Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't give divisive lecturer GOP forum

Don't give divisive lecturer Jonathan Matusitz, GOP forum

I am appalled at the Orlando Republican Women's Network's announced plans to host UCF's Jonathan Matusitz's lecture on "The Islamic Threat to America."

The title of the talk alone serves to demonize and alienate an entire minority and is counterproductive to a free, diverse and tolerant community. Nothing good can come out of targeting an entire group based on faith.

Besides being unproductive, asserting that an entire faith is a threat is simply incorrect.
As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated, American Muslims are "essential partners in the fight against terrorism."

Inviting such an offensive speaker, who, according to Pinellas Republican Executive Committee leader Chris Latvala, "bash[es] a religion practiced by many ... including fellow Republicans," can harm the long-term viability of the GOP, and effectively undermine the goals of the network. Similar concerns have been raised by GOP leader Grover Norquist: "When you hear snide comments about Jews in the '50s or Muslims today — we've been through this. The Republican Party chased away the Catholic vote for over a hundred years."

The network certainly has a right to hold events that demonize an entire faith.

But the fact that members choose to do so says more about them and their values, ethnocentrism, and double standards than the faith they are attacking.

Our country needs leaders who unite us, not leaders who use fear to divide us.

Hassan Shibly, Executive Director, CAIR-Florida in Tampa

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NBC’s Richard Engel misleading take on Muslim violence

By: Zaid Jilani | | October 22, 2013          [Read Original Here]
For conservatives, the hype about “black on black violence” has become a campaign slogan — despite evidence to the contrary that violence is really about concentrated poverty and geography, leading disingenuous conservatives to complain about this phenomenon. “Nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people. Where is the march for them?” complained Juan Williams last year as protests for slain teenager Trayvon Martin were gearing up.
In a television news segment aired last week, NBC’s decorated foreign correspondent Richard Engel offered a similar take on “Muslim versus Muslim violence.” Like complaining about black on black violence, it seemed calculated to absolve the audience of blame.
Engel is one of America’s most prominent foreign correspondents. He has lived in the Middle East since 1996 and speaks and reads Arabic that he learned from many years living in Cairo. So it’s particularly disappointing to see him engage in a form of Orientalism.
Engel’s segment begins by setting the scene: “Anyone who follows the Middle East and Islamic world in general can’t deny it is often a very violent place, that a band of instability now stretches from Algeria to Pakistan. Every day it seems there are car bombings, suicide attacks, shootings, and refugees and crying children. From the outside it looks like a violent mess to be avoided. But the violence baffles many of the people who live in the region. Why? they ask. Why is the Islamic world these days so violent? And who’s responsible.”
Engel then reminds his viewers that Muslims aren’t predisposed to violence: “Islam, like all major religions, preaches tolerance and coexistence. Most sermons on most mosques on most days preach about living a good and moral life. Very normal stuff.”
Then he gets to his thesis, that Muslims can’t explain all that Muslim-on-Muslim violence and that they shroud themselves in conspiracy theories: “Which leads many in the Islamic world to conclude that there must be a conspiracy. Some war against Islam waged by non-Muslims. This is a very common philosophy in the Islamic world reinforced by television shows and taken as fact at many of the same mosques where people are told to live good and decent lives.”
Engel then concedes that there might be some truth to the idea that Muslims are being killed by non-Muslims: “In just a generation, starting roughly in 1980, about 4 million Muslims have died violently in wars, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Bosnia to Chechnya. Understand, numbers like these are hard to nail down. But the scale makes a point. More than 300 Muslims killed a day, every day, for 30 years. And about half of them, think Afghanistan attacked by the Soviet Union, Bosnia by Serbs, and America’s two wars in Iraq, it was Muslims who were killed by non-Muslims. The worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, the massacre at Srebrenica, and the worst air assault on a city, Grozny, were both directed at Muslims by armies of other faiths. So looking from the inside out, it’s not unreasonable to see a war against Islam.”
Then he pivots to his conclusion: It’s really the Muslims killing each other, and they don’t like to admit it: “But increasingly, the argument doesn’t hold up. Increasingly, it’s been Muslims killing Muslims. In civil wars in Syria, Algeria, Sunni versus Shiite violence seems to be the new terrible trend. And one that is likely to continue as the Arab world struggles to find a new status quo after the revolution of the Arab Spring. It could take a decade for a new system to lock in place. Until then, there’s likely to be a lot more Muslim versus Muslim violence. But this narrative isn’t very popular in the region. It isn’t talked about as much in the mosques and in the Arab media. Perhaps it’s easier to blame the outside than to explain the interfaith violence.”
There are a number of troubling flaws in Engel’s argument. First of all, he seems to posit that the Muslim world is uniquely violent, with 4 million Muslims  killed there over the past 33 years. While the region has indeed seen horrific violence, let’s not forget that it’s a group consisting of over 1.6 billion individuals.
By contrast, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 95 percent of the population is Christian, the International Rescue Committee estimated that 5.4 million people died in conflict in eastern Congo from 1998 to 2007 out of a current population of 65.7 million people.
There are also parts of the Muslim world that have relatively little violence. For example, much of the Middle East has lower homicide rates than the U.S.
Then Engel concedes that half of the violence he was referring to came from outside the Muslim world. He then quickly moves on. Think about that. In 2001, 2,750 Americans were killed by Muslim terrorists. The same year, 15,980 Americans were killed by … each other in homicides. If you polled most Americans that year about what they were most outraged about, it’s very likely that the terrorist attacks would rank higher than common murder, even though the murders accounted for almost six times as many deaths. Would Engel really take Americans to task for uniting against a foreign enemy – the al-Qaida organization – rather than the violence from within? Every society, not just Muslim ones, are quicker to rally against a foreign enemy.
That brings us to the last flaw in Engel’s argument. He claims that Muslims and Arabs are not focusing on violence by other Muslims, and that they’d rather blame foreigners, in the press and in their mosques. But is that even true?
I took a couple of snapshots of the current home page of, the Web presence of Pakistan’s most influential newspaper. The home page features items on a girls’ school receiving a threatening letter from an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, an article on a bomb attack on a train in Balochistan, a piece on Pakistan’s female police officers taking on criminals and terrorist militants, among others related to “Muslim versus Muslim violence.”
did the same for the Khaleej Times, a major news outlet based out of the United Arab Emirates. As I write this, there are three articles about Syria’s civil war and one article about Malala, the famed Pakistani teenage girl who stood up to the Taliban.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t certain individuals that peddle conspiracies and try to blame the West for all of the Muslim world’s problems. But they aren’t too different from our own Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh – they’re providing red meat to a small but fervent audience that rejects rational discussion.
Engel’s portrayal of “Muslim versus Muslim violence” is simplistic. The issues and animosities that have created sectarian warfare in some parts of the Muslim world are nuanced, and many of them can at least partially be blamed on the West: See Syria where the civil war has turned into a proxy conflict between the American and Russian governments, which are both fueling the bloodshed with arms.
Yet a greater problem may be Engel’s role as a narrator himself. Like white conservatives who scold the black community for violence, Engel is playing the role of a white Western outsider, lecturing Muslims on their inability to govern themselves. Yes, there is bitter sectarian violence in some parts of the Muslim world, but addressing that is primarily a job for Muslim activists and the Muslim public sphere. A white non-Muslim lecturing Muslims on American television will hardly help soothe sectarian divisions, and it may even exacerbate them.
Perhaps a better use for Engel’s reporting talent would be to inform Americans about the nuances of conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim world, and to give them the information they need to change what’s most directly under their control: U.S. foreign policy. Engel could explain how the United States’ one-sided policies with respect to Israel and the Palestinians prevent a resolution, or how our extreme sanctions against Iran are hurting ordinary people there, not government officials – a former U.S. ambassador recently warned that it could “become a humanitarian disaster in five years.”
A reporter of Engel’s background and talent should consider these alternatives and others rather than championing a simplistic and condescending narrative toward 1.6 billion people.

American Muslims Condemn Terrorism

While the Muslim community does not need to collectively take responsibility for violence done by a few of its members, just as no community is responsible for the crimes of the few, it certainly would behoove American Muslim leadership to engage and educate the public that in fact Islam has no room for such atrocities that some may commit in its name.

Despite doing so however, many politicians, ill-informed activists, and self-appointed 'terrorism experts' still claim that they “have never heard a Muslim condemn terrorism.” That is probably most likely because they have never gotten to know a Muslim, or simply because they are not listening to those moderate Muslim voices.

To set the record straight however, I have written this blog post to cite a few of the many references of American Muslim leadership condemning terrorism.

It is important to note however that statistically speaking, only a minority of terrorist or violent attacks in the world are committed by those who claim affiliation with the Muslim faith and that people of other faiths are nonetheless not similarly expected to be accountable for the crimes committed by members of their faith.

Nonetheless, we have a whole section on condemning terrorism on our website where we include many blogs and media appearances where the community condemns violence:

Here is the link to an editorial I published in the Tampa Bay Times “Islam has no room for terrorism” 

Here is me in a Fox News video about the Muslim Community reporting an alleged terrorist to law enforcement and us condemning terrorism.

I am on Fox News here as well clearly condemning violence.

Another Fox News video where I am condemning violence on behalf of the community.

Below is a list of articles and resources debunking the myth that Muslims do not condemn terrorisim:
·               marathon
·                         denounce-the-woolwich-attack/

Here are a few excellent academic resources that put the threat of terrorism in perspective:

·         Duke/UNC study that American Muslim terrorism is on the decline:
·         “The Terrorism Delusion is another university study on fear being overblown:
·         Professor Jaun Cole’s recent article “Terrorism and Other Religions”
·         Professor Robert Pape’s study that terrorists are not motivated by religion:

It is interesting to note that there are greater chances of drowning in your bathtub than getting killed by a terrorist, and the amount of people killed by terrorism in the US is extremely small compared to those killed by other violent crime:

According to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security:

• Fourteen Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots in 2012, down from 21 the year before, bringing the total since 9/11 to 209, or just under 20 per year.
• The number of plots also dropped from 18 in 2011 to 9 in 2012.
• Meanwhile, the United States suffered approximately 14,000 murders in 2012.
• Since 9/11, Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 33 lives in the United States, out of more than 180,000 murders committed in the United States during this period.
• Over the same period, more than 200 Americans have been killed in political violence by white supremacists and other groups on the far right, according to a recent study published by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy.
• Sixty-six Americans were killed in mass shootings by non-Muslims in 2012 alone, twice as many fatalities as from Muslim-American terrorism in all 11 years since 9/11.

We must stand united as Americans for security and liberty and condemn all those who wish to promote hatred, division, or violence.

Clearly, the myth that American Muslims do not condemn terrorism is clearly false.