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On the Outlandish Claim That “There is No Islamophobia”

The FBI released hate crime statistics for the year of 2010, which showed that anti-Semitic crimes topped the list of religiously motivated hate crimes.  Islamophobes have latched on to this fact to claim that “there is no Islamophobia.”  For example, Robert Spencer of JihadWatch asked: “What do you have to say about the fact that FBI statistics show that there is no ‘Islamophobia’?”

The American Muslim’s Sheila Musaji published a response to this argument, pointing out that it’s a non-sequitur: it does not follow that “there is no Islamophobia” just because there were more anti-Semitic hate crimes reported than anti-Muslim ones.  This would be like arguing that “there is no anti-Semitism” because there were more anti-black hate crimes reported than anti-Semitic ones.

In fact, Musaji points out that there was a 50% increase in the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes.  Any reasonable person would think this trend to be concerning and ask: what is causing this steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes?

There is another issue here: it’s a well-known fact that ethnic minorities are less likely to report hate crimes.  One of the common reasons cited for this is that such minority groups tend to distrust police and authorities–which is certainly the case for Arabs and Muslims, who have every reason to feel this way.

Islamophobia penetrates law enforcement and government on all levels, starting from the police: the Washington Monthly had a very eyeopening article on the subject: How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam.

The FBI, the governmental institution responsible for monitoring hate crimes, is itself brimming with Islamophobia (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).  Many Muslims in America don’t trust the FBI, and wouldn’t report hate crimes to them, for fear of being accused of something themselves.

This is exactly what happened to a female Muslim student at the University of Bridgeport who reported to authorities that a man was sexually harassing her; not only was the man not investigated, but the female Muslim student herself ended up being investigated by the FBI after the accused molester called her a terrorist.  That’s how vulnerable Muslims are in this country: accuse them of being a terrorist and the FBI will come knocking at their door.

The chain of anti-Muslim bigotry goes even higher to the Department of Homeland Security.  The House Committee on Homeland Security is led by the fervently anti-Muslim Congressman Peter King.  It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are subjected to such hearings.  If King had suggested holding anti-Jewish hearings, the comparisons to Nazi Germany would be quickly invoked (rightfully so) and the Congressman’s career would come to a swift end (again, rightfully so).  Yet, when this bigotry is leveled against Muslims, the reaction is far more mild.

This brings me to my second (and main) point: it is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other faith, who are the number one victims of institutionalized bigotry in America.  This is something more pernicious than lone-wolf hate crimes, because the effects of it are more far-reaching.

It is Muslims, not people of any other religious faith, that were (and continue to be) detained by the hundreds–without trial or charge–and holed away in the hell-hole known as Guantanamo Bay detention camp.  This, even though it was known by the government that “the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo were innocent.”  Most Americans fail to realize the gravity of this injustice, and continue to believe–like mindless sheep–that the Gitmo prisoners are “the worst of the worst” and are evil Magneto-style villains.  People of the future will be horrified that any sane person would think that this is necessary:

Who but the sickest and most deranged person could think this is OK?

Can you imagine the outcry had it been a Jewish person who had been imprisoned like so by our government?  Even the idea is considered ludicrous.

Gitmo is just the tip of the iceberg.  Thousands of Muslims have been imprisoned in Bagram (“the Other Guantanamo”) and there are probably tens of thousands Muslims that have been detained by the United States, without trial or charge, around the world.  They are subjected to typical American forms of torture:  solitary confinement (considered by human rights experts to be one of the worst forms of torture) and sexual harassment (including sodomy, rape, and having their testicles electrocuted).  Mentally deranged guards routinely used dogs to torture the inmates.

Yes, it is Muslims who are the victims of these horrific crimes.

These abuses are carried out because the institution that is supposed to protect American citizens (including American Muslims)–the U.S. Armed Forces–has instead been, in the words of the hawkish Jeffrey Goldberg, “waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”  Quite predictably, the U.S. Armed Forces as an institution is rife with Islamophobia.

It is Muslim civilians who are being incinerated by our bombs, missiles, and drones.  Over the course of the last two decades, the United States has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of over a million Muslims.  America is dropping bombs on multiple Muslim countries (the list just keeps getting longer and longer); Americans feel comfortable dropping bombs on countries they can’t even locate on a map.  These are Islamophobic wars that kill way more people than hate crimes do.

It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are the victims of civil liberty assaults and Endless War.  Glenn Greenwald writes:

[W]ho are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals).  And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War…

To see how central a role this sort of selfish provincialism plays in shaping political priorities, just compare (a) the general indifference to Endless War and the massive civil liberties assaults… (ones largely confined to Muslims) to (b) the intense outrage and media orgy generated when a much milder form of invasiveness — TSA searches — affected Americans of all backgrounds. The success of Endless War and civil liberties attacks depends on ensuring that the prime victims, at least in the first instance, are marginalized and easily demonizable minorities.

It is Muslims who are the victims of such governmental abuses:

Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

It is absolutely crass to argue that there is more anti-Semitism in America than Islamophobia. There would be nothing less acceptable in our country than anti-Jewish Congressional hearings.  One could simply not imagine imprisoning hundreds of Jews–without trial or charge–in Guantanamo Bay.  If the United States caused the death of over a million Jews, people would be calling this the next Holocaust.  Such things are simply unthinkable, except when Muslims are the intended victims.

Certainly, lone-wolf hate crimes are worrisome, and Jews are one of the most targeted groups in this regard.  This is a serious concern that needs to be addressed–as does the fact that there has been such a steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.  But, we shouldn’t ignore institutionalized bigotry in America, which is even more worrisome.  Muslims are the most vulnerable minority in this regard: they are the absolute lowest on the totem pole and get the dubious distinction of being the number one victims in this regard.

Lastly, it is very morbid the way the anti-Muslim cyber-world is pitting the Jewish community against the Muslim one.  This is not a competition or game.  Hate crimes are not points or goals.  Jews, Muslims, and people of all faiths (or no faith at all) should unite together to fight bigotry and intolerance.  After all, Jews are well aware of the tactics that were once primarily used against them but are now used against Muslims: it may be a different minority, but it’s the same message.

*  *  *  *  *

I encourage everyone to read Sheila Musaji’s take on the subject.  It was her article that prompted me to weigh in on this issue.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.  

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  • Just Stopping By

    @Géji:

    Thank you for those informative posts. I have gone through them once, but given how much they explain, I will obviously need to review them a few times to get a better understanding.

    I hope that I was not unclear when I said “it would be a mistake to think that there are not other statements that can (and have) been used in an anti-Jewish way.” Note that I said that those statments “can (and have been) used in an anti-Jewish way,” not that those statements “are anti-Jewish.”

    While I do find that certain statements look troubling out of context (whether in Islam, Christianity, or Judaism), my experience is that people looking to truly know other nations and tribes will limit the scope of the negative words while those looking to condemn others will argue that such statements are universal truths.

    Wa aleikum salaam, akhi / akhti.

  • Géji

    Continue…

    5- Their special status and covenant with God gives the children of Israel a great responsibility: the responsibility to uphold the covenant and abide by the law and guidance God has given them. So, what of the Qur’an’s criticism of Jews? An indication of the problem appears at the end of verse 2:83, above: Afterward, you turned away, except a few of you, and you were averse. Just as it provides details of God’s favors and covenant with the children of Israel, the Qur’an also discusses violations of that covenant.

    Moses came to you with clear proofs, yet you took the calf [for worship] in his absence, and you turned wicked. (Qur’an 2:92) *

    We made a covenant with you, that you not shed each others’ blood, nor evict each other from your homes. You agreed and bore witness. Yet it is you who are killing each other and evicting a group among you from their homes, supporting each other against them unlawfully and aggressively; and if they should come to you as captives you would ransom them—while evicting them was unlawful for you. Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in the other? (Qur’an 2:84-85) *

    You have known those among you who violated the Sabbath, so we said to them: “Be despicable ape.” (Qur’an 2:65)

    6- It is in a similar context that the Qur’an uses the term “apes and swine,” in Qur’an 5:60, though in that verse, it is not said in reference to Jews. Here is 5:60 in its entirety.

    Say: “Shall I inform you of something worse in the sight of God: those whom God has cursed and with whom he is angry, and he has made some of them apes and swine and servants of evil. These are in a worse position and more astray from the even path.” *

    While some people may claim that the above refers specifically to the Jews, reading the verse in its context shows this is not necessarily accurate. This is clear from verses 5:57-58.

    O you who believe, do not befriend those who make a mockery of your religion from among those who were given the Book before you or the disbelievers. Reverence God, if you are truly believers. When you call to prayer they make a mockery and a game of it. This is because they are a people who do not understand. *

    7- As these verses show, the discussion is about those who make a mockery of religion, whether they are those who received previous scripture or those who are disbelievers. Of course, Jews are among those who received previous scripture, which is the basis of the claim that verse 5:60 refers to Jews. However, there is no Qur’anic basis for claiming that it refers exclusively or even primarily to Jews. The emphasis in the discussion is not the religion of, or lack thereof, of those with whom God was so angry that he cursed them and some of them apes, swine, and servants of evil. The emphasis is on the actions that may lead to such retribution from God—making a mockery of the religion of those who believe in God and in a scripture the mockers do not accept. Some of those mockers are among those who received previous scriptures:

    Say, “O people of the scripture, do you resent us because we believe in God, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down before us, and because most of you are not righteous?” (Qur’an 5:59) *

    But does this mean all of those who received the previous scripture? Other verses of the Qur’an make it clear that it is not.

    They are not all alike; among the people of the Book there is an upstanding community. They recite God’s revelations through the night, and they fall prostrate. They believe in God and the last day. They advocate good and forbid evil, and they hasten to do good works. These are among the righteous. Whatever good they do will not be denied. God knows those who are reverent. (Qur’an 3:113-115). *

    Surely those who believe, those who are Jews, the Sabians, and the Christians, whoever believes in God and the last day and does good, has nothing to fear nor will they grieve. (Qur’an 5:69) *

    8- The above verses clearly extend the promise of God to all who believe and do good, whether they are believers in the Qur’an or not. Those who are criticized in the Qur’an are those who fail to uphold their covenant with God. Nothing in the Qur’an calls on the Jews to abandon the Torah in favor of the Qur’an. Quite the opposite. The Qur’an repeated declares that it comes to confirm the previous scripture, not to supplant it. Indeed, the Qur’an criticizes the Jews of Medina for coming to Muhammad for judgment when they had the Torah:

    How do they make you a judge while they have the Torah in which is God’s law? Then they turn back after that—these are not believers. (Qur’an 5:43) *

    The following verse further emphasizes the importance of the Torah, and the fact that those who follow it are submitting to God.

    We sent down the Torah, in which there is guidance and light, by which the prophets who submitted judged the Jews, as did the rabbis and the priests, according to what they were required to observe of God’s Book, and thereunto were they witnesses. So do not fear people, but fear me, and do not sell my signs for minor gain. Whoever does not judge by what God has sent down are disbelievers. (Qur’an 5:44) *

    Considering all of these verses, whether they are speaking to or about the children of Israel, or the Jews, or people of the Book, it is clear that Qur’anic criticism and condemnation is aimed not at the Jews as a people, but only at those among them who fail to reverence God and uphold their covenant with Him. Moreover, the Qur’an calls on Jews to adhere to what God has sent down in the Torah. So, if a Jew recognizes Muhammad as a messenger and the Qur’an as God’s Book, should follow the Torah. To do otherwise would be to disobey the Qur’an. The Qur’an also offers a clear remedy for religious bigotry and intolerance:

    comparison for it; therefore judge between them by what God has sent down, and do not follow their low desires, turning away the truth that has come to you; for each of you we have ordained a law and a way of doing things. If God wished, He would have made you a single community, but he tests you according to what he has given you, so compete with each other in doing good. Your return is to God, and then He will let you know about that in which you differed. (Qur’an 5:48) *

    9- Let us consider these words from the Qur’an with care and open our minds and our hearts to the possibility of accepting that God has given our communities different traditions and practices by which we serve Him, so that we can begin to compete with each other in doing good for His sake and our own.

    @Just Stopping By, I know it’s a long read and I’m sorry for the length, but I had to post this article in order also for the “loons” to read it, who usually never bother to find this kind of articles that gives a very different perspective from what they usually get from their Islamophobic Sites, then comes here to “transmit” the message of what the Qur’an been “saying” about Jews, but I don’t hold my breath they’ll read it anyway….While I don’t really care what the loons might thinks about it, I certainly hope it will be a good read for you bro or sis… Salaamu Alaikum.

  • Géji

    > “I treasure the pro-Jewish statements in the Qur’an and later Islamic thinking, but it would be a mistake to think that there are not other statements that can (and have) been used in an anti-Jewish way. I won’t repeat those”

    @Just Stopping By

    Salaam, you’re right by saying that some fundamentalist Muslims with their ill-intentioned Sites may have distorted some passages of the Qur’an to suit their narrow views-(remember cuckoo-uncle OBL?), we all have those crazzzy uncles….. But there are no what we can call “anti Jewish” sentiments in the Qur’an…. I understand it may seem as such to the untrained or unfamiliar eye that haven’t read the Qur’an in it’s entirety and context, but those passages that seem “anti-Jew” to some, are not at all….. What the Qur’an in those seem “unfriendly” passages states or “report” if you will, are criticism based on the behaviours of some and not all Jews, displayed in various stages since “the Covenant” with Allah according to Qur’an… But even more telling is, I believe most of those criticism stated in the Quran are also reported in the Bible, for example the episode of the Golden Calf, and the violation of the Sabbath by some Jews during stages of Judaism….Anyway here’s what Aisha Y. Musa say in her article on the subject, that may give you more clearing views of what the Qur’an states about Jews.

    1– Today, it often seems as if the relations between Muslims and Jews are dominated by bigotry, intolerance, and even downright hostility. Some claim that Muslim hostility toward Jews is taught in the Qur’an itself. How does the Qur’an portray the Jews? Is it inherently hostile toward them? Are they described, as some have claimed, as apes and swine”? The simple answer to the latter question is no, the Qur’an never says the Jews are “apes and swine”

    2– There are approximately 60 verses in the Qur’an that speak directly about or to the Jews. Two thirds of these use the phrase “Children of Israel” (bani Isra’il), others use the terms “Jews” (yahud) or “those who are Jewish” (alladhina hadu). In addition to verses specifically about or addressing the Jews, the Qur’an also speaks of the people of the Book (ahl al-kitab) and “those who have been given the Book” (alladhina utu al-kitab). These verses are generally understood to refer to both the Christians and the Jews, those who received the scriptures which preceded the Qur’an. The Qur’an also mentions the Torah more than a dozen times. In addition to the variety of verses that speak to or about the Jews, chapter 17 of the Qur’an is entitled “The Children of Israel.”

    3– In order to better understand the Qur’an’s portrayal of the Jews it is important to understand the Qur’an’s portrayal of religion itself. Right religion, according to the Qur’an, is submission to God (lit. islam in Arabic). Those who submit to God are, by literal definition, muslim. Thus, islam, in its generic, literal meaning is the religion of all the prophets and messengers from Noah to Abraham to Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, according to the Qur’an (10:71-72, 84; 2:128-131; 5:110-111). All of the prophets before Muhammad were thus, according to the Qur’an, muslim, as were those who believed them and followed them. The children of Israel enjoy a special status: “O children of Israel, remember my favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I favored you above all creation.” (Qur’an 2:47, 2:122). *

    4– The Qur’an discusses God’s favors and covenant with the Children of Israel in detail:

    O children of Israel, indeed we delivered you from your enemy and made a covenant with you on the right side of the mountain, and we sent down for you manna and quails. (20:80) *

    Indeed we gave the children of Israel the Book, and wisdom, and the prophecy, and we provided them with good things and favored them above all creation. (45:16) *

    We made a covenant with the children of Israel: “Serve none except God. Be good to parents, relatives, orphans, and the poor. Speak kindly to people. Establish prayer and give alms.” Afterward, you turned away, except a few of you, and you were averse. (2:83) *

    to be continue….

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