by Jamshed Abbas (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 9, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1431)
The fact that America is in decline is indisputable. With a crumbling physical infrastructure, a growing gap between the rich and poor, a shrinking middle class, rapidly rising numbers of poor and unemployed, and an economy beholden to China, even American pundits admit the once proud superpower is sliding into rapid decline.
As the US economy goes down the drain with unemployment climbing to an official figure of 10% while real unemployment hovers around 30%, the masses are becoming increasingly bitter and angry. Private militias are springing up everywhere and the FBI is barely able to keep up. Citizens are arming themselves as they batten down the hatches and wait for the inevitable spark that could lead to widespread chaos and disorder.
Mired in two wars — Iraq and Afghanistan — and with more than 900 military bases in some 136 countries, the US has become the modern-day version of the Roman Empire. This sole “superpower” in decline at home is gripped by intractable problems abroad. The whole world is virtually united in its hatred of America. Even its friends in Europe do not like it anymore and are finding the courage to complain in public.
As the country goes down the proverbial toilet, politicians and commentators are increasingly looking to Muslims as convenient scapegoats to cover their own corruption, inefficiency and ineptitude. Polemics against Muslims are a daily occurrence. Vile invective against Muslims is spouted on television and radio as well as in newspaper columns. If such hatred were uttered against another group such as the Jews, it would lead to riots and perhaps long incarceration for offenders but Muslims are fair game; they are viewed as a soft target.
Ann Coulter, the notorious conservative columnist is a good example. Shortly after the 9/11 tragedy, she declared: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” She was talking about Muslims. Perhaps Coulter may have been overcome by emotion so soon after the tragic event; she probably could have apologized for her outburst and explained that it was a visceral reaction after seeing the Twin Towers collapse. Quite aside from the fact that al-Qaeda may have had little to do with the attacks and that the US government and/or Israel could have been involved, her apology would have been accepted. But, did she apologize? Far from apologizing, Coulter’s rhetoric has become shriller. In 2006 while referring to Iran’s nuclear energy issue, she said: “What if they start having one of these bipolar episodes with nuclear weapons? I think our motto should be, post-9/11: raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.”
It did not matter that Iran had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. It did not matter that Iran has never attacked the US but has been victim of American brutality, first in the form of the US-engineered coup in 1953 and then its 25-year support of the Shah and his brutal regime. This was followed by support for brutal war unleashed by the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Husain who was the West’s favorite tyrant at the time.
Not only is Coulter not shunned for her extreme views spouted openly, she is a virtual celebrity and is invited to all the major networks and earns huge sums of money for her speaking engagements. This kind of vitriol is not limited to commentators and so-called pundits.
Newt Gingrich — a former Speaker of the US House of Representatives who has had top-secret security clearance and has resided in the upper echelons of power — also ranks among the leading Islamophobes. He could be the next President of the United States if he decides to run (all indications are that he may) for the office in 2012. The former speaker of the house and potential future president said in a speech that Muslims are secretly conspiring to impose “Shariah” on the US: “Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence.” He went on: “But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state, which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of sharia.” Gingrich also compared Feisal Abdul Rauf who wants to build a community centre two blocks away from ground zero, the same area that has strip clubs and lingerie stores, to a “Nazi.”
The list goes on. A recent congressional candidate said Muslims were “terrorists” and even Harry Reid, the supposedly level-headed Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate decided that principles were less important than getting voted into office and declared that the “ground zero” mosque is not a good idea. The label itself is a misrepresentation but in this toxic environment of rising hysteria, facts are easily discarded.
And this is just scratching the surface. Anti-Muslim hysteria is growing rapidly and all the verbal vitriol that is being directed at Muslims is beginning to manifest itself into physical violence: from the Muslim cabbie who was stabbed in the neck after being asked if he was Muslim, to the attempted gassing of a masjid in Cleveland, to the many verbal and physical attacks that are never reported, the US is becoming a very difficult place for Muslims to live in. It is beginning to look like Nazi Germany of the 1930s when Jews were the target of such hatred.
Muslim response to this problem has been tepid at best. The customary Muslim attitude is one of silence, hoping that this “problem” of “law abiding” Muslims being caricatured as “secret jihadists” will somehow go away. When someone says something particularly vulgar, beleaguered organizations like CAIR (Center for American Islamic Relations) hand out press releases that condemn such statements and remind people that Muslims are “good citizens.”
The ineptitude and political impotency of Muslims in the US can be summed up in an incident that occurred during the last anniversary of the 9/11. Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida, announced that he would burn copies the Qur’an and broadcast this around the world. He only relented because US military and other officials said this would put at risk American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What was the reaction of Muslims living in the US? A local Muslim leader in Florida went to the Pastor’s church to try and “negotiate” with him to not burn the Qur’an! Pastor Jones who has barely 50 followers was being courted by Muslim leaders and turned into an international celebrity. In return for agreeing not to burn the Qur’an, Jones demanded that the “mosque” in New York not be built. In other words, Muslims in the US are so weak today that a crackpot Christian priest can equate the burning of the Qur’an to the building of a masjid. When the Imam refused to accept the offer, Jones went on television and accused the Imam of being a “liar”.
The only reason the Qur’an was not burnt was because of pressure from Muslims outside of the US. There were demonstrations in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Malaysia, Indonesia and many others. Muslims in the US who should have been in the forefront of the campaign in defence of the Qur’an, actually facilitated the political stunt of an unknown pastor and gave him credibility by engaging with him.
The question that arises is, what gives? What is going on?
There is a solution. It lies in an interview recently conducted with Imam Abdul Alim Musa, an African-American Muslim leader who for 30 years has been shunned by immigrant Muslims for being too outspoken about issues such as the Islamic revolution, Hamas, Hizbullah, Zionism, etc. Imam Musa divided Muslims in the US into two broad categories: immigrants and indigenous. The majority of indigenous Muslims are African-American.
He said indigenous Muslims in the US look upon Islam as transformational. They see the US as a morally sick and bankrupt society. They believe that Islam has the solutions that can ail this sick patient, and they dearly love and want to heal the American people with Islam.
Immigrant Muslims, on the other hand, practice Islam “light” as Imam Musa calls it. This means that they are good Muslims and they love Allah (swt), but they came to the US for the material benefits it has to offer. They came to America not to transform society, but to “fit in.” Their efforts are not directed at improving the lives of the American people by offering Islamic solutions to the myriad problems facing America; their efforts are directed at assimilation, to somehow prove that Islam can “fit” into the American society. The irony of this, as Imam Musa so aptly puts it, is that “it has the exact opposite effect”. Americans instinctively understand that Islam and the capitalist/materialist system are at odds. While Islam emphasizes monotheism and the conformity to Allah (swt) alone, the capitalist society teaches worship of one’s desires. Americans sense this clash, but because immigrant Muslims do not openly explain it to them, they fall victim to the hate campaign that the Zionist lobby is directing against Islam and assume what they are being told is true.
Immigrant Muslims, by attempting to align Islam with capitalism in their efforts to fit in, arouse suspicions within the American people and give credence to people like Gingrich who allege that Muslims living in America are secretly trying to impose “sharia.” The average American has some traits that are admirable; in fact very Muslim like. One is that he/she is very direct in what he/she thinks and says. There is no fudging or blurring of facts. When an immigrant Muslim like the one in Florida stands next to a pastor who was threatening to burn the Qur’an, and in a thick Middle Eastern accent says that they had a “fruitful” conversation, the average American instinctively thinks the pastor is right and the Muslim is wrong.
Their reasoning is: “If Muslims were trying to burn the Bible which is the word of God, no Christian would stand next to him in that meek manner and plead with him not to do it. We Christians would condemn that Muslim and tell him the truth: that he is an evil man and that what he is doing is in fact burning the word of God! Therefore, the fact that the Muslim is standing next to a Christian who is threatening to burn the Qur’an and not telling him he is wrong can only mean that Islam is not the Truth. After all, if Islam is the Truth, why is the Muslim pastor not condemning the Christian? And why is he standing next to him?”
The irony here is that the immigrant Muslim imam thinks that by standing next to a crackpot Christian pastor he is putting on a “humane” face for Islam and proving that Islam can in fact peacefully co-exist within the American society. In his rather pathetic quest to fit into the American society he is actually proving to the American people that Christianity is right and Islam is inherently evil.
Imam Musa and leaders like him point to this incident as an example of how immigrant Muslims have, in their attempt to twist Islam to fit American society, caused Islam great harm and have put Muslims in America at great risk. Indigenous Muslims on the other hand, would have (and did) react in a very “American” way to the attempted burning of the Qur’an. They yelled, they screamed, they protested, they told the people that the Christian pastor is in fact burning the word of God and that he will go to hell. They then explained that Islam is in fact the true religion of God and they can prove it. “Come to our masjid” they said, “we’ll debate you. If you win we’ll convert. If we win you convert.” This is the American approach. This is the kind of approach that appeals to Americans. After all, (they reason) if you have the truth, what are you afraid of?
The question thus arises: why don’t indigenous Muslims take up the leadership role? Why do they let immigrant Muslims become the public face and spokespersons for Islam? It all boils down to resources. Immigrant Muslims in the US are rich. They have huge Islamic centers; they live in middle or upper middle class neighborhoods. They are doctors, engineers, scientists, etc. They are the people that America recruited to sustain its post-world war two expansion.
Indigenous Americans, on the other hand tend not to be rich; they are what we call the mustadafin. They don’t have the ability to project themselves on the national canvas. They do not have the resources to represent Islam in the US. What ends up happening is that that the immigrant Muslim tends to take on the public persona of Islam in the US.
This is very dangerous, and this must end now.
Immigrant Muslims need to come to their senses and realize that Islam did not come to give them riches; Islam did not come to give them comfortable lives. Islam came to establish justice and to tell people that there is a life after this life that is the real purpose of this worldly life. Immigrant Muslims need to stop trying to fit Islam into the capitalist system they reside in. They need to start a partnership with their fellow indigenous Muslims who can guide them about the reality of American culture and how to tackle American society.
If they don’t get their act together, they could one day become the victims of the kind of mob mentality that minorities throughout the ages have suffered when great empires crumbled. They will scream for help but it will be too late then. No one will be able to save them, not even their indigenous Muslim brothers.