Monday, August 29, 2016

Muslims condemn terrorism all the time. “So why is no one listening?”

As if mainstream news coverage hasn’t been dangerously incomplete for many decades as it is, all the fear-mongering hate-speech we’re seeing this year diverts even more attention away from balanced truth. 

It’s in fashion now to hate Muslims, just as in the ’eighties it was in fashion to hate Russians, and before that to hate Japanese people, and so on. Again, as has been the case every single time a new group gets targeted as the national scapegoat, all this single-group-targeting completely misses the point that the crimes that have been at the root of our nation all along—domestic violence, war, drug crimes, sex crimes, child abuse, financial crimes, institutionalized poverty, and institutionalized racism—are all home-grown, and banning Muslims or any other immigrants will not make our nation one bit safer—and certainly not “greater.” 

For every “radical” Muslim or other foreigner who commits violence in America, there are dozens or even hundreds of born-American citizens doing just as bad or worse things that we don’t hear nearly as much about, if we hear about them at all. 

A very insightful article by Judd Birdsall featured July 25 in the Washington Post’s “Acts of Faith” series, available here, is a must-read on this issue. Instead of giving you a summary, I strongly encourage you to read it. 

All this brought to mind one of the interfaith networking meetings I attended in 2014, in which a discussion-highlight was the 51st Annual Convention of the Islamic Society of North America. Titled “Generations Rise: Elevating Muslim American Culture,” this convention was attended by thousands of participants from across the continent, and represented the organization’s first gathering in Michigan. The convention was held Labor Day weekend of 2014, at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. 

At the networking meeting, Dawood Zwink highlighted the great opportunity this event presented for showcasing what Detroit has to offer culturally to Muslim people and organizations interested in investing in Michigan. This event was also one more way to demonstrate to people from across the United States and Canada that Detroit and its surroundings are much more (and much better) than the mainstream media depicts this region as. 

This discussion was an ideal time for Robert Bruttell, then chairman of the Interfaith Leadership Council, to make an important point. Many people have asked, “Why don’t Muslims give blanket condemnation to the violence against innocents?” 

His answer was, “They say it all the time! So why is no one listening?” 

At an event he attended earlier that year at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Bruttell listened to Imam Qazwini, a prominent Muslim clergyman in Dearborn, sternly remind the other imams in attendance about the need to be even more emphatic in their stance that Islam as a religion and a community does not support the acts of individuals who do violence in Muhammad’s name. 

The reason society at large doesn’t hear this message is multi-faceted, but a lot of it has to do with the way the media insists on portraying Muslims as the unusual “other” in American society—to be tolerated and closely monitored at best, and blatantly mistrusted and condemned at worst. 

Veteran journalists Joe Grimm and David Crumm made a great point about the media’s insistence on not portraying Muslims as ordinary, hardworking, peaceful Americans: Ordinary people don’t make for “interesting” news. Photographers and newspaper writers are not going to take photos of and write human interest stories about “average” Muslim men and women in plain clothes, going to work at regular jobs or living in regular American-style houses. 

“They want weird, colorful,” as Grimm put it: They’re looking for the woman clad from head to toe in a flowing black burqa walking down a street in Dearborn on a hot day, or Muslim citizens doing activities that make them stand out and appear at odds with a predominately Christian or secular surrounding community. 

What this has done is skewed reality for people who rely on mainstream news to give them an unbiased view of the world around them, and who still believe an unbiased view is what they are getting. 

Illustration by Karla Joy Huber, 2007; Prismacolor marker and Sharpie marker

1 comment:

  1. This is so true but you rarely hear it on the radio or TV. People start to associate the word "Muslim" with all kinds of scary images and strange customs because the media keeps portraying them that way. Even when it is for sympathetic purposes, it's not reality to imagine all muslim women wearing burqa's and whatever other storybook images the news portrays. Some news is better than others but there really should be more coverage of everyday muslim people living everyday life, and how they really feel about terrorism.