In 2005 a memorandum, with a recommendation for Muslims living in the United States to develop an agenda of priorities was drafted1. Its stated goal was to assure that instead of being frozen in a reactive mode of responding to unending distractions, Muslims should rather frame the discourse based on a proactive agenda of their own creation. The rationale stated then is reproduced: “Confronted by intolerable media prejudice, possessing limited resources, facing competing needs, and overwhelmed by virtually insurmountable odds, the Muslim leadership in this country has to develop a vision for the future, set up an agenda of priorities, and unveil a strategy to see it realized. The imperative for such an action has never been greater now that Islam-bashing has become a veritable norm. Muslims in the United States may not be able to chart the course of Islam globally, and neither is it their mandate to do so. But Muslims in this country, their homeland, do have an obligation to become fully proactive so that they able to serve their community and their nation to the best of their ability”.1
“This article has been drafted as a sounding board for Muslim leaders, activists and experts to prioritize some of the many agenda items that currently consume their time, energy, and resources. There are more than twenty potential items for consideration. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it placed in any order of proposed priority. It is a template that those with the requisite expertize can categorize into a priority based on the needs rather than the wants of the Muslim community both in the short term (5 to 10 years) and in the long range (10 to 20 years).” 1
As it has been over ten years since the proposition was first submitted it is now time to take stock of the situation and assess the extent to which the Muslims have taken ownership of designing their own future. This evaluation examines the issues that have been addressed, those that have been placed on the back-burner, and those that have been completely ignored. A notable omission (at least for some) in the original compilation had been that of the roles of Muslim women in the evolution of the Muslim community. In retrospect such an inclusion would have been superfluous as women have rightly empowered themselves to occupy leadership positions in charting the future of Muslims.
This is a work in progress and needs the wholehearted commitment of the Muslim community to reach fruition. Inexcusable omissions in the original were those of the exponentially expanding ‘terrorism’ and the concomitant Islamophobia; and the need for an all-American Muslim umbrella organization. The original list in the agenda of priorities, reproduced in the same random order is displayed in Appendix A.
This review presents a personal and very subjective itemization of the identified ‘priorities’, and an even more one-sided possible ‘solutions’ to the problems identified!
THE CURRENT STATUS
- TERRORISM: Perhaps the most glaring omission in the original list of priorities was the need for the systematic eradication of ‘terrorism’. Not that eradication would have been an easy task. Unchallenged with any degree of conviction and resolve by Muslims globally, terrorism has exploded to become a scourge on our collective civilizational equanimity. It is not what it has been hyped to be, ’an existential threat to our civilization as we know it’. A rag tag army of anarchists with beguiled acolytes, with varying degrees of psychopathy, religious heresy and nationalistic resentment may well team up or act as ‘lone wolves’ to place our comfort-zone into one of ‘red alert’, but an ‘existential threat’ they are not! They are ubiquitous, unpredictable and violent reminders of anarchists who can strike terror into the hearts of thousands at any time, any place and anyhow with total lack of remorse. They have brought civilization to a halt in Iraq and Syria and their most recent targets of mayhem in Paris (10/2015) and San Bernardino (12/5/2015) climaxed into a virtual doomsday scenario. Nonetheless they hardly qualify to be spoken of in the same breath as the nuclear super powers that have the capacity to incinerate the entire globe within a few days. As it happens, 2015 is the 70th Anniversary (August 6, 1945) of the everlasting infamy of Hiroshima.
The magnitude of the threat of ‘terrorism’ has been summarized by Ted Koppel2 ‘Will terrorists kill innocent civilians in the years to come? Of course! They did so more than 100 years ago, when they were called anarchists – and a responsible nation state must take reasonable measures to protect its citizens. But there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism’. The challenge that confronts us is how we will live with that threat. We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves. Over the coming years many more Americans will die in car crashes, of gunshot wounds inflicted by family members, and by falling off ladders than from any attack by Al Qaeda.’ That is how Mr. Koppel contextualizes the real ‘terror threat’, a view reinforced by Tom Englehardt, ‘Al Qaeda goaded us into doing what it had neither the resources nor the ability to do.’ This off course does not mean that Muslims are not as concerned about the other injustices that plague our country and the world including the threat of global warming, the widening economic disparity between the rich and poor within and between nations, the ever-expanding war market and the institutionalized racism. These have to be framed within the context of terrorism. Regardless as to where the conflated threat of ‘Islamist terrorism’ may rank in the national/global scheme of civilizational instability, for Muslims it is a monumental monstrosity, as it is an intense personal struggle that defines who we are and what we stand for.
For Muslims an act of ‘Islamist terrorism’ is not just the random reaction of heretical Muslims trying to seek justification for a litany of grievances that they can never find in Islam. Such a litany, in evident response to the malfeasance (whether real or imagined)perpetrated against the Muslim world by the ‘West’ have included amongst others, is: the serial provocative humiliations (The Rushdie affair, the Mohammed cartoon caper, the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal, the sensationalist public depiction of the execution of three Muslim figureheads, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Osama Bin Laden, no matter how unsavory they may have appeared to most observers in the West and to many in the Muslim world ); the exploitation of Muslim resources, occupation of their lands, or propping up of subservient dictators; or the permissive extermination of Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya and Kosovo; and now Burma and the Central African Republic; the unending ‘disclosures’ exposed in the endless ‘war-on-terror ‘, and the status of permanently despised ‘ghettoized citizens’ in new homelands, especially in Europe. Notwithstanding the merit or spuriousness of such excuses Islam does not permit vicarious retribution. However, any one or combination of the above ‘injustices’ can be employed to avenge a personal vendetta by a heretic, a psychopath or an anarchist who happens to be Muslim.
For Muslims the linkage of Islam with terror is a desecration of the profound core of the message of Islam: that is peace, universal brotherhood of mankind, social equity and justice, respect for the environment and the avoidance of exploitation of resources and oppression of people. The ‘wall of Islamist terrorism’ is constructed as an effective shield by all those who would want to isolate the world from Islam’s ‘radical’ message against the status quo which is designed to ensure that the rich and powerful remain so. Paramount for Muslims is to reclaim the pristine purity of their religion that when properly understood and practiced is a model for global harmony.
An intended consequence of the perpetuation of the so-called Global War on Terror is to ensure that Muslim subgroups re-kindle centuries’ old animosities to become self-destructive forces in unending internecine conflicts. This leads to a gradual attrition of the ‘Muslim world’ with those on the sidelines profiting from the weapons of warfare and the ‘rebuilding’ of the lands they helped plunder.
In parallel mindless destructive acts on western targets, while generating a ‘civilizational insecurity’ also whips up a wholesale hysteria against all Muslims. Muslims are then subjected to intensified unjustifiable scrutiny, even viewed as a fifth column and are thereby the victims of marginalization, discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes. They become fair game for Islamophobia that Donald Trump is exploiting in the most despicable manner to garner votes for his presidential campaign. The eradication of terrorism, notwithstanding the other more existential threats to civilization as a whole, must be the topmost priority of all Muslims.
The immediate imperative for the community of Muslims world-wide must be to focus on how best to bring to an end the barbaric slaughter of innocent civilians of all religious backgrounds in any part of the world. In a practical sense what measures, whether political, military, economic, educational, religious, can be mobilized against the heretical purveyors of hate and mayhem and counteract their seductive appeal to vulnerable or psychologically unbalanced minds who are their mindless robots of destructiveness? In this battle for the minds and hearts of the misguided, the Islamophobes and the heretics are on the same side. They need each other to thrive off their cannibalistic relationship.
Nonetheless to have any hope of succeeding, Muslims first need to identify ‘terrorism’ as a heresy, and develop a unified strategy to extirpate it from the theology of Islam. They need to do this to restore Islam’s tarnished image, and to emancipate the millions of Muslims world-wide who have been shackled by its linkage to terrorism. It must be seen to be done for the exclusive benefit of Islam and Muslims and not as a show to ingratiate themselves with ‘Western expectations’. As President Obama declared (Oval Office Address 12/6/15) with respect to the radical ideology that has “spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.”3 The recent very public condemnation by Muslim clerics in India that the behavior of cults like Isis and Al Qaeda are totally outside the pale of Islam, propagates a message that needs to be amplified by Muslim groups all over the world.4 Almost in concert with this is a powerful film produced in Indonesia that amounts to a relentless, religious repudiation of the Islamic State and is the opening salvo in a global campaign by the world’s largest Muslim group to challenge its ideology head-on.5 Also encouraging is the appeal by President Rouhani of Iran who declared that the onus is on Muslims ,”It is our greatest duty today to correct the image of Islam in world public opinion,” He voiced concern that damage was being done to Islam’s reputation by the violence in its heartlands, and urged all Islamic nations in the region to stop the “violence, terror and massacres”.6
There should be a total concordance between Muslims and the so-called West to eradicate this evil from society. Thus they need to co-opt the cooperation of all peoples of goodwill and pragmatism who want to eradicate the scourge of terrorism from their daily lives. When the US and Russia Saudi Arabia and Iran are ostensibly on the same side to neutralize the military expansionism of Isis it should augur well for humanity except when political ambitions of each of these powers supersede the all-important goal of eliminating a common enemy that has global machinations. The current political manoeuvers seem to be deadlocked.
So while military and diplomatic actions are underway, the critical signal to all heretics that espouse terrorism should be a single repeated message that is loud and unequivocal: and that is that the killing of innocent people is terrorism and not an act of jihad. It does not lead to martyrdom. Its only direction is to Hell. Such a message reinforced by all branches of Islam is the only measure that can prevent vulnerable minds from being seduced into the vortex of terrorism. This presupposes that a long overdue rapprochement between the Sunni and Shia divisions takes place. A concomitant is that the radical intolerant version of Islam indoctrinated in some Sunni countries needs to be revised. It requires all Muslim organizations to call out the lie of the heretical cults who have mutilated the image of Islam, to denounce them for who they are whether they have embraced the mantle of Isis, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabab or some other unmentionable obscenities masquerading under the guise of Islam. Wide Muslim scholarship as invited to the Amman Conference (2004) needs to be reconvened to iron out the wrinkles in the religion that are made mountainous. Ultimately a uniform curricular reform has to be made containing the agreed upon elements of the creed, but allowing for acceptable divergent interpretations. Such a proactive initiative requires enormous resources and needs to be deployed with a coordinated strategy.
- ISLAMOPHOBIA: Since the original article Islamophobia has emerged as the second most important priority confronting the Muslim community. Though present before 9/11 and having demonstrated an increase after that event few would have predicted that instead of declining with the passage of time it would have intensified to the degree that it has. That this exponential growth of systematic anti-Islamism has not been by happenstance is documented by several authoritative reports by Max Blumenthal7, Nathan Lean 8 and fully exposed by Fear, Inc9 which provides details of the various levels at which this operation is implemented and estimates that $ 57,000,000.00 have been cycled through the network. The authors categorized the network according to the roles played by the different stakeholders: see APPENDIX B for details. The tone among the Republican presidential wannabees has been especially demeaning to Muslims and the most alarming aspect of this scenario is that the more strident and outrageous the ant-Muslim sentiments become, the greater the level of public acclamation they seem to generate!
Faced with such an insurmountable challenge Muslims need to develop multiple strategies to combat it. These include the previously described attempt to root out the ideology of terror; collaborating with members of the interfaith community, identifying with the key issues that all Americans face, and repudiating the malicious distortions of the Islamophobes. In this regard CAIR has again taken the lead. In the same fashion as it has established an impeccable network to monitor and respond to civil rights infractions, CAIR has also taken a quantum leap in identifying the purveyors of hate against Muslims. Through its Department dedicated to the Monitoring and Combatting Islamophobia, CAIR has been able to chart the Islamophobia Industry from the financiers, to organizations, to media, to propagandists, to activists to politicians, as previously noted. However, CAIR on its own cannot succeed. It requires all the resources of the Muslim community to make a total commitment to expose the hate-mongers for who they are. In an unprecedented act, Dr. Suzanne Barakat the sister of one of the three young Muslim people who were butchered in a cold-blooded Isis style execution by terrorist Craig Hicks at Chapel Hill just about one year ago, has challenged Mr. Trump to a one on one debate regarding this incident. To date Mr. Trump has remained uncharacteristically silent!
- CIVIL RIGHTS: With respect to the protection of the civil rights of Muslim citizens in the US there are many local, regional and national organizations that have spearheaded this effort. Foremost in this regard is the Council of American and Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR has enjoyed a meteoric rise thanks to its well- developed infrastructure, widespread national presence, and relevance in representing the Muslim community. The American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) though primarily focused on anti-Arab bigotry, also takes a stand against Islamophobia. The National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedom (NCPCF) is a broad based coalition of Muslim and non-Muslim organizations that focuses on the double standards employed primarily against Muslims and other minorities. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a watchdog over the protection of the civil rights of all citizens has been especially active in the post-9/11 era when draconian measures have been passed in the name of protecting national security. Boston has formed its own civil rights protection group designated as the Muslim Justice League. All these civil rights organizations have evolved to counteract the invasion of privacy and erosion of civil liberties.
The prevalent view within the Muslim community is that it is denied equal justice. There is the perception that the all-important principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ does not apply to Muslims. In the so-called war on terror Muslims are made to experience a collective guilt for the actions of a few, most of whom are outside this country, and over whose actions they have no control. They also feel that those with psychotropic traits in their community who might express a pathological interest in ‘violence’, instead of being referred for psychiatric management are subject to sting operations or exploited as law enforcement informants. The selective surveillance of mosques and Muslim businesses as well as the use of agent provocateurs are other violations of civil rights that Muslims feel indignant about. All Muslims recognize the critical importance of identifying ‘terror suspects’ before they are allowed any chance to explode with their deadly violence. They also understand that Muslims themselves are the prime targets of terrorists on a global scale. While the overwhelming majority is committed to support the efforts of law enforcement agencies to protect our country, it suffers from a deep sense of frustration that as a whole it is viewed as a part of the problem rather than an integral part of the solution. This is exemplified by the futile if not counter-productive interrogations/inquisitions conducted by Congressman Peter King in the past and the most alarming proposition currently by Donald Trump, Republican candidate for President that Muslims should be excluded from entering the US.
Some in the Muslim community also view the more recent projects entitled ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ as unduly intrusive of the Muslim community while exculpating other communities of the risks of radicalization. This topic is hotly debated within the Muslim community and is detailed below.
While the grievances of the Muslim community are real there is a flip side to their preoccupation with what amounts to a permanent ‘victimization complex’, and a sense of inordinate entitlement for ‘rights’. Despite being Constitutionally guaranteed to every American citizen, the ongoing struggles of the African American community should serve as a constant reminder, that though America is as tolerant a country with respect to cultural racial and religious diversity as any in the world, it is not without imperfections, and much more work needs to be done to achieve social equity and justice for all. Thus joining forces with other maligned minority groups such as the African Americans long blighted by institutionalized racism, and the Latino community treated with contempt, will provide Muslims greater leverage to have their just grievances addressed.
No one wants to be treated as a second class citizen in his own country. Certainly Muslims do not. But ask the African Americans who have suffered under institutionalized racism whether they like being branded by their skin color? Worse still ask the Native Americans who were vanquished and then virtually vanished with no visible identity in the land of their birthright.
So if Muslims feel the radical Republican rhetoric too unsettling, they should consider the plight of those that is indescribably worse. In dealing with any tribulations, they should remember the Quranic injunction “ Seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: for, behold, God is with those who are patient in adversity.” 2:153. Muslims thus need to take the lead in redressing the injustices of those subjected to greater oppressions noted above and the worst expression of which are acts of merciless terrorism.
- COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: To engage or disengage? An issue closely allied to the eradication of terrorism, the de-legitimization of Islamophobia, and preservation of civil rights (in the same manner that society has zero tolerance for anti-Semitism and racism) is the extent to which the Muslim community should engage in programs designed to Counter or better still Prevent Violent Extremism. It is viewed by many that participating in any such program is abdicating one’s civil rights. It is a vigorously contested issue with arguments both in favor of and against any involvement in engaging a CVE program. On July 14/2015 CAIR issued a statement in which 42 Groups expressed their concerns about pending CVE Legislation.10 The Islamic Council of New England has issued a statement in which it favors participating in programs of PVE as a significant counterweight to the blatant Islamophobia that already targets them (www.islamiccouncilne.org)11.The debate is ongoing. According to Rached Ghannouchi , ‘Countering violent extremism thus requires ensuring that people understand the true teachings of Islam, which challenge the radicals’ black-and-white views and allow for interpretations that accommodate the needs of modern life’ ( The Atlantic, 2/1/2016).The best arbiters for the Muslim community might be the appraisal of Public Relations Consultants and the informed judgment of Muslim Think Tanks.
- INTEGRATION: While Islamophobes, finding shelter under the First Amendment, have no problem in demonizing all Muslims and even Islam for the acts of a few psychopathic Muslims, most well-intentioned Americans remain confused by the mixed messages they get about the Muslim communities in their midst. The questions raised by a wide array of non-Muslim leadership, including the media, aspirant presidential wannabees, religious leaders and military and law enforcement personnel, are, ‘Why do they hate us?’ ’Why do they want to conduct ‘jihad’,(wrongly equated to terror), against us?’ ‘Why do they want to build a shrine at ground zero for the ‘terrorists’ who humiliated our country?’ ‘Why do they need to establish “Shariah Courts” in our country where there is a distinct separation of State and Church?’ ‘Why do they not support our troops when they are fighting against our sworn enemies?’ Do they support our Veterans? Do they honor the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem? ‘Do they have divided loyalties or are they a fifth column in our midst?’ Random bloggers have unprintable impressions of Islam and Muslims that resonate in their echo chambers.
However, the questions noted above, whether based on a real or imagined fear of Islam, cannot all be brushed off as ‘Islamophobia’. They need to be answered as a part of the Muslim integration into the society at large. The fact that Muslims have condemned ‘terrorism’ as totally antithetical to the values of Islam ad nauseam is not enough. The Islamophobes have a limitless budget and are much more organized in demonizing Muslims than the Muslims themselves are able to dispel doubts about their bona fides. The fact that the real terrorists provide endless fodder to the Islamophobes does not help the Muslim cause one iota. So is there a solution to the quandary in which the Muslims find themselves?
As a first step, to foster a positive image of Islam Muslims have to take their own roles much more aggressively. What is required is a multifaceted approach in which diverse resources are committed. First and foremost Muslims of this country must take pride in its accomplishments. That is not the same as saying that they cannot be critical of their country when it is heading down the wrong path. But most Muslims have an almost knee-jerk reaction in criticizing the government for its frequently wayward foreign policy specifically vis a vis in relation to so-called Muslim countries. Muslims spend little time lauding the benefits they enjoy in a secular country that enables them to practice their religion as they personally understand it rather than have an authoritarian ‘Muslim state’ to dictate to them how they should understand and practice it. Muslims show little evidence of participating in other activities that are halal for Muslims that non-Muslims engage in as for example celebrations on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day etc. Muslims do not have to drink and dance but they can publicly swear the oath of allegiance salute the flag sing the national anthem. What better impression to give to their fellow Americans than by their Muslim women geared in ‘modest garments’ engaged in such national commemorations? For the Muslims who have immigrated to this country and feel that they should not engage in such ‘un-Islamic activities’, they might be better off returning to their countries of origin.
In this context, one extraordinary step taken was that by the Chattanooga Muslim community which in the wake of the mindless slaughter of 5 servicemen by an apparently depressed/deranged Muslim, chose to cancel their Eid celebrations and attend the memorial services for the deceased as a mark of respect (7/16/15). This may be a tiny step forward for the Muslim community but it is in the direction of inclusiveness and integration. Integration is the specific antidote to Islamophobia. What remains after that is unfiltered bigotry that is as old as history itself.
- PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTATION: Muslims need to recognize the critical importance of investing in professional Public Relations Consultations. It is an absolute requisite to help Muslims determine how to engage the American society at large, especially in regard to what is relevant and what is counter-productive. As an example Muslims like to make a public display of their piety praying in public spaces, airports, parking lots etc. when the time for prayer is announced. While from a Muslim perspective this is just fulfilling their religious obligation, to non-Muslim observers the view may be directly opposite. They could readily identify the prayer rituals to the ostentatious acts of would-be suicide bombers who are predictably portrayed by the biased media to conduct such an exercise before engaging in their acts of terrorism. Thus while Muslims see their acts as benign and pious non-Muslims may construe them as a precursor to evil. Similarly the demand by some Muslim groups to have their own ‘Shariah’ Courts may raise deep concerns in the psyche of ordinary Americans who understand little about Shariah and what they do know terrifies them. As noted by law professor, Asifa Quraishi-Landes, 12 ’By depicting ‘Shariah’ as Public Enemy No.1, the anti-Shariah movement in the U.S. has put Muslims in a new and challenging position… in a social context that is increasingly suspicious of the Muslim Americans’ patriotism, often with suggestions that adherence to Shariah means that we do not share American values, and may even threaten national security .’ Similarly, the past insistence in building a ‘mega-mosque’ at ground zero was seen by an American public hopelessly confounded by Islamophobia as a mausoleum to terrorists. Muslims know that to be good practicing Muslims they do not need a statutory Shariah court, nor do they need an Islamic State and least of all do they need a Caliphate. These are the issues they need to drive home.
The fact that Muslims have certain civil rights that are guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution should not be an excuse to test those rights, certainly not in the present climate of unbridled disinformation about Islam. The situation is in part analogous to the Constitutional right of freedom of expression. Circumspection expects that the free speech should be used with the intention to promote understanding for the greater good of society and not be employed to denigrate any segment of society, which then makes it hate speech. Though the analogy between the use of civil rights to demand Shariah courts, cannot be equated with the use of civil rights to spew hatred, and may seem intuitively demeaning, if not downright insulting, the net effect is the same – depending on one’s bias and viewpoint. The use of a right simply because it exists without thinking through the consequences of its evident use/misuse, can provoke dangerous misunderstandings. Winning a legal battle but losing overwhelmingly in the court of public opinion is not where Muslims need to be ensconced in their current perilous position. These seemingly innocuous issues with which Muslims grapple on a daily basis cannot be resolved easily without investing in public relations consultants. In this country image is everything. How the image is portrayed can make or break the community. Muslims firmly and righteously believe that one’s intention is the best yardstick by which one’s actions are measured, and that ultimately regardless of how other people may judge an act, God and God alone is the final arbiter of intentions and actions. This line of reasoning may be valid in a completely Muslim environment. In a situation where others may hold a totally different world view such an attitude may have a counterproductive effect. By the same token the evident non-participation by Muslims in ‘American’ events might be construed as a sign of disloyalty by ordinary Americans whereas a Muslim may just see it as a superfluous option. Thus the engagement of a Public Relations Consultation is critical in helping Muslims to frame the correct choices in their interactions with the larger society.
- MUSLIM THINK TANKS. Muslims need to establish professional full time Think Tanks consisting of its brightest and best to help chart the future of Islam. Based on the recommendations of good versus bad practices by PR consultants, Muslim Think Tanks, as long advocated by Robert Crane, can then prioritize the needs of the Muslim community as opposed to its wants!
- MEDIA NETWORK: Crucial to any effort in which Muslims want control over their own destinies is the imperative for them to establish a broad-based communications infrastructure that includes a credible presence in print, radio, television, internet and film outlets. This would permit them to broadcast their own message in their own words within their own context to the rest of the world, unfiltered or distorted by the agenda of others. Without their own communications network , Muslims will always be at the mercy of those who wish to portray them according to their personal whims and prejudices-as an underclass, a fifth column or a terrorist sympathizer. The carefully orchestrated campaign against Muslims has been fully documented earlier. The mainstream media are in lockstep when it comes to reporting on Islam and Muslims. Muslims are readily identified as ‘terrorists’ or ‘terror suspects’, but rarely if ever recognized as the victims of terrorism itself. A notable example of the latter was the horrendous tragedy in the cold-blooded Isis-type execution of three totally innocent Muslim students at Chapel Hill by a White supremacist evidently driven to extreme ‘road rage’ because of his parking spot fixation. Unless the Muslim community assumes its responsibility for its own well-being, it cannot depend on the so-called ‘mainstream media’ to be sympathetic to its cause. Thus while the horrible acts of Isis are given due and appropriate coverage, the Muslim victims of ‘Christian’ terrorism in the Central African Republic, or of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar at the hands of ‘terrorist Buddhist monks’ receive barely a mention. Recognizing that their message of peace and rapprochement is often deliberately ignored or distorted by the mainstream media, Muslims need to establish a vibrant communications infrastructure that is designed to present the spectrum of Muslim views that are consonant with the diversity within Islam itself and a hallmark of democracy.
- YOUTH PROGRAMS: There is no lack of consensus that one of the most significant problems that the Muslim communities faces is to how to raise their youth in a society where they are torn apart by virtually contradictory norms! How do Muslim families reconcile their conservative social values in a ‘free’( some would say ‘promiscuous’ society) especially in the cruel unwelcoming reality of the post-9/11 era. Every parent agonizes how to bring up children with Islamic values in a society that is reticent to engage in such debate. More than paying lip service Muslims must come up with creative alternatives that challenge Muslim youth to be the best in an environment that provides unlimited opportunities for those who place a premium on success in this life, and not so much on the Hereafter. The real unaddressed problem they have to wrestle with on a daily basis is not only any discrimination or bigotry they may face because of their religion, but also their voluntary exclusion from certain activities that their peers view as a part of collegiality, viz. dating, dancing, proms, pre-marital intimacy. When we expect our children to grow up as healthy well-adjusted and creative members of our nation how can we expect them to ride the tide of Islamophobia on the one hand and their enforced disengagement from other activities that their non-Muslim peers view as normal and natural! Islamic schools may provide a cocoon for a time but what is the consequence when they leave the shelter of the Islamic school and engage with peers in the real world of college and work? The tragic irony is that in our zeal to prohibit intermingling of the sexes from a young age we leave our youth completely vulnerable to the seduction of the real world when they have all the opportunity but are totally unprepared for the free intermingling that then occurs. Because of the immensity of the problem and the facile answer that ‘religious leaders’ have, and that is do what pleases Allah and avoid what He forbids, the youth are left totally frustrated. Muslim youth are growing up in a very precarious environment. Their problems will not go away, and unless the Muslim community utilizes all its resources to address the healthy development of its youth it is more likely they will leave the fold of Islam as in ‘unmosqued’. There is no greater betrayal of Islam than the trivialization of the needs of its youth!
- INTRA-MUSLIM DIALOGUE 13: Fundamental to the issue of educating the children and providing a nurturing environment for them to grow in is the necessity for adults in the society to develop mutual respect for differences in their respective interpretations of Islam, over and above any differences that may arise because of socio-economic challenges and racial and linguistic diversity. Such differences can best be aired by promoting ‘Intra-Muslim Dialogues’ where honest but civil discussions are held over a range of topics of divergent interest with the intention of building consensus when possible but agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable if not. It is ironic that as Christian denominations appear to close ranks through ecumenical dialogues Muslim sects shred the common bonds of Islam that unite them and splinter into confrontational clubs of exclusivity10. If the problem of intolerance between some segments of the Sunni Muslims against their Shia counterparts was unacceptable 10 years ago it has escalated into open violence in the era of Isis domination. The toxic vitriol with which Salafi and so-called Ahle Wal Sunnah depict each other eviscerates the essence of Islam. The sheer extravaganza of the obscenely wealthy Muslim states juxtaposed to the most poverty stricken starving Muslims in failed states is a contrast that demands the attention of all Muslims regardless as to where they live. Racism though totally antithetical to the values of Islam needs to be confronted as it making silent inroads into the Muslim community. These latter subjects need immediate confrontation as they are totally opposed to the values of Islam.
- EDUCATION: The Islamic Society of North America has been at the forefront in promoting Islamic Education not only by holding regular seminars and conferences on the subject but also by devoting annual issues of the ‘Islamic Horizons’ to the topic. Concerns about Islamic education were expressed in ‘Islamic Horizons ( March April 2014)14,’Even after being in existence for decades Islamic Schools still share many challenges such as: Academic excellence – acquiring, retaining and training high quality teachers and leadership. An acute scarcity of qualified and certified teachers and leaders is an obstacle that needs to be remedied’. Other notable weaknesses are the lack of standardized curricula, financial insecurity, and structured governance. In the ‘Islamic Horizons’ 15 devoted to Islamic Education, two important views are again striking. ‘The Islamic Schools League of America works in partnership with educators, organizations, and universities to foster the development, growth, and quality of Islamic education primarily by establishing networks, providing resources, disseminating knowledge, nurturing leadership, and carrying out critical and foundational research on Islamic education and full time schools. There are about 270 Islamic Schools in the United States of which most function independently.’ (Karen Keyworth and Shaza Khan). ‘Muslim educators and leaders have to work together to establish unified standards for all weekend Islamic Schools, and professional training of teachers and school administrators, parents and board members’, (Tasneema Ghazi)16.
With respect to higher education, even though at the present time there are many laudable institutions that provide education for Muslims some leading to diplomas in Chaplaincy and others aspiring to develop an ‘Imams’ Course, to date only Zaytuna College and the American Islamic College are accredited institutions for higher Islamic education. Accreditation for studies in Islamic Courses should be the foremost goal of all colleges that plan to offer programs of academic studies related to Islam. Concomitant with the establishment of special courses in Islamic studies there must be a professionally qualified base of educators who devise a curriculum that is true to the universal principles of Islam and not marred by an excessive affiliation with any particular school or sect of Islamic thought. As a prelude to any active investment in the creation of a new Islamic College, it is imperative that the heads of the current institutions of College-Level Education establish a joint task force to exam the needs for and the feasibility of establishing an institution that truly serves the long term needs of the Muslim community, in terms of producing chaplains, imams, and graduates with an Islam-oriented training in social services, politics, journalism, education and law.
While Islamic schools may be bulwarks against the threat of an overly secular education, studies need to be conducted to evaluate on an outcomes based approach of their long term efficacy in helping the Muslim youth integrate into a graduate program, and if that is going to also be an Islamic one it is important that it is accredited and has a faculty and curriculum that gives the Muslim student the competitive edge!
- POLITICAL ACTIVISM is an issue about which most immigrant Muslims to this country are relatively naïve. An active alignment with the frustrations and aspirations of African- Americans would be mutually beneficial to both communities. Muslims can learn a tremendous amount from the struggles the African American community faced and continues to face in getting a fair share from the larger society in which they have invested so much for so long. They lag behind in housing, education, healthcare, and employment. They are discriminated against, subject to excess brutality and fatal shootings, and are disproportionately represented in the prison system. But they have organized themselves to counter these social injustices. Muslims can benefit from their political struggles to combat prejudice and attain social and economic justice and equality. Muslims in this country are fortunate to have fellow African Americans who have been through the civil rights struggle to help to train and lead them in the political minefield that they find themselves in. There is no time more propitious than now to display the solidarity of the Muslim community with that of our African American brethren in the midst of their struggle to proclaim to the world that ‘Black Lives Matter!’
With regard to political activism abroad, we must also clarify that what is promoted as ‘democracy’ may be understood in a totally different light by those uninformed about it. To them ‘democracy’ might mean ‘sexual licentiousness’, ‘empowerment of women’, ’breakdown of ‘traditional norms’ etc. Democracy cannot be imposed on any people who are not ready to understand and accept it. It cannot be transplanted into a milieu unprepared to cultivate it. Rather it is a transformational process that occurs by a gradual process of osmosis of differing cultures. Interfaith dialogue is the bedrock of promoting a positive understanding of religious and cultural differences.
- INTERFAITH The message delivered to the Muslim world by Pope Francis I on the occasion of Eid in 2013 17 is one that we as Americans and Muslims should internalize and deliver to developing Muslim countries as a model of true interfaith discourse: The full text is reproduced in APPENDIX C “This year, the theme on which I would like to reflect with you is : Promoting Mutual Respect through Education. This year’s theme is intended to underline the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect. “Respect” means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. “Mutual” means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides. What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation.’
This is a supreme example of ongoing meaningful Muslim interfaith activities, which should not only be a matter of expedience for Muslims in the States but should be reciprocated in countries where Muslims are the majority. As Muslims and Americans living virtually in the lap of luxury despite the machinations of Islamophobia we are ideally positioned to act as ambassadors of Islam as well as of ideal American values throughout the Muslim lands plagued by corruption, oppression exploitation, joblessness, disenfranchisement , illiteracy, and disease starvation and abject poverty. It is imperative that the rights of non-Muslim minorities to express their religion freely should be guaranteed by so-called Muslim countries. This long overdue acknowledgement was issued in the so-called Marrakesh Declaration: Muslims Advance Consensus for Citizenship for All (MARRAKESH, 27 January 2016).
- COMMUNITY OUTREACH/ENGAGEMENT: The Muslim community must expand its collaboration with all other groups who share their aspirations and values for a better America. These include interfaith partners, civil rights organizers, politicians, government and law enforcement agents, and activists striving to improve the lives of all Americans on diverse issues. Muslims need to embrace such issues with the same passion that non-Muslim Americans display as they are of immediate relevance to them as well: an economy that supports all Americans, not just the wealthy few ; a more synchronous wealth distribution; raising of the minimum wage; reduction in the trade deficit; a more equitable tax structure ensuring that corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share; investments in education, healthcare and social security and infrastructure; electoral reform with a constitutional amendment to repeal ‘Citizens United’; a more responsible environmental strategy to reduce global warming; a comprehensive immigration reform , and a more circumspect foreign policy with less demands on the military; the confrontation of institutionalized racism as a cancer within the lifeblood of America. Muslims have an obligation to care about the welfare of the poor, needy, the homeless, the sick, the lonely , whether on drugs or subject to domestic violence or other forms of abuse whether Muslim or not. Muslims need to confront all types of racism not just Islamophobia. Unless Muslim citizens of this country align themselves with the needs of all Americans and not continue to bemoan their own ‘victimization,’ their expectations will remain in the fringe of society. In this Muslims can learn a lot from the civil rights struggle which one had hoped would have ended with the election of President Obama. Sadly it has generated a backlash that continues to put down the African-American community. An active alignment with the aspirations of African- Americans would be mutually beneficial to both communities.
- MUSLIM SOCIAL SERVICES: A concomitant of Muslim engagement in all community programs is the need for Muslim organizations to provide social services to address some of the issues listed above. Not only as a matter of doing what is right, the Muslim community by building hospitals, colleges, nursing homes, and retirement homes will follow the path of many previously marginalized communities who were able to establish their credentials in American society by their limitless philanthropy that created iconic structures by which the communities were recognized as an asset to the entire nation. The Jewish community is a noteworthy example.
- ISLAMIC BANKING: Is an entrepreneurial endeavor that has taken off on its own wings. Whether it will in anyway make a dent in the usurious practice of the capitalistic system is highly dubious. For now it permits Muslims an opportunity to showcase a system that is at least in theory consistent with the egalitarian ideals of Islam.
- HUMANITARIAN RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS: in this country play a vital role in providing acute relief to countries devastated by war, famine, disease and natural disasters. The fact that the Muslim world is fractured by internal turmoil and is in desperate need of rehabilitation is not one that can be restored by isolated attempts by humanitarian organizations competing with each other for the same limited resources from the same pool of donors. This requires a consolidation of the resources of the diverse philanthropic bodies to come together as COMBINED MUSLIM PHILANTROPHIES. This would expand their scope to collect grants in the most cost-effective way while at the same time it would permit them to distribute food, water, medicines, clothing, housing, educational material and also the wherewithal to develop self- sustainability with less duplication of efforts. Commensurate with the work of philanthropic agencies should be a sustained effort by Muslim countries to promote a just and equitable distribution of resources to other failed Muslim countries. There must be emphasis on education, job creation and religious tolerance and promotion of democracy. While many of the remedies fall outside the scope of purely humanitarian organizations, the consolidation of their resources would allow them greater leverage in uplifting the living conditions of those over and above just providing for their immediate needs.
- MOSQUE BUILDING: This is a highly random uncoordinated activity driven by community activism often fueled by specific ideological or ethnic aspirations. A process that was largely unchallenged before 9/11, it has become problematic in some parts of the country because of the fear-mongering tactics of Islamophobia. To achieve optimal efficacy the mosque building enterprise rather than being an ad hoc process should be one overseen by a central organization that undertakes prior feasibility studies to establish appropriate needs and sustainability.
- STRIVING FOR SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Maulana Maududi’s vision of an idealized Muslim is: ‘A Muslim is born in this world to become a living symbol of goodness, nobility and humanity. He should win the hearts of people by his character and his example. Then alone can he become the true ambassador of Islam. Bad manners, ill-behavior, oppression aggression, and narrow-mindedness are against the very spirit of Islam.’ These clichés are a far cry from the reality as exposed in, ‘Who is a Muslim? The intense struggle for the Soul of Islam.18 To produce a better Muslim there needs to be a drastic change in the style content and standardization of the curriculum used in the teaching of relevant Islam in schools and adult education. This in itself is a monumental project whose implementation can no longer be procrastinated! Only such a profound shift in paradigm can bring about the real change required to deliver proper Islamic guidance to those currently lured by radical messages of the extremists.
- AN UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION: The Muslim community has endless needs ignoring its countless ‘wants’. It will certainly take investment in both a Public Relations consultation as well as a Muslim Think Tank to prioritize the many items listed. However none would disagree that while these agenda items are prioritized the various Muslim leadership organizations that have for so many years been so ably shepherding the Muslims in the US need to look hard as to how they can unite under a single umbrella. This would have the effect of the pooling of scarce resources, of coordinating efforts so that duplicative acts are minimized and of speaking with a single authoritative voice. See APPENDIX D for a proposal by Sheila Musaji 19as to how an umbrella organization could be constituted.
The initial model that includes all the current stakeholders, such as ISNA, ICNA , MAS, CAIR, Sound Vision, etc., could come together as a loosely bound federation, preserving their own autonomy, but sharing resources on a regular basis. Their foundational name could reflect their loose initial affiliation such as the American Muslim Federation. While in this cooperative mode it could fashion out how it could integrate into a single entity with portfolios specifically designated to oversee at least all activities listed by Sheila Musaji, incorporating amongst others media, civil rights, political engagement, interfaith activity, philanthropy, education, social services, community outreach, environmental protection, healthcare and global social justice, and human and religious rights protection. At that point a more appropriate organizational name could be the Union of Mainstream Muslim Americans or Associations (UMMA). Almost in anticipation of the publication of this memorandum the so-called ‘Washington Declaration was issued. The declaration announced the formation of the “Coordinating Body of Muslim Councils in the West”. It is the result of consultations at the recently-concluded “1st International Conference of Muslim Councils in the West” held this week in Arlington, Va. It is an important first step in getting Muslims at least from the ‘West’ on the same page. Its success will be measured by its relevance in serving its constituents and fulfilling its objectives as well as expanding its membership to the global community of Muslims.
CONCLUSION: A recent poll found ‘anti-Muslim sentiment frighteningly high’ 20, and ‘Against the backdrop of increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric, a coalition of online activists called on “patriots” to organize protests in front of mosques across the United States. Dubbed the “Global Rally for Humanity,” events were planned in at least 20 cities nationwide on October 9th and 10th. The claim was that “humanity is attacked daily by radical Islam.”20 Fortunately the anti-Muslim propaganda was a huge flop. This must surely be the moment in time when the Muslim Umma must rouse itself from the deep torpor into which it has fallen. Yet through wake-up call after wake-up call the Umma has barely stirred. First it was the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia, then in Chechnya, then the catastrophe of 9/11, that served as a pretext for the devastation of Iraq. From the ashes of Iraq arose Al Qaeda in Iraq that metamorphosed into Isis. The execrable brutality of Isis resulted in the mass exodus of Syrians. In the post 9/11 era of the contrived so-called ‘global war on terror’ Muslims were branded as terrorists and became fair game for insults humiliation and bigotry. Anti-Islamism is a powerful selling point in the current Republican presidential debates. The lowest point was reached by Trump when he declared the need to close down some mosques, impose a mandatory identity base of Muslims in America and even ban Muslims from entering the US.
As though their mortification were not complete there is now the flood of refugees swamping Europe. What makes the degradation of the Muslim world complete is that these Muslim refugees are expecting and finding asylum in European countries, while the US which destabilized the area in the first place turns a blind eye to the problem, and with utter shamelessness the so called ‘Muslim countries’, bloated with petro-dollars, refuse to provide sanctuary for these dehumanized fellow Muslims! What makes the indictment of the ‘Muslim Umma’ so devastating is not what is stated but what is unspoken. It is stated that Muslim terrorists have mercilessly butchered countless of their fellow Muslims. This has produced a deluge of refugees now seeking asylum in Europe. The blatant racism of so many American Governors, the US Congress and Republican Presidential candidates in rejecting the acceptance of a mere 10,000 refugees as opposed to France’s willingness to take in 70,000 is a contrast that is shameful as it is humiliating. For their efforts in attempting to re-settle the hapless migrants the Europeans are given a ‘B’ grade. What is unspoken, though the contempt can barely be concealed, is the scrupulous avoidance of any role the obscenely opulent ‘Muslim countries’ might and must play in the alleviation of this crisis.
The moral bankruptcy of the so-called ‘Muslim world’ is as transparent as the emperor’s new clothes!
This memorandum is personal and therefore highly likely to be flawed in many respects. It is not presented as a blueprint for action but rather as a template designed to stimulate debate, and hopefully build some consensus in a global community held hostage by its own extremists and demonized by a cabal of Islamophobes. The current crisis in Islam and throughout the Muslim world cannot be resolved by a bandaid approach. It is a systemic problem that demands a radical paradigm shift in our strategic thinking. We in the US are fortunate in being able to take the lead.
If the analysis helps to detect any disconnect between what we think is of importance for the survival and prosperity of our community and how we are expending our resources it would have served its purpose. On the other hand if we as Muslims fail to wrest the initiative to define ourselves and chart our own destiny we face the prospect of being fossilized into curiosity pieces relegated to the mantelpiece of time.
Robert Crane in 1997 21 set up a visionary blueprint for Muslims in a book appropriately entitled ‘Shaping the Future’. The failure of the ‘Muslim leadership’ to follow up on his wisdom may be found in Tariq Ramadan’s cynical appraisal, ‘Unfortunately, today’s Muslim religious scholars, and the leaders of various trends, are caught up in an ideological confrontation, and often a clash of egos, that create divisions and transform them into dangerous populists who claim for themselves the title of sole and authentic representatives of Islam. Within Sunnis, as within Shiites; between Sunnis and Shiites; scholars and schools of thought lash out at one another, forgetting the fundamental teachings and the principles that unite them and instead splitting along doctrinal or political lines that remain secondary at best, ‘( The American Muslim, 9/17/2012)22.It is our prayer that the current younger generation of leaders will not be handicapped by such self-adulatory and self-destructive proclivities.
Abdul Cader Asmal MD PhD
Past President of the Islamic Center of Boston and the Islamic Council of New England
Chairman of Communications of Islamic Council since 1987 and Co-Chairman since 2005
- A.C.Asmal, The American Muslim, 1/30/2005.
- Ted Koppel, Wall Street Journal, 8/6/2013.
- President Obama Oval Office Address 12/6/2015
- 70,000 Indian Muslim clerics issue Fatwa against Isis, Independent 12/10/2015
- From Indonesia a Muslim challenge to Isis Ideology, New York Times 11/26/2015
- President Hassan Rouhani : Muslims must improve Islam’s image, BBC News 12/27/2015
- Max Blumenthal, TomDispatch.Com, 12/19/2010.
- Nathan Lean, The Islamophobia Industry, 8/15/2012
- Fear Inc. (Center for American Progress, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network, 8/25/2011.
- CAIR, 42 Groups express concerns re: pending CVE Legislation
- The Islamic Council of New England Statement on CVE. www. Islamiccouncilne.org, 3/20/2015.
- Asifa Quraishi-Landes, Islamic Horizons, May/June 2013
- A.C.Asmal Intra Muslim Dialogue, the Muslim Observer,8/6/1999
- A.C. Asmal, The Struggle for the Soul of Islam, Newage Islam 12/10/2014.
- Zoobia Chaudry, Islamic Horizons March April 2014
- Karen Keyworth and Shaza Khan, Islamic Horizons, March/April 2015.
- Tasneema Ghazi, ibid.
- Pope Francis I Message to the Muslim World on Eid 2013
- Sheila Musaji, The American Muslim 3/12/2014
- New York Times, 9/29/2015.
- Bridges Initiative Team, 10/2/2015.
- Robert Crane, Shaping The Future, 1997
- Tariq Ramadan, The American Muslim, 9/17/2012.
- PROTECTION OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF MUSLIMS IN AMERICA
- POLITICAL ACTIVISM TOWARD EMPOWERMENT
- DEVELOPMENT OF A COMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE TO FRAME A MUSLIM PERSPECTIVE
- THE CREATION OF MORE FULL-TIME ISLAMIC SCHOOLS AS A BULWALK AGAINST THE EROSION OF ISLAMIC MORALS AND VALUES
- THE BUILDING OF BIGGER AND MORE ‘ISLAMIC-LOOKING’ MOSQUES TO MAKE A STATEMENT OF THE MUSLIM PRESENCE
- ENGAGEMENT IN INTERFAITH DIALOGUE WITH OTHER RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
- THE PROMOTION OF ‘SOCIAL OUTREACH’ WITH THE SOCIETY AT LARGE THEREBY ENSURING AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE ON ISSUES OF POVERTY, JOBLESSNESS, HOMELESSNESS, DRUGS, DISCRIMINATION, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND OTHER IMPORTANT PROBLEMS
- ENSURING THE AVAILABILITY OF ‘SOCIAL SERVICES’ FOR THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY ITSELF WITH RESPECT TO PROBLEMS OF INDIGENCE, ISOLATION, BEREAVEMENT, DIVORCE, CARE OF THE SICK, THE OLD, THE ABUSED
- THE PROVISION OF GENUINE ALTERNATIVES FOR THE MUSLIM YOUTH FACING ENORMOUS PEER PRESSURES TO CONFORM TO VALUES THAT UNDERCUT THEIR OWN PRINCIPLES.
- ESTABLISHMENT OF A SYSTEM OF ISLAMIC BANKING
- THE FORMATION OF AN ‘ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY’
- INVESTMENT IN AN ‘ISLAMIC HOSPITAL’
- THE BUILDING OF MUSLIM’OLD PEOPLES’ HOMES’ AND NURSING HOMES
- ENGAGEMENT IN FORMAL’DAWAH WORK’ IN A STYLE THAT RESONATES WITH THE TARGETTED AUDIENCE
- SUPPORTING THE PLIGHT OF MUSLIMS GLOBALLY – FROM INTERNAL REPRESSION AND EXTERNAL OPPRESSION – TOWARD DEMOCRATIZATION IN THE BEST SENSE OF THE WORD WITH SOCIAL JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE
- SEEKING COMMON GROUND AND BUILDING COALITIONS WITH LIKE MINDED PEOPLES OF GOODWILL – WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BEING MORE CIRCUMSPECT ABOUT MAKING ENEMIES WHERE NONE EXIST.
- INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGNS TO IMPROVE THE IMAGE OF ISLAM DISTORTED BY THOSE WITH AN ANTI-ISLAMIC AGENDA
- COORDINATING AND STREAMLINING THE EFFORTS OF VARIOUS CHARITABLE RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS SO THAT FUNDS ARE NOT WASTED ON DUPLICATIVE DRIVES (THE RECENT TSUNAMI CALAMITY UNDERLINED BOTH THE WILLINGNESS OF MUSLIM GROUPS TO SOLICIT FUNDS BUT ALSO THEIR ABJECT LACK OF AN INFRASTRUCTURE TO DELIVER AT THE POINT OF DISASTER)
- FOCUSING MORE TIME ENERGY AND INTENT ON REBUILDING MUSLIM COMMUNITIES FRACTURED BY APATHY, ETHNOCENTRICITY AND IDEOLOGIC HANG-UPS – BY PROMOTING ‘INTRA-MUSLIM DIALOGUE.’
- STRIVING FOR INDIVIDUAL SELF-IMPROVEMENT THROUGH CURRICULAR REFORM SO THAT MUSLIMS DEFINE THEMSELVES RATHER THAN BE DEFINED BY OTHERS.
- INVESTMENT IN MUSLIM THINK-TANKS TO HELP DESIGN OUR FUTURE, AND TASK FORCES TO IMPLEMENT OUR IMMEDIATE NEEDS.
APPENDIX B : The Islamophobia Network
The Funders: who donated $57,000,000 A small group of foundations and wealthy donors serve as the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in the United States. They provide critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks and misinformation experts who peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam – in the form of books, vide0s, reports, and websites. And in turn, a dedicated group of anti-Islam grassroots organizations and right-wing religious groups use the materials as propaganda for their constituency. The include: Scaife Foundations $10,475,000.00; Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $6,540,000.00; Rosenwald, Middle Road and Abstraction Foundation $4,952,979.00; Russell Berrie Foundation $3,802,351.00;Fairbrooke Foundation $1,859,450.00
The Organizations: The main organizations fueling the Islamophobia network .These organizations form an often-interconnected group responsible for spreading fear, bigotry, and hate against American Muslims and Islam. This small network of organizations remains very tight-knit, often disseminating each other’s materials and financially supporting one another. They include: The Clarion Project $ 18,508,600;Middle East Forum $12,593.745; David Horowitz Freedom Center $10,848,250;Center for Security Policy $7,050,275;CTSERF $5,351,000; Investigative Project for Terrorism $ 1,484,335
The Misinformation Experts: There are six individuals who are responsible for orchestrating the majority of misinformation about Islam and Muslims in the United States today. All six are actively promoting the deeply mistaken portrayal of Islam – a religion of nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide, including 2.6 million Americans- as an inherently violent ideology that seeks domination over the United States and all non-Muslims. The ‘hall of famers’ include: Daniel Pipes (Founder of Middle east Forum MEF);David Horowitz ( Founder of David Horowitz Freedom Foundation);David Yerushalmi (Founder of SANE – Society of Americans for National Existence);Frank Gaffney (Founder President Center for Security Policy);Robert Spencer ( Founder Jihad Watch; SIOA: AFDI);Steven Emerson ( Founder Investigative Project on Terrorism)
Echo Chamber : This tight network consists of anti-Muslim, anti-Islam foundations, misinformation experts, activists, validators, grassroots organizations, religious right groups, and their allies in the media and in politics who profoundly misrepresent Islam and Muslims in the United States.
1.Validators This tight network consists of anti-Muslim, anti-Islam foundations, misinformation experts, activists, validators, grassroots organizations, religious right groups, and their allies in the media and in politics who profoundly misrepresent Islam and Muslims in the United States. Nonie Darwish; Zuhdi Jasser; Tawfik Hamid; Walid Shoebat; Walid Phares.
- Activists These are the individuals working alongside the misinformation experts and validators to lead the efforts in spreading hate and misinformation about Islam and Muslims : Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Pamela Geller, Brigitte Gabrielle
Political Players: This select group of elected officials amplify the messages of the misinformation experts in the form of policy recommendations, speeches, or released statements. Rep Michelle Bachman; Rep Paul Brown; Rep Trent Franks; Gov Jindal; Rep Renee Elmers; Rep Peter King; Rep Louie Gohmert
Religious Right :The worldviews of this group are shaped by religious fault-lines, and they view tolerance of Islam as incompatible with their own fundamentalist beliefs. Franklin Graham; John Hagee; Pat Robertson, General Boykin; Ralph Reed
Grass Roots Organizations: These grassroots groups serve as the “muscle” of the Islamophobia network and use sophisticated communications strategies to recruit and engage volunteers. As a result of these organizations’ scare-mongering tactics, they enjoy a boost in fundraising, often with the seed funding provided by the main think tanks featured in the Islamophobia network. These include: ACT Act for America; TFC Tenessee Freedom Coalition; AFA American Family Association; SIOA Stop Islamization of America; Eagle Forum; Tea Party Based
Media Spreading anti-Muslim hate in the United States depends on a well-developed right-wing media echo chamber to amplify a few marginal voices. The individuals and organizations featured on this site share a symbiotic relationship with a loosely aligned, ideologically-akin group of right-wing blogs, magazines, radio stations, newspapers, and television news shows to spread their anti-Islam messages and myths. Bryan Fischer, CBN Christian Broadcasting Network; Fox News Channel; Glenn Beck; Mark Levin; Mike Savage; Rush Limbaugh; Sean Hannity ; National Review; The Washington Times.’
APPENDIX C : The Pope’s Message to the Muslim World 2013
“This year, the theme on which I would like to reflect with you and with all who will read this message is one that concerns both Muslims and Christians: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education. This year’s theme is intended to underline the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect. “Respect” means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. “Mutual” means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides. What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal. Turning to mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. It is clear that, when we show respect for the religion of our neighbors or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions. Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices. We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief.’
APPENDIX D :A proposal for how an umbrella organization could be constituted is presented by Sheila Musaji, “This organization would be the primary contact group for community interaction with law enforcement, or with government officials, interfaith groups, etc.. This would be the organization that any Muslim could call with a concern about a problem in their local community, and the organization that would be able to refer them to the appropriate individual or organizational resource. This organization should and have an office with a phone that is manned 24-hours a day, and also maintain a website with resources available online. This office should maintain a data base of information and resources including:
_ a khutba bank, and a fatwa bank
— contacts for every mosque and organization in the U.S.,
— information on legal issues that might affect Muslim communities,
— recommended best practices, sample constitutions, etc.,
— a list of specialists in various fields (e.g. public relations, various legal specialties, economists, political scientists) and their area(s) of expertise,
— a list of alims and scholars and their madhab or special expertise
— a list of public speakers on various topics,
— a list of complaints received about particular individuals or groups that might show trends over time, etc.) that can be called up as needed and regularly updated with all member organizations supplying information and resources.
— an absolutely transparent financial statement, and meeting minutes.
— a very simple monthly newsletter that provides information about current issues of importance, conventions and national and local events, information about statements or petitions needing signatures, best practices information from existing regional or national groups, etc.
It seems that something like this would be possible and that it would make it possible for the American Muslim community to have a practical way to implement good.” 19