In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
It has always been a very curious phenomenon: all across the country, people with clear anti-Muslim bias and even overt hatred are being proffered as “experts” on Islam. They are members of panel discussions on Islam; they appear on television programs; they are guests on radio shows; they even are recruited to teach college courses on Islam. All this despite their obvious anti-Islamic agenda.
These “experts,” many times, do not even have a cursory knowledge or understanding of the Arabic language, which is critical given that the sacred text of Islam is in Arabic. These “experts” continue to peddle old and tired Orientalist claims against Islam, the Qur’an, and the Prophet Muhammad and are not called out on it. These “experts” are open in their guile for Islam, yet they are still requested to speak about Islam and Muslims.
In fact, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called upon the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to stop using anti-Islam extremists as “experts” used in training of law enforcement agencies. This has come after the Washington Post investigative report about post-9/11 surveillance. The report said: “Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.”
Yet, this exact same scenario would probably never occur with any other ethnic or religious minority. Imagine if an overtly anti-Semitic commentator was asked to give a lecture about “Judaism and the World.” Would such a scenario ever be brought to bear? Would an overtly racist researcher ever be tasked to teach a course on African-American or Latino studies? Would any state in this great nation of ours ever pass a law specifically forbidding the consideration of Mosaic law by judges?
I seriously, seriously doubt it.
Yet, it seems to be fair game when it comes to Islam and Muslims. This despite a wealth of credible, objective, and learned scholars (both Muslim and non-Muslim) of Islam and Islamic studies that would be more than happy to lend their expertise. Yet, Muslims can’t be everywhere at every time. Indeed, civil rights and advocacy groups such as CAIR and MPAC are doing an excellent job in addressing this sort of anti-Islam bias. Still, such blatant bias when it comes to Islam is openly tolerated all across the country.
Why is this so?
First of all, there is a serious ignorance about Islam and Muslims all across this country. During the lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s anti-Sharia law, the State Department actually had to weigh in to confirm that Islam is indeed a major world religion. This despite the fact that Islam was well known by the Founding Fathers of this country; Thomas Jefferson, in fact, owned a copy of the Qur’an (the one on which Rep. Keith Ellison made his ceremonial oath of office).
But, more importantly, there is an entrenched and indelible association in people’s minds between Islam and terrorism. When it comes to a Muslim and violence, the underlying assumption is that he is a terrorist. That is the likely reason why several Muslim employees at a Washington, D.C. hotel were recently barred from the floors on which an Israeli delegation was staying. According to the Washington Post, “The hotel’s general manager, Amanda Hyndman, said the hotel rearranged some shifts and told some workers not to come in after a routine State Department background check found “irregularities” in the checks of 12 employees.”
Would this ever happen to African-American employees and high-level White government officials? Highly unlikely. If it had, there would be a deserved outcry and outrage. But, when it comes to Muslims, there is simply no compunction with suspecting them as terrorists. If a Muslim had walked into a school board meeting and opened fire, there would be no probing into the circumstances surrounding his actions. It would simply be assumed that he is a terrorist fulfilling some “jihad mission.” When a non-Muslim flew his plane into the IRS building, the calls of “terrorism” were very few and even more far in between.
To combat this, there is no question that increased education and outreach on the part of the Muslim community in America is a must. This is already being done in an excellent fashion, and it must continue. Moreover, the Muslim community must partner with other communities to combat this problem. There are very good potential allies in America, and even if they may not be traditional ones, Muslims must strengthen these alliances for the common good.
There must be more modern-day “Fudul Confederacies” with anyone who will form them with us. It is one thing for American Muslims to point out the double-standards when it comes to Muslims, but when there are more people like Glenn Greenwald saying so, it will register more strongly with the American public.
Additionally, there has to be an appeal to common decency and fairness. If it is not appropriate for Judaism or Christianity, then it should not be appropriate for Islam (or any other faith, for that matter). If it is inappropriate for a seething anti-Semite sit on a panel about Judaism (which it is), the same should hold true for Islam.
Shahed Amanullah, prominent American Muslim thinker, has said numerous times that “it would be weird if all the “experts” on African Americans were whites from the suburbs.” Well, it must become just as weird to have a similar phenomenon with Muslims. Fairness and decency is part of the American spirit and fabric, and America’s Muslim citizens are just as entitled to it as everyone else.