By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
(Jointly with AshfaqueUllah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana
Publications, USA, 2009.)
15 July 2017
Rejoinder to Zainab Arain’s article ‘The
Four Main Sources of Islamophobia in America’ published on March 30, 2017.
Zainab Arain’s article attempts to identify
the factors contributing to Islamophobia. It is a fairly accurate assessment of
the extraneous factors that have led to the escalation of this menace in recent
years, but falls short of tracing its history dating from early 90’s and does
not recommend any way forward to diffuse this ever growing menace. She rightly identifies
American media’s double standard of reporting as the number 1 cause of this
menace; and substantiates her claims with 2011-15 statistics showing 449%
higher level of reporting of terrorist attacks committed by Muslim terror
outfits as compared to other groups. But this data is merely the tips of an
iceberg. Islamophobia has been gaining momentums since the early 90’s. It is
important that we begin our exercise from this timeline to comprehend the
colossal role of American media in creating a vicious perception of Islam and
Muslims that has given rise to the other complementary sources of Islamophobia
- namely US foreign policy, US political rhetoric and Islamophobic network as
listed in the featured article. This brings us to the Edward Said’s following
remark, appearing in his 1997 publication, ‘Covering Islam’: “No one in the American media has held forth
for so long (at least two decades) in accents of such racial hatred and
contempt against a given culture and people as he (Martin Peretz, the owner of
the journal, ‘The New Republic’) has said about Islam and the Arab world. There
is a great deal in what he has said over the years that go well beyond the
rational defence (of Israel) and his columns of unadulterated, irrational and
vulgar defamations are truly unsurpassed anywhere.”
The anti-Islamic legacy of the media has,
over time, created a perception among American people, media, politicians and
Islam sceptical groups that Islam is an evil or fake religion and Muslims are
no good people and a threat to Western civilization. This perception peaked
with 9/11 attacks and though subsided in later years, gained fresh impetus with
the emergence of ISIS and found its public expression in the recent anti-Sharia
Law marches across America (June 2017).Zainab’s article has simply blamed
Islamophobia for this perception and made no attempt to probe its
civilisational roots – apart from the Media’s machination.
The concluding subheading of the article
regarding countering Islamophobia begins with a call “to support organizations
that conduct research, engage in advocacy, and use legal methods to counter
institutional Islamophobia.” This, though very pertinent, is by itself no
solution to this ever growing menace. One may even argue that it throws the
debate into an academiccum statistics quagmire where it can only sink indefinitely
without bringing any remission of this metastasizing malaise.
The organizations cited - the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Georgetown Bridge Initiative, the
Southern Poverty Law Centre have been active over the last 2-3 decades. Year by
year during this period, Islamophobia has been growing to new heights –
especially after each major terror attack in the Western world. As noted in the
opening paragraph of the Zainab’s referenced article, “since the year (2017)
began, Muslims in the United States have been beaten up, spit on, harassed, and
threatened; their places of worship have been burnt to the ground and
Hence, one wonders if the research-advocacy-legal
approach of American/ Muslim organizations is going to achieve anything
substantive in diffusing Islamophobia, and unless the civilisational causes of
Islamophobia are identified and addressed, it may assume a lethal dimension and
help realize Donald Trump’s campaign agenda of “total and complete shutdown of
Muslims entering the United States.” 
The root of the problem lies in
contradictory perceptions. Though seldom probed by American Muslims, they must
introspect and look at themselves in the mirror of those who fear and hate
them. Any honest introspection will reveal the following dichotomy in the
perception of religious, cultural and civilisational notions that have
contributed to Islamophobia, in addition to the double standard of media and
other three complementary factors as noted by Zainab Arain.
in Perception of Sharia Law of Islam.
In the perception of many Americans who
are, if anything, more afraid of Islam today than before, the Sharia Law is
inhuman and a threat to American civilization and must be banned. The
perception, based on Islamophobic literature is reinforced by ISIS’s justification
of its horrendous crimes by the Sharia Law of Islam. The American Muslims on
the other hand glorify Sharia Law of Islam as a treasure-chest of noble
rulings, without realizing that in the hands of the terror outfits and their
ideologues of this era it has lost all its nobility and became an evil
institution that is justifiably dreaded and abhorred by the lay Americans.
Hence there is a dichotomy of perception between the Islam sceptical Americans
and Sharia Law admiring Muslims about the very notion of Sharia Law of Islam,
and unless this is corrected Americans will remain scared of Sharia Law of
Islam and abhor Muslims who identify themselves with it -until eternity. The
article referenced below  attempts to correct this misperception and needs
to be communicated through anti-ISIS rallies in American cities with sizeable
Double Entente in Islamic Narratives
Not covered, or even touched in the passing
in Zainab Arain’s article is the double entente (double meaning) in popular
Islamic religious narratives propagated by Wahhabi-Salafi ideologues, extremists
and hatemongering Ulema. Such narratives claim that all the noble Ahkamat
(commandments) of the Qur’an such as relating to liberty, equity, good deeds,
justice, charity, generosity, mercy, compassion, forgiveness etc. are
applicable exclusively for the Muslims and are forbidden to the non-Muslims,
who are to be treated with contempt and scorn and hated as enemy of God (Kuffar).It
is also said that Muslims must not engage the Kafirs in employment, or must not
work for Kafirs, or must not live in the land of the Kafirs for a long period
of time. Some have gone as far as to say that Muslims must not participate in
the recreational and artistic activities of the Kafirs and not celebrate their
birthdays including that of their Prophets. Others claim that the key
humanistic, altruistic and pluralistic verses of the Qur’an are abrogated and
only those relating to the five pillars of faith and jihad are eternally valid.
Hence, this dichotomy in the preaching of
the Qur’anic message must be corrected or else some Imams and Ulema, however
few in number, will propagate the poisonous version of Islam– that is no Islam
at all, as they are doing this very day in many mosques around the world. And
as bad news hits the media and gets extensive coverage, their venom will
continue spread through the Internet and feed Islamophobia.
a Civilization within a Civilization in the False Name of ‘Islamisation’
Complete omission of the political events
of the post war era will leave a big gap in this exercise. Hence, there is a
need to summarily reminisce on the events fresh in memory.
Continued occupation of Palestine ensured
by America’s carte blanche military support and vetoes, coupled with
humiliating defeat of Arab armies in a series of Arab-Israel wars through the
50’s to early 80’s (1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 to be more precise)
created strong anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world. This, with rising
Oil revenue in the wake of energy crisis of the 70’s triggered a cultural shift
across the Muslim world in the form of visible display of Islamic symbols or
so-called ‘Islamisation’ (an euphemism for ‘Arabisation’). By the 90’s, the
Muslims began to adopt Arabic symbols, clichés and customs such as using the
Arabic word for God (Allah), getting their girls to wear a ‘Hijab’ or face
veil, using Arabic expressions to punctuate their conversations in various
native tongues and so forth. A host of Muslim organizations spawned major
American cities that saw construction of new mosques with imperial facades,
Islamic centres or acquisition of and remodelling of existing properties
(notably idle Churches). The leaders of these organizations and their mostly
hired mosque imams enthusiastically and arrogantly campaigned to creating a
distinct religion based identity of American Muslims. They also openly claimed
spiritual purity of their faith, embarked on a conversion drive supported by
overseas Dawa (proselytisation) teams and boasted on each case of conversions,
tacitly proclaiming the superiority of their faith.
In their euphoria to reconstruct an Islamic
civilization, the American Muslims failed to realize that their sudden
visibility, religious symbolism, proselytisation and vocal aspirations to form
a parallel Islamic civilization sent waves of fear in the hearts of the common
Americans - a fear of cultural invasion. This only reinforced the
misperceptions about Islam and created an unhealthy divide between the American
Muslims and the mainstream Christian society.
The Muslims’ ill-conceived bid at
superficial “Islamisation,” while living in a predominantly Christian country
which gave them citizenship, full civil liberties, and more rights and
prospects than their own Islamic homelands is yet another contributory factor
to Islamophobia, that the America Muslim leadership fail to realize, probably
to this day.
Some five years ago (Feb 2012), this writer
had tabled a 12 point agenda to diffuse Islamophobia in America by removing
misperceptions. This is equally valid this day and can be regarded as a way
forward to diffuse Islamophobia in America. The points are bulletined below and
elaborated in the article referenced below :
1. The mosque and community discourses in
English must use the English verbal symbol God for the ‘the One God’ and not
the Arabic word, Allah. Any insistence to fix an Arabic name for God reduces
Islam to an exclusive Arabic religion and feeds the growing anti-Islamic
propaganda and Islamophobia. According to the Qur’an God is remembered in all
places of worship - churches, synagogues, monasteries and mosques (22:40) in
the native languages of the worshippers. So the English speaking Muslim should
call Allah God as much as the Arab Christians call Him Allah.
Qur’anic verses on religious plurality (2:62, 2:136, 5:69..) that project the
God as the Lord of all humanity including Christians and Jews should be
inscribed in bold or gold on mosque façades in large letters, to show the
affinity of Islam with Judeo-Christian heritage of America.
youngsters to be groomed to excel in conduct and behaviour to uphold the
heritage of their Prophet (33:21) and cultivate an urge for excellence in all
lawful pursuits (2:148, 5:48, 49:3) for removing negative stereotypes.
youngsters must participate in diverse cultural activities - games, sports,
athletics, swimming, song, dance and music – keeping within bounds of modesty
and morality, to help inter-faith interaction as commanded by the Qur’an
women in America/the Western world may actively consider giving up the
head-ear-chin wraparounds they wear as it gives a false signal of an
exaggerated presence amounting to cultural aggression, singles out the veil/Hijab-wearing
Muslim women as the ‘others’, gives a false notion of regimentation of Muslim
women from different cultures, and hinders their participation in outdoor
games, sports, swimming and athletics. Since full veil or covering of head, ear
and chin and gender segregation are not any Qur’anic requirement and come in
the way of social interaction of Muslim women with the mainstream society as
required by their faith, American Muslim women may give up this borrowed
fashion that came from Christianity .
must translate their devotion to the great Prophets Jesus Christ and Moses by
celebrating the Christmas/ Yom Kippur for example, in all Islamic centers and
mosques in a befitting manner, inviting sympathetic priests and rabbis - and
there must be plenty of them - to grace the occasions.
7. Islamic centres
should be laid out as architecturally compatible functional buildings that will
combine its dual role as house of prayer (mosque) and centre for community
service (free health clinic, food bank, free IT training etc. in present day
context) as required by their faith and practiced in early Islam.
gender segregation in mosques in the Western world, where there is no gender
segregation in public place is meaningless, and undermines Islam’s image as a
universal gender-just faith. In the same spirit, Muslim women, whom the Qur’an
projects as co-guardians of men (9:71) should not be barred from leading a
congregation prayer as traditionally imposed.
professional mosque imam, if engaged, should have the following credentials to
effectively play his community and inter-faith role as a witness to humanity
(2:143, 22:78) and to defend the faith and the Prophet in the media.
universal education, IT skill and command in English written communication.
read on the clear Ahkamat (commandments) of the Qur’an that he may
convey to the community as part of Friday pre-prayer address (Khutba).
read on the noble personal qualities of the Prophet, drawn on historically
authentic sources consistent with the Qur’anic allusions.
a basic idea of American history and law and achievements of its iconic figures
for Allah of the Muslims is Rab Il Alamin – Lord of all humanity, and
His bounties are not limited to the people of Arabia alone.
understand the dichotomy between Islamic theological disciplines (Classical
Islamic Sharia, Hadith and the Sira of the Prophet), and the Qur’an
leaders, spokesmen, Ulema and imams must be respectful to all faiths and
faith-communities, quote only what is the best in the Qur’an as it enjoins
(39:18, 39:55), must not make any statement that purports to undermine other
faiths, promote hatred, feed religious bigotry radicalization, gender and
racial discrimination, cultural alienation and other vices with which Islam and
Muslims are brush-stroked today.
11. The Muslims must stop debating whose religion
is the most perfect and instead preach the fellow Muslims to excel in goodness
and lawful pursuits and to cultivate other universal virtues (justice,
forgiveness, tolerance, good neighbourly relations etc.) as their faith (the
Muslims must shun any proselytizing as today it is far more important for the
Muslims to gain the respect and admiration of the people of other faiths, that
in its early centuries brought converts, rather than soliciting others who
despise and trivialize them to join their faith, which in their eyes is an
outdated religion if not a militant cult.
Finally, to wrap up this essay, the author
will remind American Muslim intellectuals and leaders of the following
universal pronouncements of the Qur’an - no matter they believe in its divinity
or dismiss it as an antiquated book:
worst kind of all living creatures in God’s sight are the deaf and dumb, who do
not use reason” (8:22).
“… God does not
change the condition of a people, unless they change themselves…” (13:11), also
 AN EPILOGUE TO THE RECENT ANTI-SHARIA LAW
RALLIES ACROSS AMERICAN CITIES: The Dichotomy between Sharia Law of Islam
(Islamic Law) and the Sharia of Islam
Islamophobia in America: Need for a Major Paradigm shift in Mosque Proceedings
– A 12 Point Agenda For Serious
Consideration By The Board Of All Mosques And Islamic Centres And The Whole
Spectrum Of Muslim Community Leaders In America.
Karen Armstrong, Islam, A short history, New York 2002, p. 16.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of
Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth
study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has
co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar
al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was
endorsed and authenticated by Dr. KhaledAbou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by
Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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1-Arabinasation of Islam must stop as it is a universal
2-Religious plurality is part of Iman/ a
pledged faith 2-4.
3-…to uphold the heritage of their Prophet (33:21):
ProphetS… as in 2 above.
4, 5,7, 9 and 11- Absolutely
6-As in 2 above
8-Absolutely—Even the Arabs don’t segregate in The
10- “Ulema and imams” gives it Arabic elitist
tones. Only use “Scholars”…Learned/Qualified people.
12-Correct……Missionary work is Church based
worship. Practical demonstration of being “Good to (all) others” is nearness to
God… His worship.