Monday, October 20, 2008

Islamophobia

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the presence of Islamophobia in our society. In some countries it is a lot more blatant and worse, but in others it is very subtle and passive. I am not one of those people who blame their shortcomings or fate on stigma and discrimination, but I can't deny the existence of ignorance and Islamophobia. Obama has been accused of being a Muslim by McCain's campaign. Therefore, I understand, why Obama's campaign has to stress that he is a church going guy. If anything judging by Obama's church attendance he is more of a devout Christian than McCain.

But what if he is a Muslim? What is wrong with being a Muslim? As the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof pointed out, labelling Obama a Muslim is just McCain's campaign's push to "otherize" Obama. Make him seem less American. Since they can't attack him for being Black, because that would seem too short-sighted in the 21st century, so it would make more sense to hate him because of his Muslim middle name, Hussein, after all we are still dealing with the aftershock of 9/11.

I believe state and religion should be kept separately. I don't understand, how being of Christian faith, or of any faith for that matter, would help anyone become a good leader. Isn't that a case of religious extremism? There are al-Qaeda and Taleban leaders who dream of one day creating a constitution where their distorted version of religious principles are practiced. This conception of a so-called religious state, in my eyes, qualifies as extremism. So, the American demand of preferring a "Christian" leader, over a more educated Democratic candidate, not only shows religious intolerance, or ignorance, but is also a case of religious extremism. The candidates should rely on their policies and qualifications, not on their religious faith to win the presidency.

For this reason, I couldn't be more happier to read the Former Secretary of Sate Colin Powell's stance on discrimination and American media's blatant ignorance:

"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as 'Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well the correct answer is 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.' But the really right answer is 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is 'No. That's not America.' Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo-essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in you can see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American, he was born in New Jersey, he was 14 at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he can go serve his counrty and he gave his life."


Found here.

14 comments:

Josh said...

Well put by Colin Powell!

What's bothered me for a while now is the acknowledgment of God in many aspects of US government; "in God we trust" informs every coin and bill, it's in every courtroom, even the pledge of allegiance (taken by every child at the start of every school day) makes mention of God.

It's sad but being a God fearing person will give you an instant advantage in the race, being a Christian is even more so....

Zany said...

I agree with you. I mean pledging allegiance didn't stop Governor Spitzer from having those affairs.

I think religion is a personal thing, and people shouldn't shove it in other people's faces. I think everyone should have the freedom to believe in whatever God they may believe in or not believe in. At the end of the day, how you are around your fellow humans that's what matters the most.

In the US, American citizenship is somewhat defined by their faith in God.

changetheworld360 said...

I agree with both of you. Religion shouldn't affect what people think of someone; it's a personal belief/choice and another type of wrongful discrimination. I'm appalled by the Islamophobia in today's society as well. Every time I go through security at airports, I can't help but notice that people who look Muslim tend to get searched more often than anyone else. It's so simple to explain to people: just because those Al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked America on 9/11 were Muslim certainly does not mean we should discriminate against all Muslims.

Zany said...

I thought it was very refreshing to see a prominent political figure, such as Colin Powell, to come out and address the issue of Islamophobia. Other leaders in the past haven't been so clear about this blatant ignorance. They don't want to be accused of being "soft" or having terroristic inclinations.

Thank you for commenting changetheworld360. Again, good luck with your busy school schedule =).

Kia said...

A surprising and much-welcome comment from Colin Powell, reflecting a conversation I recently had with friends (i.e. so damn what if Obama was Muslim? Has anti-Islam propaganda reached such a level that 'Muslim' can now be used as a slur?)

changetheworld's comment has me slightly worried... I'm flying into New York next Tuesday and wondering if my name (which translates as 'Daughter of the Prophet', 'Servant of Allah') will get me in trouble... Hopefully my innocent face and lack of beard (depending on how closely you look) will counter it.

Good post Zany.

Zany said...

Thanks for reading, Kia. I am your secret admirer :D. But not the stalkerish kind ;).

I say smile till your cheeks start to hurt. And, enunciate so you sound like a native English speaker. Personally, I bring out my valley accent, and giggle a lot. That usually works. You can always count on stupidity to work.

Have a safe trip!

Islamoblogger said...

Scapegoating and using the characterization of someone as Muslim is acceptable in American society b/c it's one of the last acceptable vestiges of public racism and public xenophobia.

The Muslim has become the new nigger. The new Nazi. The new spic.

This won't change until Muslims begin to affect the political spheres in Washington, whether by creating strong voting blocks, or by forcing their way into Congress and Senate, leaving no choice but acceptance (not tolerance).

Zany said...

I think education is the key. Too often we see that the minority group, which is being ostercized, starts projecting the same traits, which the mainstream group accuses them of having.

I am a strong believer of solving problems from the within. If people work towards a common goal, irrespective of their religion, only then we can solve the problem of xenophobia. Again, I don't think religion is something that people should wear on their sleeves. Wearing it on the head is okay =).

We do need positive Muslim role-models in the media. Not the ones who are out there, beating the doctrine drum, but those who are willing to debunk the mainstream misconceptions with their actions.

Racism, sexism and anti-semitism have existed for years, and Muslims have also joined the club now.

Islamoblogger said...

You mean role models like like Fareed Zakaria, Muhammad Yunis, Imran Khan, and Muhammad Ali?

*i can't think of any others off the top of my head...isn't it sad?*

Zany said...

I don't know who these people are. Are you talking about Muhammad Ali the boxer?

By role-models, I meant who are willing to show that Muslims are regular individuals. They care about proper education, health, the economy. Their needs are not different from the rest of us.

I think the Canadian sitcom 'Little Mosque on the Prairie' does an excellent job in portraying that.

Again, the point is not to isolate people based on their religion. Again, religion is a personal matter and it should remain so.

Zany said...

As humans we are more alike, than we are different. We live in a multicultural society, so instead of finding new ways of creating differences, perhaps we should look for similarities.

And all this energy that goes into sectarian violence and debates, in my opinion, can be better utilized in solving the grave problems we are facing in Africa. Such as the high infant mortality rate, or the fact that so many women lose their lives during child-birth, due to lack of proper health care.

That Mash Guy said...

the picture he was referring to

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ttstam/2962761960/

Zany said...

Thanks 'that mash guy'.

Kia said...

> Zany

Thanks :)

And yay, lots to catch up on. I'm glad you're not a lazy blogger like me :)