Imagine if you picked up your morning paper and the news story read “Judaism’s inadvertent effects on adherents.”
Imagine if article’s non-Jewish author wrote, “The Torah strictly bans the consumption of pork, leading to the virtual disappearance of domesticated pigs in Jewish-majority areas, then their replacement by sheep and goats. These herds have overgrazed the land, which has led, to “a catastrophic deforestation.””
But it gets worse. Imagine if, after bizarrely blaming Jewish dietary habits for ecological damage, the non-Jewish author blamed “high Jewish government standards” for slavery.
“Judaism’s unattainably high standards for governmental behavior meant historically that existing leaders, with their many faults, alienated Jewish subjects, which meant Jewish governments systematically deployed slaves as soldiers.”
Then imagine if the non-Jewish writer claimed Judaism is primitive, and teaches hatred and violence against non-Jews.
“Jewish doctrine ingrains a sense of Jewish superiority, a disdain for the faith and civilization of others, which has obstructed Jews from learning modernization from the West. Those scriptures also imbue a hostility toward non-Jews, which in turn generates an assumption that non-Jews harbor a like hostility toward Jews.”
I could go on but by now, you would recognize such language as obviously bigoted and anti-Semitic. Now, replace Jew with Muslim, Judaism with Islam, and Torah with Koran. Would that change your perception of such an article?
Hopefully it wouldn’t. But sadly, you need not merely imagine.
What I’ve cited above is not a hypothetical article, but almost verbatim what the Washington Times published last week in a lengthy, baseless, and unreferenced tirade against Islam and Muslims. Never mind that the author, Daniel Pipes, is not a Muslim, has a history of promoting anti-Islam propaganda, and does not cite a single verse of the Qur’an or hadith to substantiate even one of his dozens of unfounded allegations. Indeed, never mind that the Washington Times did not bother to fact check a single one of Pipes’s allegations, each of which I thoroughly debunked here.
But this is what the anti-Islam agenda has come to; claiming Islam’s ban on pork is causing “catastrophic deforestation.”
Were such a spurious and intolerant piece written about Jews, or black Americans, or women, or any other demographic, the newspaper and the author would be roundly condemned, and rightfully so. Instead, Pipes demonstrates the newest strategy of the anti-Islam agenda: He presents himself as some noble-minded individual, couching his anti-Islam bigotry as genuine concern about the welfare of Muslims suffering under this ‘horrible’ religion. He thus hopes his readers won’t check his facts because, after all, he’s just a concerned citizen.
Please, don’t fall for it.
After all, where was Pipes’s concern over countless Afghan civilian deaths after the 2001 war in Afghanistan? Where was his concern in 2003 over countless Iraqi civilian deaths? Where is his concern over civilian deaths in drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen? What of due process for Guantanamo Bay inmates?
Such concerns do not exist for Pipes and his ilk. Instead, he desperately hopes to strike the fear of ecologically destructive goats in the heart of every American.
Here’s the bottom line. Americans are growing weary of the anti-Muslim sentiment. Bigotry is not what Americans are about. Pipes and his ilk are losing the intellectual battle because these darned Muslims continue to promote universal human rights, women’s education and empowerment, and service to humanity. Islam grows in America because of our commitment to religious freedom, and this scares Pipes. As a result, the best that he and those like him can contrive are allegations of renegade goats and claims that Islam’s “high governmental standards” are somehow a bad thing.
Bigotry is simply not who we are. Indeed, “neither Pagan nor [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.” At least that’s what Thomas Jefferson declared in 1776. Tolerance is ingrained in American history. As we fight for racial and gender equality, so can we fight for religious equality.
Americans have the power to advance the vision of our founding fathers. First, rather than relying on the opinion of an individual with a history of anti-Muslim sentiment to advance misinformation and fear of Muslims, seek out opportunities for dialogue and understanding at interfaith events, potlucks, or even at your local mosque.
Next, hold your media accountable. Accountability means rejecting both extremists ascribing to Islam, and anti-Islam extremists — as representing Islam and Muslims. Accountability means fact checking, being balanced, and keeping an open mind.
Finally, step out of your comfort zone. After I delivered an informational lecture on Islam at a church a few months back, a young man approached me and asked to speak in private. Off to the side he whispered in my ear, “I joined the military after 9/11 for only one reason — to kill as many Muslims as I could. But now that I’ve finally met one, I’m realizing what I was told about Islam was all wrong. I’m a Christian, and I feel it’s about time I became more Christ like and extended the olive branch.”
Let’s put the American anti-Islam network’s bigotry to sleep for good. That would make a story worth reading.
Qasim Rashid is a national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. He is an attorney and author of the critically acclaimed book “The Wrong Kind of Muslim.” Follow him @MuslimIQ.