As Muslims, we are often informed by the local and international media of our innate ability to react emotionally to anything concerning religion. They say we react too aggressively to any remarks on our faith or system of values and have knee-jerk reactions to issues that can be solved through dialog.
Yet, we have been openly harassed since 9/11 world over, for having a beard that is too long or for wearing a veil. 9/11 was a tragedy which should never have happened, thousands of lives were lost. It is also the tragedy that led to religious and cultural intolerance. Muslims living in the US, Canada and even Europe live in perpetual paranoia, with some resorting to non-disclosure of their culture and religion in the desperate attempts to blend in, to find refuge from the scrutiny in their adopted countries.
These societies which are supposed to be paragons of democracy and tolerance, still view all Muslims as “potential if not immediate threats,” often equating Islam with terrorism. Mosques in these societies are still regarded with suspicion by the general public and the immediate reaction is to stay away rather than interact. This would be acceptable if one could simply shrug and say “this is the world we live in these days, this is the norm.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Islamophobia has taken deep root in these societies and is being used by nefarious elements to incite hatred for Muslims. Consider the latest example of such hatred: a nondenominational, conservative church in Gainesville, Florida, plans on hosting an “International Burn a Quran Day” on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks. This will go over real well with the Muslims won’t it? This is all we need for international peace, the gathering space of one religion being used to desecrate the Holy book of another.
According to Pastor Terry Jones, who wrote a book titled “Islam is of the Devil” and is the leader of the Dove World Outreach Centre, “We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times.”
Advocacy groups in the US and American Muslims have gotten together to fight this with “Share the Quran” dinners in the upcoming month of Ramadan with the local community. Even the National Association of Evangelists has called on the Dove Centre to cancel the event in question. But is all this enough?
I still remember the famous speech Obama made about a “new beginning” in Cairo, where he reached out to the Muslim world and assured them that “we would all work together to forge a better tomorrow, a more united tomorrow.” When Ms Farah Pandith (U.S special representative for Muslim communities) last visited Pakistan I was invited to a discussion with her, among other new media journalists, where she assured us that the US wanted further collaboration between Muslims around the world, and the US government and its people. On the front lawn of the Dove World Outreach Centre stand not one but three signs proclaiming “Islam is the devil.” Has Obama’s message failed in trickling down to its local populace? Aren’t acts like these which result in Islamic radicalization in the West? Why aren’t such institutions banned, with their licenses revoked? Why are they allowed to preach hate in the name of religion? How would they react to Muslims gathering at a mosque to burn the Bible? Would they still issue calls instead of taking action on ground?
Oh by the way, two very esteemed news sources in the Pakistani blog sphere refused to publish this as not to draw focus to this issue. I wonder why, since blogging is all about freedom.