Back in May 2013 I wrote about Islamophobia (see this link) and mentioned it again in October 2014 (here). But fear of Muslims, which is basically what Islamophobia is, seems to be stronger now—especially since the San Bernardino shootings—than it was two or three years ago.
It goes without saying that there are radical terrorists in the world. ISIS (ISIL) is a real and ongoing threat to peace and safety in the Near East as well as in the Western world. The extremist activity of some groups or individuals who self-identify as Muslims cannot be denied and should not be ignored.
At the same time, the lumping of all Muslims together and harboring suspicion against, or promoting rejection of, all Muslims because of the terrorist activities of some who say they are Muslims is grossly unfair.
This month the group which meets under the name Vital Conversations discussed the book Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism (2013). The author, Maajid Nawaz (b. 1978), is an ethnic Pakistani born in England. As a teenager he was radicalized, and then a few years later he rejected the Islamism that he had embraced.
Nawaz became the co-founder of, and continues as the leader of, Quilliam, a think tank based in London that seeks to combat Islamism and its extremist activities. (To understand the distinction between Islam and Islamism is crucial.)
In 2011 Nawaz gave a TED talk in Edinburgh with the title “A Global Culture to Fight Extremism.” He is an admirable example of a Muslim fighting valiantly against radical Islamism.
Ahmed el-Sharif was our guest at the January Vital Conversations meeting. Ahmed was born in Sinai and came to the United States in 1979. He is a chemist, and became an American citizen in 1985.
Ahmed is also the founder of the American Muslim Council of Greater Kansas City. There is no question about him being a devout Muslim. But for those who have met him and heard him talk, there is no question about him being a peace-loving, sweet-spirited man.
This evening (Jan. 25) Central Baptist Theological Seminary here in the Kansas City area will be holding its Spring Convocation. Following that, at 7 p.m. veteran professor Richard Olson will lead a discussion of Todd H. Green’s book The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West (2015).Green, who is a professor of religion at Luther College in Iowa, has written a very helpful, easy-to-read but scholarly book that I found well worth reading.
To pick up on just one point, Green explains that just referring to “Islamic terrorists” encourages Islamophobia. That is the main reason President Obama has generally not used that term.
Even back in 2008 Rudolph Giuliani’s criticized the Democratic National Convention for not using those words, and the President has been repeated castigated for not using that label.
For example, about a year ago CNN reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham had said, “We are in a religious war with radical Islamists. When I hear the President of the United States and his chief spokesperson failing to admit that we’re in a religious war, it really bothers me.”
Last month Donald Trump called for barring all Muslims from entering the United States (at least temporarily). Then early this month, in his first television ad of the presidential election campaign, Trump reiterated his call for a ban on Muslim entry to the U.S.
Trump’s statement about Muslims is clearly an expression of, as well as encouragement of, Islamophobia. And sadly, his strident voice is just one among many.