How to End 'Islamophobia'TAWFIK HAMID
The latest survey of American Muslims won't reassure their fellow citizens.
In America, perhaps the most conspicuous organization to persistently accuse opponents of Islamophobia is the Council of American Islamic Relations. CAIR has taken up the legal case of the "Flying Imams," the six individuals who were pulled from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis this past November after engaging in suspicious behavior before takeoff. Not long ago, CAIR filed a "John Doe" lawsuit that would have made passengers liable for "malicious" complaints about suspicious Muslim passengers.
In an interview at the time, CAIR spokesman Nihad Awad accused Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) of being an "extremist" who "encourages Islamophobia" for pointing out what most people would think is obvious, that such a lawsuit would have a chilling effect on passengers who witnessed alarming activity and wished to report it. We can only assume that Mr. Awad believes flyers should passively remain in a state of fear as they travel and submissively risk their lives. In this case, Congress is acting appropriately and considering passing a law sponsored by Mr. King that would grant passengers immunity from such lawsuits.
It may seem bizarre, but Islamic reformers are not immune to the charge of "Islamophobia" either. For 20 years, I have preached a reformed interpretation of Islam that teaches peace and respects human rights. I have consistently spoken out—with dozens of other Muslim and Arab reformers—against the mistreatment of women, gays and religious minorities in the Islamic world. We have pointed out the violent teachings of Salafism and the imperative of Westerners to protect themselves against it.
Yet according to CAIR's Michigan spokeswoman, Zeinab Chami, I am "the latest weapon in the Islamophobe arsenal." If standing against the violent edicts of Shariah law is "Islamophobic," then I will treat her accusation as a badge of honor.
Muslims must ask what prompts this "phobia" in the first place. When we in the West examine the worldwide atrocities perpetrated daily in the name of Islam, it is vital to question if we—Muslims—should lay the blame on others for Islamophobia or if we should first look hard at ourselves.
According to a recent Pew Global Attitudes survey, "younger Muslims in the U.S. are much more likely than older Muslim Americans to say that suicide bombing in the defense of Islam can be at least sometimes justified." About one out of every four American Muslims under 30 think suicide bombing in defense of Islam is justified in at least some circumstances. Twenty-eight percent believe that Muslims did not carry out the 9/11 attacks and 32% declined to answer that question.
While the survey has been represented in the media as proof of moderation among American Muslims, the actual results should yield the opposite conclusion. If, as the Pew study estimates, there are 2.35 million Muslims in America, that means there are a substantial number of people in the U.S. who think suicide bombing is sometimes justified. Similarly, if 5% of American Muslims support al Qaeda, that's more than 100,000 people.
To bring an end to Islamophobia, we must employ a holistic approach that treats the core of the disease. It will not suffice to merely suppress the symptoms. It is imperative to adopt new Islamic teachings that do not allow killing apostates (Redda Law). Islamic authorities must provide mainstream Islamic books that forbid polygamy and beating women. Accepted Islamic doctrine should take a strong stand against slavery and the raping of female war prisoners, as happens in Darfur under the explicit canons of Shariah ("Ma Malakat Aimanikum"). Muslims should teach, everywhere and universally, that a woman's testimony in court counts as much as a man's, that women should not be punished if they marry whom they please or dress as they wish.
We Muslims should publicly show our strong disapproval for the growing number of attacks by Muslims against other faiths and against other Muslims. Let us not even dwell on 9/11, Madrid, London, Bali and countless other scenes of carnage. It has been estimated that of the two million refugees fleeing Islamic terror in Iraq, 40% are Christian, and many of them seek a haven in Lebanon, where the Christian population itself has declined by 60%. Even in Turkey, Islamists recently found it necessary to slit the throats of three Christians for publishing Bibles.
Of course, Islamist attacks are not limited to Christians and Jews. Why do we hear no Muslim condemnation of the ongoing slaughter of Buddhists in Thailand by Islamic groups? Why was there silence over the Mumbai train bombings which took the lives of over 200 Hindus in 2006? We must not forget that innocent Muslims, too, are suffering. Indeed, the most common murderers of Muslims are, and have always been, other Muslims. Where is the Muslim outcry over the Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq?
Islamophobia could end when masses of Muslims demonstrate in the streets against videos displaying innocent people being beheaded with the same vigor we employ against airlines, Israel and cartoons of Muhammad. It might cease when Muslims unambiguously and publicly insist that Shariah law should have no binding legal status in free, democratic societies.
It is well past time that Muslims cease using the charge of "Islamophobia" as a tool to intimidate and blackmail those who speak up against suspicious passengers and against those who rightly criticize current Islamic practices and preachings. Instead, Muslims must engage in honest and humble introspection. Muslims should—must—develop strategies to rescue our religion by combating the tyranny of Salafi Islam and its dreadful consequences. Among more important outcomes, this will also put an end to so-called Islamophobia.
Tawfik Hamid. "How to End 'Islamophobia': reprint." Wall Street Journal (May 25, 2007).
This article is reprinted with permission from The Wall Street Journal © 2007 Dow Jones & Company and from the author, Tawfik Hamid. All rights reserved.
Tawfik Hamid was an Islamic extremist, a member of Jammaa Islameia and disciple of Dr. Al-Zawaheri (second in command of Al-Qaeda). Later, he rejected the violent teachings of these groups, started a path of reformation of Islam, and developed a peaceful understanding of its teachings that is compatible with human rights. Threats on his life eventually forced him to flee Egypt. Tawfik Hamid holds degrees in Internal Medicine, and Education. He is the author of The Roots of Jihad, and analysis of the causes of Jihad and suggested solutions. He may be reached for interviews by clicking here.
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