard Smith asked Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas on air: "The name tells us a lot, does it not, senator?" Hutchinson's response was: "It does. It does, Shepard." As John Nichols, author of "Horror at Fort Hood Inspires Horribly Predictable Islamophobia," said with those words, the senator leapt from making assumptions about one man to making assumptions about a whole religion.

Not surprisingly, the Washington Post, a major reputable newspaper, ran a story titled "Suspect, devout Muslim from Va. Wanted Army discharge...." The story was illustrated with a picture of an Islamic center with this caption: "The Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring where Maj. Nidal M. Hasan used to pray. John Esposito, Professor of religion, international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University, asks why the immediately rush to brushstroke Islam, Hasan's religion, by linking it to this tragedy?

Several new reports suggested that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan saw a deployment to Iraq as his "worst nightmare" and recounted how he had treated victims of combat-related stress and was upset about the war. He began having second thoughts about a military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim. Alluding to these reports Prof. Esposito pointed out that it apparently wasn't challenging enough to figure out an already complex puzzle:

(1) Why had this American-born psychiatrist, a serious, quiet, and reserved military officer, who joined the Army over his parents' initial objections in order to serve his country, made substantial efforts to get out of the military in recent years? (2) What was the connection between reports that Hasan had been deeply affected by his work with veterans from the Iraq war and his refusal to accept the fact that he was to be deployed to Iraq? (3) How serious and substantial were reports that post-9/11 harassment by colleagues over Hasan's Muslim name had contributed to his growing disaffection with and desire to get out of the military?

The Fort Hood tragedy provided an opportunity to the Muslim-bashers to launch fresh attacks on Islam and Muslims to generate hostility towards the Islamic faith and to marginalize American Muslims. Television evangelist Pat Robertson described Islam as a violent religion and suggested that the Muslims should be treated as communists or fascists. Dave Gaubatz, author of a Muslim-bashing book "Muslim Mafia," called for a "backlash" against American Muslims. Gaubatz wrote on a right-wing Web site: "Now is the time for a professional and legal backlash against the Muslim community and their leaders." The American Family Association (the "family values" anti-gay, pro-life, Islamophobic group) called for a ban on Muslims in the military, saying: "This is not Islamophobia, it is Islamo-realism. The reason is simple: the more devout a Muslim is, the more of a threat he is to national security."

Arrest of five American Muslim youths in Pakistan.

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Amid this anti-Islam and anti-Muslim campaign, the Muslim community was shocked by the arrest of five American Muslim youths in Pakistan for allegedly seeking to join militant groups. The incident once against raised the issue of the so-called radicalization of the American Muslim youth. It also highlighted the cooperation between the community and FBI. The disappearance of the five students from Virginia was reported by the concerned families to CAIR which arranged a meeting of the parents of these youths with FBI officials. The five Ramy Zamzam, 22; Ahmad Minni, 20; Umar Chaudhry, 24; Waqar Khan, 22; and Aman Hassan Yemer, 18 were arrested in Sargodha, Pakistan on December 9.

The incident provoked deep concern in the Muslim community about the existence of homegrown extremism among Muslim American youth. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has issued a paper on the issue which advocated intense grassroots engagement among police and U.S. Muslim neighborhood leaders to thwart the emergence of homegrown extremism. However, the report pointed out: "Unfortunately, in the current political climate, the actions of certain law enforcement agencies -- whether spying on peaceful activist groups and houses of worship without reasonable suspicion, or religious profiling -- have added to difficulties." Such a "heightened sense of fear and grievances also creates a greater pool of alienated people terrorists can tap into for recruitment," the report added.

Interestingly media in Pakistan is describing the five Muslim youths as American agents and a High Court in Pakistan has ordered the authorities not to handover them to Washington. The High Court in Lahore, where the men are being held for questioning, said they could not be sent back to the United States until the court had a chance to review the case.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)

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