“If your religious beliefs are in conflict with the law, which takes precedence?”, Journey into America Questionnaire data

In the wake of the congressional hearings held by Representative Peter King last week, I decided to take a look at the questionnaire data from Journey into America. Some of it never made the book because space is limited. It was a huge task to fit all of the information we gathered during the journey into one book. So, naturally, some got left out.

While it is always difficult to see something important cut from the book, the information remains relevant, especially in light of the hearings. Specifically, I wanted to look at the Muslim population in America in comparison with other religious groups as they relate to America and “being American”, something that the upcoming hearings seem to be challenging.The results are a bit too data-heavy for a fill on article, so we’ll be posting them here.

About the questionnaires: In addition to participant observation and interviews, while traveling we conducted about 2,000 questionnaires among both Muslims and non-Muslims living in the United States. We asked specific questions about politics, religion, America and the media in order to try to further understand the diverse population. We distributed the questionnaires to people from all backgrounds—immigrant Muslims who now call America their home, people born and raised in America, and second or third generation immigrants and refugees. In all, we covered 50 states and US territories, people from all ages, races, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds and immigrants from 84 different countries.

“If your religious beliefs are in conflict with the law, which takes precedence?”

One of the most important factors for many Americans in judging their Muslim neighbors, as we heard on our trip, in the media and on the internet, is the idea that Muslims will not be loyal to America when push comes to shove and value Islamic law over the law of America. Although some Muslims may feel this way, which strikes many Americans as being disloyal, we found that Muslims were not dissimilar to people of other faiths on this question.

For many Americans from all backgrounds and faiths, religion is just as important if not more so that the law of the land. Belief that law is corrupt, synthetic, and ever changing confirm for many the belief that religion, made by God and therefore infallible, would take precedence.

We asked, “If your religious beliefs are in conflict with the law, which takes precedence?” Out of all the people who filled in the questionnaire, 41 percent said that religion, 35 percent said law and 13 percent said that it depends on the belief or law.

Mormons actually answered that religion would take precedence 69 percent of the time. Much lower were the Protestants at 40 percent and the Catholics at 43 percent. The religious group that answered religion in the lowest numbers were the Jews, who said religion would take precedent only 24 percent of the time versus 51 percent who said the law and 16 percent who said it depends.

Muslims answered religion slightly more often than Christians at 57 percent. Sunni Muslims answered that religion takes precedence more often that Shia at 59 percent to 38 percent respectively.

The negative implications and perceptions that would come along with expressing your loyalty to something greater than law may have had something to do with the fact that 17 percent of Muslims refused to answer this question.

Even some atheists and Agnostics, held that since law is created and often changed by corrupt people and therefore fallible, their moral beliefs would take precedence. 20 percent of Atheists and 17 percent of Agnostic people said that their beliefs would come first.

Poetry, faith, and the Muslim soul by Frankie Martin

For Americans, Islam brings to mind many things, but poetry is rarely among them. Yet the Muslim world has produced some of the greatest poets the world has seen, like Rumi, currently the most popular poet of the United States. In this environment of suspicion and questions about who Muslims are and what they believe, poetry can be useful in understanding the religion and those who practice it.

Read the rest here.

Islamophobic Yellow Journalists Attack Professor Ahmed, Again

Facts and truth.  Here are two words all too frequently treated as synonymous.  Indeed, as the writer Maya Angelou notes, ‘there’s a world of difference between facts and the truth.  Facts can obscure the truth’.

Citing ‘facts’ in her second malicious attack against Professor Akbar Ahmed, the notorious Islamophobic yellow-journalist, Laura Rubenfeld, believes she has reached the ‘truth’ – that Professor Ahmed is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood and that his agenda is actually to ‘Islamize’ Americans and the world.

Rubenfeld’s ‘facts’, which are about as credible as supermarket tabloid stories, as pointed out by Jonathan Hayden, are positioned on extremely flimsy associations (some of which are indirect and thirty-years-old) and very loose personal relationships (to people who are no longer living).  Her ‘facts’ are as follows: Professor Ahmed’s previous appearances at various conferences concerning ‘Islamic knowledge’ is proof that he promotes the ‘Brotherhood agenda’.  Some of Professor Ahmed’s work from the 1980s, which is used on the Brotherhood website, makes it obviously clear of his Brotherhood affiliation.  Professor Ahmed’s Brotherhood link, moreover, is evident in the ‘fact’ that his friend, who is no longer living, once said something that could be interpreted as something the Brotherhood would promote.  Of course, Rubenfeld never places these appearances or quotes in any kind of context.  If she did, her argument would likely fall flat on its face.

Nonetheless, Rubenfeld, in desperation, resorted to an absurd ‘let’s connect the dots’ effort to slander Professor Ahmed.  Her article is a conspiracy theory of the worst kind.  It portrays Professor Ahmed as some kind of deceiver and radical Muslim.  For those of us who actually know him, we were appalled at the vitriol of such commentary based on a highly questionable methodology.

But the most hysterical, indeed laughable, element of Rubenfeld’s article was when she suggested that: [t]hose who previously relied on Professor Ahmed’s reputation as a moderate need to ask what else Professor Ahmed is hiding.

Professor Ahmed isn’t ‘moderate’?!  I had to read that line ten times to even believe what I was reading.  For a moment, I thought I was reading The Onion.

How do we dissect Rubenfeld’s lies?  For starters, it is useful to examine whether Professor Ahmed is even ‘moderate’ to begin with.  I, among countless others, could argue that Professor Ahmed is more of a ‘mystical’ than ‘moderate’ Muslim.  Ever since I can remember, he has always emphasized the works of the Sufi poet, Rumi, who writes about love, compassion and tolerance, all very ‘liberal’ values.  Rumi aside, Professor Ahmed’s role models include Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. John F. Kennedy, and Nelson Mandela.  These individuals are humanitarians, universalists, and peace lovers.  Professor Ahmed is a humanist, not a moderate.

Rubenfeld also blundered in her comments in light of Professor Ahmed’s forthcoming book of verse, Suspended Somewhere Between. In one of the poems, ‘What is it that I seek?’, Professor Ahmed writes: ‘It is God’s greatest gift/It raises us high above/It is the bridge over the rift/It is love, love, love’.  Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, writes that Suspended in Between highlights the ‘love and hope of Muslims’.  Daniel Futterman, the famous Hollywood actor and Academy Award nominated screenwriter, calls it a ‘book of love’.  Walter Issacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, notes that it shows us Professor Ahmed’s ‘beautiful soul’.

Professor Ahmed has also spent years and years of continuous and arduous work in trying to improve relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews.  He has befriended countless numbers of religious leaders, from Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of the UK) and Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, to Bishop John Chane of the Washington National Cathedral (with whom he recently published an article in the Washington Post that condemned attacks on Christian minorities in Muslim-majority countries), and too many others to name.  On a more personal note, I’ll never forget when I joined Professor Ahmed in Houston to meet Catholic Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.  Fiorenza called the project we were then working on, ‘Journey into America’, as ‘the work of God’.   You could literally fill a book with all the religious leaders that admire the work of Professor Ahmed.  Yet, Rubenfeld insinuates that he is actually some kind of ‘Muslim monster’ with a sinister motive to impose Islam on the world.

Does Rubenfeld merit the credibility of these interfaith leaders and many other figures around the world that have embraced Professor Ahmed’s lifelong work?

I have known Professor Ahmed for about six years.  He has been my academic mentor and the second most influential male figure in my life aside from my father, Christopher.  He and his family have been to my home in Needham, MA, where we had an Italian feast.  When I once lost my cool and let my temper get the best of me, Professor Ahmed pulled me aside and asked me ‘what would Jesus do?’  I’ve seen him comfort my father with compassion when I had a life-threatening accident in 2007.  I’ve been with Professor Ahmed when we ‘hung-out’ with hip-hop artists in Buffalo.  I’ve walked Bourbon Street with him in New Orleans to better understand its culture.  I’ve even been to a Chicago Cubs baseball game with him at Wrigley Field because he wanted to learn about ‘America’s pastime’.    Professor Ahmed, you see, is not just about family and friendship.  He is about meeting new people, understanding new cultures, and taking part in new experiences.  Rather than trying to ‘Islamize’ you, as Rubenfeld suggested, Professor Ahmed would rather show you his warmth and demonstrate his natural curiosity about the ‘other’.

I should also add that never once has Professor Ahmed tried to convert me to Islam.  The topic has never even come up.  Nor will it ever.  ‘Islamizing’ is not his concern or prerogative.  Teaching me the value of knowledge is!

No matter how hard Rubenfeld tries to twist-and-turn the character and conduct of Professor Ahmed, she will never (ever) be able to twist the fact that many, many people of all backgrounds and faiths respect him.  No matter how passionate Rubenfeld becomes in her personal crusade against him, she cannot alter this evidence.  These are the facts.  This is truth.

If Rubenfeld wants even more facts to see the truth, she should try to arrange a meeting with Professor Ahmed.  My only fear is that she still won’t see the truth because she doesn’t really seek it, nor does she value it.  Unfortunately, Rubenfeld is blinded by the malignancy of hate.  She will likely continue on her xenophobic crusade because Professor Ahmed will continue on with his work.  We should expect more incoherent ramblings from Rubenfeld and the rest of the ignorant Islamophobic supermarket tabloid bloggers who twist the truth for selfish and monetary reasons.  If she wants to keep her job with the cynical Steve Emerson, who is manipulating the American public with his anti-Muslim rhetoric, Rubenfeld will have to do so.

My final point is this.  The only thing Rubenfeld’s article taught us is that the great English novelist, Alduous Huxley, was spot-on when he said that ‘facts’:

‘… are ventriloquists dummies.  Sitting on a wise man’s knee they may be made to utter words of wisdom: elsewhere, they say nothing, or talk nonsense, or indulge in sheer diagolism’.

By Craig Considine

A response to Laura Rubenfeld’s Islamophobic article in Pajama’s Media

It is a bit embarrassing to have respond to the paranoid (perhaps diagnostic) ramblings found in the Laura Rubenfeld’s article entitled “Caught in the Act? Akbar Ahmed, the ‘Islamization of Knowledge,’ and the Muslim Brotherhood”. Of course, this is not the first time that a blogger has attacked Akbar Ahmed (after all, he has committed the unforgivable sin of being born a Muslim) and probably will not be the last.

In  this one especially, the arguments are so weak and the research so sophomoric, any impartial reader would be left shaking their heads in confusion.  Alas, the “Pajamas Media” campaign against Islam is neither impartial nor factual, nor known for making logical arguments.   In Rubenfeld’s previous attack of Ahmed’s work, post she casually dismisses facts in favor of propaganda (example: she quotes a satirical article by Benjamin Franklin as evidence that he does not like Islam and a forward to John Adams’ Quran as evidence that he himself hated the religion. More on that here).

It is unclear whether she actually believes what she is writing or whether she is just assuming the reader will accept her writing as fact. It is probably somewhere between the two.  As a subordinate to a larger and well-funded campaign, Rubenfeld is a mercenary whose charter is to write negatively about Islam, truth be damned. The reader is expected to buy it, send it chain letter style to all of their contacts, donate, buy books and come back for more. Many so-called experts, including her predatory boss Steve Emerson, have made quite a career off of this charade.

But this, unfortunately, means we have to spend our time responding to this nonsense.

The first point, and the thrust of the entire article, is that Akbar Ahmed is concealing his work with a “global Islamist movement known as the Islamization of knowledge.” Her evidence is that an article that Ahmed wrote in the 1980’s which was originally published by IIIT is not found on his bio. She cites two bios from the American University website to prove this.  We have various bios in the office of various lengths. Ahmed has spent the past 40 years working in the discipline and the full CV with everything listed is over 30 pages with all of his 25+ books, hundreds of articles, Forewords, book chapters, etc. listed. Most often, when asked, we provide a condensed version with a  ”Selected Books” and “Selected Recent Articles” as in the CV that Rubenfeld cites. “Selected Recent Articles” means we choose only the most recent articles. The bio even leaves off some of his best known works including his dissertation which broke him in to the field in the first place. The other is a one paragraph brief bio. Surely I don’t have to explain what that means.

Rubenfeld goes on to state that Ahmed published a paper entitled “Toward Islamic Anthropology : Definition, Dogma and Directions”. The paper was part of a series by IIIT where they asked leading scholars in many disciplines to examine the concept of Islamic knowledge. The question was to be if there could be “Islamic” sciences, math, history, etc… in part an effort to attempt to rediscover the concept of knowledge in Islam. Not being a scholar of Islam, Rubenfeld is apparently unaware that Muslims were once at the forefront of world civilization in every field, and their achievements played a central role in establishing Western civilization as we know it, providing the foundations for the Renaissance. It is Ahmed’s thesis that Muslim societies must rediscover this value if they are to progress in the 21st century.

Had Rubenfeld actually read the article she bases her attack on Ahmed around (we’d be happy to send a copy), she would have realized that he came out against the “Islamization” of anthropology, concluding that knowledge is knowledge and there is either good anthropology or bad anthropology, and therefore no such thing as Islamic anthropology. To again reach new frontiers in the arts and sciences and change the world, Muslims did not have to see these subjects through the lens of Islam as some believed, but rather should see them as subjects in and of themselves.

Far from hiding this work as Rubenfeld suggests, Ahmed has been proud of the paper since it was published, In fact, the paper will be republished in an academic book entitled “Anthropology of Islam” by Routledge.

With strong innuendo, Rubenfeld suggests that Ahmed is forever linked with IIIT, who is linked by her to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, therefore Ahmed is guilty by association to the Muslim Brotherhood. Ahmed was asked, in 1980-81 while he was at Princeton, to write on the subject, given no royalties, only tasked with furthering knowledge. At that time, IIIT was not on any list of threatening organizations, nor did he or anyone else know of any link to the Muslim Brotherhood. Further, despite what you read from the mainstream press, the Muslim Brotherhood has denounced violence since the 1970’s, was not and is still not on U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations list per the Department of State.

How ridiculous are these links? Here an example: Laura Rubenfeld speaks Russian and went to College in Russia where she surely interacted with someone who was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.  She must be a Communist. These kind of ridiculous claims are comical but dangerous because people start to believe them.

Furthermore, throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, Ahmed was a member of the Civil Service Pakistan and strictly forbidden to join any political parties. He never did and never has. Further, he  spent much of that time writing a book, producing a documentary, feature film and comic book promoting Mohammed Ali Jinnnah, the founder of Pakistan who believed in Human Rights, Civil Rights, women’s rights and minority rights. Jinnah’s life and Professor Ahmed’s work have both been in direct opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups like it.

Rubenfeld also make the claim that Ahmed is on the boards of various institutions not to her liking. He is constantly asked to be on boards and lends his name to many boards and institutions but has neither attended any meetings nor interacting in any way with IIIT or any of the other institutions Rubenfeld mentions. Again, the full CV mentions all of the boards he is on.

We consulted both the Dean of the school and Ambassador Ahmed and colleagues and all said that it was beneath his dignity; however he wanted to offer a brief statement to set the record straight.

Here is Ambassador Ahmed’s response:

Some notorious bloggers who spread hatred against and fear of Muslims have recently raised questions about my work after the publication of my book Journey into America last summer.  As the book was widely discussed in the media and I was even invited by John Stewart on the Daily Show, these bloggers seem to have gone into a frenzy. They did what they do best—spread smear and slander. They accused me of “lying” and “hiding” facts about my scholarship. Recently, they picked my small book—really an essay—on Islamic Anthropology, accusing me of “hiding” it. I was persuaded by Muslim scholars in 1980 when I was at Princeton to examine my discipline, Anthropology, in the frame of a global project called “The Islamization of Knowledge”. In my little book, I concluded that the quality of knowledge can only be based on scholarship, research and observation, not by attaching labels such as Islamic. I also emphasized, as I have throughout my writing, the importance of knowledge.

Far from hiding it—in spite of having to deal with the fate of about two dozen books—I noted with pride that it has been reprinted several times and even translated. It is mentioned in my full CV and references to it are given in two of my most popular books, Discovering Islam (see new edition 2002) and Postmodernism and Islam (see new edition 2004). I worked on it last year for yet another reprint to be published this year. The book is also widely available in bookstores and frequently checked out at the library here at American University.

As for the question of indirect support of the book by the Muslim Brotherhood through its publishers, I have no dealings whatsoever with the Brotherhood and have no idea what is on their website but if the book is being read by their members, I am confident they will benefit from the importance of knowledge in Islam—something which my blogger critics would also do if only they read it.

As a Muslim living in an atmosphere of poisonous hatred against Muslims, I expect to be attacked by this kind of Islamophobic nonsense, but to attack two world class scholars like Professors Lawrence Rosen and Tamara Sonn and accuse them of being linked to the Muslim Brotherhood is a disgrace, and these bloggers and their paymasters should feel ashamed about it.

These critics neither discourage nor intimidate me or the patriotic, brilliant young Americans who have been working with me. They do amuse us. However, we need to get on with our work spreading knowledge, light and compassion—clearly desperately needed in the dark quarters inhabited by these bloggers—and not be distracted by their fear and hate mongering.

Rubenfeld’s piece is a good example of what is currently occurring in the United States, where any Muslim can be targeted on the flimsiest of evidence and smeared as a terrorist. Rubenfeld’s dishonest game of guilt by association can be played with anyone about anything. Rubenfeld’s twisted logic is commonplace in our civil and media discourse. If someone who is reputed by obscure “counterterrorism” analysts to have some link with organizations they describe as terrorist speaks at a conference, anyone at that conference is also a terrorist. If an organization deemed terrorist features or links to writing by someone, than that person is a terrorist.

The end point of this line of thinking is dark and frightening. Its goal is to link Islam inherently with terrorism, and to smear any Muslim who commits the crime of practicing their religion. Rubenfeld’s goal is to make Americans terrified of Islam. For Rubenfeld, simply speaking the words “Islamization of knowledge”—a phrase Rubenfeld simply invents a meaning for—Is enough to get someone thrown in Guantanamo Bay.

All Americans who believe in the pluralist vision of America need to challenge this kind of dangerous and hateful thinking. The worth of an American should not be judged by their religion—or skin color or any other similarly meaningless criteria—but by the content of their character. The more Americans that do, the less influential people like Rubenfeld and her bosses will be.

We will not continue to waste our time with these responses, especially considering the fact that Rubenfeld fails to engage with any of the points that we refute.

Much ado about nothing

Some notorious bloggers who spread hatred against and fear of Muslims have recently raised questions about my work after the publication of my book Journey into America last summer.  As the book was widely discussed in the media and I was even invited by John Stewart on the Daily Show, these bloggers seem to have gone into a frenzy. They did what they do best—spread smear and slander. They accused me of “lying” and “hiding” facts about my scholarship. Recently, they picked my small book—really an essay—on Islamic Anthropology, accusing me of “hiding” it. I was persuaded by Muslim scholars in 1980 when I was at Princeton to examine my discipline, Anthropology, in the frame of a global project called “The Islamization of Knowledge”. In my little book, I concluded that the quality of knowledge can only be based on scholarship, research and observation, not by attaching labels such as Islamic. I also emphasized, as I have throughout my writing, the importance of knowledge.

Far from hiding it—in spite of having to deal with the fate of about two dozen books—I noted with pride that it has been reprinted several times and even translated. It is mentioned in my full CV and references to it are given in two of my most popular books, Discovering Islam (see new edition 2002) and Postmodernism and Islam (see new edition 2004). I worked on it last year for yet another reprint to be published this year. The book is also widely available in bookstores and frequently checked out at the library here at American University.

As for the question of indirect support of the book by the Muslim Brotherhood through its publishers, I have no dealings whatsoever with the Brotherhood and have no idea what is on their website but if the book is being read by their members, I am confident they will benefit from the importance of knowledge in Islam—something which my blogger critics would also do if only they read it.

As a Muslim living in an atmosphere of poisonous hatred against Muslims, I expect to be attacked by this kind of Islamophobic nonsense, but to attack two world class scholars like Professors Lawrence Rosen and Tamara Sonn and accuse them of being linked to the Muslim Brotherhood is a disgrace, and these bloggers and their paymasters should feel ashamed about it.

These critics neither discourage nor intimidate me or the patriotic, brilliant young Americans who have been working with me. They do amuse us. However, we need to get on with our work spreading knowledge, light and compassion—clearly desperately needed in the dark quarters inhabited by these bloggers—and not be distracted by their fear and hate mongering.

Akbar Ahmed

Joint CNN.com article on religious persecution in Muslim world

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed and Bishop John Chane wrote an article for CNN.com on religious persecution in the Muslim world today.

The Christmas season encourages us to think of Jesus, so highly revered and loved by both Christians and Muslims. So it is even more tragic to contemplate relations between the two religions today — and particularly the plight of Christians in the Muslim world.In Iraq, savage killings of Christians have led thousands to flee the country. In Egypt, Christians are under severe pressure and siege. In Pakistan, there are too many cases like that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who is facing a death sentence under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws for allegedly slandering the Prophet of Islam.

For both of us, a Muslim and a Christian, this violence is a matter of utmost gravity. Read the entire article here.

Response to Campus Watch article on “Exposing the Infrastructure of Anti-Muslim Hate”

Frankie Martin sent this response to Campus Watch’s denunciation of his article “Exposing the Infrastructure of Anti-Muslim Hate” to Campus Watch director Mr. Winfield Myers last week, with the request that it be posted on Campus Watch’s website as to contribute to a scholarly debate. Regretfully, Mr. Myers did not reply, so we are posting it here:

I have seen the online debate about my article “Exposing the Infrastructure of Anti-Muslim Hate,” which Campus Watch called a “diatribe” and “hateful.” Because I do not believe I am “hateful,” and in the spirit of the wonderful holiday season, I would like to invite Mr. Winfield Myers of Campus Watch, who made this charge, along with the organization’s founder, Dr. Daniel Pipes, to attend and participate in two upcoming events in which I am involved. Both these events involve a respectful and free exchange of ideas and an exploration of differences with the intent to build bridges between cultures and religions rather than lead them towards confrontation and clash. The first is a lecture by Professor Akbar Ahmed at the Beth El Synagogue in Bethesda, Maryland on December 15th entitled “Judaism and Islam: The Path Forward,” and the second is a high-level Abrahamic dialogue featuring Professor Ahmed to be held on January 29th at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City.

I also thought Campus Watch readers might like to know that Professor Ahmed recently had a dialogue with Professor Bernard Lewis, a “Special Briefing” at the Washington D.C. World Affairs Council, which the Council called “an example of civil dialogue” and a “tool of understanding.” It is this model that is desperately needed in our times, when we too often are reduced to shouting at or slandering each other. It is precisely this that I attempted to do in my article. Let the reader judge.

Happy holidays,
Frankie Martin