US MUSLIMS DREAM OF NEW BEGINNING


US Muslims Dream of New Beginning

Feeling the pinch of anti-Muslim rhetoric over the past decade, American Muslims are dreaming of closing this chapter in history to begin a new one that reveals the true spirit of Islam tolerance and peace.

“American Muslims have kind of been in a kettle, a boiling kettle, and the fire has been this terrorism,” Ihsan Bagby, an associate professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky, told Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, May 3.

“Hopefully, the demise of Qaeda and this terrorist philosophy will put out the fire.” Hearing the news of bin Laden’s death, American Muslims were overwhelmed with jubilation, pride and relief.

Yet, a painful chapter of teasing and taunting Muslim children by their peers as terrorists was still worrying many.

Despite repeated Muslim condemnations for terrorism, Muslims were still worried about being targeted in airports or getting funny looks from travelers in airplanes.

They also dream of allowing Muslims serving in the military to pray without having to overt public religious displays.

“I think the potential lies in either this being a step forward or being a step back, and it all depends on how we decide to use the moment and reflect on it,” said Imam Khalid Latif, a chaplain with the New York Police Department and New York University.

“We would need people to step up beyond press releases and statements, and really begin to do meaningful work that highlights to people how Islam and Muslims are able to bring benefit back to society.”

Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group was blamed for the 9/11 attacks on the United States, when hijackers rammed planes into the World Trade Towers in 2001, killing at least 3,000 people.

Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, US Muslims, estimated by 7-8 million, have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.

A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.

New Era

Muslim-not-terroristThough bin Laden’s death may not immediately extinguish anti-Muslim sentiment at home, many American Muslims said they hoped it would be the beginning of the end.

“Bin Laden was symbolic,” said Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council.

“And the fact that he’s eliminated is a symbolic victory for all of us.”

Over the past decade, US Muslims have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.

Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.

A Republican Senator stirred uproar last month over holding a probe into what he called “radicalization” of American Muslims.

Worse still, lawmakers in at least 13 states have introduced proposals to ban Shari`ah.

Several Muslim leaders said bin Laden’s death might be a good time to teach the world how Islam transcends its fringe elements.

“Obviously, Bin Laden has been an albatross around the neck of American Muslims” and his death will bring a sense of relief, John Esposito, a leading scholar of Islam who directs the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, said.

Esposito confirmed that there is no simple answer to the question of how Bin Laden’s death will affect the American Muslim community.

But Esposito noted that many Americans rejoiced at the death of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini by natural causes in 1989, as if his passing would end any Iranian threat to the United States.

“And of course, it didn’t happen,” he said.

“I think intelligent Muslims will be aware that this is a turning point but only the beginning of a turning point.”

Stigma Haunts US Muslim Children

Growing up in post 9/11 America, young Muslim generations in the United States are worried of falling prey to stigmatization over incidents that occurred before their birth.

“They have never lived in a world where Muslims were not considered terrorists,” Johari Abdul-Malik, an imam and director of community outreach for the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, told Arizona Daily Star on Sunday, May 8.

Sitting in their kindergarten at an Islamic school in suburban Washington, where an American flag hangs in the lobby and pupils’ Earth Day posters decorate the hallways, the children were taught their first words.

Though they were born in the US, students were labeled in the media as the Muslim ‘other’, defined by terrorist attacks their fathers condemned.

The United States has accused Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group of being behind the 9/11 attacks, when hijackers rammed planes into the World Trade Towers in 2001, killing at least 3,000 people.

The attacks prompted Washington to launch its so-called “war on terror” under which two Muslim countries; Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded.

Though bin Laden was killed last week in a US raid on his mansion in Pakistan, the death of Al-Qaeda leader could not fully turn back the clock.

On the day US President Barack Obama declared the killing of bin Laden, Muslim leaders shared the Americans their joy, condemning Al-Qaeda leader.

Yet, they were faced by vandals who spray-painted the words “Osama today, Islam tomorow” (sic) on a mosque in Portland, Maine, giving stark evidence that Muslim next door remain a polarizing image in some circles.

Two Muslim men were also pulled off a plane heading to North Carolina for wearing traditional Islamic garb after the pilot refused to fly with them.

Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, US Muslims, estimated by 7-8 million, have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.

A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.

Struggle

Hoping to end the painful chapter of teasing and taunting Muslims, new incidents targeting Muslims were still worrisome for many.

“These children are growing up in a world where they are imprinted by this experience,” Abdul-Malik, whose Islamic Center runs the school, told Arizona Daily Star.

“They have to struggle to redefine what it means to be American and to be Muslim.”

The growing anti-Muslim frenzy developed widely over past months.

Plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulted in attacks on Muslims and their property.

A Republican Senator stirred uproar last March over holding a probe into what he called “radicalization” of American Muslims.

Peter King, the chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, claimed that US Muslims are being radicalized by Al-Qaeda operatives, accusing Muslim leaders of not cooperating with law enforcement authorities in fighting terrorism.

Worse still, lawmakers in at least 13 states have introduced proposals to ban Shari`ah, introducing new terms against ‘Shari`ah’ and the scary ‘other’.

Coming from different backgrounds, either African Americans or immigrants, the reaction of US Muslims to repeated harassments differed.

“It depends on the level of comfort,” Tayyibah Taylor, the editor and publisher of Azizah Magazine, an Atlanta-based publication that focuses on American Muslim women, said.

Taylor noted that the Muslim reaction to the speedy pace of actions differed according to their cultural backgrounds.

“For African-American Muslims, who have already dealt with some social injustices and know how to maneuver that road already, it’s something that you just do,” she said.

“For many of the immigrants, some of whom were flying under the cultural radar, all of a sudden they realized they were the ‘other’ and it was a surprise.”

Attacked For Looking Like Middle Eastern

A US Muslim advocacy group has called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to add hate crime charges to a man who ran down a Florida road worker with a Middle Eastern complexion.

“Because of the apparent bias motive in this case, state and federal law enforcement authorities should consider adding appropriate hate crime charges,” Ramzy Kilic, director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa) said in a press release.

Last Thursday, authorities said that Gerald Christopher Prebe, 35, was accused of running into 53-year-old Terry Butler, a non-Muslim, with a motor vehicle.

A few moments before being attacked, Butler had just finished painting stripes on a nearby road and was on his break in the area.

Prebe sideswiped Butler’s truck and hit Butler, throwing him about 20 feet from the point of impact, police sources said.

The African-American victim was hospitalized due to a fractured neck and internal bleeding.

Prebe was originally charged with aggravated battery.

Later on, he reportedly told investigators he “thought the worker was a terrorist, possibly of Middle Eastern descent, and wanted to kill him.”  

Investigating possible hate crime charges, the police raised charges to attempted murder after interviewing Prebe.

The new attack was condemned as a continuation of a recent series of attacks targeting Muslim community.

“We believe these types of incidents are an inevitable result of the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in American society,” said Kilic, the director of CAIR-Tampa.

Kilic noted that CAIR recently called for a hate crime investigation of two apparently bias-motivated attacks on a Georgia mosque.

Vandals twice this month shattered doors and windows of the Islamic Center of Cartersville with rocks, one of which was reportedly painted with “Muslim murderers.”

Earlier, CAIR called on law enforcement authorities to investigate a “terrorist threat” and desecrated religious texts that were used to target a Missouri mosque.

“Safety Kit”

Noticing growing attacks targeting Muslim and Arab minorities in the US, CAIR released its safety kit enabling Muslims to report and face such attacks.

“This ‘Muslim Community Safety Kit’ has been developed to better equip you and your community with the knowledge necessary to protect against anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry or attacks, and to secure your basic legal rights,” the kit published on Saturday, April 30, on CAIR’s website said.

“In times of difficulty, we ask people to depend on God the Almighty, with sincere prayers, especially for those who are suffering.”

The kit, addressed to imams, activists, community leaders and US Muslim community, urged them to participate in ensuring the safety and security of the American nation.

It also urges them to report any suspicious persons or activities in their community to the local FBI office.

Other recommendations include developing a legal contact list, developing positive relationships with law enforcement agencies and building coalitions with interfaith and minority groups.

Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.

Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.

A Republican Senator stirred uproar last month over holding a probe into what he called “radicalization” of American Muslims.

Peter King, the chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, claims that US Muslims are being radicalized by Al-Qaeda operatives, accusing Muslim leaders of not cooperating with law enforcement authorities in fighting terrorism.

Anti-Muslim Bullying on Rise in US Schools

With the rise of anti-Islam sentiments in the United States, community and civil rights leaders complained about growing violence by bullies against Arab, Muslim and South Asian students, North Jersey news portal reported on Friday, April 29.

“When public officials and media commentators propagate these ideas, it gets into the main discourse,” Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum, a think tank on Arab and Muslim affairs, told a forum about school bullying.

“And schools are a ripe environment for these feelings.”

The forum, sponsored by the New Jersey chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, saw participants sharing reports of name-calling, intimidation and physical violence in schools.

Shehnaz Abdeljaber said that her son came home one day with his yearbook plastered with notes from classmates and a teacher about blowing things up and bombs.

“He put his head down and said, ‘I know, I know.’,” said Abdeljaber who declined to name her son or hometown to protect him from further bullying.

“It was like he was telling me what had been going on all this time.”

Contacting her son’s middle school where the incident took place, the mother said she was surprised to find the teacher only putting a letter into her file about the incident.

The situation in the high school was different when her son was ridiculed by another student, she said.

The administration of the school invited her talk to the school’s faculty in her capacity as an outreach coordinator for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers.

Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.

Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.

A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.

More Than Laws

While hopeful about New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law; the toughest in the country, community leaders said the law alone will not be enough, urging more efforts from educators to take the phenomenon seriously.

“We need to find ways to engage public officials and educators,” Assaf said.

“It’s not enough to have laws.”

Philip Freeman, assistant director at the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, said that families also should bear some blame for underreporting bullying incidents.

Yet, despite all these efforts, some activists till believe that most of the problem lies in the growing anti-Islam hostility.

Among the reasons behind the rise of bullying against Arab and Muslim students is the vilification of their communities, the activists said.

Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown recently over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property and an increase in anti-Muslim hate speech.

A Republican Senator stirred uproar earlier this month over holding a probe into what he called “radicalization” of American Muslims.

Peter King, the chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, claims that US Muslims are being radicalized by Al-Qaeda operatives, accusing Muslim leaders of not cooperating with law enforcement authorities in fighting terrorism.

Worse still, lawmakers in at least 13 states have introduced proposals to ban Shari`ah.

CAIR Denounces GOP Anti-Islam Rhetoric

A US Muslim advocacy group called on the Republican Party to renounce anti-Islam hate in its ranks following a new attack by Alaska state lawmaker in an anti- Shari`ah bill branding Muslims as ‘occupiers’ of American neighborhoods.

“The level of anti-Muslim fear-mongering coming primarily from some elements within the Republican party is really getting out of hand,” Corey Saylor, the National Legislative Director of the grassroots Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a press release late on Friday, March 18.

“If passed, this bill and others like it across the nation would result in government-sanctioned discrimination against a minority faith,” he said.

Saylor’s comments followed a hearing on a bill targeting Islamic principals or Shari`ah introduced by Alaska Dem. Rep. Carl Gatto.

Gatto said the proposed Alaska law is necessary because of the religious beliefs of recent immigrants.
“As a kid, we had Italian neighborhoods, Irish neighborhoods. . .but they didn’t impose their own laws,” Gatto said.

“When these neighborhoods are occupied by people from the Middle East, they do establish their own laws.”

The attack by Alaska lawmaker was not the only in recent months.

Lawmakers in at least 13 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.

Earlier in March, two local representatives have presented a bill that would make the practice of Shari`ah in Tennessee a felony.

The bill described Shari`ah as a threat to the US security on claims that it requires followers to “overthrow” the US government.

Last November, a federal court blocked constitutional amendments that would have prohibited the use of Shari`ah in Oklahoma.

In Islam, Shari`ah govern issues in Muslims’ lives from daily prayers to fasting and from to inheritance and marital cases to financial disputes.

The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.

Hate Mongering

CAIR’s director slammed the anti-Islam rhetoric, confirming that Islam principals do not contradict with American laws.

“The Constitution is the law of the land and we like it that way,” Saylor said.

“Government intrusion into personal matters that are consistent with US law, such as Islamic marriage contracts, how we pray, how we invest and how we provide for our families after we die, is inconsistent with our nation’s principles,” he added.

Saylor said CAIR’s request followed its calls on state and national GOP leaders to repudiate remarks by a Republican lawmaker in Missouri who referred to Islamic principles, or Shari`ah, as a “disease” like polio. 

Such attacks, CAIR said, were basically drawn from a template prepared by David Yerushalmi, head of the anti-Islam hate group Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE).

“America was the handiwork of faithful Christians, mostly men, and almost entirely white.” an online SANE article on its password-protected website said. 

“There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote,” the article added in the same white supremacist language.

SANE offered a policy proposal that would make “adherence to Islam” punishable by 20 years in prison.

It also calls for the immediate deportation of all non-citizen Muslims and urges Congress to declare war on the “Muslim Nation,” which SANE defined as “all Muslims.”

Saylor called on GOP to end fear mongering campaigns targeting Islam, urging all moderate lawmakers to stand up to the US anti-discrimination principles.

“These far-right lawmakers need to stop fear-mongering and start telling us how they plan to fix the economy and provide jobs.”

“Moderates in the Republican Party must stand up and return the GOP to the anti-discrimination principles of Abraham Lincoln.” (Tx/HSH)

Source: OnIslam.net

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