HUG A MUZZY: HUMANISING DEHUMANISED MUSLIMS

We Muslims live in troubling times, times where we face external threats of rising Islamophobia from the likes of The Trump, as well as internal threats of sectarianism such as the fighting in Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria.

Trump and his supporters see Islam and all Muslims as a major problem, which is why they are happy to continue making negative comments that dehumanise Muslims, pouncing on any excuse for further anti-Islamic abuse.

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So bad is the overall situation that the Channel 4 news presenter Fatima Manji said, in light of her recent altercation with the Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie, that “it is open season on minorities, and Muslims in particular.”

A simple way to counteract this tidal wave of stories dehumanising Muslims, a wave shaped like Trump’s hair, is to try and humanise the 1.5 billion plus Muslims who are, after all, human like the rest of us.

The media can certainly help in this endeavour, but the simplest way for Muslims to appear more human is for non-Muslims to meet them, to talk to them, to understand that they have more in common than they could have ever possibly realised.

In light of this please find below a few quotes and links that may not make you go out and hug a Muzzy, but they will hopefully show Muslims in a more humane light:


Humanising people is at the core of what the Prophet was all about…

When the Prophet (S) came with this deen, one of the central components of this religion was to try to humanize people, to make the already difficult circumstances of the world more tolerable. And one of the central ways of doing that was to help people get outside there egocentricity. This is because not only is there a benefit for yourself when you are less egocentric, but it makes life a lot easier for other people. And so the more people that do that, the better life becomes. – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf


Comedian Adil Ray (aka Citizen Khan) thinks comedy can help to humanise Muslims more…

Comedy has the ability to humanise communities, as you are constantly looking for common traits, you are looking for universality. So when you are writing a comedy, I think, especially on BBC One, if you can get to the point where people can connect with a British Muslim Pakistani father, that’s a good thing, so that you in a sense laugh at the same things, the same concerns. – Adil Ray


Khizr Khan and his wife put a human face to Muslims in America at the Democratic National Convention…

When Mr. Khan spoke at the DNC last week, it was a pivotal moment. Not only did he eloquently shut down Trump’s unconstitutional and appalling statements/proposals, he AND Mrs. Khan did something even more profound: they humanized Muslims to a national (and arguably international) audience perhaps better than anyone ever has during our modern era. They, in their genuine presence, their immense patriotism, their still-present grief, their non-pretentious mannerisms, their heart-warming appeal and their conviction put a human face to Muslims in America and the American Muslim family. In a brief speech on the convention stage, they showed the American people that Muslims serve in the U.S. army (there are actually thousands), that they have made sacrifices, that being Muslim and American aren’t mutually exclusive and that they are indeed a fabric of society through and through. I was on the convention floor Thursday evening and seeing them on such a national platform was remarkable, as was the resounding, momentous response in that arena. It was something that I never thought I would witness – especially in this climate. – Nida Khan


Actor Aasif Mandvi asks us to beware the trickle-down effects of dehumanising Muslims…

I’m not afraid that Trump is going to kick out all of the Muslims. What makes me afraid is the trickle-down effect of that kind of rhetoric and that now, suddenly, it has become O.K. to be racist. We’re normalizing it, and therefore you see more violence against people of color and L.G.B.T. people. The culture has been given permission to exorcise all of its darkest fears and can now blame immigrants or minorities for whatever problems white people are facing. Whether or not Trump wins, we’ve already been infused with this. This camp has already shown itself. – Aasif Mandvi

Aasif

This is a point that Peter Jacob has also highlighted:

The hateful rhetoric we hear on national level is now trickling down to the local level. – Peter Jacob


The majority needs to realise that the minority are more than just about race and violence…

It’s disappointing for those of us who come from minority communities if the only conversation you’re having about minority communities and race is about violence. I mean, if you come from a minority community, you care about small businesses, you care about economic opportunity, you care about public education. We weren’t talking about those things. We were only talking about blacks and Latinos in the context of violence, and that seems already like a problematic framework. – Alicia Menendez, in an interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, Sep 2016, shortly after the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton


Comedian Maz Jobrani wants non-Muslims to make friends in different places…

I’ve been telling people the best thing you can do is try to make a friend from those backgrounds. Go to a Persian restaurant and eat food there and talk to the people that work there and get to know those people. And you will see that most people in this world are just trying to live their lives, they’re just trying to put food on the table, and make a living and keep their family happy. – Maz Jobrani


Imam Omar Suleiman really wants Americans to encounter Muslims at a human level…

There is no doubt in my mind, the more Americans that encounter Muslims at a human level, the more this bigotry is going to disappear, because statistic after statistic has shown that Americans that have actually sat with Muslims and known them on a human level are very unlikely to hold these types of views about Muslims and things of that sort. So it’s a united fight. We have to come together to fight against all forms of violence, and we have to form alliances, like-minded people that want to see a world of peace. – Imam Omar Suleiman, from the BBC documentary United States Of Hate


American student Marwa Balker wants Trump to walk in her footsteps…

Dear @realdonaldtrump, My name is Marwa, and I am a Muslim. I heard you wanted us to start wearing ID badges, so I decided to choose one for myself. I am not easily identifiable as a #Muslim just by looking at me, so my new badge will let me display proudly who I am. I chose the peace sign because it represents my #Islam. The one that taught me to oppose #injustice and yearn for #unity. The one that taught me that killing one innocent life is equivalent to killing humanity. I heard you want to track us as well. Great! You can come with me on my Cancer Awareness walks at the local middle school, or you can follow me to work where it’s my job to create happiness. You can also see how my local mosque makes PB&J sandwiches for the homeless and hosts interfaith dinners where everyone is welcome. Maybe then you’ll see that me being Muslim doesn’t make me any less American than you are. Maybe if you walk in my footsteps, you can see that I am not any less human than you are. Salaamu alaikum #NOTINMYNAME #FightWithPeace #CanYouHearUsNow. – Marwa Balker, from her now viral Facebook post


06-Nov-2016…

A few days after writing the above blog, I came across this excellent short video called Meet A Muslim:

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14 Funny-ish Quotes

80% of Americans think Ramadan is those noodles college kids eat. – Bill Maher

A happy house is one in which each spouse grants the possibility that the other may be right, though neither believes it. – Don Fraser

A Muslim husband goes to his local mosque to speak to his Imam. He says “Sometimes at night my eyes open and I see my wife, she has her back to me, and I can see that her face is shining, I can see noor coming from under her blanket.” The Imam replies “Trust me, that’s not noor, she’s just checking your mobile.” – Anon

A student went to see his meditation teacher and said, “My situation is horrible! I feel so distracted most of the time, or my legs ache, or I’m repeatedly falling asleep. It’s terrible.” Said the teacher matter-of-factly, “It will pass.” A week later, the student returned to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so ecstatically joyous and alive!” The teacher told him, “It will pass.” – Anon

Anyone who enjoys their Star Wars Stormtrooper single duvet set is unlikely ever to need a Stormtrooper double duvet set. – David Mitchell

God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts. – Anon

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car. – Anon

Gossip is Shaytan’s radio. Don’t be his DJ. – Mozlamic

Honesty is the key to a relationship. If you can fake that, you’re in. – Richard Jeni

I don’t know why my elderly neighbour bothers subscribing to newspapers if he’s just going to let them pile up outside his house. – Glenn Moore

I don’t understand the coppers, do you know what I mean? I think they just make the rules up as they is going along. I mean this one time I beat up this white geezer and they done me for actual bodily harm. Another time I beat up this black geezer and they done me for impersonating a police officer. – Lee Nelson

I grew up in South London where I never had the best sex education. Where I grew up you got sex tips like, “Well, you know what, yeah. If you drink Coke and she drinks Pepsi, she can’t get pregnant, so…” That’s not helpful. Not helpful. – Dane Baptiste

I hold my wife’s hand when we go out. She thinks I’m being romantic but really it’s to stop her running off to do shopping. – Mozlamic

I heard a joke once. Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says “Treatment is simple, the great clown Pagliacci is in town. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. “But doctor,” he says, “I am Pagliacci.” Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains. – from the movie Watchmen (2009)

Trump Keeps Going On About It…

A few days after I did a blog post about Obama explaining why he thinks we should not use the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, Donald Trump (recently described by Enrique Krauze as “a sociopath drunk on himself”) in the second presidential debate once again brought up this issue of certain people not saying certain things:

I was immediately taken aback that a Muslim is still somehow undecided, a fact that also shocked Trevor Noah who, on The Daily Show, found this downright bizarre:

It’s weird that there is anyone still undecided…How can a Muslim be undecided between Hillary and Trump? That’s like a stoner having trouble deciding between ordering pizza or calling the cops. How are you undecided? – Trevor Noah

This idea of being undecided, despite wall-to-wall coverage on American news channels, is something that has also dumbfounded Bill Maher (warning – rude language):

Also, Trump’s insistence that Muslims should be reporting more ‘stuff’ was met with general ridicule, especially on Twitter (see the article on Time’s website). My favourite was:

As I am still unsure how best to respond to this idiocy by Trump, I will give the final word to the following brief but succinct assessment of the ‘genius’ of Trump’s answer:

When a Muslim woman stood up and asked the candidates what they would do about Islamophobia, Trump promptly turned the question around, blaming American Muslims for not informing law enforcement about potential terrorist activity in their midst. In other words, asked about Islamophobia, Trump blamed Muslims. – David A Graham, writing in The Atlantic

OBAMA ON ISLAMIC TERRORISM, MARK WAHLBERG ON CATHOLICISM

I am always interested in what other people have to say about faith, be it their own or that of others. In this regard I recently came across two interesting views on religion, one from Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg and the other from American President Barak Obama.

Wahlberg was interviewed in the Guardian where he spoke briefly about his Catholic faith and what being a believer means to him. Obama was asked at a CNN town hall meeting about the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ and why he feels unable to bring himself to say this.

More details are presented below, as well some additional commentary of my own. As always, enjoy!


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The Catholic faith of Mark Wahlberg is well known. It is something he has openly spoken of in many interviews, including this one with Piers Morgan:

Wahlberg spoke again about faith in a recent interview with the Guardian, in which the following interesting exchange took place:

Wahlberg was suffering from drug addiction by the age of 13 and, while still a teenager, racially abused a group of black schoolchildren and beat a Vietnamese man with a stick. He also assaulted another Vietnamese man, punching him in the face. He pleaded guilty to assault and battery and served 45 days in prison. He sums up that period of his life as one in which “a lot of things happened and I made a lot of mistakes. But you try to live in the moment and look to the future.”

The good thing that came out of it, he says, is that he connected with his Catholicism. “Everybody goes to jail and gets on their hands and knees and says: ‘Please God, if you get me out I promise I’ll never do it again.’ And of course, by the time you’re out, you fall back into the same habits. But something just kept me wanting to go a little bit more into it,” he says.

Catholicism is still a major part of his life. He has a daily prayer routine “which I absolutely cannot miss” and any movie shooting schedules must accommodate his weekly trip to mass. “Everything good that has happened to me in my life, whether it’s meeting my wife or the births of my children, happened when I started focusing on my faith,” he says. He grins: “I sound like I’m in the recruiting office, don’t I? Here, I’ve got some brochures for you.”

You’d have to work hard to recruit a New York Jew, I say.

“Jesus was a Jew,” he replies with mock solemnity, enjoying switching from talking about himself to teasing banter. “I got a lotta New York Jews with me on this trip. Where’s Mr Weinstein? Bring him in! He’s my bubelah!”

 – Mark Wahlberg, 29 Sep 2016, from an interview with the Guardian

Wahlberg speaking of falling “back into the same habits” reminded me of certain verses from the Qur’an that describe a similar concept, that of begging for the help of God when in dire needs, but then going back to bad old habits after God delivers you to safety:

When you are rejoicing in a boat, a favorable breeze and a violent storm arises with waves surrounding you from all sides. Thinking that you will not survive, you start to pray sincerely to God. In prayer, you say, “If You rescue us from this we shall certainly be grateful”. When We saved you, you started to rebel unjustly in the land. People, your rebellion will only harm yourselves. You may enjoy the worldly life but to Us you will all return and We will let you know all that you had done. – Qur’an, Chapter 10, Surah Yunus (Jonah), Verses 2223 (translation by Muhammad Sarwar)


For several months now Donald “Sexual Predator” Trump (who John Oliver recently described as “America’s wealthiest haemorrhoid”) has accused the mainstream media, the political left wing, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama of point-blank refusing to say ‘Islamic terrorism’. In previous interviews Trump has said:

They [the media] want to go in and they just don’t want to say that because that offends some people, including our president…They don’t want to mention the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ under any circumstance, including Hillary Clinton…We’re led by a man [President Obama] that either is not tough, not smart, or he has got something else in mind. And the ‘something else in mind,’ people cannot believe it. They cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts, and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. – Donald Trump

You can add to this tirade the following tweet:

Whilst Trump and his cohorts are desperately trying to link the peaceful religion of Islam with the violent act of terrorism, Obama is desperately trying to break this link. Last year Obama tried to fracture the association between Islam and the vast majority of Muslims on one side, and violent protagonists such as ISIS on the other:

We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam. – President Barak Obama

Even more recently at a CNN town hall event a Gold Star mother directly asked Obama why he doesn’t use the term ‘Islamic terrorist’. I found the response from Obama both enlightening and encouraging:

TAPPER: Our next question comes from Tina Houchins. She’s a gold star mother here in the Fort Lee community. Her 19-year-old son, Corporal Aaron Goteer was killed in Baghdad in 2007.

TINA HOUCHINS: Hi, Mr. President. As a gold star mother, my son gave his life for acts of terrorism. Do you still believe that the acts of terrorism are done for the self-proclaimed Islamic religious motives? And if you do, why do you still refuse to use the term ‘Islamic terrorist’?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I want to thank your son, obviously, for his service. I spent a lot of time with gold star moms, as does Michelle, and it’s always one of the most profound things we do in office, is just spending time with families and hearing about not just the sacrifices, but also the incredible life and patriotism and talent that these men and women live their lives with.

The truth of the matter is that this is an issue that has been sort of manufactured, because there is no doubt, and I’ve said repeatedly that where we see terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda or ISIL, they have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse, for basically barbarism and death. These are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves. There’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do.

But what I have been careful about when I describe these issues is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful, who are responsible, who in this country, are our fellow troops and police officers and firefighters and teachers and neighbours and friends.

And what I learned from listening to some of these Muslim families both in the United States and overseas is that when you start calling these organizations ‘Islamic terrorists’, the way it’s heard, the way it’s received by our friends and allies around the world is that somehow Islam is terroristic. And that then makes them feel as if they’re under attack. In some cases, it makes it harder for us to get their cooperation in fighting terrorism. So do I think that if somebody uses the phrase Islamic terrorism that it’s a huge deal? No. There’s no doubt that these folks think that and claim that they’re speaking for Islam.

But I don’t want to validate what they do. I don’t want to…if you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said ‘we’re on the vanguard of Christianity’, well I’m not, as a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say you’re killing for Christ. I would say that’s ridiculous. That’s not what my religion stands for. Call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do, is to make sure that A, we don’t validate their claims that somehow they speak for Islam, because they don’t. And B, making sure that we do not make Muslims who are well-meaning and our natural allies on this fight, because these groups are killing more Muslims than they’re killing anybody else, make sure that they don’t feel as if somehow this is some contest between the West and Islam.

And, you know, I think that, I’ll just be honest with you, the dangers where we get loose in this language, particularly when a president or people aspiring to become president, get loose with this language, you can see in some of the language that we use, in talking about Muslim-Americans here and the notion that somehow we’d start having religious tests in who can come in the country and who’s investigated and whether “The Bill of Rights” applies to them in the same way.

And that’s a slippery slope. And the way we’re going to win this battle is not by betraying our ideals, it’s by making sure that we hold true to our ideals and one of our core ideals is that if you’re an American and you are subscribing to the ideals and the creed and the values that we believe in as a country, then we don’t have a religious test in this country.

TAPPER: Just to interject…

OBAMA: Yes?

TAPPER: …you were clearly talking about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, just then. You think his…

OBAMA: No, I wasn’t. But…

TAPPER: You weren’t?

OBAMA: …I…because…no, I…

TAPPER: Well, you just said…

OBAMA: …I would just say this, Jake, because…

TAPPER: …aspiring to this office…

OBAMA: …no, but it’s not unique to the Republican nominee. And again, I’m trying to be careful. We’re on a military base. I don’t want to insert partisan politics into this. I think that there have been a number of public figures where you start hearing commentary that is dangerous because what it starts doing is it starts dividing us up as Americans.

When I go to Arlington Cemetery, mostly I see crosses. Sometimes I see stars of David. And sometimes I see Islamic crescents. And those families are just as proud regardless of their religion that a member of their family who they love just as much as anybody sacrificed for this country. And I want to make sure that we, as a nation, stay unified because that’s how we’re going to achieve our missions.