Ayesha Kazmi

The American Muslim Witch Hunt: an Inglorious Statistic

In The Political on 19/03/2011 at 00:40
Ever since US Congress Representative and Chairman of US Homeland Security, Peter King’s, announcement to hold hearings on the radicalisation of Muslims in America, many critical of these hearings, including American Muslim leaders, such as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison – who converted to Islam at the age of 19 – have been harping on this 30% statistic.
That 30% refers to the 48 out of 161 terrorist plots in the United States where intelligence were tips provided from inside the American Muslim community. According to recent research by two North Carolina universities, American Muslims have been a major source of tips that have thwarted terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11.
This statistic has been gloriously broadcasted on American news stations and publications by major critics of the radicalisation hearings as of late, considering it a saving grace for the American Muslim community to take shelter under while coming under fire from those in the Department of Homeland Security and other right wing groups that share and perpetuate Peter King’s fears about the unwillingness of Muslim Americans to assist in preventing radicalisation and that 80% of Mosques in America are lead by Al-Qaeda sympathisers.
While such statistics remain ambiguous, what appears most problematic is the lack of a deeper line of questioning going on. While these seemingly arbitrary statistics are indeed troubling (a personal favourite being that 15% of American Muslim men “could” support suicide bombings), what is more alarming is the permissiveness with which American Muslims treat the whistle-blowing taking place within their communities and inside their mosques. That American Muslims have had to resort to policing their own communities not only speaks to the immense burden placed on them, but the willingness of leaders and communities to unquestionably acquiesce to the established bullying narrative of “Islam and Muslims are inherently violent and they need to sort themselves out,” and the subsequent pressures on Muslim Americans to root out the extremism and terrorism within their midst. It’s a ludicrous solution that insinuates that American Muslims are, by default, connected to a threatening menace within American borders which, in turn, increases a national hysteria and directs more fear at American Muslims. This layered with alarmist Muslim figures, such as journalist and activist Asra Nomani, who welcomed the hearings and urged Muslim Americans to do more to counter the increasing threat of Islamic radicalism in the United States, places each individual Muslim American squarely into the line of inquisition.
The facts are true. American Muslims accused and imprisoned because of their alleged involvement in planning terrorist plots, such as Tarek Mehanna, were tipped off by members in their own community. This is hardly a phenomenon to be applauded and encouraged, particularly in light of the fact that the American media is now increasingly criticised for promoting and spreading misinformation to an American public that has, in turn, become increasingly misinformed. The Pew Research Centre found that in 2007, Americans were more uninformed about politics and international affairs than they were in the 1980s. Jalal Alamgir, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston writes in the Huffington Post: “The misinformation is stark when it comes to Islam. A year and a half ago, Media Tenor, a research organization, analyzed 9,268 statements that American evening TV news made about Islam. It found that negative perspectives ruled. Across the 32 months analyzed, less than 10 percent of TV statements had positive things to say about Islam… The coverage of Islam was mostly about violence and militancy.The result has been a rise in the number of Americans who simply associate Islam with violence.” Let us also not forget, much to the surprise of many, Hilary Clinton’s recent beef with the ‘talking heads’ on American news channels when she compared it to the coverage given by Al Jazeera in recent days in light of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and so on.
What is left is an American Muslim population that is operating within an uninformed milieu. When negligent, uninformed, and irresponsible ‘talking heads,’ such as Glenn Beck, and now Bill Maher who has recently exposed his own xenophobic leanings, are the ones leading the debates about the place of Islam and Muslims in America, one can hardly expect honest evenhanded solutions to emerge.
Muslim Americans should resist the tendency to fall into line with such gross rhetoric and inform themselves about how trully well integrated they are – specifically in light of their European Muslim counterparts. While debates of all sorts should be more than welcomed, the community is setting itself up against a concrete wall when they concede to allowing those debates to not only be instigated but pursued by uninformed leaders with, what appears to be, a xenophobic agenda, like Asra Nomani has done. Air the dirty laundry, sure – but would one allow their delicates to be washed by a laundry novice?

American Muslims have much to pride themselves on, such as their strong national identity and their overall economic successes – largely benefiting from the ‘American dream’ – and they need to remember that. It is most ironic that their strong national identity has come at the expense of their civil liberties. This 30% statistic should be the furthest item laying at the centre of American Muslim pride.

The original article published here

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