Monday, December 31, 2012

What’s Islamophobia, and Do I Have It?

By Haroon Moghul | Religion Dispatches Magazine | December 31, 2012 | [Original Article]
A closed mind is a terrible thing to behold. But it’s a far worse thing to have to engage. And yet we must. This Saturday, the woman who murdered a complete stranger by shoving him into the path of an arriving subway train was arrested. Her name? Erica Menendez. Her target? Hindus and Muslims. Why? Because of 2001.
More than eleven years after the terrorist attacks, and the alleged murderer not only could not distinguish between a Muslim and a Hindu, but held both collectively responsible for the actions of a few—there are 2.5 billion Muslims and Hindus in the world. This is clear, cut-and-dried bigotry, of the typically ignorant kind.
You’d think recent events only further prove Islamophobia’s dangerousness. But on the night of Erica’s arrest, the usual cohort of anti-Muslim voices persisted in their denial of Islamophobia, considering it a “neologism” used by the left to silence their fair criticisms of Islam. Reality, as always, begs to disagree.
Islamophobia is anything but rational, fair, or grounded. Like climate change denial, it masks real threats and makes it harder for us to deal with them. America deserves a better conversation on Islam. One that has the room to acknowledge real threats and challenges, but also enables us to make smarter choices, and to deal with Muslims as what we are: Human beings.
I’m not claiming to present a complete cartography. But what I have should help us navigate a far too familiar terrain. After all, why do we have to put up with absurdly ahistorical arguments, such as Pamela Geller’s claim that “jihad” killed 270 million people—fanciful, hyperbolic, and almost endearingly fictitious? Not only is Islamophobia ridiculous, it has violent consequences.
I. It’s (Always) the 1950s
II. Don’t Ask, Tell
III. If Islam Were a Race, Would Islamophobia Be Racist?
IV. Haven’t We Seen this Movie Before?
V. One Of Us is Rubber and The Other is Glue
VI. ‘I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam’
VII. Newt Gingrich
VIII. Having Cake vs. Eating Cake

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Look Back at Media Coverage of Islam and Islamic Law in 2012

By Krystina Friedlander | Huff Post Religion | December 27, 2012 | [Original Article
This has been a big year for Islam and Islamic law in American media. As politicians vied for local and national office, anti-sharia messages -- and sometimes overtly anti-Islam messages -- were broadcast across the media, at times functioning to normalize anti-Islam discourse. Turmoil in places like Egypt and Mali ensured that there were plenty of stories with "sharia" in the forefront, but little contextualization for the average reader to give a sense of what Islamic law means in those places. As we look back at media coverage in 2012, a number of trends emerge, ranging from regional and national hotspots like Tennessee and Egypt; in specific areas, such as gender and Islamophobia; and in wider issues of how Islamic law was covered and who was cited by the media as an authority.
Anti-Islam Messages Dominate Media
A December study published by the American Sociological Review from sociologist Christopher Bail shows that over the last decade, conversations about Islam in American media have been largely dominated by organizations with anti-Islam agendas. The American Sociological Association quotes Bail:
I found that organizations with negative messages about Muslims captivated the mass media after the Sept. 11 attacks, even though the vast majority of civil society organizations depict Muslims as peaceful, contributing members of American society ... As a result, public condemnations of terrorism by Muslims have received little media attention, but organizations spreading negative messages continue to stoke public fears that Muslims are secretly plotting to overthrow the U.S. government ... They are now so much a part of the mainstream that they have been able to recast genuinely mainstream Muslim organizations as radicals.

Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon reported on the study, noting that journalists do work to "find voices that accurately [represent] Islam," but that "simply by being outspoken," "self-described terrorism experts" end up being cited in the media as authorities on Islam and Islamic law. At the same time, by covering stories about and told by anti-Islam activists and pundits -- which tend to be captivating (Creeping shari'a!Terry Jones burning Qur'ans!Pamela Geller and her Ground Zero Mega Mosque!) -- the media brings these organizations and speakers to the world's attention, thereby generating a greater following (and greater donation revenue). Seitz-Wald asks, "[i]f the media hadn't paid attention to them, would they have mattered?" The takeaway: reinforcement from the media makes these stories stick. [Read More...]