Tag Archives: NPR

Exposing the infrastructure of anti-Muslim hate

First published by the Washington Post

By Frankie Martin

The dismissal of Juan Williams’ from NPR once again exposes the difficulty America is having discussing Islam in a cool or rational manner. Williams’ exchange with Bill O’Reilly featured much of the usual ignorance, with both agreeing that, although undefined “good Muslims” do exist, all Muslims must be considered potential soldiers in an Islamic war against America. This ludicrous belief is not only a distortion of reality, but also poses a serious threat to the well-being and security of the United States. In adopting this position, Williams and O’Reilly were reflecting the climate of hatred against Muslims that is fueled by prejudice and lack of knowledge.

The controversy comes in the context of the conflict around the Islamic center near Ground Zero, Pastor Terry Jones’ desire to burn the Quran, a growing belief that sharia law is being imposed on America by Muslims, and increasing attacks on mosques in the United States. The interminable wars in Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the upcoming midterm elections, in which campaigns have employed heavy doses of anti-Muslim bile, also contribute to the darkening storm.

Today’s high anti-Muslim antipathy is the latest wave of xenophobia in a nation that has seen many, especially when a threat was perceived to the country. While current anti-Islamic voices, like the hatemongers of previous eras, frequently attempt to co-opt the Founding Fathers’ ideals to support their agenda, there can be no reconciling the vision of a pluralistic nation with the spewing of hate against a particular ethnic or religious group, in this case Muslims. While the debate stirred by these hateful voices is on one level about Islam and how to depict and understand it, it is also about the very definition of American identity.

Much of this bigotry and misinformation can be traced directly to what I am calling the infrastructure of hate, an industry which connects venomous anti-Islamic blogs, wealthy donors, powerful think tanks, and influential media commentators, journalists, and politicians. The most visible component of the infrastructure is the hate blogs, which have recently grown exponentially in number, influence, and stature.

From my position as a research fellow working with American University’s Chair of Islamic Studies, Professor Akbar Ahmed, I have watched with horror as the hate blogs have begun to diffuse from their online cesspool to infect mainstream media, political rhetoric, and the larger discussion about Islam in America. There are hundreds, if not thousands of such blogs on the Internet.

To the hate bloggers, the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims represent an insidious, inherently violent force seeking to enslave the United States by overthrowing the government and jettisoning the Constitution in favor of sharia law. Frequently the bloggers include caveats such as claiming that they are only talking about “Islamists,” “Islamofascists,” or those supporting “sharia,” but by tying terrorism explicitly to the Prophet Muhammad and to the Quran, they equate it with Islam. Under this simplistic, warped logic, every Muslim is a potential, if not-fully formed, terrorist and every one of America’s seven million Muslims a potentially treasonous enemy. Such crass, demonizing generalizations constitute hate speech.

I will focus on one such blog post to illustrate how the infrastructure of hate works, and how easily lies and slander can spread rapidly to achieve influence.
Last month, Laura Rubenfeld, an analyst at the Investigative Project on Terrorism headed by Steven Emerson, published an article in Pajamas Media tiitled “No, Professor Ahmed, the Founders Were Not So Fond of Islam.” In it, Rubenfeld attacks Professor Akbar Ahmed, who has been speaking in the media about his new book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, for which he traveled to over 100 mosques in 75 U.S. cities. I participated in this study with Ahmed, traversing the country during fieldwork and spending weeks in the library researching the history of Islam in America. Since Ahmed’s media statements reflect the contents of the book, Rubenfeld not only impugns the scholarship of Ahmed, whom the BBC calls the “world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam,” but also myself and the other four researchers who spent several years working on this project, three of whom are continuing on to PhD programs. Continue reading

On Point with Tom Ashbrook interview “Inside American Islam” now Online

Inside American Islam

Top Islam expert Akbar Ahmed just visited one hundred mosques in America. We get his report.

A picture taken as part of Prof. Akbar Ahmed’s project “Journey Into Islam” (Credit: flickr/journeyintoamerica)

It’s been a head-spinning couple of months for American Muslims. After quiet centuries in the country, and years of post-9.11 life that were sometimes tense but overall peaceful, suddenly Muslims in America are confronted with headlines and attitudes shouting “Islamophobia.”

That’s tough to take for citizens who have quietly weathered some tough years of war and strain. Very tough.

We look at Americans, Muslim Americans, in the storm.  We hear from the leader of a team that’s visited a hundred mosques around the country and ask – what next?

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic Studies at American University’s School of International Service. He traveled with a team to some 100 mosques in America. The result is chronicled in his new book, “Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam.” You can read an excerpt.

Resa Aslan, author of “No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam” and a contributing editor for The Daily Beast. Read his latest piece there, “The Charlatans Have Taken Over 9/11.”

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, or on Facebook.


All Things Considered interview about Mosque controversies

Listen to this interview that All Things Considered host Robert Siegel conducted with Akbar Ahmed on NPR about the book, the proposed Mosque at ground zero and in Murfreesboro and some mosque controversies that we encountered as we traveled.

From NPR.org:

Muslims all across the country have run into local opposition when they’ve tried to build new houses of worship. Robert Siegel speaks with Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic studies at American University and author of Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, about the experiences of Muslims in the U.S.

Click here to listen to the interview. The full transcript of the interview is here.

The Diane Rehm Show this morning on NPR

Ambassador Ahmed was on the Diane Rehm Show this morning for an interview on President Obama’s speech in Cairo. Here is the audio from the website.

Also, Frankie Martin’s newest article on the Huffington Post “Obama and the Dialogue of Civilizations”.