Sunday, February 27, 2011


A presentation on Islamophobia at Media Reform Summit at Occidental College by Shakeel Syed

History teaches us that in every era demagogues spread hateful propaganda against marginalized religious and ethnic minorities, often as a prelude to violence ...
Here are some examples of propaganda - couched in satire - to condition the minds of populace … “big nosed mean carpenter” … the “big-lip-mama” … the diseased illegal aliens (according to Lou Dobbs) and of course the feathered Chiefs, the Japs, the Huns, the Reds and now the Towel-heads …

And such propaganda is almost always followed by violence … remember Wounded Knee; Kunta-Kinte and Manzanar … and now in our times, it is Bagram, Abu Gharaib, Guantanamo and the Renditions!

I am reminded of an example of how one people can be conditioned for “total demonization” of another people …

A hijabi clad Muslim doctor spoke of Mr. Johnson, a blind patient who not knowing of his own physician said this … “Muslims must be hung naked with the nooses from Home Depot … we will save our country, cheap”

T. S. Eliot has a chilling phrase in his play - Murder in the Cathedral … “sin grows with doing good.”

So now some righteous people in our nation have taken up this responsibility of doing good … “getting rid of the diseased,” “healing the nation” and “giving prosperity to the wretched!”

Islamophobia today is cheered by the Chinese-made American flag- waving patriots in the leadership of Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and the ilk … and as a result of their bullhorn our communities are directly impacted from Adelanto to Tennessee and Temecula to Madera.

In some cities, “patriots” protest against building or expanding of Mosques and in other towns – Mosques are simply torched – such as in the City of Adelanto where an Imam was tied to his chair & burnt alive (2008)… similarly a copy of the Quran was actually burnt and placed at the door of one of our member Mosques in Costa Mesa - unlike the Pastor in Florida who planned to burn Quran but spared us with his adventure.

And I am sure most of you have heard of the hate filled circus in Temecula Valley – not to mention a recent circus in Yorba Linda and earlier in Lomita, Cypress and Mission Viejo among others. Not to mention scores of hate crimes against young Muslim students – particularly girls with Hijab …

OC Human Relations Commission reported this (2009) …

- Hate crimes against Muslims & Arabs have risen at a highest rate since 2001
- Twice as many hate crimes from 2008 and almost equal to the 2003/2004 levels
- 50% increase in hate crimes targeting people, because of their religious beliefs --- and
- Hate crimes at religious places have increased by four times
Another angle at play is economics in the business of hate mongering. Islamophobia is now a cash cow industry. Near unknown and obscure people are made out to be "Islam experts" teach the world to keep an eye out on the next door neighbor just as LA Police Department wanted to accomplish in their now defunct Muslim Mapping Program but succeeded in deploying their i-Watch Program.

Most Muslims now say - it is time to move on ... Here are some ways Muslims are working to undo the damage - with the help of good people like youselves …

• Helping good Americans – thru’ dialogs & debates, seminars and symposiums, papers and projects - about the social cancer of Islamophobia and that it should be just as unacceptable as anti-Semitism and homophobia in our society today.
• Working with faith communities and their congregations for conversations on interreligious relations and co-existence with mutual respect for each other.
• Asking media to feature programs that deal with the scope and dangers of Islamophobia just as they do with anti-Semitism.
• Demanding from Politicians to demonstrate their integrity and denounce those of their party who are willing to trade hate speech for votes.
• Working with fellow citizens to reclaim a vision of America in which all citizens - regardless of their religion or lack of it are respected for who they are rather than otherwise.

In addition, for me personally, most encouraging are our programs that offer …

• Scholarships for young Muslims to pursue journalism, media studies, etc
• Hands on workshops teaching writing, speaking, producing their own independent work as they see it rather than relying on mainstream corporate media

My friends – some in our country are addicted – seemingly for life – to create the “other” and then perpetuate hate against them. But then, there is also you – who not only does not run in the opposite direction when you hear the name Muslim or Islam but in fact run toward to stop, listen and challenge the discourse if it is hateful. And it is in you I have hope for a better America that does not hate anyone but loves all, unconditionally.

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