We all must speak out to counter anti-Muslim prejudice

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said that anti-Muslim rhetoric in America is bad news … Continued

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said that anti-Muslim rhetoric in America is bad news for anti-terrorism efforts: “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup.”

By many accounts, the man who could blunt the power of that coup is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious leader behind the planned Islamic Center near Ground Zero. The imam has been surprisingly mum on the issue while he travels in the Middle East. What message of faith could he offer to Muslims and non-Muslims alike that could turn this moment of division into a time of healing?

The question is not what Imam Rauf should say to counter anti-Muslim prejudice whipped up by Fox News distortions about plans to build an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, many blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center destruction. The people who are whipping up anti-Muslim frenzy aren’t listening to him or anyone else who is speaking truthfully and rationally. Imam Rauf is a moderate Muslim, a member of the mystic Sufi order, who has written a book called What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right With America. As Time Magazine says: “Park51’s main movers, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, are actually the kind of Muslim leaders right-wing commentators fantasize about: modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents — ironically, just the kind of “peaceful Muslims” whom Sarah Palin, in her now infamous tweet, asked to “refudiate” the mosque.” Equating Imam Rauf with terrorism is like conflating Martin Luther King with Timothy McVeigh, just because they both happen to be Christians.

Time Magazine link:
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2008432,00.html#ixzz0xiyc6byC

No, the question is, what should every other religious leader be saying? And the answer is-stop it, folks! Turn off the hate-spewing commentators and go out and meet your neighbors. Practice the tolerance, love and compassion that every religion at its best preaches. Remember–if we fail to support the right of any one religion to meet, worship and educate, our own rights are jeopardized.

Pagans know that when politics and public discourse descend to a hate-fest of blame and condemnation, we could be next. And as someone born Jewish just six years after the defeat of the Nazis, when you start burning books and demonizing religions, I start asking, “When will you be coming for me?”

Imam Rauf has already spoken. It’s up to the rest of us to stand with the voices calling defending the foundational American value of religious freedom.

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  • APaganplace

    That’s pretty much the size of it, Starhawk. I think it’s clear the kindof attitudes that are to be dealt with, and how much fear-mongering is coming from where,to exploit the grief of 9/11 families and the nation as a whole. I think everyone’s had their say by now: now it’s time to start listening. One thing I observe is that this ‘controversy’ really isn’t about what it’s ostensibly-about: as pointed out, this Cordoba project is about the best we could ask for in terms of peaceful relations between Muslim Americans and the rest of us, after all. But 9/11 is about more than that: to much of America it is the very focus of the displaced resentments of that whole decade, and all that the failed policies and incompetence of that administration could blame ‘9/11’ and ‘Muslims’ for. There’s a lot of frustration and general xenophobia out there. Obviously, there are politics involved, but I think a lot of the energy behind this is just *venting.*

  • susannahjillbaker

    Amen and Blessed Be, Starhawk. Islamophobia is burning like a brush fire, and those caught up in the blaze don’t want to see moderates or peaceful activists–too much reality will extinguish the flames. When a group begins to define itself “in opposition to” another, they begin to need that distorted view of “the other” in order maintain the identity they’ve constructed for themselves–an identity based on projection and, well, “refudiation”.

  • APaganplace

    I suggest: Let it pass.What’s next is the important part.

  • Athena4

    Damn straight, Starhawk! We’ve seen this same hate directed at us Pagans before. I only hope that, when it happens again (and it will), Imam Rauf and the Muslims of Park51 stand with us Pagans.Besides, Park51 is designed to be a LEED-certified Green Building. How cool is that?

  • AKafir

    “The question is not what Imam Rauf should say to counter anti-Muslim prejudice whipped up by Fox News distortions about plans to build an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, many blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center destruction.”There is a cure for ignorance, and it is not writing filled with errors opinions at WaPo. Are you saying that Howard Dean, Reid of Nevada, Silver of New York are all being influenced by the prejudice whipped up by Fox News? There truly is a cure for ignorance. Why don’t you call these three democrats and ask them why they disagree with Imam Rauf. But then in your world anyone who disagrees must be a bigot and a racist.

  • Athena4

    There are all kinds of interpretations of Islam, and they vary by region and denomination. A Sunni Muslim from Saudi Arabia would get culture shock around the Sunni Muslims in a more liberal country, such as Lebanon or Turkey – much less Indonesia. Just as Christianity has denominations, too. Is Catholicism the same in the U.S. as it is in Ireland, or even Italy? Look, I know that in the eyes of Islam, Pagans are considered to be guilty of the crime of “shirk”, or worshipping Gods other than Allah. In some places, that would give us an automatic death sentence. I know better than most that there are Islamic Radicals out there who want to attack America for whatever reason they claim to have. That’s why we have law enforcement, a military, and this whole “Homeland Security” apparatus. Islamic radicals have even attacked in Saudi Arabia, so don’t give me that “they hate America” crap. They hate everybody who doesn’t subscribe to their narrow-minded little seventh-century ideals.But, this is America. We have something called a Constitution, which is more than just the Second Amendment. It says that everyone has a right to practice their religion, regardless of what it is. We Pagans fight hard for our First Amendment rights. Regardless of my feelings about a religion, as an American, I feel that all Americans have the same rights as we Pagans do. The same goes for more odious religions, like Scientology. I may not like how or what you worship, but as long as it doesn’t hurt me, I’ll stand up for your right to worship.

  • AKafir

    Athena4: “I may not like how or what you worship, but as long as it doesn’t hurt me, I’ll stand up for your right to worship.” Allah says:And that is the reason why no Kaafir is allowed or has been allowed to enter Mecca since the time of Muhammad. When an American Muslim goes to Hajj and accepts that Pagans are not allowed in Mecca, S/He accepts that Pagans are filthy. Does that hurt you? Probably not. Does your American Muslim friend consider you and yours filthy? Why not ask some if Allah is wrong in saying that Pagans are filthy?

  • AKafir

    Apaganplace: Seems to me that *you’re* the one who wants to ‘label ‘everyone who disagrees with you.’Starhawk states “anti-Muslim prejudice whipped up by Fox News distortions” in the first sentence. The second charges that “The people who are whipping up anti-Muslim frenzy aren’t listening to him or anyone else who is speaking truthfully and rationally”. What does that mean? Who hates Fox News and why? I asked is Howard Dean ( and I assume you know who he is) or Reid or Silver are giving into anti-Muslim frenzy? People who disagree with putting up the 100 Million Dollars monument/center/Masjid a block from Ground Zero are not unreasonable, bigoted, racist, etc. I have no idea which unreasonable opinions you are talking about. No one in his/her right mind, that I know, would ever support or voice an “unreasonable” opinion. I doubt anyone ever knowingly or willingly really holds an unreasonable opinion. If one disagrees with another’s opinions, one can at least attempt to state first specifically which statement of theirs is “unreasonable” and then why? Ask any Muslim, for instance, if it is unreasonable to accept Allah’s command to treat Pagan’s as filthy. I am certain you will not find any. I know; I used to be a Muslim.

  • Navin1

    It seems to me that a person who doesn’t know english well enough to repudiate an opposition position should be stripped of citizenship.howd ya’all like them thar apples.:)hariaum

  • Navin1

    But more seriously,It is reasonable people who can differentiate a person, a human being from a set of ideas, an ideology. If we are clear that we oppose an ideology as islam and not a person as a muslim, we can certainly oppose a place of sustaining and promoting an ideology while not being muslim haters. It then becomes unreasonable to conflate the two and start shouting “bigot.”hariaum

  • Navin1

    And remember, their holy book does say god hates the infidel. Their most moral being does not hate infidelity, he hates the infidel. This god hates people – unreasonable – but that’s just my anti-islam bent.I refutiate myself sartorially.hariaum

  • garrafa10

    The author should travel to Mogadishu, Eastern or Southern Afghanistan, or Western Pakistan and declare her paganism openly. The reaction will be swift and severe, and Starhawk will become an unwilling internet superstar.

  • naksuthin

    So here we are 7 years, 600 billion dollars and 4000 American lives later …after great sacrifice to bring freedom, democracy and a better way of life to 30 million Iraqi Muslims…It’s like being married to a woman for 7 years and realizing, one day, that you are GAYWhen will Conservatives ever learn.

  • APaganplace

    “”The author should travel to Mogadishu, Eastern or Southern Afghanistan, or Western Pakistan and declare her paganism openly. The reaction will be swift and severe, and Starhawk will become an unwilling internet superstar. garrafa10 “”The idea of America is not to justify our behavior by comparing ourselves with worse intolerance to justify behaving in any way like that, here. There are Christians in America who’d treat us the same way, and in fact, on these very forums, some have tried to turn Islamphobia against *us* on some Christianist ‘If you’re not for us you’re against us’ footing.We have every reason to be concerned at the *intolerance* from *whatever* source. Isolating and alienating the Muslim American community from the very freedoms we’re most concerned about is no way to see them invested in those freedoms. The center is in part supposed to be a moderate place for communication and education, to counter extremism, and hopefully put things on a better track here in America and the world. I’m certainly not going to be the one insisting all Muslims live by interpretations of the Koran that say to kill or enslave me any more than I would of Christians, who have excuses enough of their own. Maybe some Christians out there know how *we* feel about what they say now,but the way to protect a free society is not to actually close it, yourself. From a Pagan point of view, in many ways how we could expect to be treated by either many Christians or many Muslims is… A generation or three in a free society. That’s all. Maybe this could be that generation for Muslims, too. The *point* is not wanting to. Valuing something else. And we’ve all got things to value more than that.

  • APaganplace

    (Oh, and, incidentally, telling Pagans, ‘Our religious intolerance is OK cause you’d get worse in Saudi Arabia!’ …isn’t any more reassuring than Muslims saying to us, ‘See, the Koran says we should tolerate Christians and Jews!’ ) ‘Better than Mogadishu’ is not sufficient standard.This is America.

  • Athena4

    Frankly, I don’t care if Moslems think that Paganism is filthy. So do a lot of Fundamentalist Christians, who throw Exodus 22:18 in our faces every chance they get. Frankly, I prefer to deal with the Moslems, who at least up front about things. I don’t have to go to Saudi Arabia. I admit to being curious about the Hajj, but only from a cultural standpoint. The Kaaba used to house statues of Pagan Gods and Goddesses prior to the dawn of Islam. They co-opted it, like the Christians co-opted the sacred Pagan sites, and built churches over them. And FYI, while I don’t know any Moslems personally, my husband has worked with three or four Muslims. They were all really nice guys, except for one that had been thoroughly “Americanized”. He was a pompous jerk, but it had nothing to do with being a Muslim. Like I said before. This is America. We have freedom of religion here, and minority religions are protected from the “tyranny of the majority.” Your opinion of Islam and mine don’t count. What they do in other countries doesn’t matter. What matters is that all of their paperwork was in order, they own the property outright, and the proper zoning boards in NYC approved it. End of story.

  • AKafir

    A PaganPlace:”You assumed that Starhawk must be just calling everyone a bigot, and then you *actually* insisted that anyone who disagrees with *you* must be ‘ignorant’ or biased.”I assumed? Starhawk charges categorically that Fox News is whipping anti-Muslim prejudice by distorting facts and those doing this are not listening to anyone speaking truthfully or rationally. She does not deign to provide a single example of such dastardly behavior. Where is the consensus that Fox News lies except amongst those of certain political persuasion? Now a bigot is defined as a person intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices. Isn’t what Starhawk states about Fox News calling those newscasters bigots? Or am I missing something?Then Starhawk simply mistates that Could you not please tell me where have I “insisted that anyone who disagrees with *you* must be ‘ignorant’ or biased.”? I really would like to see what you consider insisting that those who disagree with me must be ignorant or biased?

  • arkns

    Try to find out the reason why there is a backlash against Islam. Pious platitudes about prejudice does not serve anyone. I go back to the immutable law of karma. If there is widespread anti-Muslim feelings, Muslims will find something to learn from this if they look impartially. Is there anything in our behavior that elicits such a reaction?

  • Athena4

    “Nice to know that you don’t hate Christians. When was the last time a christian beheaded a few pagans? I missed that news.”Oh, come on. The only people who are fretting about Sharia being imposed on America are the Right-Wingers, who want to impose Biblical Law on America. No, Christians don’t behead Pagans anymore. At least not in America. But there are plenty that would like to re-create the Salem Witch Trials if given half a chance. Frankly, I’ll stick with them Fundamentalist Muslims. At least if they’re going to behead me, they’re going to do it to my face. Fundamentalist Christians will just smile, say “love the sinner, hate the sin,” and stab you in the back. There are as many sects in Islam as there are in Christianity. Imam Rauf is a Sufi. They’re non-violent. In fact, they’re often the targets of other Moslem groups (can you say “Quakers” boys and girls?). I would imagine that other Moslems are against this Mosque because they know that it’s going to draw every hater from around the country now. I don’t blame them for being afraid. We’ve already had a mosque in Tennessee firebombed, and an innocent cab driver attacked. Where does it end?

  • Athena4

    Oh, BTW… nice job on doing Al Qaeda’s work for them, guys…Taliban officials know it’s sacrilegious to hope a mosque will not be built, but that’s exactly what they’re wishing for: the success of the fiery campaign to block the proposed Islamic cultural center and prayer room near the site of the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. “By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor,” Taliban operative Zabihullah tells NEWSWEEK. (Like many Afghans, he uses a single name.) “It’s providing us with more recruits, donations, and popular support.”