Have you ever considered this?


Robert Salaam of the blog The American Muslim (yes there are two blogs by that name and  both are excellent) asks an interesting question that should be raised in light of the recent terrorist bombings in Boston.  His question is the media responsible for some of the anti-Islamic backlash directed towards Muslims and Muslim organizations and places of worship.  Take a look at a brief excerpt

What caused a 52-year-old former Marine to leave his home in Indiana and drive for 2 hours to a Mosque in Ohio, with the intention to burn it down? According to Randy Linn, it was television’s constant portrayal of Muslims as wanting to do nothing more than kill Americans. After some heavy drinking, Linn made his way to the Mosque, carrying a firearm. He broke in and started the fire. He went room to room presumably to do God only knows what. Fortunately no one was at the Mosque at the time. Also fortunately, the sprinkler system kicked in and extinguished the flames. Randy Linn was later caught after being identified in surveillance photos.

In court, when asked whether he thought all Muslims were terrorists, Linn responded in affirmation.

As a Muslim and former Marine, this hate crime disturbs me. It disturbs me not so much because Randy Linn—by his own actions and admissions—betrayed that sacred trust and dedication to the values we Marines hold so dear. Instead, it disturbs me because his reasoning behind the betrayal of not only our Marine Corps values, but also the boundaries of common decency and citizenry.

It’s telling and worth noting that Randy Linn, like many others who use terrorism as means of vengeance against Muslims, often cite the Media as a major source in the influence of how they perceive members of the Islamic faith. Some anti-Muslim terrorists like Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people because of his anti-Muslim beliefs, go so as far as quoting and identifying popular anti-Muslim antagonists by name in their writings such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders, and many others as the inspiration behind their beliefs. Each of these individuals has found television, print, and political success with their extremist ideologies.

 

Pamela Geller

Pamela Geller

Salaam’s point is a good and valid one. Muslims are always on the defensive, pushed  to deny and condemn even the slightest indiscretion made by any Muslim anywhere in the world.  Even if the condemnation is accepted it rarely finds any traction in major media, and even more rarely are Muslims given a platform to weigh in on matters that affect the national conscience.  However, people with very definite patterns of hate speech and really incendiary rhetoric that borders on hysteria, designed to take the country over the edge to brink of civil war, are given repeated voice in media to promote division among Americans which in the case outlined above drives people to violence.  Yet they are not held responsible for this invisible crime and are given a “pass” by the media….nay, some would say an audience.  Such is the hypocrisy of American politics and news reporting; be careful America.  Don’t give voice to hatred and division.  Fix this!

 

 

Not ‘brainwashed’: American women who converted to Islam speak out


For now, America is a country that allows for the free exercise of religion, but we are also a fairly divisive Nation with different political agendas and interests, some of which clash with one another.  That special interest that gains the upper hand is usually the one  that has the largest budget and the biggest microphone………usually, except when the interest is one’s personal belief in God.  Then for some reason, the religious interest is able to grab the attention of people over the shouting and noise of those who don’t believe in religion or virulently oppose it…..and no  where is that more apparent than with the religion of Islam.

Even during a time of national distress after the bombings in  Boston, an act alleged to have been committed by radicalized Muslims….a term synonymous with “fundamentalist Christians”, people who’ve chosen Islam out of conviction, not fear, out of a desire to worship their Creator, not kneel before the altar of secular power which could ultimately be more profitable for them, speak to why they accepted a religion that is so vilified by many within their communities.

An article that first appeared on NBC News‘ web page and written by JoNel Aleccia, Senior Writer, NBC News speaks to the experience of three American women who embraced Islam.  They did so out of conviction not hatred, out of a desire to express themselves in a way they thought was necessary to worship God and they did so as free thinking citizens of America.  Please read their stories

When an American convert to Islam was revealed as the wife of the dead Boston bombing suspect, Lauren Schreiber wasn’t surprised at what came next.

Comments from former acquaintances and complete strangers immediately suggested that 24-year-old Katherine Russell, a New England doctor’s daughter, must have been coerced and controlled by her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died last week in a firefight with police.

“She was a very sweet woman, but I think kind of brainwashed by him,” reported the Associated Press, quoting Anne Kilzer, a Belmont, Mass., woman who said she knew Russell and her 3-year-old daughter.

Lauren Schreiber, 26, converted to Islam in 2010 after a study-abroad trip. She and others want to dispel stereotypes that have sprung up after news reports about Katherine Russell, 24, the U.S.-born wife of suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Lauren Schreiber, 26, converted to Islam in 2010 after a study-abroad trip. She and others want to dispel stereotypes that have sprung up after news reports about Katherine Russell, 24, the U.S.-born wife of suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

That kind of assumption isn’t new to Schreiber, 26, a Greenbelt, Md., woman who became a Muslim in 2010.

“The moment you put on a hijab, people assume that you’ve forfeited your free will,” says Schreiber, who favors traditional Islamic dress.

The Boston terror attack and the questions about whether Russell knew about her husband’s deadly plans have renewed stereotypes and misconceptions that U.S. women who have chosen that faith say they want to dispel.

“It’s not because somebody made me do this,” explains Schreiber, who converted after a college study-abroad trip to West Africa. “It’s what I choose to do and I’m happy.”

Her view is echoed by Rebecca Minor, 28, of West Hartford, Conn., a special education teacher who converted to Islam five years ago. When her students, ages 5 to 8, ask why she wears a headscarf, she always says the same thing: “It’s something that’s important to me and it reminds me to be a good person,” says Minor, who is secretary for the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut.

Rebecca Minor, 28, of West Hartford, Conn., converted to Islam five years ago. Wearing a hijab "reminds me to be a good person," she said.

Rebecca Minor, 28, of West Hartford, Conn., converted to Islam five years ago. Wearing a hijab “reminds me to be a good person,” she said.

Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to studies by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In 2011, about 1.8 million U.S. adults were Muslim, and about 20 percent had converted to the faith, Pew researchers say. Of those converts, about 54 percent were men and 46 percent were women. About 1 in 5 converts mentioned family factors, including marrying a Muslim, as a reason for adopting the faith.

Accusations are ‘harsh’
Women convert for a wide range of reasons — spiritual, intellectual and romantic — says Yvonne Haddad, a professor of the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University.

“Islam is attractive to women that the feminist movement left behind,” says Haddad, who co-authored a 2006 book, “Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today.”

Women like Lindsey Faraj, 26, of Charlotte, N.C., say that wearing a headscarf and other traditional Islamic garb in public often leads people to assume she sacrificed her American life to please a man.

“’You must have converted in order to marry him,’ I hear it all the time,” says Faraj, who actually converted simultaneously with her husband, Wathek Faraj, who is from Damascus, about four years ago.

She’s also heard people say that her husband is allowed to beat her, that she’s not free to get a divorce, that she and her two children, ages 4 months and 2, are subservient to the man. Such concepts are untrue, of course, she says.

“In the beginning, it did offend me a lot,” says Faraj, who grew up in a Christian family in Florida. “But now as my sense of my new self has grown, I don’t feel offended.”

She’s able to joke, for instance, about the woman who screamed insults from a passing car.

“They screamed: ‘Go back to your own country’ and I thought, ‘It doesn’t get more white than this, girl,’” says Faraj, indicating her fair features.

Like all stereotypes, such views are steeped in fear, says Haddad.

“Accusations of brainwashing are harsh,” she says. “They cover up the fact that we don’t comprehend why people like ‘us’ want to change and be like ‘them.’”

Islam ‘entered my heart’
Schreiber, who is a community outreach and events coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says she was drawn to the religion after meeting other Muslims on her trip abroad before graduating from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2009.

She grew up in an agnostic family where she was encouraged to discover her own faith.

“It was, whatever you decide to do — temple, church, mosque — I support you finding yourself,” says Schreiber. She’s now married to a Muslim man, Muhammad Oda, 27, whose parents were both converts to Islam. She said came to the faith before the relationship.

Faraj, a stay-at-home mom, says she never saw herself “as a religious person, in the least,” but became enthralled after trying to learn more about Islam before a visit to see her husband’s family.

Lindsey Faraj, 26, of Charlotte, N.C., converted to Islam four years ago. She says it was thoughtful, heart-felt choice that changed her life.

Lindsey Faraj, 26, of Charlotte, N.C., converted to Islam four years ago. She says it was thoughtful, heart-felt choice that changed her life.

“The concept of Islam hit me,” Faraj recalls. “It was just something that entered my heart.”

Minor, who is single, says she was intrigued by Islam in college, when she was close friends with a deployed American Marine but had Muslim friends at school.

“I saw a huge discrepancy in the negative things I heard coming from my (friend) and the actions I could see in my co-workers,” she recalls. After spending 18 months learning about Islam, she decided to convert.

The response from family and friends has been overwhelmingly supportive, Minor says.

“The more you can do to educate people about Islam, not by preaching, but by actions, the better,” she says.

Reports that Katherine Russell might have been embroiled in an abusive relationship, or that her husband intimidated her aren’t an indictment of Islam, Haddad says.

“Abusive men come in all colors, nationalities, ethnicities and from all religions,” she says. “No one says that Christianity teaches abuse of women because some Christian men are abusive.”

Schreiber says she frequently gets comments from people surprised to see her fair skin and hear her American accent from beneath a scarf. She says she appreciates it when people actually ask questions instead of making assumptions.

“I just want people to know that there are American Muslim women who wear hijab by choice because they believe in it and it feels right to them, not because anyone tells them to.”