Extremism, lies and shameless deceit – we educated Muslim activists have seen our fair share of it. We identify it, trace it back to the fringe, discredit it and move on. We have applied this to groups within our own faith over the past year or so since September 11. These days, however, we find ourselves following the same recourse, only more often than not, it is the breed of extremism launched from the opposite corner. In the past months, after both the American media and the nation it serves have seized the spotliaght from Osama and forced it on Saddam, after most terrorist and extremist bashing have subsided a good deal, we have seen a disturbing trend of ignorant attacks on mainstream Islam.
Even more concerning are the sources of many of these attacks and the apparent convergence of the extremist fringe and accepted mainstream in America, at least in their intolerant attacks and allegations on the world’s second largest religion and fastest growing faith. Attacks have recently been launched by this nation’s more respected leaders of the religious right. Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son and successor, declared Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” Christian Coalition founder and television evangelist Pat Robertson said, “to think that (Islam) is a peaceful religion is fraudulent.” He then called Islam’s Prophet Mohammad “an absolute wild-eyed fanatic, a robber and brigand, a killer.” To top it off is the (recently retracted) statement of Rev. Jerry Falwell that smeared the prophet as “a terrorist.”
Despite the occasional newspaper article or opinion piece criticizing such attacks, most of the American government that considers these figures close political allies has been silent. This sends a powerful message to those who already question the government’s sincerity and dedication to the religious tolerance we have seen preached since September 11.
Recent terror that has gripped the D.C. area at the deranged hands of sniper suspect John Allen Mohamed saw very little religious finger pointing for the most part. Many voices among the fringe and the mainstream, however, blamed Islam for the random attacks. Former talk-show host Bill Maher suggested Al Qaeda was somehow behind it, on account of the suspect’s last name (which records show is the most common name in the world today, followed by John). Hate-mongering New York Post columnist Daniel Pipes wrote that the loose Islamic affiliation and the suspect’s race are “no surprise.” Pipes went on to associate the at least 700,000 black converts to Islam with a trend of “turning against their country.” Despite the shaky fundamentals of the Nation of Islam sect, the broad group that Pipes ignorantly associates with treason includes Muhammad Ali, Karem Abdul-Jabbar, Malcolm X, McCoy Tyner and others.
The most obvious bias among Daniel Pipes and other “experts” today is caused by flawed logic. Has any serial killer, rapist, anti-American citizen or Ku Klux Klan associate with any given religious affiliation or even a crucifix hanging around his neck ever been subject to such mudslinging campaigns against their religion as a whole?
Stereotyping is not the issue here. Not many figures today stand to claim all Muslims are terrorists, but the frequency with which Islam is defamed today is disturbing, especially in the rare cases where an attempt is made to back it up. The usual fail-safe method is using rogue affiliates, the radical fringe, actions of a hopelessly oppressed Muslim population abroad, or out of context Quranic verses to attack a peaceful faith. The Quran repeatedly states the evils of aggression, the virtue of assisting the weak and defenseless and the legitimacy of self-defense, among many other things.
“Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors (2:190),” “If they incline to peace, incline thou also to it (8:61).” These verses are obviously not instructions on how to be a lawless murderer.
We identify the slander, discredit it and simply move on. Repeatedly, however, we find ourselves worried about the fallout of the enormous amount of slanderous material out there. Who may have seen this article, this advertisement, this Web site, this message and taken it for face value? This new trend of Islam bashing has grown to characterize a new face of extremism, with no other agenda than to spread hate. And for those who feel a bit of reasoning is in order before attacks are initiated – not all Muslim citizens in the United States or any given nation are devout or fully conscious of the true meaning of Islam. Before we look at how poorly one depicts Islam, look first at how well one represents it.
-The writer is a junior majoring in business and president of the Islamic Alliance for Justice.