No doubt, we all agree with the idea of fighting dangerous Islamophobic trends in America and Europe, but I think that there is a clear disagreement about how the effort should be pursued. On HuffPost Religion, Omar Alhatour’s well-intentioned piece, 10 Reasons You Should Not Fear Muslims, was published with a cute image:
In this piece, Omar tries to deconstruct Islamophobic assumptions and bigotry with facts, and makes a list of reasons to show the world that Muslims are actually from Hello Kitty World! This is wrong on so many levels. Here are some points I want to explain:
1) Do Not Make a List To Sell Muslims
Muslims are not unknown exotic tropical fruits or newfound species. However, making such a list and counting reasons is like announcing “This newly discovered animal is completely harmless, it will not bite you. You can pet it.” If one of the reasons/claims in the piece is debunked, will Islamophobia become a right? That kind of effort only helps dehumanization of Muslims. In a society, for instance, where anti-semitism is widespread, do we write pieces about “Jews are actually good guys” to stop extremist tendencies or do we stand out against the society’s negative perception unconditionally? Anti-Muslim sentiment is irrational, baseless, and fueled by stupidity. It’s OK to disprove their arguments, but trying to “sell Muslims” is not the thing we ought to do.
The author cites research demonstrating that 94 percent of terrorist attacks in US were carried out by non-Muslims. Yes, that’s true, but is this the reason non-Muslim Americans shouldn’t fear Muslims? What if most of these attacks were carried out by Muslims? In many American cities Black American crime rates are higher than White Americans’, so can that justify racism? No. Racism is not about what Blacks have done, like Islamophobia is not about what Muslims are or have done.
2) Muslims Are Not Homogenous
So we have to cease trying to define “Muslims.” Unlike many modernist Muslim thinkers, I’m not defending extreme relativism such as clichés like “Every Muslim has their own version of Islam, it is impossible to talk about one and only Islam, there are infinite types of Muslims.” What I say we do not need is idealization of Muslims; it also paves the way for the reverse. The arguments concerning Islam should move beyond a “Muslims are good” – “Muslims are bad” dichotomy.
3) “Muslims Have Always Won Nobel Peace Prize” (Really!?)
After I expressed myself about why this list is a bad idea, I want to look at and examine some arguments in this piece closely. Let’s start with my favorite:
” 5. When we say Islam teaches peace, we really mean it.
There is no bigger award for those who promote peace than the Nobel Peace Prize. That being said, 5 out of the 12 past people who have won this award have been Muslims. So if all Muslims are terrorists because a single digit percentage of terrorists happen to be Muslim, then all Muslims are peacemakers because 42 percent of Nobel Peace Prize winners in the past 12 years have been Muslims. ”
It’s exactly wrong on so many levels. Firstly, everybody knows that Nobel Peace Prize is politically oriented and has nothing to do with peace. Anwar Sadat, Shimon Peres and Barack Obama won it too and average Muslims do not need such legitimacy that comes from that prize. In 2013, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won the peace prize and in 2014 Assad regime killed over 1000 people in Ghouta with chemical weapons. This tragic and ironic series of events perfectly shows the true nature of Nobel Peace Prize .
Does Islam teach peace? Yes, one of the main concerns of Islam is peace. As the Prophet Muhammad said “O ye men, do not wish for an encounter with the enemy.” But can the Nobel Peace Prize be an indicator of Islam’s peacefulness? Do Muslims and Islam need that? Certainly not .
Another of the author’s arguments is that a majority of Muslims actually want to adopt American customs and ways of life. Of course that may be true, but it is not a prerequisite for not being discriminated against in a society. Muslims’ ways of life can be different, and it shouldn’t be a problem in a democratic society.
But if some Muslims see “adopting American ways of life” as a strong indicator of “being harmless and peaceful,” conservative political internet memes such as the one above must be understood as normal or even logical.
If we keep compromising our natural rights, we will have to face questions like “why don’t you eat pork?” Should we start to eat pork simply to not fear non-Muslim Americans?