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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Dr. Kashif Chaudhry: Portrayal of ISIL as Devout Muslims Leads to the Rapid Rise of Islamophobia in the USA

The death squad ISIL has been ramping up its terror operations recently, and finding a solution to eliminate this hazard from the Middle East is high on the agenda of the world powers, international organizations and the regional nations.
Dr. Kashif Chaudhry: Portrayal of ISIL as Devout Muslims Leads to the Rapid Rise of Islamophobia in the USRussians started airstrikes against the ISIL in mid 2015 in an effort to rid Syria of these terrorists, even though the United States and its NATO allies voiced their objection.
Aside from the economic and infrastructural damage sustained by Syria and Iraq during these past 4 years since ISIL inflated and gained vast territories, the terrorist cult, which professes to be a representative of Muslims worldwide and boasts of its quest for an Islamic Caliphate, has inflicted serious damage on the reputation of millions of peaceful Muslims living across the world – who have never harmed anyone, including their neighbors, and abided by the peaceful teachings of their religion requiring them to observe the rules of proper conduct and peaceful coexistence.
Now, whenever there’s a terrorist operation by the ISIL militants, or as soon as a video footage is released showing the beheading of American and European citizens by the ISIL killers, the entire Muslim population across the world is obligated to come about and speak out in condemnation; otherwise, they’d be outright accused of sympathizing with the ISIL and their ideology. This practice of holding all the Muslims responsible for the crimes of ISIL terrorists – an infinitesimal minority within the 1.5-billion-strong populace of the global Muslims and a deviant current slammed by most of the Islamic world leaders and scholars – seems to be rather unfair, suggesting the presence of a tendency to stigmatize the Muslims and make them outcast in their societies, especially where they are in minority.
A Muslim physician and writer says the depiction of ISIL as pious Muslims leads to the rise of Islamophobia in the United States, a trend fueled by certain media, public speakers and political players who run a massive propaganda campaign.
Commenting on the public perception of the American public of the associations being made between ISIL and Islam, Dr. Kashif Chaudhry said, “most Americans on the left – the liberals – …. understand this difference between extremists on the fringe and Islam itself. However, because of the Islamophobia network … the far right chooses to remain in its own echo chamber of ignorance. They get their news from outlets such as Fox, read blogs such as that of anti-Islam hate preacher Robert Spencer and refuse to interact with Muslims to know them on a personal level.”
Kashif Chaudhry is a physician, writer and human rights activist. He has served as the Chairman of the Muslim Writers Guild of America, and has been published articles in various American newspapers and foreign publications. He currently blogs at the Huffington Post.
Fars News Agency had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Chaudhry on the rise of Islamophobia in the United States, the dilemma of ISIL and the anti-Muslim comments made by the Republican hopefuls of US presidential elections in the recent weeks.
Q: There’ve been alarming reports of hate crimes and arson attacks against American Muslims, their mosques, homes and community centers in the recent months, coupled with a media campaign seemingly aimed at holding the Muslim population accountable for the felonies of the terrorist group ISIL. In February, you wrote about the flyers being distributed around an MBTA station close to Revere, Massachusetts in which Muslims were threatened with mass murder if ISIL did not surrender within three days. Who are the groups or individuals behind these threats and attacks? Has the US government’s responded firmly to deter such incidents in the future?
A: These incidents of anti-Muslim animus are not random occurrences happening in isolation. Anti-Muslim bigotry has been systematically nurtured in America for quite some time. There is a huge and influential network comprising of funders, organizations, media outlets, propagandists, activists and political players, that has been busy creating a climate of fear, hate and suspicion of Muslims in America. This network can broadly be divided into two main groups: the American far right and the new atheist movement.
Different as the two groups are, they have found a romantic connection in their common anti-Islam agenda. They continuously, and erroneously, portray extremism in parts of the Muslim world as representative of the Islamic faith, which results in rise in suspicion and fear of common Muslims.
The authorities do take action to protect the Muslims when hate crimes occur. However, this is akin to treating the symptoms of the actual disease, which is the one-sided propaganda against Muslims and Islam that continued unchecked.
Q: Is the Western world coming to this understanding that ISIL is not a representative of Muslims and that Islam doesn’t endorse the abduction, enslavement and forced marriage of women, as the terrorists of this death squad are doing? On October 14, 2014, the US Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement in condemnation of the abuse of Ezadi girls and women by the ISIL terrorists, affirming that “ISIL does not represent Islam and Islam does not condone or honor such depravity.” Is this statement the pure, unanimous conviction of the US government at large? What about the US public?
A: I believe the Obama administration understands that ISIL and their likes do not represent Islam. This is why the government is usually careful not to confuse the anti-Islam acts of ISIL with the religion and its peaceful adherents. When it comes to the US public, Americans, like any other nation, cannot be generalized into one large homogenous group. Most Americans on the left – the liberals – also understand this difference between extremists on the fringe and Islam itself. However, because of the Islamophobia network I described earlier, the far right chooses to remain in its own echo chamber of ignorance. They get their news from outlets such as Fox, read blogs such as that of anti-Islam hate preacher Robert Spencer and refuse to interact with Muslims to know them on a personal level.
New atheists like Sam Harris and Hirsi Ali also promote the fear of Muslims by flaunting ISIL as the real face of Islam. This is not surprising because it serves their anti-theist agenda very well.
Q: Why do you think the ISIL figureheads insist on claiming that they’re representing an Islamic Caliphate and that they adhere to Islamic philosophy? The vast majority of Muslims worldwide abhor their cruel actions, and as you noted in one of your Huffington Post articles, a thorough study of Quran would reveal that ISIL acts in complete defiance of the most essential injunctions and edicts of Islam. Why does this group, unpopular across the Islamic world, call itself an “Islamic State”?
A: ISIL badly craves credibility. It wants Muslim youth to join its ranks and help it in its struggle for power and its greed for political authority. The best way to do so is to give a religious cover to its operations and attempt to recruit those Muslims who are already prone to extremism or are influenced by extremist Mullaism.
It is true that there are religious clerics across parts of the Muslim world that preach the coming of a bloody caliph in the end of times who will wage war and take over the world. ISIL exploits this fact and calls itself the representative of Islam to attract the Muslims who are influenced by such teachings.
Q: How do you see the US media coverage of ISIL and their analysis of the atrocities they’re committing, including the destruction of ancient sites in Palmyra, beheading of the American journalists, mass execution of Christians and raping the women? What concerns people in the Muslim world is that ISIL is being erroneously conflated with Islam by the mass media. Even in the Muslim-majority countries which have some secular laws, including Malaysia and Indonesia, there are people in the media who tend to cover the ISIL stories from a “you-Muslims-are-responsible-for-ISIL-crimes” point of view. What’s your take on that?
A: Overall, I think the US media has played a negative role in reinforcing this wrong notion, by not giving moderate Muslim voices enough platforms to educate America on what Islam really stands for. Whenever ISIL commits an act of terror, Muslims are expected to condemn these acts. But at the same time, they aren’t allowed enough airtime to explain their point of view.
This is irresponsible and extremely dangerous. It is this portrayal of ISIL as devout Muslims that is leading to the rapid rise of Islamophobia in the USA.
Because the word “Islam” is deliberately linked to evil, anyone claiming affiliation with Islam is looked upon with suspicion and hate. You see, if indeed ISIL defined the face of Islam, I would fear it too.
The media must be more responsible and give more time to Muslims to clarify their own point of view against that of the extremists.
Q: What do you make of the anti-Muslim comments made during the presidential race in the United States, especially the statement by Ben Carson who said that he would “not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation”? Some scholars suggest that this rise of Islamophobic sentiments, particularly during the presidential campaign, is a consequence of years of propaganda pinned on the belief that Islam is un-American and the Muslims are traitors who don’t feel any loyalty to the United States. Do you agree with this analysis?
A: Yes, many Americans are taught to believe that the Muslim faith is not compatible with the American life. There is huge fear-mongering of Muslims going on in the name of Sharia law and Jihad when not a single Muslim has demanded such a law for America. In fact, many like me, have ironically come to America to escape the “Sharia” of some of the Muslim countries.
Contrast this to right-wing Christian groups who regularly demand that the country be declared a Christian nation and the Bible made the law.
Ben Carson and Trump are just pandering to the ignorance of people who have grown up on a high dose of Fox News and have had no interaction with Muslims in real life.
Muslims have demonstrated time and again that we are as loyal as any other American group. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, for instance, recently launched a “Muslim for Loyalty” campaign that sought to educate fellow Americans on how Muslim Americans honor their country of residence. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), for instance, had said: “Loyalty to one’s homeland is part of faith.” Muslims have donated blood in honor of 9/11 victims, have fed the hungry in America through thousands of soup kitchens across the country, and continue to serve in public service and in the military. It is unfortunate therefore that they are seen as disloyal by a sizeable bunch because of the acts of a minority on another continent. Here again, the Islamophobia network I alluded to, is to blame.
Q: There have been many cases of terrorist attacks taking place either in Europe or the United States, which were automatically blamed on the “Muslim terrorists”, before any investigation was opened into the incident. One instance is the 19 April 1995 bombing at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in which 168 people were killed. The US media immediately blamed the “Islamic extremists” and “Arab radicals” for the attack, but it turned out shortly that Timothy McVeigh, a white, Christian man had been the perpetrator. Why do you think there’s such a tendency to offhandedly condemn Muslims for terrorist operations in the West?
A: The media sells what is most profitable. What better story than an “outsider” attacking America? The media and the military–industrial complex both benefit from this narrative.
I find it very strange that despite the fact that only 313 Americans have died at the hands of terrorists since 2004, as opposed to a staggering 316,545 by domestic gun violence, there is great reluctance in the American media and culture to speak of this elephant in the room.
Consider this. The American military has committed great excesses in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. Only in Iraq, over 600,000 innocent civilians were killed. Yet, when a deranged Muslim group seeks to score a geo-political point, the Islamophobia complex demonizes a whole faith.
Q: Muslims in America have kept saying in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks that their civil liberties have been restricted and their communities and mosques were subject to “excessive” scrutiny and surveillance by the security bodies, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Is it really the case? Have the Muslim population of the United States been under unusual pressure in the post-9/11 era?
A: Yes, that is sadly true. Authorities here at home not only spied on mosques and Muslim community centers, they also taught, in official FBI courses, an extreme narrative on Islam. They taught that the more devout a Muslim, the more violent they are likely to be. How embarrassing and shameful! The result of this mindset was a wrongful profiling of Muslims that still continues. The Islamophobia network, especially new atheists like Sam Harris, support this profiling based on ethnicity and faith. Harris said, “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim.” Another prominent new atheist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also advocated for Muslim day schools to be closed down. Imagine saying these same things for Jews or atheists. The repercussions will be strong. But bigotry against the Muslims is sadly tolerated, even promoted, as normal
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