Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

A Muslim veteran against Islamophobia

November 11, 2016

Nate Terani is a Muslim, the grandson of Iranian immigrants and a U.S. Navy veteran.  He also is a member of a new organization called Veterans Challenge Islamophobia.

He grew up in central New Jersey, but, in 1985, the eight-year-old Terani was taken on a visit with his family to his ancestral homeland.  While there, he was enrolled in a special bilingual school for children who had grown up in Western countries.

One day soldiers, in green and black uniforms, broke into the classroom, dragged the children into a courtyard and ordered them to watch the flags of their home countries being set on fire.

Nate Terani in his Navy days

Nate Terani in his Navy days

The children were ordered at gunpoint to trample on the burning flags and shout, “Death to America.”

Instead Terani snatched a burning American flag off the ground and darted through the legs of the watching crowd before the soldiers could catch him.

His experience reinforced his love of country and gave him a new understanding of the evil of religious hatred.

In 1996, at age 19, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.   He must have been an outstanding recruit.  He reported that he was the first Muslim-American member of the Navy Presidential Honor Guard.

In 1998, he became special assistant to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, and, in 1999, he was recruited to serve in the Defense Intelligence Agency.   He transferred to the Navy Reserve in 2000 and completed his military service in 2006.


A scene of modern Britain

June 25, 2016


Via Ishaan Tharoor on Twitter.

Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.


Why so few terrorist attacks on the USA?

December 11, 2015

A blogger named Fred Reed, pointing out how potentially vulnerable the United States is, wonders why there have been so few successful terrorist attacks on the United States.

IRAQI-AMERICAN MUSLIMS CELEBRATE IN DEARBORN OUSTER OF HUSSEINMy guess is that the reason is that Muslim citizens and residents appreciate the religious freedom and acceptance they enjoy in the United States.

There is ignorant prejudice against Muslims in the United States, which I have criticized, but I believe that overall Muslims in the United States enjoy greater freedom than they do in Russia, China, India or even many majority-Muslim countries.

I am proud of the American heritage of religious freedom, and I would hate to see anything diminish it.

Fear itself is the greatest danger

December 11, 2015

Suppose you are an ISIS terrorist determined to wreak havoc on the United States.   So you infiltrate a Syrian refugee camp hoping to be admitted to the United States.

refugeecamps1371059561224.cachedWhat would be your chances of succeeding?  Let’s do some arithmetic.  There are about 4 million refugees in camps surrounding Syria.  President Barack Obama has announced he will admit 15,000 refugees (up from his original 10,000).  So the odds of any particular person being selected for the program are about one in 27,000.

Of course you would have to come up with a convincing story about how you came to be a refugee and find a U.S. sponsor.  What are the chances of that?   Yet there are governors of American states who fear to admit even one refugee.

Then there’s Donald Trump, who wants to keep out all foreign Muslims.   How would these Muslims be identified?  Simple, Trump explained.  Airline representatives, customs officials and border guards would simply ask, “Are you Muslim?”   Evidently he doesn’t consider the possibility that a terrorist would lie.   Maybe it would be simpler just to ask incoming visitors if they’re agents of ISIS.

gallup.poll.terrorismWhy do people think so irrationally?  It is because we’re scaredFrightened people don’t think.  They only react.

The fact is that so long as the U.S. government wages war in the Greater Middle East, there is going to be blowback against Americans, and there is little we can do to prevent it.

We can choose to end these wars, which is what I advocate.  We can accept a certain amount of danger as the price of waging war for important national objectives.  Or we can do things out of fear that make us feel safer, even though they don’t.

Genocide of Burma’s Muslim minority?

October 28, 2015

Hat tip to my expatriate friend Jack.

The excellent investigative documentary shows what happens when political leaders use religion to solidify their power by promoting nationalism and ethnic hatred.

Muslim family befriends elderly Jewish lady

June 4, 2015

Jewish lady Muslim neighborsIMG_8261

My e-mail pen pal Jack C sent me a link to an article from The Independent in Britain about how a Pakistani immigrant family befriended an elderly Jewish lady who was in failing health and living alone.

I don’t think that stories like that are unusual, although they are not as well known as stories of conflict.

I think neighborliness and kindness are common among most people who follow a traditional way of life, whatever their nationality or religion, including the conservative and evangelical Protestant Christians whom some of my secular liberal friends find so scary.

Probably the Pakistani family thought it was unusual and tragic for an elderly person to be living alone and not with family and loved ones.  I don’t think that happens much in Pakistan, and there was a time when it didn’t happen much in the USA or the UK.

This article reminded me of my current reading of the works of Jurgen Habermas, a German philosopher who distinguishes between what he calls the Lifeworld and the Systemworld.

The Lifeworld is the realm in which people relate to each other as individuals, like the people described in The Independent article.  The Systemworld consists of two realms, the realm of government and bureaucracy in which compliance with rules and authority overrides everything else, and the realm of commerce and markets, in which everything is measured in terms of monetary costs and benefits.

As Habermas noted, the Lifeworld is not all good.  People can be cruel and malicious on the individual level.  And the Systemworld is not all bad.  It makes possible a more orderly and prosperous world than would otherwise exist.

But in 20th and 21st century Europe and America, the Systemworld is crowding out the Lifeworld.  We do too many things—have to do too many things—to comply with an impersonal bureaucracy or an impersonal economic system.  We need to push the Lifeworld into the Systemworld, and not let the Systemworld colonize the Lifeworld.


A story about an elderly Jewish lady and her Muslim Neighbors who cared by Helen Stone for The Independent.  (Hat tip to Jack).

Is the Islamic State contrary to Islam?

February 20, 2015

Is the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) un-Islamic, as President Obama has said?  Or can we best understand the Islamic State as part of Islam as a whole?

It’s not for me, or for President Obama, to say who is a true Muslim and who isn’t.  But the facts are that the vast majority of Muslims, including those who think it is right and just to kill blasphemers who insult Islam, are horrified by the killing of harmless people.

0618-ISIS-Iraq-gulf_full_600The reaction of the Iranian ayatollahs to the 9/11 attacks is a case in point.  In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini called upon all Muslims to kill the author Salman Rushdie for his allegedly blasphemous depiction of Mohammad in his novel, The Satanic Verses. 

But in 2001, his successor, Ayatollah Khameni, strongly condemned the Al Qaeda’s attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  Apparently, for him, suppressing blasphemy is one thing and killing the innocent quite another.

I of course condemn blasphemy laws and fatwas against alleged blasphemers.  At the same time I can understand the distinction.

Graeme Wood wrote an enlightening and frightening article in the March issue of The Atlantic on the apocalyptic religious reliefs of the Islamic State, but falls for their claim that they represent a more authentic version of Islam than that held by the vast majority of Muslims.

Mohammad was a warrior as well as a prophet, but neither he or his immediate successors went around be-heading people on a regular basis.  The rule of the first Islamic caliphs was in fact tolerable for most Christians and Jews because all they had to do was pay a special tax.


Terrorism and the true face of Islam

January 11, 2015
Two Muslim heroes, Ahmed Merbet and Lassana Baithily

Two Muslim heroes, Ahmed Merabet and Lassana Bathily

After the 9/11 attacks, Muslim organizations and leaders all over the world condemned the attackers, and yet there were those who said the Muslim world was silent in the face of the attacks.

Now Muslims all over the world condemn the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and there are still willfully-blind people who say the Muslim world is silent.

The main enemy of the extremist Muslim terrorists are mainstream Muslims.  According to Global Terrorism Watch, about 80 percent of terrorist killings last year were in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria, all predominantly Muslim countries.  Only 5 percent were in Western countries such as France.

The best hope for the terrorists is to convince other Muslims their campaign is part of a larger struggle between the West and Islam as a whole.  To the extent that people interpret the Charlie Hebdo attacks in terms of that narrative, the terrorists will have succeeded.

When people blame Muslims in general for terrorism, they forget Ahmed Merabet, the Paris policeman killed by the terrorists while trying to prevent the attacks.  And Lassana Bathily, the clerk in a kosher grocery store who saved Jewish customers by hiding them in a freezer.   They, not the terrorists, should be regarded as the true face of Islam.


45 Examples of Muslim Outrage About Charlie Hebdo Attack That Fox News Missed by Katie Halper for Alternet.

QOTD: Hezbollah and Hamas by Heather Digby Parsons for Hullabaloo.  The leaders of both Hezbollah and Hamas condemned the attacks.

Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim Police Officer Killed in the Charlie Hebdo Shooting by Jim Edwards for Business Insider.

Paris policeman’s brother: ‘Islam is a religion of love.  My brother was killed by terrorists, by false Muslims’ by Emma Graham-Harrison for The Guardian.

Muslim Man Hailed as Hero in Kosher Grocery Store Attack by Charlotte Alter for Time magazine.

Muslims against terrorism

January 11, 2011

Many otherwise intelligent people say there is something in the Islamic religion that is conductive to terrorism.  When it is pointed out to them that very few of the world’s 1 billion Muslims have engaged in acts of terrorism, they fall back on “failure to denounce.”  Here are some examples of statements and actions by Muslims against terrorism.


Muslim garb

October 24, 2010

[10/24/10] Ex-NPR commentator Juan Williams last week commented as follows on Fox News.

I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

Click on Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things or look below to see pictures of people in Muslim garb.


‘Forgive me for crimes I never did nor advocated’

August 20, 2010

I like this by Fred Clark of Texas on his Slacktivist web log.

As a white male Baptist, it is my duty today to denounce the violence perpetrated by Patrick Gray Sharp, 29, who yesterday attacked the police headquarters in McKinney, Texas, in a heavily armed but ineffectual assault involving a high-powered rifle, road flares, “gasoline and ammonium nitrate fertilizer.”

So I denounce this attack and state unequivocally that we white male Baptists do not believe in this kind of violent extremism. I beg you all not to condemn all of us for the actions of this lone member of our community, although of course I will understand if you decide that you must do so and will humbly accept whatever restrictions on our full participation in society that you see fit to impose. That’s only fair.

I further beg your forgiveness for my not denouncing this violent act sooner. Unlike the nearly identical failed attack in Times Square, this attack wasn’t the lead story on our local news and the newspaper I work for somehow didn’t mention it at all. Then today I was outside most of the afternoon cutting the grass and just didn’t hear about the story until now. I plead with you to understand that as soon as I learned of this incident, I rushed to post this denunciation.

That’s no excuse for the delay, of course, and in no way diminishes my obligation to constantly monitor the behavior of every white male Baptist, denouncing anything that might reflect badly on the WMB community. That is, after all, the foremost duty and purpose of every religious adherent, ethnic group and gender. My failure to promptly condemn Patrick Gray Sharp for specific actions I have previously condemned more generally cannot be excused just because the lawn needed mowing.

On behalf of myself and of all white male Baptists everywhere, I apologize for this lapse and denounce myself for the delay. (Note to other white male Baptists: You should also denounce me for this. If you fail to do so, I’ll probably have to denounce you for that.)


Muslims and terrorism

August 18, 2010

The video was produced by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an American Muslim community organization founded in 1988, for its members.

Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, was intended to ignite a war between the United States and the whole Muslim religion.  Presidents Bush and Obama had the good sense not to fall into that trap. They were always careful to distinguish between a small band of terrorists and a diverse global religion of more than 1 billion people.  In fact, based on statements by al-Qaeda leaders and statements by leading Muslim clerics and scholars, it is al-Qaeda that is at war with Islam.

The MPAC has done an analysis of terrorist attacks on Americans since Sept. 11, 2001. Among the key findings are:

There were 70 total plots by domestic non-Muslim perpetrators against the United States since 9/11. In comparison, there have been 37 total plots by domestic and international Muslim perpetrators since 9/11.

Only 42% of individuals publicly associated with terrorism by the Department of Justice were actually charged with violating an anti-terrorism or national security statute.

There are at least 5 incidents of non-Muslim domestic extremists possessing or attempting to possess Chemical or Radiological weapons. One of those occurred since Obama’s election. No such cases involving Muslim extremists have been reported since 9/11.

There appears to be a general rise in violent extremism across ideologies. If one is to use Obama’s election as a starting point for recent trends, since November 4, 2008 there have been 39 terror plots by non-Muslim domestic extremists. By comparison, there have been 16 plots by Muslim domestic and international extremists.

Muslim communities have helped foil almost 1 out of every 3 Al Qaeda-related terror plots threatening the United States since 9/11. However community vigilance and assistance is not limited to Muslims; many terror plots – by Muslim and non-Muslim violent extremists – have been foiled communities of all backgrounds. This highlights the importance of law enforcement partnership with ordinary citizens through community-oriented policing.

Click on Post 9/11 Terrorism Data – MPAC Publication for a summary of conclusions, and a link to a PDF file of the full report.

Click on Muslim Victims of September 11 Attack for the names of Muslims, including firefighters and police officers, who were died in the 9/11 attacks.

Click on How American Muslims Really Responded to September 11 for a 2002 report by the Council of American-Islamic Relations, a grass-roots American Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.

Click on Muslim Denunciations of al-Qaeda and Terrorism for statements by mainstream Muslim clerics and scholars.

Is Islam a religion of peace?

July 30, 2010

Islam is a warrior religion.  It was established by sword-wielding men on horseback, not poor people hiding in catacombs. There is nothing in the Koran about turning the other cheek, returning good for evil or doing good to those who hate you. Rather the ethic of the Koran is to live in peace with those who are willing to live in peace with you, but to defend yourself and your loved ones with all your might if you are attacked.

I don’t say this critically.  I am not a pacifist.  I do not turn the other cheek myself. The ethic of being peaceful if you can, but fighting if you must is what I was taught by my father, and what I believe in.

When you call Islam a “religion of peace,” this is not exactly false, but the implication is that Muslims are pacifists like the Quakers or the Amish or the followers of Mahatma Gandhi.  This is easily refuted by quoting some of the fiercer passages from the Koran about waging war against Christians and Jews.

Islam is not a “religion of peace” in the pacifist sense, but it is a religion with which it is possible to live in peace. If you read the whole Koran, you see that the context of those passages is that the followers of Mohammad were fighting for their existence against pagan, Christian and Jewish Arab tribes; there are other passages about living in peace with adherents of those religions if they are willing to live in peace with you.  There is a famous passage (in Sura 2) about no compulsion in religion.

Click on Peace and Love in the Quran for a deeper discussion.

Like the Christian and Hebrew Bible, the Koran is quoted by different people for different purposes. There is nothing in the Koran so bloodthirsty as passages in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible calling for extermination of the Canaanite tribes.  If you knew nothing of Judaism and Christianity and somebody quoted Genesis 34: 14-29; Deuteronomy 3: 1-7; Numbers 31: 7-9, 15-18; Joshua 6: 21; or Judges 21: 10-24 to you, you would have a very misleading idea of those religions.

Mohammad famously said to followers after a great battle that they had returned from the “lesser jihad,” the battle against enemies, to the “greater jihad,” the struggle to master oneself.

Here is how the Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr described the Muslim warrior ideal in Ideals and Realities of Islam:

If one thinks of the Buddha as sitting in a state of contemplation under the Bo-tree, the Prophet can be imagined as a rider sitting on a steed with the sword of justice and discrimination [between good and evil] drawn in his hand and galloping at full speed, yet ready to come to an immediate halt before the mountain of Truth.

In Islam, when one thinks of the Prophet who is to be emulated, it is the image of a strong personality that comes to mind who is severe with himself and with the false and the unjust, and charitable towards the world that surrounds him. … He is that warrior on horseback who halts before the mountain of Truth, passive towards the Divine Will, active towards the world, hard and sober towards himself and kind and generous towards the creatures about him.

The “lesser jihad” still can be a religious duty, and Islam was spread, in part, through wars of conquest. Within the first couple of generations after Mohammed, the Arabs established an empire stretching from Morocco to the borders of India.

Christianity also was spread by conquest.  At least I think that Christianity would have had a much more difficult time establishing itself in North and South America if it had been Powhatan and Montezuma rather than John Smith and Hernando Cortes who possessed gunpowder weapons. Of the world’s three great missionary religions, the only one that was not spread through conquest was Buddhism.

One reason that Muslim rule established itself so rapidly is that Christians and Jews found more tolerance under Muslim rule than Muslims, Jews and heretic Christians always did under Christian rule.  This wasn’t true in every case, but Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in relative harmony under Muslim rule in Spain, and when Jews were driven out of Spain by the Inquisition, some of them took refuge in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.


“Jews and Muslims”: an e-mail chain letter

June 14, 2010

Some friends of mine last week forwarded me an e-mail chain letter that evidently has been making the rounds for many years. It is entitled “Jews and Muslims” and begins by saying that Muslims want to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. Then it goes on compare the number of Nobel Prize winners of Muslim vs. Jewish heritage (about 100 times more Jews than Muslims) and concludes by saying Palestinian Arabs can have peace any time they want just by laying down their arms.

My response is as follows:

One. There are more than 1 billion Muslims in the world, and among them are to be found all kinds of people, good and bad, and many different points of view. I don’t think the Muslims who participate in interfaith dialogues with Jewish congregations here in Monroe County, N.Y., want to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. I am aware that many Muslims, especially in Arab countries, refuse to recognize the government of Israel, but that is a different thing. The United States for many years refused to recognize the government of China,, which in my opinion was a mistake, but that didn’t mean that Americans wanted to wipe the Chinese off the face of the Earth.

Two. I admire the Jewish people for having developed a culture that has produced so many outstanding people in the arts and sciences. But do you want to know another ethnic group that has produced more than its share of Nobel Prize winners? The Germans. Even people who belong to nations that have contributed greatly to world culture are capable of doing bad things.

Three.  There are two sides to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and we Americans generally only hear one side. It is as if all our news of the conflicts that formerly went on in Northern Ireland and South Africa consisted of reports of terrorist atrocities committed by the Irish Republican Army and African National Congress, all attributed to an irrational hatred of Protestants by Catholics and of white people by black people.

I do not, of course, justify acts of terrorism, no matter who commits them.