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Response to the Washington Times Article “From Swords to Bombshells”

Shaza Zafer Al Jundi
aljundi@ilo.org
2011 / 4 / 26

Ms. Suzanne Fields in her article “From Swards to Bombshells” published by the Washington Times on October 16, 2006 was misleading the general public. This article is part of the attack against Islam and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and the wave of hostility against Islam, which started in the West on 911. Supporters of such racist articles claim that they address an important issue and that their publication is a legitimate exercise of the right of free speech. It is surprising to note that "Anti-Semitism in the West is regarded as a crime while attacks on Islam are commonplace, and are described as a part of free expression." Thousands of Muslims around the world believe that Islam is being targeted and the war against terrorism is in fact a war against Islam, as the racist media launched a hate campaign against the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) and Islam.

We can find the same kind of hyperbole, distortions, inaccuracies and unsubstantiated generalisations coming from scholars and writers (some of them were used as references by Ms Fields). The media in the West often misrepresents and inaccurately explains Islam and its manifestations. When the media distorts the image of Islam, the general public tends to believe it, because the media is a major source of information that the public gets about Islam. This ignorance that the West accumulates from the media leads them into making stereotypes about Islam and to Anti-Arabism and Islamophobia, which in turn will lead to harming America s image and interests worldwide. There is no question that such misleading articles arouse hostility toward the United States around the world. Many Americans do not understand the causes of Anti-Americanism. The phenomenon of anti-Americanism is growing and so widespread thanks to writers such as Ms. Suzanne Fields. Interpretations of Anti-Americanism, and often Anti-American sentiment, have been spread as a result to misleadingislamphobiaracisim against Muslms and Arabs.

This is not a new attitude towards Islam. We’ve all heard again and again the tired old clichés which stigmatize the whole of Islam as fundamentalist, ideological, static, unidimensional, implacably opposed to modernity, incapable of integration or assimilation, retrogressive, retrograde, backward, archaic, primaeval, medieval, uncivilised, hostile, violent, terrorist, alien, fanatical, barbaric, militant, oppressive, harsh, threatening, confrontational, extremist, authoritarian, totalitarian, patriarchal, and bent on imposing on the whole world a rigid theocratic system of government which would radically overturn every principle of freedom and liberal democracy cherished by the Western world.(1)

Again, I want to stress that, this in not a new issue. The Western media often portrays Muslims as a "Islamic fascist" or a "terrorists" threat to the West. Edward Said states that:

“For the general public in America and Europe today, Islam is "news" of a particularly unpleasant sort. The media, the government, the geopolitical strategists, and although they are marginal to the culture at large - the academic experts on Islam are all in concert: Islam is a threat to Western civilization. Now this is by no means the same as saying that only derogatory or racist caricatures of Islam are to be found in the West...What I am saying is that negative images of Islam are very much more prevalent than any others, and that such images correspond, not to what Islam "is"...but to what prominent sectors of a particular society take it to be: Those sectors have the power and the will to propagate that particular image of Islam, and this image therefore becomes more prevalent, more present, than all others”.

The rhetoric about "Islamic fascism" is a pack of lies. It is another attempt to repackage the increasingly unpopular "war on terror" by identifying a current enemy of the U.S. government with something that everyone can be counted on to oppose.

Maybe Ms. Fields should learn how terrorism was developed and supported by the West. It is important to distinguish between different developments in Islam and how the currents known today as "fundamentalism" first arose and supported by the West.

The first "fundamentalist" Islamic state didn t appear until the 20th century, with the backing of Britain (ALWAHABEEN). Likewise, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. armed, trained and supported the Islamists of the (MUJAHEDEEN). Another example of Western support for Islamist forces is Palestine. Israel backed the Islamist predecessor groups that gave rise to the militant Hamas organization, as a hoped-for counterweight to the secular nationalist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Obviously, that relationship has changed. They have never thought that the fundamentalist movement will grow and the West supported Islamists groups will turn against them.

Mahjabeen Agha (2) in his article on Islamophobia: An Absolute Misconception, explained the real side of terrorist affairs against the West “Diplomatically speaking everyone is well informed about the real side of terroristic affairs against the west, as it is western foreign policy against the minority, extra judicial leniency towards its allied forces, economic suppression of the underdeveloped blocks, political hegemony, autocracy and totalitarian philosophy are the main concerns that had led the suppressed nations against the west and had divided the world in to two dimensions one is the west block and the other is labeled as Islamic block, it shows that the actual war is not between the west and the rest but west and the Islam. So highlighting and connecting phobias with Islam while leaving hostile policies is nothing but the policy of hiding the facts under the carpet. What the west cannot test is the weakened pillars behind its policy formulation as phobias are made to remove not to extend, once the treatment would be injected to remove Islamophobia in the west, the exposed hatred by the people for their own plenipotentiaries may not be tolerated and may cause extreme destruction in the political as well as economic lobby of the west”.

After the events of "September 11", the West has identified a new enemy, "a new demon that has replaced the Red menace of the Cold war, i.e., radical Islam". This "radical Islam", a stereotype common to Western thought, portrays Muslims as fundamentalists or potential terrorists. Politics and religion are mixed together to identify the new enemy of the world. What Mahatma Gandhi depicted long ago for religion vis-à-vis politics that “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is,” proved to be right now a days. Fulfilling personal political strategy while forcing religion to face the front line may further damage the image of all religions and not only Islam.

What Ms. Fields did not know that there are a billion and a half Muslims in the world living on every continent in numerous countries with different political systems, social problems and cultures. When we begin to stereotype each other and take the worst examples of the behavior of the "other" to exemplify what "all of them are like" we are going backwards in time to an age of barbarism.

Stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam in the media are rooted in prejudice, and ignorance, says Bassil Akel (3) “The association of Islam and violence is a common misconception that the general Western public has developed about Islam”. Thanks to writers such as Ms. Fields. An example of this kind of misconception is that the Western media and some historians often say that Islam was a religion spread by the sword, meaning that Muslims went from one end of the world to the other forcing people to either convert or die. Islam spread by people learning about it and some by holy wars, but they did not force people to convert or die. Since a majority of the American public only gets their information about Islam through the media, they believe this wrong idea.

What Ms. Fields did not know is that the word Islam has the same meaning as "peace" in Arabic. Islam is a religion that came down to offer humanity a life filled with the peace and well-being in which God s eternal mercy and compassion is manifested in the world. God invites all people to accept the moral teachings of the Qur an as a model whereby mercy, compassion, tolerance and peace may be experienced in the world. Islam is a religion which fosters freedom of life, ideas and thought. (4)

Ms. Fields’ article is part of the attack against Islam and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and here I would like to advice her to learn more about Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) before she launches her attack on billion and a half Muslims in the world. She has insulted the feelings of Muslims, as they see their Prophet (PBUH) described in an offensive manner.

The Encyclopedia Britannica calls the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) “the most successful of all religious personalities of the world.” George Bernard Shaw said, “If Muhammad (PBUH) were alive today, he would succeed in solving all those problems which threaten to destroy human civilization in our times.” Thomas Carlyle was amazed as to how one man, single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades. Indeed no other human being ever accomplished so much, in such diverse fields of human thought and behavior, in so limited a space of time, as did Muhammad (PBUH). He was a religious teacher, a social reformer, a moral guide, a political thinker, a military genius, an administrative colossus. . No other man in history ever excelled or equaled him in any of these difficult departments of life. (5)

It is s not a Clash of Civilisations as Samuel Huntington describes, it is an enormous gap of understanding (6), and because that understanding is not there (not only by Ms. Fields but by others also) ability to predict, anticipate, reflect becomes that much more difficult. The knowledge of the different civilisations of the Islamic world, the knowledge of the pluralism of that world, the plurality of interpretations of Islam, of the languages of Islam, of the democracies of Islam is very, very shallow indeed. And that is the significant contributor to misunderstanding. So may be we have to excuse Ms. Fields of her ignorance. But the problems with such writings are that it is promoting and contributing a great deal to the negative image of Islam.

As stated by Mr. Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, the Chairman of Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR) (7) “Islamophobia is a reality and it needs to be corrected, not by using the word itself as a label to stifle just criticism, not by defensive hostility, and not by shouting louder, but by knowledge, by reason, by detailed work, and above all by the example of our own humanity. Hence one must realize the core issue behind terrorism rather than mistreating the particular class of society i.e. Muslims. To eradicate the hatred against Muslims from the grass root level one should understand the real philosophy engaged behind spreading this religious phobia. Islamophobia and most probably anti-Islamic or anti-Muslim theory would neither evaporate nor halt the negative devastated policy of the west to the rest”.

Dr. Zakir Naik (8), also confirms that “Common misconceptions about Islam arise in the minds of a majority of non-Muslims, because they are constantly being bombarded with misinformation about Islam. International media is mainly controlled by the western world, whether it is international satellite channels, radio stations, news papers, magazines or books. Recently the Internet has become a powerful medium of information. Though it is not controlled by anybody, one finds a large amount of virulent propaganda about Islam on the Internet. Of course, Muslims too are utilizing this tool to portray the right image of Islam and Muslims, and the efforts by the Muslims will increase and continue to be pursued.

It is a fact that Islam receives most hostile media coverage. It is not difficult to see that Muslim s are being falsely stereotyped as a threat to the "New World Order” (9). The media have been primary contributors to an erroneous image of Islam by stereotyping all Muslims as being fundamentalists or terrorists. A vicious cycle of misunderstanding, misguided policy and increasing violence has been set in motion. Before this vicious cycle begins to spin wildly out of control, it is essential that non-Muslims make a major effort to slow it down. Such an effort will, as the very first step, require that stereotypes be discarded.

John L. Esposito’s book, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality, poses the question, is Islam a threat to the West? He tells us that the answer lies in the West’s views. He says that if the Western powers continue to defend the unjust status of the Middle East in the name of an illusory or fleeting stability, Islam will be a threat. "But if the Western powers begin to appreciate the legitimacy of grievances in the Middle East, the West and Islamic movements will get along peacefully" .

Support should be provided for the spread of "True Islam", which is a religion of love, friendship, peace and brotherhood, and for its true understanding by Islamic societies.
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(1) The Language of Islamophobia , Dr. Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, Chairman of Forum against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR)
(2) Mahjabeen Agha Islamophobia: An Absolute Misconception, Media Monitor Network.2005.
(3) Bassil Akel,Islam and the Western Media, Islam for Today, http://www.islamfortoday.commedia.
(4) Harun Yahya, The True Islamic Morals, http://www.islamdenouncesterrorism.com.
(5) By S. H. Pasha, Muhammad, You Must Know This Man, http://www.islamonline.net.
(6) Aga Khan Speaks Out on Understanding of Muslims
(7) Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, the Chairman of Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR), The Language of Islamophobia, 2001
(8) Dr. Zakir Naik, Questions Commonly Asked By non-Muslims, Islamic voice, 1998.
(9) About Islam and Muslims, the New world Order, http:www.ummah.comwhat-is-islamcurrentmain.htm




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