Our Reaction to Terrorism Is More Dangerous Than the Terrorists ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

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Islamophobia Distracts Us From The Real Crisis

“It’s amazing, we’re going to take in all of these people from Syria, but we have all these homeless people on our streets,” said a few white males I overheard the other day at a Starbucks. “You see, all of these people criticize us, but they all want to come here.”
Have to say, very valid points. We do in fact have severe issues facing Americans today from unemployment and poverty, to homelessness and increasing disparity and more. The only problem is that most Americans, like those middle-aged men at Starbucks, lack the proper context and adequate information to understand all the dynamics at play, and just how much emphasis our government places on things like war as opposed to resolving our problems at home. For instance, if they knew that only about four or five US-trained rebels are left on the ground in Syria after the Defense Department spent $500 million to train and equip people according to recent testimony by General Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, they might have a more nuanced discussion as they sipped their lattes. But when Americans are inundated with messages of ‘backward Muslims’, and public discourse is infused with vile words from the likes of Ben Carson and others, it’s much easier to blame the refugees for their own plight, and continue to act as if we’re doing them a favor by allowing a small percentage of the millions displaced into our country. Perhaps it’s time for a reality check.
The images of refugees fleeing war torn regions and attempting to find a safe haven in Europe are beyond heartbreaking. Desperation abounds as mothers and fathers cling to their young and climb onto overcrowded trains, push back against tear gas and water cannons, walk for days and weeks just to reach more blockades, and literally die as they search for a way to live.
Millions have been uprooted from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. But if you watched coverage of this humanitarian crisis in the West, you would think that these poor souls brought this upon themselves. Rarely, if ever, is there a focus on our role in destabilizing these nations and the region at large. A direct result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and actions elsewhere), this catastrophe that is occurring in real time should put us all to shame.

What’s Islamophobia, and Do I Have It? An answer in eight parts

A closed mind is a terrible thing to behold. But it’s a far worse thing to have to engage. And yet we must. This Saturday, the woman who murdered a complete stranger by shoving him into the path of an arriving subway train was arrested. Her name? Erica Menendez. Her target? Hindus and Muslims.Why? Because of 2001.

More than eleven years after the terrorist attacks, and the alleged murderer not only could not distinguish between a Muslim and a Hindu, but held both collectively responsible for the actions of a few—there are 2.5 billion Muslims and Hindus in the world. This is clear, cut-and-dried bigotry, of the typically ignorant kind.

You’d think recent events only further prove Islamophobia’s dangerousness. But on the night of Erica’s arrest, the usual cohort of anti-Muslim voices persisted in their denial of Islamophobia, considering it a “neologism” used by the left to silence their fair criticisms of Islam. Reality, as always, begs to disagree.

Islamophobia is anything but rational, fair, or grounded. Like climate change denial, it masks real threats and makes it harder for us to deal with them. America deserves a better conversation on Islam. One that has the room to acknowledge real threats and challenges, but also enables us to make smarter choices, and deal with Muslims as we are: Human beings.

I’m not claiming to present a complete cartography. But what I have should help us navigate a far too familiar terrain. After all, why do we have to put up with absurdly ahistorical arguments, such as Pamela Geller’s claim that “jihad” killed 270 million people—fanciful, hyperbolic, and almost endearingly fictitious? Not only is Islamophobia ridiculous, it has violent consequences.

I. It’s (Always) the 1950’s

Islamophobes often argue they’re just criticizing Islam. But simply by prefacing an argument with “I have black friends,” or concluding with it, doesn’t mean you’re not a racist. We have to look deeper to see if “Islamophobia” applies; I’ll use the hijab, the headscarf worn by many Muslim women (for many reasons), to that end.

Through France’s treatment of a Muslim woman’s sartorial choices, we can better understand the transition from mere opinionated disagreement to legally sanctioned discrimination. Because while the former may be unreasonable or unwarranted, the latter is the kind of bigotry I’m most concerned by.

In France, Muslims in public schools are forbidden to wear the hijab—overtly religious symbols are seen as threatening of a uniform French identity that is, by the way, more of a project of flattening France into homogeneity than reflecting France’s demographic reality. Meanwhile all women are forbidden to cover their faces in public spaces. This is so that Islam does not appear in public France.

The state does this to “reclaim” public space for secularity; in France, though, secularism is not neutrality. The culturally secular majority champions a statist secularism the effect of which is to restrict the visibility of a religiously defined minority. This is not racism per se, but I hope you can see the problematic overlap: most French Muslims come from France’s former colonies.

And the colonial mindset continues to pertain. Islamophobia privileges the point of view of the allegedly objective outsider, who believes he knows Muslims better than they themselves do. Whether because of race, or because it’s transcended race; whether because of religion, or because it has transcended religion; in all these scenarios, the West always knows best.

Indeed, the West may know best because the West can change. Islam, on the other hand, is frozen, stuck in what Dipesh Chakrabarty called the “waiting room of history.” This is not, by the way, an exclusively French dynamic—the simple and inaccurate binary of a dynamic West and a static Islam, mired in the seventh century or a “medieval mindset” is stunningly common. And equally inaccurate.

Conclusions: The Islamophobe likes to speak on behalf of Muslims, and appoints himself judge, jury, and even executioner. This may be because while the Islamophobe believes he represents a dynamic civilization, the Islam he speaks for is assumed to represent a static and unchanging force.

II. Don’t Ask, Tell

Addressing a panel at the 2011 American Academy of Religion Conference, Hussein Agrama illuminated the contradiction in the French government’s restrictions on hijab and the niqab,or face-veil. France banned both on the argument that they were either the sartorial embodiment of a politically Islamic identity, the tip of an Islamist iceberg so to speak, or evidence of a gender unequal religious tradition.

Thus the French government assumed all women veil for the same reasons. But in her book,The Politics of the Veil, Joan Scott surveys French Muslim women—what a novel idea—and finds that few of these assumptions hold.  Of course, the emancipation of the Muslim woman cannot be stopped by anything as irrelevant as the Muslim woman’s opinions; to be liberated from objectification, she’s objectified.

Consider the tension Agrama points out. If the veil is a choice (as most French Muslim women say it is) and not a religious obligation, then the French government can restrict it: French Muslims shouldn’t object to not being allowed to practice a choice. But, Agrama went on, if the veil is a religious obligation, it must have been imposed coercively and must be banned by the secular state.

Islamophobes tend to prefer the latter.

They assume that Muslims must do whatever the Qur’an or the Prophet Muhammad tells them to. Not only have Muslims stopped using their brains, their nervous organs have atrophied from unemployment. Thus if a Muslim woman covers her head, it must be because she was forced to. The rationalists of the West, the free peoples of Middle Earth, must step in to liberate her.

 III. If Islam Were a Race, Would Islamophobia Be Racist?

The right question to ask is why Muslims need liberation. Why can’t they (we) liberate ourselves? There is a racist logic within Islamophobia, which presents from time to time in the way Muslims are described and treated. As a single, indivisible whole. And, of course, a miserable one at that. The formula? ‘All Muslims are x,’ where x is bad.

This also means that all Muslims are on the hook for what some Muslims do, and must constantly distance themselves from other Muslims—as if the whole must bear responsibility for the acts and faults of individuals. How does that make any sense, except in a racialized and dehumanizing way?

I’m not arguing that Islamophobia is racist, or that Islamophobes are racists, because that’s not quite what’s happening. For one thing, Islamophobes embrace ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and racists wouldn’t (indeed couldn’t) do the same. But consider the similarities: the Islamophobe must assume Muslims suffer some sort of pre-Islamic inferiority, sufficient to explain how some (largely non-white) people—actually, a lot of people—not only fell for Islam in the first place, but then stayed down. How long do enforced ideologies last? Nazism: twelve years.  Communism: some decades. Islam: Fourteen centuries and counting.

Those are some dumb people.

But regardless of whether certain mental defects incline a person to Islam or whether after adopting Islam parts of your brain shut down—think zombie virus from The Walking Dead’sfirst seasonthe output’s the same. If a Qur’anic verse seems to sanction violence, Muslims have no choice but to act on it. There is just one problem with this way of interpreting all of Islam.

Only a puny minority of Muslims acts in a violent manner, while the huge majority does not, though both are reading the same book. If Muslims don’t act in similar ways, the problem isn’t the Islamophobe’s interpretation of Islam, it’s anything else—perhaps the Muslims are practicing taqiyya! Or, perhaps, the Muslims don’t understand their religion.

Islamophobes resolve the challenges posed by reality by dismissing it. Hence, they’ll say things like “most Muslims don’t understand Islam.” This was the rebuttal Ayaan Hirsi Ali used against Zeba Khan during their Intelligence Squared debate on Islam. In her opening statement, Khan argued that her parents stressed tolerance as an Islamic value; Hirsi Ali responded that while that was very nice, it wasn’t Islam.

Islam has one interpretation: theirs. Which happens to be—by chance, of course—the same interpretation extremists offer. Leave aside for a moment the conclusions and consider the methods by which Islamophobes get there. Were Islamophobes Muslim, they would be the Muslims they warn us about.

Islam can only be understood on their terms, they say. And their terms are violent and intemperate. Their strict literalism, inability to grasp context, gross and frequent generalizations, and mind-blowing ahistoricism make them into radicals, only on the opposite side of a chasm into which both have thrown decency, history, common sense, and reality. In place of analysis, they offer us a Xerox machine.

They reproduce themselves and call it Islam.

IV. Haven’t We Seen This Movie Before?

In Hirsi Ali’s conception, no sooner does a Muslim open up the Qur’an than the book starts to smack him around like the fast food in those Tums commercials. Muslims can only do exegesis—we can only read meaning “out of a text.”  We cannot practice eisegesis, which is reading “into” a text. Maybe that’s Hirsi Ali’s particular life challenge, but that’s not how the world works.

All of us engage in exegesis and eisegesis; Hans-Georg Gadamer explains how through the simple sentence. You can’t say what a sentence means, he said, unless you know what all the words in the sentence mean, but you can only define these words by the context provided by the sentence as a whole. (At least, I think that’s Gadamer; I beg my advisor’s forgiveness if it is not.)

We read into the text while the author’s writing reaches out at us—it’s like what happens if you take Tums before you eat. (Food is fun again.) The point is, Muslims aren’t “forced” into a reading. The best evidence of this is the most obvious, although to admit it would be to fatally break Islamophobia’s pathetic back: Radical Muslims impose implausible meaningson Muslim scripture.

Radicals twist texts to justify despicable ends. Usually they can do this because, like Islamophobes, they have only a cursory familiarity with Islam.

Within a few decades of Muhammad’s death (in 632 A.D.), Islam’s first extremists emerged: the ‘Khawarij,’ or secessionists. They went to war with Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Shi’a Imam and fourth Sunni Caliph, and eventually assassinated him. An extremism so self-righteousness that it did not stop to wonder what kind of “understanding” of Islam would bring it to war with the Prophet’s flesh and blood.

Before his assassination, Ali and some Khawarij had a debate over his rule as Caliph. The latter demanded that Ali govern as the Qur’an demandedIn response to this, Ali famously opened up the Muslim holy book in response to their demand and asked, ‘What does it say?’ What he was saying, some fourteen centuries ago, is that we read meaning into and out of texts at the same time

This incident demonstrates that the crudeness of Islamic extremism is infidelity to seventh-century (i.e., original) Islam, a profound and ridiculous inversion of how Islam’s earliest and most authoritative interpreters understood the faith. I’m seriously unnerved by the convergences between Islamophobia and the Khawarij, both of whom assume texts have singular, fixed meanings (which may be the reason why both have found scholarship not just unhelpful but irrelevant).

For Islamophobes, Muslims don’t have agency, but the Qur’an does. (This might be why some Islamophobes have proposed banning the Qur’an.) If this discussion is hard to follow because the material is foreign, consider what would happen if we applied Islamophobia’s logic to Western affairs. Imagine how we’d react to the proposition that reading the Bible explains George W.’s war against Iraq?

This would be strange, to say the least, but we could say the same for subway ads that quote Muslim scripture beside scenes of terrible violence, as if all we need to understand the one is the other. One sure sign of an Islamophobe is this: you need only remove a few words here and there and their argument pertains with equal vehemence to the West, or Christianity, or Europe.

‘All Muslims are x,’ they say, ‘because some Muslims do x.’ Surely the stuff Western civilization was built off of.

 V. One Of Us Is Rubber And The Other Is Glue

Many Islamophobes desperately want to be engaged, because such engagement promises credibility. But before the debate begins, they dismiss the terms around which it might be structured, and evince little interest in the questions any such debate would require us to ponder:

What is a religion?  

Can a religion explain human behavior?  

What is history?  

What sources count in a respectable history?  

How do we weigh different sources against each other?  

How can you debate the applicability of history to the present with people who are usually only superficially aware of history, and then really only superficially aware of history in a superficial sense? History is not simply the ability to memorize dates and events; it is an attempt to understand human affairs through theories, methods, and sources that people can have sophisticated conversations over.

Historians don’t make these things up to exclude non-specialists, although sadly sometimes that’s the effect, but present them so that we can have conversations between people who disagree—a conversation, after all, requires common ground. You cannot productively engage someone whose mind is already made up.

Or you could, and it’d be like talking to Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Anti-Christ, Joel Richardson’s rather self-explanatory title. Islamophobia, as we will see, has its own histories, its own specialists, and its own echo chamber. Because of course it cannot exist in a world of peer review.

Richardson’s book works like this: he has a conclusion in mind, and then searches, without any consistent methodology or even concern for basic correspondence with reality, for corroborating evidence. It’s a terrible, terrible book, and it’s important to the degree that it’s atrocious. Because it reveals Islamophobia for us.

Richardson’s self-appointed task is to prove that the anti-Christ will be a Muslim, for which reason he apparently needs to do two things: refute other anti-Christologies (I really don’t want to know what to call this genre) and make things up. Sometimes the two go together in wonderful ways.

At one point in this book, Richardson presents his explanation of a certain prophecy—one that contradicts other, established names in his field. I’m not sure what he was talking about, except that he was trying to tell us that the Scythians were not the people foretold in this philosophy.

The Scythians, a nomadic Iranian people, were too diverse and variegated to be the people this prophecy foretold, Richardson argued. This means, of course, that Richardson recognizes that a people can be complicated and dense mass of individuals, with less coherence than “Haroon” or “Joel Richardson”.

Now comes the bigot’s trademark. One can be generous to one’s own side, or generous in the abstract, but utterly incapable of the same when it comes to “the other.”  Here’s what I mean: for Richardson, Islam is a single, pseudo-religious, practically Satanic political project, realized through a totalitarian Islamic Caliphate that was birthed in 622 and continues through 1923.

Predictably Richardson never marshals evidence for this absurd claim of historical continuity, because that would be impossible, no matter how many maps he superimposes onto another. For those who may not be familiar with Islamic history, imagine an author arguing that Charlemagne’s empire, the Spanish American empire, NATO, and the Russian Empire were all one thing, and also that it was evil. (This is by the way how al-Qaeda portrays the West.)

In the middle of this exercise in apocalyptic meteorology, Richardson informs us that the Islamic Caliphate was a uniquely aggressive and Arabizing force. As an example of this forced Arabization, he names the Ottoman Empire, which was the “Islamic Caliphate” from 1517 to 1923; reading this, two things happened.

First, I laughed out loud. Second, many of my fellow Barnes and Noble customers looked at me uncomfortably. To #1: I’d laughed because Richardson called the Ottoman Empire an Arabizing agent. To #2: People looked at me with alarm because they wondered: why would this brown man in Arabizing scarf, reading this book about the apocalypse, laugh so hard except that he knows something we do not and should?

The Ottomans, who ruled Eastern Europe and much of the Middle East for hundreds of years, are named for Osman, son of Ertugrul, a Turkic chieftain of western Anatolia. ‘Turkic’ does not mean ‘Arab’. They don’t even have any letters in common. The Ottomans later styled themselves Padishahan-e Rum, which is Persian for ‘Emperors of Rome,’ which meant the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire they claimed to claim; that empire was not Arab because it was Hellenic.

And I don’t want to be standing near you when you confuse Persian for Arab.

If anything, the late Ottomans faced rebellions by Arab nationalists in the 19th and 20thcentury because they stressed Turkish as a vehicle for modern education. How the Ottomans could be fairly characterized a force for Arabization escapes me, reality, history, and peer review. There is so much more such nonsense and it fills up hundreds of pages.  If you ever come across this book, take a moment and be silent.  Many trees died for this.

(Actual History: (a) Osman’s Dream, by Caroline Finkel; (b) The Ottoman Age of Exploration, by Giancarlo Casale; (c) The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, by Richard Bulliett; (d) Destiny Disrupted, by Tamim Ansary.)

  VI. ‘I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam’

Now, you could say, what’s the harm? Well—you present history inaccurately, lie and obfuscate, all to propose the end times can be mapped out today, which is cool, because you’ve already got all these ridiculous maps. So why not, I don’t know, invade a country preemptively? One cannot insist on innocuous analysis when one’s last chapter is ‘yes, Islam is evil, but Muslims are not.’

While Muslims might be too stupid to know Islam is evil—sound familiar?— we can rescue them from their ignorance—sound familiar?  This is Richardson’s final argument, and it leaves me very confused.  Secular France and Christian Richardson pursue a similar line: Muslims are coerced into their behavior, and must be saved.  France looks to itself, in the form of liberating legislation; Richardson asks Christians to do that work, but really leaves it to Jesus.

The difference here is over the West. Which West is Islam’s opposite? Because, of course, it’ll be that West’s opposite no matter how you answer. That’s the first serious problem. All things are created in pairs, so here’s the second serious problem: how can you hate and love what is basically the same thing?

I mean sometimes relationships turn out that way, but I don’t suspect that, at his heart, Joel Richardson is a tortured lover. So I don’t get how you can hate a religion while loving its followers, especially since a religion is in so many ways who its followers are and what they do? I’m not suggesting a religion and its followers are the same, but neither are they wholly separate universes, such that you can plausibly lust for one while treating the other as Satan’s spawn.

When some physicists argue that quantum tunneling produces consciousness from literally nothing, they unwittingly described Richardson’s book.  What they may not know, or even care to know, is how ubiquitous the sentiment is.

 VII. Newt Gingrich

Islamophobia finds its way into all kinds of places; consider Ian Frazier’s wonderful Travels in Siberia, which does an admirable job of humanizing a part of the world we often associate with misery, death, and authoritarian backwardness. Frazier casually interjects his opinions of Islamic history, playing a hopscotch game with time and space. The effect is not pretty.

Not only is Frazier wrong, he’s got it backwards. He compares Bin Laden to Saladin, whereas by context it was the Crusaders who were the barbarians of that age, and Saladin the magnanimous warrior. Frazier presents a history that assumes a common set of motivations for actors in very different contexts. At the same time, he goes out of his way to try to humanize Russia and Siberia in particular.

Ian Frazier’s book came to my attention when it was excerpted in The New Yorker; as it turns out, The New Yorker funded his expedition. Now, of course, I don’t think his opinions of Islamic history are that magazine’s, and I don’t think Frazier is some kind of bigot. But still, the audience for Richardson’s book would not seem to be the audience for Frazier’s, and yet we spy similarly sloppy claims.

If you pay close attention, Islam and Muslims are frequently dismissed and derided by a range of voices from the left to the right—Bill Maher to Newt Gingrich. We need only look to the 2012 Presidential campaign, especially on the Republican side, to see how terrible this conversation became. To this end: Because Muslims are assumed to be an “other,” they are exempted from Americanness.

How can someone who supposedly stands for not-us also be us?

During the Ground Zero mosque debacle, much of this kind of thinking was revealed. I’ll pick just one example—Newt Gingrich, who suggested during the controversy that there should not be a mosque near Ground Zero unless and until there was a church in Mecca. There’s so much to work with there that I’ve broken it down into three points—that’s as much as you’d want, I think.

First, Gingrich believes that American Muslims, because they are Muslim, are Saudis, and hence we can tell the Saudi government what to do, because of course the Saudi government, which is an absolute monarchy that does not answer to its citizens, would firstly listen to people who are not its citizens and also live on the other side of the planet and secondly had a say in the lower Manhattan mosque project.

Second, Gingrich associates America with a church, as opposed to say democracy; he wants a symbol of Christianity—read, America—in Mecca. But this picture is all wrong. American culture dominates the world, while the Muslim world struggles to produce anything. Indeed, a visitor to Mecca is undoubtedly struck by the degree of its Americanization—there are Burger Kings, KFC, a Starbucks, a Victoria’s Secret, a Sbarro’s, and even a Paris Hilton store.

Third, Gingrich believes Mecca is responsible for Ground Zero. Other Islamophobes have suggested nuking Mecca in response to terrorist attacks; Gingrich’s reasoning mirrors theirs. Islam is, in this worldview, a kind of global conspiracy headquartered in Mecca, which is not even the capital of a country, but is incidentally located in a country that many Muslims openly detest.

The Islamophobe desperately needs us to believe Islam is utterly unlike us, but simultaneously like us.  (Islamophobia makes no sense.) Because America is a country, Islam must be a country, too.  If “they” attacked our capital on 9/11, we should attack “their” capital, which somehow becomes Mecca.  And this takes on more pernicious forms of reasoning.

While condemning Islam for being allergic to secularism (creeping Shari’ah and all that), ostensibly Christian Islamophobes actively work for the Christianization of American politics and law.  They see no contradiction in this.

 The Islamophobic attempt to portray Islam as a coherent entity (i.e., as in Richardson’s book) suggests the need for Islam to serve as a rival to the West, or specifically America, when there is no such possibility, beginning with the fact that America is a superpower and Islam is a religious tradition (apples and oranges, except this is more like breakfast nooks and mailboxes); even a comparison of America with Muslim countries is on nearly every measure no comparison.

 VIII. Having Cake v. Eating Cake

If you have made it this far, then you can guess what comes next and last, because it is worst of all: the actual engagement with the Islamophobe. I offer you snippets from a conversation with a noted voice of the Islamophobic fringe, who I had the opportunity to engage—albeit on Twitter—some weeks ago. The topic was of course Islamophobia.

After a long and meandering conversation, in which anything any reasonable person could say was twisted and repurposed (quite a feat in Twitter’s narrow spaces), we got to the issue of Islamophobia. (For which reason you can read this article.) I offered recent Eastern European affairs as an answer to the question, ‘Is there any such thing as Islamophobia in the real world?’

Specifically, this means Bosnia, where tens of thousands of Muslim women were raped and well over one hundred thousand killed, in an attempt at ethnically cleansing that country to make way for a ‘Greater Serbia’ (there were atrocities committed by all sides, but disproportionately it was a war in which Muslims were the victims and radical Serb nationalists the aggressors).

My interlocutor suggested that the Bosnian genocide might have been a response to the election of Alija Ali Izetbegovic as Bosnia’s President. My interlocutor confused ‘religious’ for ‘Islamist,’ and suggested Izetbegovic’s religiosity had “spooked” the Serbs into committing genocide. And I was like, yeah, totally, I see what you mean, because when I’m scared, I turn on the lights, phone a friend, or commit genocide.

It is true that Izetbegovic was influenced by Islam; but, for him, Islam was no different than Catholicism was for many Poles, who reached out to a religious leader (the Pope) to advance a political agenda of liberation.  Izetbegovic went to jail for his religiously-inflected activism, which isn’t surprising considering Yugoslavia was a Communist state at the time.

And what was so inflammatory, that might have provoked genocide? Izetbegovic argued that a healthy model for a Muslim society would be one in which religion was part of government. His example was not Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Afghanistan, but the rogue state we call the United Kingdom. Surely the stuff nightmares are made of.

Yugoslavia started to fall apart in the early 90’s. First Slovenia broke off and then Croatia, leaving Bosnia, only 44% Muslim and nearly 30% Serbian, attached to a federation demographically dominated by Serbia. Izetbegovic moved for independence, and here is the logic of the Islamophobe, revealed in all its ugliness.

Because a country that’s 44% Muslim elects a religious Muslim as its president, after years under an atheist and totalitarian regime, and in fear for their freedom, militarily superior Serbian militias preemptively engage in a mass rape and slaughter. This allegedly constitutes a rebuttal of my point about Islamophobia.

But let’s continue with the argument, no matter how outraged we should be. Bosnian Serbs and Croats could have allied; with 56% of the country’s population, the two could have together demanded a secular constitution.  Considering that Bosnian Muslims suffered the worst of the war by far, it’s hard to see what leverage they would’ve had against this commonsense demand.

Indeed, it’s hard to see why the Croats would not want to preempt an “Islamist” agenda with their fellow Christian Serbs, except that there wasn’t any, and the radical Serbs were busy ethnically cleansing many Croat areas of Croatia and Bosnia—for being Catholic and also because these Catholics lived in places those Orthodox Serbs wanted.

It is a mark of how skewed our discourse has become that we do not call these radical Serbs “Christian fundamentalists” or “Christian terrorists,” although they justified much of what they did in the name of Christendom, against a conjured “Turkish” enemy—Bosnians and Serbs are ethnically similar, and the Bosnian Muslims no more Turks than Richardson believes the Ottomans are Arabs.

It’d be irresponsible to argue that religion explains these wars—but religion is doubtless part of the story. You can’t kill tens of thousands and rape thousands on the basis of their religion, and claim religion has nothing to do with it. One does not slaughter a people until one has hated them sufficiently to go from seeing them as individuals to seeing them as a mass to be done away with.

And that hate is Islamophobia.

Fears of “creeping Shari’ah”—the manufactured fear Islamophobes haunt America with, too—was a recurring meme in Bosnia, and equally fictive. In America, it’s used to justify bigoted legislation; in Yugoslavia, it was deployed with other rhetoric and led to genocide.  By no means am I arguing the same conditions will pertain here.

But I point to the inconsistency of the Islamophobia industry Wajahat Ali described: they refuse to admit to any kind of bias against Islam or Muslims because that bias is the ground they stand on. And to claim there is no such thing as bias against Islam or Muslims when, in the past decades, such bias has led to the deaths of tens of thousands in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Caucasus, leaves me dumbfounded.

 In Conclusion: Looking Forward

I am not so dense as to argue that Muslims have always behaved innocently, and that is not the conclusion I want you to walk away with. We have more than enough examples of heinous acts committed by Muslims, sometimes justified in the name of Islam. In fact the first article I wrote for this magazine condemned the Islamic Republic of Iran for the hijacked 2009 election and subsequent crackdown.

But I’m arguing that Muslims have been targeted in the past and present because they’re Muslim—there is such a thing as anti-Muslim bigotry. Islamophobia is our word for that bigotry, and must be seen and rejected for what it is: ignorance, deliberate or unintentional, used in the past to justify genocide, and used today to bully, circumscribe, panic, or oppress.

Americans deserve better.  Certainly bigotry is profoundly contrary to the values we aspire to.  More pragmatically, Islamophobia is just plain bad for America. If we want to understand Islam, we should have accurate information—we wouldn’t want those who keep our country safe relying on people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

If we want to know how to navigate a tumultuous Muslim world, we should have real authorities and clear-headed observers, not ideologues and propagandists. Considering how important Islam is in our world—Muslims are the world’s youngest religion (by age), number nearly one-fourth of humanity, and live all over the planet—what good do we imagine Islamophobia will do for America?

Islamophobia claims to tell the truth about Islam, free of bigotry and political correctness, but it does no such thing.  Its only real legacy is one of bad foreign policy choices, too many incidents of domestic discord, all kinds of missed opportunities, a growing trust deficit here and abroad, and probably many burned bridges.  We don’t know how many, because we’ve no way to count.

By Haroon Moghul: Associate Editor Haroon Moghul is a Fellow at the New America Foundation and the Center on National Security at Fordham Law. He is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and the author of a novel, The Order of Light (Penguin 2006). Haroon has been a guest on CNN, BBC, NPR, Russia Today, The History Channel and al-Jazeera.


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Arabs, not Islam, spread by the sword

THE ABBASSID REVOLT against the Umayyads

THE ABBASSID REVOLT against the Umayyads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pre-Islamic Arabia, like much of the rest of the pre-modern world, was a place of continual low-intensity warfare. (So was Europe, which is why castles and fortifications litter the continent’s landscape, and why Shakespeare’s historical plays almost always feature violent conflicts and intrigue.)

But when Muhammad came along and when, in response to his preaching, people from various Arabian tribes began to join the Islamic community, he told them that they could no longer pillage and murder one another. They were now, in effect, members of a single faith-based super-tribe.

So their traditional urge to raid — again, not much different than that of every other tribe and petty kingdom worldwide — had to be turned outward. Which it was, and with great success. The Sassanid Persian Empire, one of the two great powers of the seventh century Middle East, fell under Arab control not many years after the Prophet’s death, and much of the rest of the Middle East, along with North Africa and Spain, fell to the Arabs within the next few decades.

So, were the Arabs’ defeated subjects compelled to accept Islam? Was the ultimatum really “Convert or die?”

No. In fact, for the first two centuries or so, conversions to Islam were often actually discouraged. In Egypt, which seems to be roughly typical, fully three centuries were required before Muslims constituted a bare majority of the population.

Why would the Arab overlords of the Middle East discourage conversions to their Islamic faith? The answer lies within the politics of the Arab empire itself.

After Muhammad’s relatively sudden death in 632 AD, his immediate successors, known as the four “orthodox caliphs,” were chosen from among the ranks of his earliest disciples. But then, in 661 AD, a new dynasty called the Umayyads took power, based in Damascus.

The Umayyads were descendants of Muhammad’s archenemies in Mecca. Mu’awiyah, the first Umayyad ruler, was the son of Abu Sufyan, who had led armies in battle against the Prophet and the Muslims.

By William J. Hamblin and Daniel Peterson, For the Deseret News


Islam & Sword:

This is another successful innovation (source). Although some other religions have spread themselves using force, they had very little justification from their own religious doctrines to do so. Not so with Islam. Expanding by conquest is very much accepted and encouraged by the idea-collection. Islamic teachings present it this way: The non-Muslims need to be saved from the sin of following laws other than Allah’s. If they won’t voluntarily change their laws to Shari’a, then it is a Muslim’s duty to insist. The world cannot be at peace until every government on earth follows the laws of Allah. Mohammad’s own experience showed the example — an example, says the Qur’an 91 times, that every Muslim should follow. At first, Mohammad tried to spread Islam by peaceful means. After thirteen years he’d gained 150 converts. But then he changed tactics and started using caravan raids, warfare, executions, ransoming captives, and assassination, and within ten years he converted tens of thousands. After he died, his followers used the same tactics and converted millions. And by now it is one and a half billion. The use of warfare combines synergistically and powerfully with the instruction to create an Islamic state. So Islam spread quickly as their armies got bigger. They conquered and set up Islamic states, most of which have lasted to this day, and the laws within an Islamic state make Islam very difficult to dislodge. The laws also make it very advantageous to convert to Islam. This is one of the most effective methods ever invented for getting an idea-collection followed by huge numbers of people. It’s a method of control and indoctrination similar to those used successfully in communist and totalitarian states. But as you’ll discover below, Islam makes unique use of the power of the law to enforce complete conversion to the religion.

Islam started under unique conditions. All other major religions were started within an already-existing state. Islam is an historical exception to this rule. Any organized government will, of course, put a stop to violent uprisings of a rebellious political group — especially one that wants to wage war and apply its own system of law. Christianity arose within the Roman Empire, for example. If Christianity had been a militant or political uprising, Rome would probably have killed or imprisoned the followers. Probably many military or political religions did start up then, but we’ve never heard of them. They couldn’t get off the ground. But Islam arose in Arabia when there was no central ruling power. The whole area was comprised of individual tribes. Under those circumstances, conversion by war and the use of force was possible.

Warfare and Humanity:

It is irrational to ignore the lust of blood in stubborn man as a form of evil which has to be combated “within the limits”, set by Allah. At the time of creation of Adam: “The angels said: Will You place there one who will make mischief and shed blood? ..”(Qur’an;2:30). It may undoubtedly be realized that human beings often resort to war without solid justification, at times over petty matters. One has to look at history, the past and present.  The motives of war could be many, broadly they are; (1) Pursuit of trade and to gain economic advantage, (2) Spread of influence or religion, (3) Desire for security and political power, and (4) Combination of one or more of these three. At different times and in different places, different motives are dominant. War is a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between political units, such as states or nations or between rival political factions of the same state or nation. It is a popular myth among critics that Islam was spread through wars [Jihad] ordained upon Muslims through Qur’an. Warfare is one of the ways to defend oneself when all peaceful efforts and persuasion fails, and aggressor try to impose its will upon weak. Human history is witness to the fact that those who did not resist oppression and aggression suffered.

Warfare [armed struggle, Qital] was also permissible in the previous scriptures. It is mentioned in Qur’an: “Indeed God has purchased from the believers their persons and their wealth and in return has promised them paradise; they fight in the cause of Allah and slay and are slain. This is a true promise which is binding on Him mentioned in Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an; and who is more true in fulfilling his promise than Allah? Rejoice, therefore, in the bargain which you have made, and that is a mighty achievement.”(Qur’an;9:111). As regards actual ‘fighting with the sword’ there has been some difference in theological theories at different times, but very little in the practice of those who framed those theories.


Forced Conversion to Islam not Permissible:

Conversion by force is prohibited in Islam. Allah says: “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from the (way of ) error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.”(Qur’an;2:256). “So if they argue with you, tell them: “I have submitted myself entirely to Allah and so have those who follow me.” Then ask those who are given the Book and those who are illiterates (not having revealed scriptures): “Will you also submit yourselves to Allah?” If they become Muslims they shall be rightly guided but if they turn back, you need not worry, because your sole responsibility is to convey the Message. God is watching all His servants very closely.”(Qur’an;3:20). “Call people to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and best advice, and reason with them, if you have to, in the most courteous manner: for your Lord knows best who strays from His Way and He knows best who is rightly guided.”(Qur’an;16:125). “O Muhammad, declare: “O mankind! The truth has come to you from your Lord! He that follows guidance (Right Way) follows it for his own good, and he that goes astray does so at his own risk; for I am not a custodian over you.”(Qur’an;10:108). “Say “The Truth is from your Lord”: let him who will believe and let him who will reject (it): for the wrongdoers We have prepared a Fire…. (Qur’an;18:29). “Will they not then ponder on the Qur’an?..”(Qur’an;4:82). “Say, O Muhammad: “Would you dispute with us concerning God, who is our Lord and your Lord as well? We shall be accountable to Him for our deeds and you for yours; to Him alone we are devoted.”(Qur’an;2:139). “And argue not with the followers of earlier revelations unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.(Qur’an;29:46). “Have you ever seen the one who has taken his own desires as his god? Would you take the responsibility of guiding him?”(Qur’an;25:43). “If there are some among you who believe in the message with which I have been sent and others who disbelieve it, then be patient until Allah judges between us, for He is the best of all judges.”(Qur’an;7:87). “He creates man out of (mere) drop of sperm: and lo! This same being shows himself endowed with the power to think and argue”(Qur’an;16:4).

It is well known historic fact that after eight centuries of the Muslims inSpainthey were totally eliminated from that country after Christian reconquest. If the Muslims had used force, military or economic there would not have been any Christian left inSpainto have  kicked the Muslims out. One cannot charge Muslims with using the sword to convert Spaniards to the Islamic religion. Today, Islam is still spreading all over the world and Muslims have NO sword!! The Muslims were also the masters ofIndiafor almost thousand years, but they did not force Islam down the Hindus. InSpainand inIndia, the Muslims were no paragons of virtue, yet they obeyed the Qur’anic injunctions. Indonesia and Malaysia in the Far East and The majority of the people on the East coast of Africa as far down as Mozambique, as well as the bulk of the inhabitants on the West coast of the continent are Muslims, but history does not record any invading hoards of Muslims from anywhere. The Muslim traders and preachers through their good conduct and moral righteousness achieved the miracle of  conversion. This forced De Lacy O’Leary in to write : ‘History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most  fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.’ (“Islam at the Crossroads”London, 1923, p.8).


More at: Jihad: Myth & Reality

FBI training ‘critical of Islam’

An FBI review of agent training material critical of Islam uncovered 876 offensive or inaccurate pages that had been used in 392 presentations, including a PowerPoint slide that said the bureau can sometimes bend or suspend the law.

The bureau has not released the material, but Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois described a few pages of it in a letter asking FBI Director Robert Mueller to institute five changes so that inappropriate FBI training on Islam does not happen again.

The FBI has now confirmed the number of inaccurate or offensive pages and presentations. The bureau also said the documents that are either offensive or inaccurate have been taken out of training presentations.

Every trainer was identified and interviewed by an FBI inspection team and the team determined that the problems were performance-related – poor judgment or inadequate training, rather than intentional misconduct, said FBI spokesman Michael Kortan.

As a result, instructors were counselled and in some cases removed from training positions.

Mr Durbin said he is disturbed that the FBI does not plan to produce a written report on the six-month review. He said he wants the agents who received the bad training to be retained.

It began last September after the online publication Wired.com reported that the FBI had discontinued a lecture in which the instructor told agent trainees in Virginia that the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be violent. The analyst subsequently gave a similar lecture at an FBI-sponsored public-private partnership in New York City.

Mr Kortan declined to address the issue of retraining. Out of 160,000 pages of training material reviewed, just 876 pages – fewer than 1% – were “inconsistent with the FBI’s core values,” said Mr Kortan. “We strongly disagree that the analysts being trained were led to believe that we actually bend or suspend the law in any way. The one reference used in the slide was poorly described.”

The trainer using the PowerPoint slide, the FBI said, was simply short-handing the additional legal authority law enforcement officials have in counterterrorism investigations through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the criminal code. The PowerPoint slide, which was in a section on Muslims, said that “under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others.”

Mr Kortan said: “Mistakes were made, and we are correcting those mistakes. Through this review process, we recognised that we lacked a centralised process to ensure all training materials were reviewed and validated. We are addressing that gap so this does not happen again.”


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The despicable act of Quràn burning by US Soldiers in Afghanistan

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Afghans, who see the Quràn burnings as an illustration of what they perceive as foreign disrespect for their culture and religion. They are demanding not just apologies, but a local trial and the death penalty for the Koran burners.

By S. M. Hali
Tensions continue to run extremely high in Afghanistan after the deliberate act of desecrating the Holy Quràn by US troops. More than 30 people have been killed in clashes since it emerged that copies of the Muslim holy book and other religious materials had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a large US base north of Kabul. The despicable act left the Afghans stunned; in a frenzy of rage, they resorted to rioting and arson. The US quest for winning over the hearts and minds of the Afghan people suffered a major setback due to the unfortunate incident.
Perhaps there is lack of understanding of the deep sentiments of the Afghan Muslims and the reverence they hold the Holy Scriptures in. Ordinary Afghans, even if they are illiterate, keep their personal copies of the Holy Quràn wrapped in covers and pace them at a high and safe place in their houses to preserve the sanctity of the Holy Book. The act of US troops callously disregarding the holiness of the Book and dumping the pages in the incinerator pit broke the hearts of the devout Afghans. The news of the desecration of the Holy Quràn spread like wildfire and the relations between the local Afghans and the US troops became tense and the violence became widespread. The incident swiftly spiraled out of control leaving dozens of people dead, including four US troops killed by their Afghan counterparts.
Meanwhile, Afghan authorities launched a manhunt across the country for a driver they suspect in the killing of two US military advisers who were shot to death at an Afghan ministry. International advisers working at Afghan ministries were recalled out of fears of another attack. In Kunduz province, thousands of demonstrators started out protesting peacefully but then the group turned violent as they tried to enter the district’s largest city. People in the crowd fired on police and threw grenades at a US base on the city outskirts, while seven NATO troops were wounded and one protester was killed when troops fired out from the US base. A car bomb claimed nine lives outside Jalalabad airport.
President Obama and other US officials have apologized for the burnings, which they said were a mistake. But their apologies have failed to quell the anger of Afghans, who see the Quràn burnings as an illustration of what they perceive as foreign disrespect for their culture and religion. They are demanding not just apologies, but a local trial and the death penalty for the Koran burners. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has condemned the incident, renewed his calls for calm in a televised address to the nation lest the enemy exploits the situation.
To throw salt in the wound, Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich demanded a formal apology from the Afghans for killing US soldiers. The incident has provided more fodder to the Taliban, who have proved more than a match for the US troops. They are likely to exploit the heinous incident to their advantage and further inflame the Afghan angst. In a year of Presidential election in the USA, Obama is facing a multitude of problems. A major challenge for the Obama administration was recuperation of the economic setbacks inherited from George W. Bush. Obama tried to turn around the economic meltdown by attempting to take people into confidence by bringing a new law on signing economic stimulus plan to expand state health insurance program and enhancing bank systems, but his critics focused on a different issue, taking a narrow view of Obama’s policy announcing plans for the closure of the Guantanamo prison in Cuba, incarcerating the so called Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements. The imprisoned suspects were shifted to Kandahar and Bagram bases Jail which later on proved far worse than the Guantanamo Bay prison. Consequently Washington decided to deploy additional US troops in Afghanistan to meet the growing threat from the Taliban. The US defence planners’ assessment of the threat was inadequate in the face of guerrilla tactics and hit and run strategy of the Taliban, which took a heavy toll of the US and NATO troops. Despite the troops’ surge and much hyped Marjah and Kandahar operations, which failed to achieve the desired results, the Obama administration, which had announced a drawdown of the US troops from Afghanistan by 2014, decided to engage the Taliban in a dialogue for peace.
The peace talks too have undergone numerous ups and down. The instances of Taliban imposters making away with “reconciliation money” and the cold blooded assassination of former Afghan President and head of the peace and reconciliation committee, Burhanuddin Rabbani are still fresh in the minds to make US administration wince with discomfort. Ultimately, the process has gone underway, with the US providing tacit approval to the Taliban setting up an office at Doha, Qatar and meeting with selected representatives.
The more than ten years’ US war campaign in Afghanistan, which has become the longest in American history has taken a major toll of not only US economy but also of the morale and mental health of US soldiers. Frayed nerves and psychologically battered US troops have committed unthinkable crimes in Afghanistan. The transgressions of the US Kill Teams, the urinating over Afghan dead bodies by US Marines, abusing Afghan children, the reprehensible nigh raids and indiscriminate moral turpitude of US soldiers have left a dark smear on the US image. The much publicized case of the US diplomat, who resigned in 2009, condemning the war in Afghanistan, stating that the war in Afghanistan was aimed to occupy its natural resources did not help matters. The US drone attacks continue to take a large toll of civilian life and further alienate the US. In face of domestic protests in USA, Obama is likely to expedite the drawdown of US troops. Eleven years in, if US forces are still burning Quràns in a deeply religious Muslim country, it’s way too late and they should leave posthaste.


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5 Ridiculous Things you Probably Believe About Islam

A very funny and enlightening piece from Cracked.com. While some things are a bit simplified much of it is on point and there are a few new interesting facts that aren’t well known.
A conservative commentator recently made headlines by claiming 10 percent of all of the world’s Muslims are terrorists. An amazing claim, considering that equals 150 million terrorists and if each were to pull off an attack killing just 40 people, they could exterminate all non-Muslim life on earth.Either they’re not all that dedicated to terrorism, or the claim is utter insanity. [By Jacopo della Quercia; http://www.cracked.com%5D

Well, if there’s one thing everyone thinks of when they hear “Cracked.com” it’s “friend of Islam.” Which is why we feel compelled to clarify a few misconceptions for our readers. Also, there is no way this article will ever come back to haunt us in any way.
If You’re a Muslim Woman, You Have to Wear the Veil
For millions of people in the West, when you say “Islam,” the first mental image that pops into mind is this:

A two-person Scotch-garded version would sell like hotcakes.
A woman covered head to toe in a burqa. The truth is, if you could suddenly gather all of the Muslim women on the planet into one giant room and had to throw a football to someone wearing a burqa, it’d be next to impossible to complete that pass.
But the whole hide-them-under-a-veil thing must be pretty big among Muslim communities, otherwise Europe wouldn’t be all in in a dither over the things, pushing for bans and whatnot. Right?

Look at them there, plotting new ways to drive super-slow in the HOV lane.
After all, we all know that Islam hates women — the fact that Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that actually prohibits women from driving, or that only predominantly Muslim countries still usedeath by stoning as a punishment for adultery, proves it, right?
But Actually…
Thinking that all Muslim women have to dress like this…

Muslim women
…is like thinking that all Christian women have to dress like this:

Christian sects
That photo is from one of several small Christian sects that require women to dress like it’s Little House on the Prairie.
So for instance, in France they have about 3 million Muslim women. French police decided to figure out how many of them wore burqas and/or niqabs and found the number to be … 367.

Then again, these were French police.
Not 367,000, but 367, a number so small that from a statistical point of view, it’s barely enough to register as a margin of error. As for the rest of Europe, the numbers are even more disastrous for the burqa business (for instance, Belgium has 500,000 Muslims, a couple dozen wear the burqa).
Yes, there are Middle Eastern countries where the veils are required by law (namely Iran and Saudi Arabia) and combined those countries have less than 5 percent of the world’s Muslims. There are actually more Muslim countries that outright ban the wearing of the veils than there are that require them. They can do that because wearing a veil is not required in Islam but is more of a custom, depending on where you live and who’s in charge.

Much like hot pants.
Hey, speaking of which, try this number on for size: Of the five most populous Muslim-majority nations, four of them have elected female heads of state.
So there’s a fantastic chance that in 2012, Sarah Palin will be campaigning for an achievement that Muslim ladies have already accomplished.

We bet Megawati Sukarnoputri knows the United States doesn’t have a Department of Law.
#4. Our Founding Fathers Would Never Have Tolerated This Muslim Nonsense!
It’s easy to stand on a soapbox and publicly bluster about what you think the Founding Fathers would think about the godless, multicultural United States today. After all, these were Christian, God-fearing men, damn it. They certainly wouldn’t put up with all this tolerance for these terrorist religions.

Thomas Jefferson, moments before leaping into the air on a giant eagle and drop-kicking Saladin.
It’s a good thing some Americans are standing up for good old-fashioned American values andpassing laws to prohibit Islamic law from taking over the U.S., because that’s totally around the corner! Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson is smiling in his grave!
But actually…
Even if they were staunch Christians (or deists, whatever), plenty of the Founding Fathers had a healthy admiration for the Muslim faith. Thomas Jefferson, for example, taught himself Arabic using his own copy of the Quran and hosted the first White House Iftar during Ramadan.

Jefferson believed in celebrating the deliciousness of all world religions.
John Adams hailed the Islamic prophet Muhammad as one of the great “inquirers after truth.” Benjamin Rush, who was so Christian he wanted a Bible in every school, also said he would rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammad “inculcated upon our youth” than see them growdeprived “of a system of religious principles.” Benjamin Franklin once declared: “Even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.” Even George Washington personally welcomed Muslims to come work for him at Mount Vernon.
So, why all this Founding Father/Muslim love? Probably because Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah of Morocco was the first world figure to recognize the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain in 1777. Another reason was that the Founding Fathers were smart enough to distinguish between terrorists and everybody else on the whole damn planet, as demonstrated in the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797. It was in this agreement that the U.S. declared: “The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Mussulmen [Moslems].

Another possible translation.
#3.“Muslim” Equals “Arab”
Remember that crazy lady with the Einstein hair who asked John McCain if Barack Obama was anArab? No? Well, let us refresh your memory:

The instant John McCain realized that he would never, ever be president.
We’re willing to bet there’s more than a 20 percent chance this woman meant to say “Muslim” but accidentally said “Arab” because same thing, right? And even if you’re not in the tea party camp, where you’re convinced “Arab” and “Muslim” are interchangeable, you’ve probably operated under a similar assumption: that non-Jewish Middle Eastern people are Muslim and that most Muslims live in the Middle East.
But actually…
Only about 20 percent of the entire world’s Muslim population is Arab or North African. For comparison, about 22 percent of the global Christian population is African, yet when somebody says “Christian,” you don’t immediately picture a dude from Africa. Equating “Muslim” with “Arab” makes just as much sense.

That’d be like associating “Kansas” with “hate-filled douchebags”.
While we in the West have been conditioned to associate Islam with the Middle East, a whopping61.9 percent of all Muslims — aka a supermajority — don’t live in the Middle East at all; most Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region. Indonesia alone is home to more than 200 million Muslims, and the Indian subcontinent has roughly a half-billionMuslims.
It works the other way, too. For example, if you think being Arab guarantees you being Muslim these days, well, we are sorry to disappoint. As much as 10 percent of the world’s Arab population is Christian (that’s more than 14 million people). That means there are 1 million more Arab Christians than, oh, we don’t know … the world’s entire Jewish population..
#2. Western Cultures Are Far More Humane Than the Bloodthirsty Muslims
Even before the whole terrorism thing, Islam had a reputation in the West for violence. Part of it has to do with how abruptly Islam was all up in everyone’s face. For instance, while Hinduism took about 1,000 years to spread through India, and Christianity took about 400 years to go from persecuted cult to the state religion of the Roman Empire, Islam went from one guy’s epiphany to the dominant political and religious force in the Middle East and North Africa in about 100 years.
So a lot of people have reached the conclusion that the religion spread like holy wildfire for one reason: the sword. The next logical leap from this viewpoint is that as a people, Muslims must be violent and barbaric conquerors. Even before 9/11, you saw this portrayal in popular culture all the time:

But actually…
Muhammad laid out some pretty progressive rules of warfare, and medieval Muslims out-niced the Christians in battle by a landslide. Especially since Muhammad personally issued “a distinct code of conduct among Islamic warriors” that included:
  • No killing of women, children or innocents — these might include hermits, monks or other religious leaders who were deemed noncombatants;
  • No wanton killing of livestock or other animals;
  • No burning or destruction of trees and orchards; and
  • No destruction of wells.

And no kicking with cleats on, Jeremy.
In short, Muhammad wanted his armies to fight like freaking hippies. During the freaking Dark Ages.And they did.
But the biggest territorial gains were made after Muhammad’s death, right? Maybe that was when Islam earned its bloodthirsty reputation? Not exactly. His successor codified the existing rules and made them the standard for his army. Which probably explains why the Muslim army conquering Europe “exhibited a degree of toleration which puts many Christian nations to shame,” in the words of one expert.

Plus, they built all sorts of nifty buildings.
So while Christian crusaders were beheading enemies and tossing their heads like oversized hacky sacks, their Muslim counterparts had a whole honor code that led them to feed the armies of their defeated enemies.
#1. Islam Is Stuck in the Dark Ages
There are really three big negative stereotypes about Islam — that it hates women, that it’s violent and that it hates any kind of scientific progress. We’ve covered the first two already, but how can you argue against the third? Their governments are based on ancient religious texts! And what diseases has Iran cured?

You guys could at least take out herpes or something.
But actually…
In the same way that not all Christians are Young Earth Creationists, plenty of modern Muslims see room for interpretation in the Quran. In fact, 45 percent of American Muslims in one poll said they see evolution as “the best explanation for the origin of human life on Earth,” which isn’t so shabby, considering only 24 percent of evangelical Christians believed the same. The percentage of Muslims embracing the scientific explanation for the origin of life was about the same as Americans as a whole (48 percent).

If they only knew how to communicate their views like we do …
And historically, they have a hell of a track record. Science and math as we know it wouldn’t even existwithout Islam. The Islamic Golden Age caused a revolution in virtually every field of human thought, during which they freaking invented algebra — and advanced everything from geography and exploration to the arts, architecture, philosophy, urban development, medicine and health.
The Muslims actually came pretty damn close to sharing all this brilliance with the truly ass-backward kingdoms of Christian Europe, since the Islamic caliphates blanketed every country they conquered with schools, libraries, public works and the most comprehensive system of social welfare on the planet. In fact, the case has been made that if the caliphates succeeded in conquering all of Europe an Italian Renaissance would have been unnecessary.

It would have saved us all a lot of dong-staring, too.
So, there’s that.
All right. Now we look forward to a completely civil and logical group of article comments.
For an astute analysis of all the arguments you’re about to read in the comment section, check out 10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On.
And stop by Linkstorm because spending as much time on the Internet is totally healthy for you.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create aninfograpic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!
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  • great article – it was freaking hilarious. im not sure it will convince anyone tho. it was so snarkastic, in fact, that im not sure ur target audience, uber-fundamentalist christian islamophobes will continue reading past the 1st few paragraphs. chances r, they’ll tell themselves that there is no evidence 2 support ur claims and that u r’nt willing 2 listen 2 ne1 else’s opinions. if u would simply list the facts and prove and them 1 at a time, sans snark, and provide a place 4 clean discussion, u will convice mor people mor efficiently.
  • This was awesome and informative. As usual. Thanks cracked!
  • might also mention that the word “Islam” has the same Aramaic root as the Hebrew word “Shalom” and it means PEACE!! also oops arent those two culures an AWFUL lot alike, what with having the same original languge and the same holy book fo the first few thousand pages, and the same “no anthropomorphic representations of God” thing, and aren’t orthodox Jewish women required to cover their hair in public for much the same reason their Muslim counterparts wear a veil(saving their beauty for their hubby) in other words Islam isn’t even a big scary thing, it’s just another natural evolution of Middle Eastern Monotheism, just like Xtianity and Judaism, and the real reason for all the hype is fear of competition (ie it only took the Muslims 100 years to do what took Xtianity 700) blaming international terrorism(which is in truth largely a product of U.S. and European foreign and economc policies) on Islam is just like the mideival Xtians blaming Jews for the plague! (btw the first sytem of social welfare was instituted by king Ashoka, a devout Buddhist, in India several hundred years before Mohamed was a gleam in his fathers eye, or possibly tear in his mother’s burka;)
  • What does it mean when CRACKED is more reasonable and factual than a major political faction in America?
  • Well written, well spoken and very entertaining. Many blessings, whatever your beliefs for a peaceful new year!




  • Amazing article… Kudos on that!
    However i would just like to clarify one fact, I am a Muslim and I believe it is compulsory to wear the hijab. Anything that will unnecessarily attract the opposite gender should be covered. Unless the male is a relative or husband.
    Other than that, great job!
Well written and very true. I’m a young, progressive, modern Muslim woman living in Los Angeles. I know many Arab-American Muslim actors and standup comedians who are breaking the typical stereotype, although it took many years of being casted for roles like “terrorist #3″ and “cab driver.” Thank you for speaking up and sharing your thoughts in a creative manner which will hopefully open the eyes of the ignorant. When someone is ignorant, you can give them knowledge…but when their just flat out stupid, there’s no hope…