1. Examples of historic misrepresentations and distortions.
a. Image of the "Terrible Turk."
b. Image of Arabs and Muslims bent on destroying the West.
c. Problems in creating an informed public.
2. The difficult task of remaking an image: America's international public relations battle.
II. EXERCISE, ACTIVITIES & PROJECTS . .
●Make a list of things you think are little known about Turkey and Turkish people.
●Have you ever lived abroad? Find out what are some common experiences of Turkish people living abroad.
●Define the concept of "Orientalism" and research the work of Professor Edward W. Said.
●Study 19th century Western images and caricatures of the Ottoman Empire and colonial attitudes toward the Middle East.
●List recent and past events that may have damaged Turkey's image.
●See Arab/Muslim lobby Appendix I: Issues of concern to the Arab/Muslim lobby & advocacy groups
EXAMPLE: A case often encountered by Turks living abroad
●How have inaccurate images of the Mongols, Ottoman Empire, and Islam shaped Western perceptions?
●How do unrepresentative and repressive regimes use Islam?
●How do extremists and terrorists use Islam?
IV. BACKGROUND MATERIAL
There have been many studies on why Muslims and Islam are misunderstood, but very few scholars, such as Prof. Justin McCarthy, have seriously examined why Turks have been stereotyped and misrepresented. One reason is the enduring image of treasure-laden caravans snaking their way toward Europe from mysterious and exotic Turkic lands. Furthermore, over several millennia many waves of nomads have swept into Europe, resulting in centuries of vague perceptions. Cenghiz Khan, for example, has become known in the West as one of the most fear inspiring figures of world history, although historians know little about him. It is true that he led an army of Turkic warriors from Central Asia and swept into Europe in the 13th century, but was he the fiercest fighter the world has ever seen? Long before Cenghiz Khan haunted Europeans, "Attila the Hun" another "Terrible Turk," reigned from 434 to 453 over a large empire that stretched from Central Europe to the Black Sea, and from the Danube River to the Baltic. Atilla, synonymous with destruction, has also become a legendary figure in the history of Europe (it should be pointed out that many historic European figures fought wars that devastated Europe, as well as other regions of the world). The negative image of the Turkic-Mongol legacy was further enhanced by another Turkic figure, Timur, better known in Europe and America as Tamerlane. Western audiences seem to know a great deal about these figures, but in reality have only a vague notion. One objective of Turkish lobbying should be to make Western audiences realize how their knowledge of history can often be selective and inadequate. This can be done through exhibitions, or by producing reference material such as multi-language web-sites. One aim could be to highlight the fact that the military successes of the 14th century also led to magnificent achievements in which Tamerlane left behind a civilization of learning filled with architectural and artistic splendor. Another leader whose achievements receive little attention as a Turkic figure is Babur, the founder of the Moghul Empire (1526-1857). The Taj Mahal is but one of the marvels created by the dynasty of the first six Turkic Moghul leaders. The flowering of learning and science, art and architecture, similar to the Timurid period, were the most lasting achievements of the Moguls (which included magnificent monuments, gardens, mausoleums, palaces, paintings, portraiture, ink drawings, and scientific studies of birds, flowers, and animals). Many Westerners are not aware of the contributions Islam has made to different civilizations. One important period of the rise of Islamic science and knowledge took place in "Islamic Spain," or Al-Andalus, when three religions thrived and coexisted. Some of the famous reminders of this period of Islamic rule include the Alhambra at Granada, the mosque "La Mezquita" in Cordoba, the Alcazar in Sevilla (which was founded as early as 712), and the few Synagogues that remain in Andalucia. Some of the greatest philosophers of the period were Avicenna (Ibn Sina, who died in 1037) and "Aver roes" (Ibn Rushd, died 1198), a follower of Aristotle whose commentaries on the Greek philosophers influenced European thinkers. Ibn al-Arabi (died 1240) was one of Islam's well-known mystics who taught that because all life is derived from one being, all religions are one. Another famous figure was the physician Maimon ides. Sadly, much of the finest achievements of Islamic culture were lost due to the destruction of libraries during the Christian re-conquest of Spain. The period of Islamic rule in Spain, which began in the 8th century, ended with the Islamic surrender of Granada in 1492, when both the Muslim and Jewish populations faced expulsion. But it was the Jews who suffered the worst. Some found homes in parts of Europe, while many took refuge in the Ottoman Empire, which they helped to enrich. When Muslim civilization, stretching from Spain into Eurasia, emerged as a center of science and art, invaluable exchanges of information took place (partially as a result of the Crusades). Because of the scientific knowledge that was transmitted from the Islamic world to Europe, the origins of European science lie in the Islamic world, though not all Westerners are aware of this. Twelfth century translations from Arabic to Latin had an impact on European knowledge of medicine, astronomy, alchemy, metaphysics, geography, and philosophy. Western audiences also have distorted knowledge about the Ottoman Empire, how the Sultans lived, and how the empire was run. Until the 19th century, rarely were Turks shown as having compassion and tolerance for other people, despite Ottoman laws ensuring minority rights and the inclusion of different ethnic groups in Ottoman leadership. A short-lived "Turquerie" fashion in Europe created a dimension of amusement, however, the common image of a Turk was the stereotype of an oppressive Sultan, busy with cruelty and indecent harems, yet with enough time to murder infidels. Images of Cenghiz Khan, the crusades, the Ottoman conquests up to Vienna, Midnight Express, and the recent violence in the name of Islam are today combining with fears that fundamentalist Islam threatens the world. The complexities of these subjects must be seriously examined by Westerners and by Muslims as well as how misconceptions play a major role in the public perceptions of problems and issues.
Turkish people are ignorant about Turkey's bad image abroad and the prejudices that exist. Like any nation in the world, Turkey has to deal with its domestic problems, but it must better explain the "root causes" of some of these problems. The general public must be aware of the distortions of the realities associated with these problems, and have the collective will to improve Turkey's image.
Some of the types of frequently asked questions are demonstrated below:
--Can men take up to four wives?
--Was Ataturk a dictator?
--Why is torture and human rights abuse common in Turkey?
--How hot is the desert in Turkey?
--Did your relatives massacre Armenians?
--Why does Turkey oppress the Kurds?
--What are "honor killings"?
--Why is the military so powerful?
--When will women be allowed to vote?
--Is the press censored?
--Was Islam spread by the sword?
--Why was the Ottoman Empire so large?
--Is it safe to travel in Turkey?
--Are drugs easily available?
An often encountered comment: "Oh, I've never been to Turkey, but I've seen Midnight Express."
It is difficult to blame people for having the wrong impressions of Turkey if they have never heard anything good about Turkey, never traveled to Turkey, or met a Turkish person. Such people are most susceptible to being influenced by inaccurate information.
It is true that some historical events and facts have not helped to enhance Turkey's image, such as the "destruction" or "fall" of an already weak Byzantine Empire, and the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. (1) The devastation brought on by Cenghiz Khan is frequently used to recall barbaric periods of history, often without mentioning any of the barbaric acts of the West during the Middle Ages. Many nations have had periods of an exploitative and violent history, which they would prefer not to be reminded of, but which should not be forgotten (such as during fascist leaderships under the Nazi party, Mussolini or Franco, Chairman Mao's China, Stalin's Russian, the colonial massacres by Europeans, the crimes against humanity by the Khmer Rouge, the use of atomic bombs, the wars between white settlers and native Americans, the genocides in Africa, and the recent Balkan genocide in the heart of Europe). However, a nation's image should not be shaped by its past alone, but also by the future aspirations of its people.
The Turkish military intervention in Cyprus, after the massacres of Turkish Cypriots, has also often been presented in an unfair manner by the Western media. (2) Other past and present issues, such as the death penalty, equality of women, child labor, and human rights have received the attention they deserve, as they should by the press of any country. It must however be added that in many cases when negative subjects related to Turkey are presented, they are not placed in context and are often from one perspective (other nations such as the U.S. enforce the death penalty, and in the West and countries around the world people are abused daily in prisons, by human smugglers, child pornographers, and criminal organizations, although there are laws to protect them). Turkey's image has also been effected by the large number of political asylum seekers from Turkey who have lived in the West, and the influx of thousands of ethnic Kurdish migrants to Europe (many of whom faced hardship due to the fight against PKK terrorism in southeastern Turkey, but many of whom also claimed persecution and torture in order to work in European nations).
In addition, studies have shown that positive coverage of Turkey is limited in the Western mass media. It is believed the reason for this is due to selective reporting, which does not present the larger picture (would it be fair to frequently report on hate-crimes and xenophobic attitudes in the EU without covering positive aspects about Europe?). In the Western press, Turkey has repeatedly been accused of neglecting its ethnic Kurdish citizens in the southeast, but these reports fail to mention that the region is also populated by Turks with no Kurdish identity, who would also like to improve their living conditions, especially after stability is brought to nearby Iraq. The press which criticizes Turkey for not protecting the rights of its ethnic Kurdish citizens also does not recognize the fact that Kurdish groups maintain family codes of honor and traditions of a feudal structure, and are often responsible for honor killings, preventing girls from getting an education, and for clan and tribal rivalry and violence. Many of the problems faced by Turkey are due to issues relating to development, and are unfortunately reflected in the educational problems, lack of infrastructure, rapid urbanization, lack of employment, and other socio-economic conditions which must be improved so that all citizens, no matter what their ethnic or religious background, have equal opportunities.
Although a great deal of misinformation is spread by anti-Turkish lobbies, Turkey can not blame them for all the negative PR Turkey gets, and Turkish people must make a greater effort to explain the realities of Turkey. Other factors that influence the way people from Turkey are viewed are linked to the negative Muslim and Arab image in the American news media. The depiction of Muslims has been receiving greater attention since the U.S. launched the war against terrorism, and passed legislation such as the Patriot Act. However, long before the Sept. 11 attacks by Middle Eastern men, there has been racist material in the American press, particularly with caricatures of Arab sheikhs (in addition to other stereotypes and negative depictions of racial and ethnic minorities). The leaders of Arab-Muslim organizations have criticized the press for tolerating defamatory material, which would not be tolerated about Jews for fear of anti-Semitism. Muslim bashing and negative remarks are now more common, along with insults and slander of Muslims, which is often not a concern although comparable references to Jews would be deplored. As a result, many Arab-Muslim organizations have been increasingly expressing discontent due to the repeated defamation and dehumanization of Muslims in the media. The reason for rising intolerance is partly due to the tendency to equate violence and terrorism with Islam.
The pro-Israel lobby has been accused of media distortion by Muslim-Americans and by organizations who study how pressure groups use the media to advance their cause. According to one view, "The Arabs and Muslims have been subjected to more than traditional prejudice against new arrivals to the American shores. General prejudice against Islam has existed in the West from the days of the Crusades. Broadly, the Western image of Arabs and Muslims revolves around camels, harems, terrorism, Khomeini, and enmity and hatred toward Christians and Jews. In addition, the effort of the Jewish lobby and publicists in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, and every large city across the continent has misrepresented the Muslims and Arabs, creating the image of the ugly Arab and ugly Muslim. For the uglier the Arab and Muslim image, the brighter the image of Israel, it is thought." (The Politics of Minority Coalitions edited by Wilbur Rich, Westview Press, 1995, USA).
Because of a lack of understanding of how the majority of Muslims (over 1 billion) lead peaceful lives, the Sept. 11 attacks have led to varying degrees of paranoia, fear, and insult of Muslims, resulting in Islamophobic hate-speech (which often leads to discrimination and violence). In Oct. 2002, Reverend Falwell announced on CBS that the Prophet Muhammed was "a terrorist." Well-known supporters, such as Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) have called Islam evil and "a wicked religion." The former president of the Southern Baptist Convention has called the Prophet Muhammed "a demon-possessed paedophile." Pat Robertson has described the Muslim Prophet as "a robber and a brigand" in addition to describing Islam as "a monumental scam." In addition, comments from Vatican officials, European Union leaders, and the European mass media, have singled out Turkish Muslims as having different values.
An example of media distortion was after the 1995 Oklahoma City bomb attack, when it was assumed Muslims were responsible due to initial media speculation (the devastating bomb attack turned out to be an act of homegrown U.S. terrorism, with no Muslim involvement).Another issue of concern (which reflects upon the image of the Arab-Muslim communities in America and Europe) is how to prove that certain organizations which raise money for Islamic charities are not dangerous. How is evidence gathered about groups who are "suspected" of being affiliated with groups "suspected" of terrorism? Can new counter-terrorism measures target the Muslim community for social discrimination and political persecution? Is it fair to inhibit people from contributions to social programs in the Middle East, such as orphanages and women's centers? Although Arab and Jewish Americans have tried to plan joint efforts to attract investment to help the Palestinians, Arab-Americans feel that stopping the flow of money to charities can undermine Palestinian economic development. There are many other cases Arab and Muslim groups are concerned with, along with members of the ACLU who see threats to civil liberties. The image of Muslims has been further shaken by the surveillance of Muslim communities, profiling, detentions and requests for interviews with community members. The Arab-Muslim communities, which are not well organized or experienced in public relations, have not adequately voiced their concerns, especially under the intense scrutiny and atmosphere of suspicion. Even though Muslim American organizations vehemently stated that they were opposed to terrorism and upheld the rule of law, they have been repeatedly blamed for not having demonstrated enough of an outcry and expression of outrage. Although many Arabs in the U.S. are not Muslim and do not wear a veil, they have become fearful for their families who might be targeted due to events that take place in the rest of the world (and those who do wear a veil, or turbans such as Sikh Indians, are fearful due to past attacks). There have already been attacks on and threats to Muslim places of worship and Arab-Muslim social centers. U.S. and European officials have been working with community leaders in order to identify ways of enhancing mutual and cross-cultural understanding, and inter-faith dialogue. Nonetheless, after the post-Sept. 11 period, gaps have been created between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, as well as between the Muslim world and America in particular.
In Europe, not only is there hostility towards Muslims, but a resurgence of anti-Semitism, and increased racism against asylum seekers and gypsies. Reports have found that discrimination in employment and housing have increased since the Sept. 11 attacks, in addition to vandalism, and verbal and physical attacks. Statements made by respected leaders in Europe, such as EU politicians and members of the Vatican, have also contributed to hostility towards Turkey and to public fear of Turkey. Certain circles have voiced their objections to Turkey's EU membership on the grounds that Turkey is not part of the European culture, geography or history. The European media has correctly noted that baseless allegations have provided those who are opposed to Turkey's EU entry with arguments to justify what is essentially prejudice. Some political developments within Turkey, such as the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party, and Turkey's own unease and suspicion about its Islamic roots, have also given Europeans reason to worry.
It is not easy for a nation and its people to always have a positive image around the globe. Changes in world public opinion are also reflected in the changes that America's image has undergone, especially in the last decade due to U.S. policies related to a variety of matters, such as the newly established International Criminal Court, the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, the doctrine of pre-emption, the use of intelligence, disarmament treaties, trade issues, security rules, the weakening of the UN, the failure of Mid-East peace negotiations, American justice in Guantanamo, abuse of Iraqis, and the war in Iraq. Moral and religious claims made by U.S. officials have also led many to believe that the U.S. is on a self-appointed historical mission, with a messianic militarist leadership. Even for the U.S., who is the world's leading communication society, and known to be the land of public relations wizards, the task of remaking its image is difficult. Many commentators stress that America must use soft power to regain hearts and minds to enhance its image. However, some international commentators maintain that no amount of public relations can compensate for unpopular foreign policies.
The worldwide deterioration of America's image has an impact on Turkey's image as well, since Turkey is a close ally of the U.S. (the impact is most clearly evident in the Muslim-Arab world and in Europeans circles who view Turkey's EU candidacy as an Anglo-American Trojan horse). The explosion of anti-U.S. feeling around the world complicates Turkey's U.S., EU, and worldwide lobbying efforts. It has also melted away the sense of a common response to common threats, and some argue that it has even made a "clash of civilizations" more likely in a more dangerous world. This growth of anti-American feeling is a worrying development for the Turkish lobby since it may be overburdened with the responsibility of trying to bridge widening gaps that could have been avoided between cultures and civilizations.
The rebuilding of America's image will take many years according to a statement in 2004 by a State Department official in charge of public diplomacy. In an alarming report it was acknowledged that the overall U.S. approach to public diplomacy lacked strategic direction. Since the report, the U.S. has been carrying out programs under an existing budget of $600 million for worldwide public diplomacy, which includes a wide range of efforts, including exchange programs, partnerships between American embassies and local institutions, distributing textbooks and supplying textbooks to local schools. A greater role for America's private sector is also being urged, particularly for media companies, in developing creative ways to reach out to Arab youth. Some companies are also focusing on how to improve the image of U.S. brands and promote international business.
America has been struggling with an international public relations battle since 2002, after international polls revealed that the attractiveness of the U.S. had declined significantly in dozens of countries. U.S. officials were frustrated that the U.S. had no coherent plan for molding public opinion worldwide. Charlotte Beers, who was the U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in 2002, launched an expensive public relations campaign to enhance the image of America and its foreign policy, focusing on disaffected populations in the Middle East and South Asia. After 17 months of mixed reviews Beers resigned. While some praised her efforts, others wondered how a Madison Avenue advertising executive could change the image of the U.S. and soften anti-American feelings. In addition to public diplomacy, nations use various other methods to influence world public opinion. Throughout history, many countries have long been engaged in information warfare (a strategy for countering propaganda and for changing perceptions). Towards the end of 2003, it was reported that the Pentagon had made plans for an effective strategic influence campaign (which may have considered providing false news items and disinformation) to influence foreign policymakers, foreign opinion makers, and public sentiment abroad. Additional objectives were to improve America's image, and to gain support for its overseas war on terrorism. Some news reports referred to the proposed plans as "I.O.," information operations, or psychological warfare, which were to be run by an Office of Strategic Influence, or Office of Global Communications.
In general, the American people have been admired and respected by the world, and have an image of being altruistic. Like other nations who seek to improve their image, America will need to employ various methods of image building as it strives to better explain why America does what it does, and promote better understanding of the principles and institutions that shape American values. It is often through cooperation and through fostering greater interaction with other societies that images and perceptions are enhanced. The improvement of America's image will help it to rebuild relations with its allies, and will have a positive impact on Turkish-U.S. relations. Americans must therefore find ways to remind world public opinion of the good America has done in the world for universal values, security, stability, promoting democracy, and of the sacrifices Americans have made.
(1) Constantinople was in decline in the 13th century and had been attacked before the Ottomans took control of the city. Crusaders had attacked Constantinople in 1203 when the Pope's army destroyed whole sections of the city and even damaged the world's largest church Saint Sophia.
(2) Reasons for the intervention are often not given, such as the massacres of Turkish Cypriots and the July 15 coup against the Greek Cypriot president when Greek Cypriots sought to unite with Greece.
Panel condemns image U.S. gives to Muslims
By Thom Shanker The New York Times
Thursday, November 25, 2004
WASHINGTON A harshly critical report by a Pentagon advisory panel says the United States is failing in its efforts to explain the nation's diplomatic and military actions to the Muslim world, but it warns that no public relations plan or information operation can defend America from flawed policies.
The Defense Science Board report says U.S. institutions charged with "strategic communication" are broken and calls for a comprehensive reorganization of government public affairs, public diplomacy and information efforts.
"America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," says the 102-page report, completed in September. "Interests collide. Leadership counts. Policies matter. Mistakes dismay our friends and provide enemies with unintentional assistance. Strategic communication is not the problem, but it is a problem."
The study does not constitute official policy, but it is described by the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership as capturing the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire U.S. government.
The debate centers on how far the United States can and should go in managing, even manipulating, information to deter enemies and persuade allies or neutral nations.
The rub is that in an environment of 24-hour news and the Internet, overseas information operations easily become known to the American people, and any specific government-sponsored information campaign not based on fact risks damaging the nation's overall credibility.
The Defense Science Board report, "Strategic Communication," proposes a permanent "strategic communication structure" within the White House National Security Council and urges elevated roles and responsibilities for a designated senior officer within other government organizations, including the State Department and the Pentagon.
The report compares the national security challenge of the post-Sept. 11 world to the decades-long struggle against Soviet communism. But the study then argues that the government's cold war-era communications institutions have not understood that the Islamic world and extremists operating within it present different challenges. The report scolds the government for casting the new threat of Islamic extremism in a way that offends a large portion of those living in the Muslim world.
"In stark contrast to the cold war, the United States today is not seeking to contain a threatening state empire, but rather seeking to convert a broad movement within Islamic civilization to accept the value structure of Western modernity - an agenda hidden within the official rubric of a 'War on Terrorism,"' the report states.
"Today we reflexively compare Muslim 'masses' to those oppressed under Soviet rule," the report adds. "This is a strategic mistake. "There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies - except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the U.S. so determinedly promotes and defends."
The report alluded to President George W. Bush's address to a joint meeting of Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks, when described the motives of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups: "They hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."
The report said, "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies," adding that "when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."
In the eyes of the Muslim world, the report adds, "American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering."
The report also says: "The critical problem in American public diplomacy directed toward the Muslim world is not one of 'dissemination of information' or even one of crafting and delivering the 'right' message. Rather it is a fundamental problem of credibility. Simply, there is none - the United States today is without a working channel of communication to the world of Muslims and of Islam."
Larry Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman, said no formal decisions had been made about reorganizing how the Pentagon and military communicate.
"We're wrestling with this," Di Rita said. "But it doesn't change the underlying principle, at least with respect to the Department of Defense. Our job is to put out information to the public that is accurate, and to put it out as quickly as we can."
APPENDIX I : THE DEBATE:
WHAT RESPONSES HAVE BEEN TAKEN? WHAT RESPONSES CAN BE TAKEN?
● Where do you see any conflicts of interest between:
- the interests of the Arab/Muslim lobby & Jewish/pro-Israel lobby?
- the interests of the Arab/Muslim lobby & pro-Turkey lobbies?
- the interests of the Arab/Muslim lobby & U.S. national interests?
● PRE-SEPT. 11 LOBBYING ISSUES
HISTORY OF THE ARAB / MUSLIM LOBBY IN THE UNITED STATES
Nearly one in five people in the world today claims the faith of Islam. A diverse community of believers spans the globe. Over fifty countries have Muslim-majority populations, while other groups of believers are clustered in minority communities on nearly every continent.
Although Islam is often associated with the Arab world and the Middle East, fewer than 15% of Muslims are Arab.
GLOBAL - MUSLIM POPULATION: 1.2 - 1.4 billion
Approximate Distribution of Muslims
Russia & Central Asia: (click here)
China is home to a large population of Muslims. Sources suggest that there may be as many as 20 million Muslims in China, up to 2 percent of the country's 1.3 billion population. Other sources suggest Muslims in China may number as high as 40 million. The largest of the ten Muslim ethnic groups in China are the Hui. The other nine, in descending order of size, are Uyghur, Kazakh, Dongxiang, Kirghiz, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek, Bonan, and Tatar. Xinjiang has the largest number of Muslims; many are also concentrated in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
India: Islam is the second-largest religion in India (after Hinduism -80.5%), where Muslims number around 137 million (13.4%). India has the third-largest population of Muslims in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.
The majority of Muslims are located in North, East and West Africa.
EUROPE: 33, 000,000
France: 6 million (10% of the population)
(Most Muslims in France are from North African countries, whose parents and grandparents arrived as workers)
Germany: 3.3 million
(Most of Germany's 3 million Muslims are Turks whose parents and grandparents arrived as guest workers beginning in the 1960s)
UNITED STATES: 4 - 7 million
(Approximately half the Arab-American population in the U.S. is Christian. Ancestors of Arabs began to immigrate to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century, from regions near Syria & Lebanon, then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. There are also many African-American converts to Islam in America)
In recent decades, Muslims have become a small but significant minority in most Western countries. Taken as a group, these nations have an aggregate Muslim population that is probably between 1 and 4 percent. These populations are often concentrated geographically, and this figure can be much higher for specific countries or localities. Exact figures can be difficult to come by: Some researchers define Muslims narrowly, in terms of those adherents who regularly attend mosques; others consider Muslims in terms of broader cultural groupings. In some countries, like France, it is discouraged or even illegal to acquire official government statistics based on religion. Finally, estimates can be influenced by religious and political agendas.
Nonetheless, a variety of research methods using surveys, numbers of mosques and immigration records, can provide fairly reliable data. Counts of Muslim populations in the United States, for example, range from less than one million to over ten million, though figures clustering around either 2-3 million or 6-7 million are most often cited.
For figures of Muslims in Europe http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe
For further estimates of Muslim populations by country (click here)
European Muslim Population Estimates
|Country||Total Population in 2005||Muslim Percentage||Muslim Population in 2005|
|Yugoslavia ( Serbia & Montenegro )||10.70||19.00||2.03|
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and is said to be the fastest-growing
RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD:
- Christianity: 2.1 billion
- Islam: 1.3 billion
- Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
- Hinduism: 900 million
- Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
- Buddhism: 376 million
- Primal-indigenous: 300 million
- African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
- Sikhism: 23 million
- Juche: 19 million
- Spiritism: 15 million
- Judaism: 14 million
- Baha'i: 7 million
- Jainism: 4.2 million
- Shinto: 4 million
- Cao Dai: 4 million
- Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
- Tenrikyo: 2 million
- Neo-Paganism: 1 million
- Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
- Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
- Scientology: 500 thousand
Current Issues affecting the Muslim World
(Lobbies, Interest & Advocacy Groups)
Activism & Islamic Advocacy
--Relief agencies, activist and lobby organizations working on behalf of Muslims worldwide fear support & funds may be unfairly limited because of accusations that money is being provided to these groups by individuals or organizations alleged to have links with terrorist groups. Holy Land Foundation was shut down in late 2001, one of the largest Islamic charitable organizations in the U.S. amidst accusations that the group provides support to the Palestinian group Hamas. U.S. officials raided and shut down two more major Islamic charitable organizations in late 2001, in a widening investigation of terrorist funding.
--In Germany Citizenship Tests Stir Up Muslims & Cultural Debate. Tests proposed in other European countries.
--Linking Islamic & Western Values: European imams meeting in Vienna have pledged to work harder to prove that Islam is compatible with democracy and that the majority of Muslims living in the West support human rights, free speech and pluralism. More than 130 prayer leaders from across the continent, whose meeting was sponsored by Austria as current European Union president, agreed Islamic theologians in Europe must do more to establish that their faith does not clash with Western values. Their declaration published on Sunday amounted to a catalogue of home-grown moderate views that Western politicians have been urging Muslim leaders to draw up as a bulwark against radical Islamist ideologies coming from the Middle East.
--Need for West to reach out to Muslims: Better understand sentiments linked to Western colonialism and expansionism, socio-economic factors, Israeli-Arab conflict, internal struggles within predominantly Muslim countries, and differences within the Muslim world.
--Profiling, stereotypes, stigma, discrimination.
--Backlash against Muslims.
--Studying Western generalizations and misconceptions about the Muslim world / examining Muslim generalizations and misconceptions about the West.
--Inaccurate news coverage versus fair and balanced.
--Debates over a "clash of civilizations," or "alliance of civilizations." See www.hispano-turco.com
--Socio-economic development. Investments. Rule of law.
--Anti-terrorism cooperation: Including mainstream Muslims in the fight against extremism and terrorism. Muslim scholars and leaders have spoken out against terrorism and offered explanations of misinterpreted teachings, and violence in the name of any religion.
--Role of Muslim scholars (example: regarding modernity versus conservatism.
--The meaning of "Jihad" in Islam (Quran's position on suicide bombings): The faith of Islam unequivocally and forcefully rejects the harming of innocent civilians. Jihad is often mistakenly described as "holy war." The meaning of Jihad has different interpretations and uses, such as an internal struggle for good, a constant struggle to preserve one's faith, or to defend the rights to freedom of worship.
--School dress & appearance in the workplace
--Prayer and holiday celebration
Current Issues affecting Muslims in the USA
(Lobbies, Interest & Advocacy Groups)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): Main website for the leading Islamic advocacy and lobby organization in the United States, also issues recent Anti-Muslim Incident Reports. In early 2001, prior to Sept. 11, CAIR issued its 6th-annual report on the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States. A full report of post-9/11 backlash incidents compiled and published by the Council on American Islamic Relations. They documented 1717 incidents of violence, threats, and bias in the first six months alone. The report also highlights the positive: the American Muslim community's assistance in 9/11 relief and law enforcement efforts, and support offered to Muslims by Americans of other faiths. See www.cair-net.org
Muslim Public Affairs Commitee: Political lobby organization in the U.S. Site includes opinion pieces and news releases. See www.mpac.org
American Muslim Council: Established in 1990 to increase the effective participation of American Muslims in the U.S. political and public policy arenas. See www.amcnational.org
SOME URGENT ISSUES OF CONCERN SINCE SEPT. 11 :
-U.S. authorities monitoring of Muslim mosques and communities
-Violence against individuals, threats, mosques vandalized, headscarves attacked
-Hate-crimes (verbal and/or physical)
-Biased news coverage
Below are some other concerns, objectives and activities of Arab-Muslim American organizations:
●Protecting the rights of people of Arab descent.
●Promoting and defending the Arab-American heritage.
●Serving the needs of the Arab-American community.
●Voter mobilization and education; information for government, educational institutions, and the media on the policy concerns of Arab-Americans and on U.S.-Middle East relations.
●Arab American electoral participation, and voter registration.
●Arab American civil and political rights.
●Counter-terrorism policies, proposals, surveillance & detention issues.
●Combating discrimination, bigotry, and the defamation of Arab and Muslim people.
●Demographics and census.
●Ethnic and race relations.
●Middle East peace process.
●U.S. foreign policy and policy in the Middle East.
●Public opinion & polling.
●Monitoring media bias toward Israel.
●Promoting an even handed U.S. foreign policy based on justice and peace for all parties in the Middle East.
●Electoral politics: Arab American Democratic and Republican Clubs.
●Electoral politics: Arab American Leadership Council (promotes Arab American service in public and political life through technical and financial support for candidates, endorsements of government appointments and policies at every level, and liaison within the national parties).
●Lobbying (state and grassroots).
●Congressional voting analysis.
●Local and municipal affairs.
●Conferences & seminars.
●Monitoring the Arab image and racist stereotypes in American film and television.
●Promoting interfaith dialogue and dialogue between America's Arab and Jewish communities.
●Film, video, etc.
●Newsletter and publications.
●Telecommunications services (databases and mailing lists).
●Advocacy training and technical assistance.
Rise in violent hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims in North America
This weekend, two Muslims fell victim to baseball-bat wielding bigots - one Muslim victim is in the hospital in a coma. In Sparks, Nevada, 2,000 Muslims live amongst their neighbors in peace. They worship at the Northern Nevada Muslim Community center. On Friday evening, following evening prayers, two men gathered outside the mosque to socialize before going home. At that moment, two young men approached the mosque, one carrying a baseball bat. The assailant swung, hitting 46-year-old Mohammed Sanad in the arm. As Mohammed ran inside to get help, the assailant turned to 48-year-old Dr. El Tag Mirghani, hitting him several times in the head. The attackers finally dropped the bat and ran away when a member of a nearby church came running to help.
Mohammed Sanad has a broken arm; Dr. El Tag Mirghani is in critical condition and is clinging to life in a drug-induced coma. Ironically, Dr. Mirghani is himself a well-respected physician specializing in Internal Medicine (Mohammed Sanad is an electrical engineer).
Aside from the horror this one case brings, it is only the most recent in a series of attacks against Muslims:
Winnipeg, Canada; Islamic Center of Southern California; mosques in Michigan, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, Georgia
British Columbia, Canada; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Greenville, South Carolina; Springfield, Illinois; Yuba City, California
Sparks, Nevada; Memphis, Tennessee; Denver, Colorado (suspect caught before taking action)
World events often give rise to stereotyping and prejudices, which manifest themselves locally. No community is immune, and these events remind us all to be careful. The Council on American-Islamic Relations publishes a list of recommended safety measures that every Islamic organization and mosque should look at. As the number of Muslims in North America continues to rise, it is time for everyone to realize our common humanity. Muslims are not a threat - we contribute to the community as doctors, engineers, professors, parents, ... and neighbors.
Anti-Muslim Hate & Skinheads
Last weekend, a dear friend of mine was harassed and threatened by a couple of skinheads. She was minding her own business, in a popular store parking lot with her children and a young Somali sister. First the men started in with verbal insults, sarcastically yelling "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Great" in Arabic), and telling her to go back to her country (this sister happens to be an American, but never mind). Then they started in with the camel jockey and towel-head jokes. Finally, one made a non-verbal death threat - looking at her straight in the eye while he motioned with his finger across his throat.
This all happened outside a local store one block from my home. It used to be a place I enjoyed walking to with my children on a nice sunny day.
As Muslims become more numerous and more spread out around the world, we more often become the target of hate-mongers who fear anything and anyone different from them. They have added us to the list of those they hate -Africans, Jews, Asians... They vow to make their local area (North America, Europe, wherever) a white-only refuge from the rest of the world.
Who are these racists and where do they come from? How can you protect yourself against verbal and physical assault? What does the law say? What should you do if someone harasses or assaults you? These questions have been in the forefront of my mind all week. The links below will help you learn about your rights, the law, and personal safety.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Muslims were advised to take extra safety precautions throughout the U.S.
What should you do if someone harasses you? Call the police? Turn around and go home? How can communities prevent such incidents from occurring? What can the Muslim community do to raise safety awareness?
● AUDIO LECTURES: Muslims need to remain polite, vocal, and articulate in light of the multicultural and occasionally hostile circumstances of America. Excellent Qur'anic advice on various practical situations.
● ISLAM'S RESPONSE TO RACISM: Muslims believe that the variation in people's colors and languages are a sign of Allah's glorious creation, so that people can learn about, and know, one another (quotes from Quran click here).
● KNOW THE ENEMY
● WAYS TO FIGHT HATE
● SELF-DEFENSE FOR WOMEN
● CAIR Muslim community safety kit Step-by-step guide to community safety if America attacks Iraq
Action Alerts Monday, March 17, 2003
CAIR Muslim community safety kit
Step-by-step guide to community safety if America attacks Iraq
As it becomes increasingly clear that America will attack Iraq in the next few days, CAIR has put together a "Muslim Community Safety Kit" for Muslims, Arab-Americans and those perceived to be "Middle Eastern" who may be targeted by religious or ethnic profiling or bias-related hate crimes. According to the FBI: "A U.S. war with Iraq or another terrorist attack could trigger a wave of hate crimes against Muslims and Arab-Americans in the United States." (Associated Press, 3/12/03)
Dear Imam, activist, community leader, brother or sister:
As-salaamu alaykum. Peace be to you. This "Muslim Community Safety Kit" has been developed to assist you and your community in the event of a war against Iraq and any resulting anti-Muslim backlash. The 9-page kit is designed to better equip you with the knowledge necessary to protect against anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry or attacks, and to secure your basic legal rights. Below are suggestions for pro-active steps you can take.
HOW TO USE THIS RESOURCE KIT:
- Read this kit carefully.
- Circulate to your friends and family.
- Photocopy relevant portions and post in your local mosque, Islamic center or organization.
- Contact CAIR if you have any questions, or if you do not understand any part of this kit.
MUSLIM COMMUNITY SAFETY KIT TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Report Suspicious Activity in Your Community
- Develop a Legal Contact List
- Developing Positive Relationships with Law Enforcement Agencies
- Meet with Elected Representatives to Discuss Community Concerns
- Building Coalitions with Interfaith and Minority Groups
- Meet with Local School Principals to Discuss Student Safety
- Building an Emergency Contact List
- Hold a Community Meeting to Inform Others of Safety Guidelines
- Build a Community Support Network
- Reacting to Incidents of Anti-Muslim Hate
- Reacting to Acts of Discrimination
- Your Rights as an Employee
- Your Rights as an Airline Passenger
- Your Rights as a Student
- Mosque Safety Guidelines
- Responding to Bomb Threats
- Bomb Threat Check List
- Suspect Letters and Packages
- Know Your Rights if Contacted by the FBI
- CAIR Local Chapters
REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Muslims must do their part to ensure the safety and security of our nation. If anyone notes suspicious persons or activities in their community, they should report it immediately to the local Field Office of the FBI. SEE: http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/fo.htm
DEVELOP A LEGAL CONTACT LIST
Develop a list of attorneys who are willing to be consulted by the Muslim community in response to backlash incidents. Ask Muslim attorneys to volunteer their services to community members during this time of crisis.
DEVELOPING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES
Community leaders should immediately coordinate meetings between representatives of the Muslim community and local state and national law enforcement agencies. These meetings should focus on ways in which the community can help national security and on how authorities can protect Muslims and Arab-Americans from harassment and discrimination.
MEET WITH ELECTED OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS COMMUNITY CONCERNS
Delegations of Muslim representatives should schedule meetings with local, state and national elected representatives or their key staff to discuss community concerns. To find out who represents your area on the national level, go to: http://www.capwiz.com/cair/home/
BUILDING COALITIONS WITH INTERFAITH AND MINORITY GROUPS
Similar meetings should be coordinated with representatives of local interfaith and minority groups. These meetings should focus on building lines of communication and support, and hearing from these groups how they deal with discrimination and bigotry.
MEET WITH LOCAL SCHOOL PRINCIPALS TO DISCUSS STUDENT SAFETY
Representatives of the Muslim community should meet with local school administrators to discuss safety plans for students and to sensitize the administrators to harassment of Muslim students.
Ask for a "zero tolerance" policy for harassment of Muslim students. An example of a letter that a school board might send to local school administrators may be found at:
Obtain copies of CAIR's "Educator's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices" by contacting CAIR or e-mailing:
BUILDING AN EMERGENCY CONTACT LIST
Community leaders should develop emergency e-mail and phone contact lists to be used in case of an incident that threatens the community's safety. Local imams, Islamic center board members, and Muslim activists should be on the lists.
A second list should be developed containing contact information for all local law enforcement agencies.
HOLD A COMMUNITY MEETING TO INFORM OTHERS OF SAFETY GUIDELINES
Call for a meeting of the local Muslim community to discuss the information outlined in this kit. The meeting should take place at a local mosque or Islamic center and should be advertised using the emergency contact list.
ESTABLISH A COMMUNITY SUPPORT NETWORK
Establish a network of community members who can offer emotional and material support to those who may be the victims of hate crimes or discrimination. Victims should not be left alone to deal with the negative impact of such incidents.
REACTING TO INCIDENTS OF ANTI-MUSLIM HATE
If you believe you have been the victim of an anti-Muslim hate crime or discrimination, you should:
- Report the incident to your local police station and FBI office IMMEDIATELY. Ask that the incident be treated as a hate crime. Ask witnesses to give you their name and contact information.
- Inform CAIR even if you believe it is a "small" incident. Incidents may be reported online at: http://www.cair-net.org/ireport/ or TEL: 202-488-8787, FAX: 202-488-0833, E-MAIL: email@example.com
- Document the incident. Write down exactly what was said and/or done by the offender. Save evidence. Take photographs
- Act quickly. Each incident must be dealt with when it happens, not when convenient
- Decide on the appropriate action to be taken. Consider issuing a statement from community leaders, holding a news conference, organizing a protest, meeting with officials, or starting a letter writing campaign.
- Mobilize community support. Contact CAIR and a local mosque or organization.
- Stay on top of the situation.
- Announce results. When the incident is resolved, make an announcement to the same people and organizations originally contacted.
REACTING TO ACTS OF DISCRIMINATION
- Remain calm.
- Report the discrimination to the appropriate authorities and to CAIR.
- Document the discrimination. Save memos. Keep a detailed journal. Note the presence of witnesses. Keep copies of all correspondence. Create a "paper trail."
- Ask witnesses to give you their name and contact information.
- Consider contacting a lawyer.
Take steps to increase security of your local mosque, Islamic center or school.
YOUR RIGHTS AS AN EMPLOYEE
Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion, race, or national origin. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees your right to:
- Reasonable religious accommodation. The failure of an employer to reasonably accommodate your religious practices constitutes discrimination. "Religious practices" includes wearing a beard, hijab, prayer on the job, and going to Jumah prayer.
- Fairness in hiring, firing, and promotions. Your employer is prohibited from considering religion when making decisions affecting your employment status.
- A non-hostile work environment. Your employer must ensure that you are not subjected to anti-Muslim insults, harassment or unwelcome, excessive proselytizing.
- Complain about discrimination without fear of retaliation. Federal law guarantees your right to report an act of alleged discrimination. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for your complaint.
WHEN FACED WITH DISCRIMINATION ON THE JOB
- Remain calm.
- Inform the offending party that you believe his/her actions are discriminatory.
- Report the discriminatory action in writing to company management.
- Begin documenting the discrimination by saving memos, keeping a detailed journal, noting the presence of witnesses, and making written complaints (keep copies). Create a "paper trail."
- Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and local county or state civil rights agencies to educate yourself about legal options.
- Contact an attorney to discuss your case.
- DO NOT sign any documents or resign without an attorney's advice.
- Ask to be transferred to another department or job site.
- Ask for mediation.
- Contact CAIR to file a report.
YOUR RIGHTS AS AN AIRLINE PASSENGER
As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory. If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, immediately:
- Ask to speak to a supervisor.
- Ask if you have been singled out because of your looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
- Ask for the names and ID numbers of all persons involved in the incident.
- Ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
- Write down a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the flight number, the flight date, and the name of the airline.
- Contact CAIR to file a report.
YOUR RIGHTS AS A STUDENT
- You have the right to inform others about your religion. You have the right to pass out literature or speak to others about Islam, as long as it is not done in a disruptive manner.
- You have the right to wear religious clothing. You also have the right to wear clothing with a religious message, as long as other clothes with messages are allowed.
- You have the right to organize student-led prayer on campus, as long as the service is not disruptive.
- You may have the right to attend Friday prayer. The Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to allow students "release time" to attend religious classes or services.
- You have the right to be excused from school for religious holidays. You should inform the school that you will be absent.
- You have the right to be excused from class discussions or activities that you find religiously objectionable.
- You have the right to form an extracurricular Muslim student group.
CAIR MOSQUE SECURITY GUIDELINES
Areas of Vulnerability:
- Mosques located in isolated areas.
- Mosques left unattended for extended periods of time.
- Mosques with unsecured doors and/or windows.
- Absence of a burglar alarm system.
- Heavy exterior vegetation (shrubs, etc.) in which criminals may hide.
- Absence of exterior lighting.
Take the following safety measures:
- Build good relationships with neighbors of the mosque. Invite them to visit your center.
- Try to have people attend the mosque as much as possible. Activity deters perpetrators.
- Make an appointment with the community relations officer of your local police department to tour your center and make suggestions on improving mosque security.
- Request additional police patrols in the vicinity of your center. Special attention should be paid to times of darkness and during prayers.
- Consider creating a security committee at your mosque.
- Post mosque members at entrances and parking areas during prayer times.
- Report suspicious packages to police. Do not touch them.
- Install perimeter floodlights outside the mosque.
- Install fire and burglar alarm systems.
- Replace hollow core doors with more secure solid doors.
- Install burglarproof bars on screens and large vents. (Note - Research local ordinances before beginning security renovations. For example, window bars should not limit evacuation in case of fire.)
- Trim shrubs and vines to reduce areas of concealment.
- Participate in neighborhood watch programs.
- Document descriptions of suspicious people or vehicles.
- Make duplicates of all important papers, computer disks and records.
- Remove potential fire hazards, such as trash and debris.
- Consider installing security cameras.
RESPONDING TO BOMB THREATS
- Distribute written instructions on handling bomb threats.
- Keep the caller on the line as long as possible. Ask that the message be repeated. Record or write down everything that is said.
- Ask for the location of the bomb.
- Inform the caller that the detonation of a bomb could hurt many innocent people.
- Pay attention to background noises such as music, which may give a clue to the caller's location.
- Listen closely to the caller's voice. Make note of accents, voice quality (calm, excited) or speech impediments.
- Report the threat immediately to the local police, ATF and FBI. Have appropriate phone numbers listed in written instructions.
- If the threat comes in the form of a letter, save all materials, including the envelope. Handle the letter as little as possible.
- Search the interior and exterior of the mosque. Evacuate the building if a suspicious package or device is found.
- Do not approach or challenge a suspicious person or vehicle.
- Do not pursue vehicles or suspects.
- Observe and report. You have no police powers.
- Conduct watch patrols in pairs.
- Conduct watches in a random fashion.
BOMB THREAT CHECK LIST (Keep near phone in case of threatening calls.)
Time of call:
Exact words of caller:
Person receiving call:
Call Reported to:
Questions to Ask
When is the bomb going to explode?
Where is the bomb?
What kind of bomb is it?
What will cause it to explode?
Why did you place the bomb?
What is your name?
adult male female child
calm disguised nasal angry stutter
slow sincere lisp rapid giggling
deep crying loud squeaky excited
stressed accent slurred normal
What were the background noises, if any?
SUSPECT LETTERS AND PACKAGES
* What to look for:
* Name and title of addressee are not accurate.
* No return address, or the sender is not known to the addressee.
* Handwriting is distorted.
* Unprofessionally wrapped, uneven, bulky, lopsided.
* Contains bulges or soft spots.
* Poorly wrapped package is marked "Fragile-Handle With Care," "Rush," or has unusual restrictions such as "Personal" or "Private."
* Excess amount of postage.
* Protruding wires or tin foil.
* Package makes a buzzing or ticking noise, a sloshing sound, or emits an odor.
What to do:
DON'T open the package or letter.
DON'T put it in water or in a confined space such as a drawer.
DO isolate the article and secure the immediate area.
DO open windows if possible to help vent potential explosive gases.
DO contact your local police department and Postal Inspector.
Direction of travel:
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS IF CONTACTED BY THE FBI
American Muslims support strong law enforcement. We also treasure civil rights. Your right to be politically active or to hold different beliefs/views is protected by the Constitution. If you are visited by the FBI, remember:
1. Never lie or provide false information to the FBI. Lying to an FBI agent is a crime.
2. You have no obligation to talk to the FBI, even if you are not a citizen. Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you. It does not imply that you have something to hide.
3. You do not have to permit them to enter your home. FBI agents must possess a search warrant in order to enter your home. If they say they have a warrant, demand to see it before allowing them to enter. Even if they have a warrant, you are under no obligation to answer questions. ALWAYS have an attorney present when answering questions.
4. Contact CAIR and an attorney for advice.
Issue: Ethnic Stereotyping
Film Review: "Kingdom of Heaven"
Parvez Ahmed, CAIR Board Member May 2 2005
Film may aid interfaith dialogue
Because Sir Ridely Scott's new epic "Kingdom of Heaven" was filmed against the backdrop of the Crusades, it is likely to stir up religious passions still associated with that centuries-long conflict. ("Kingdom" is scheduled to open in theaters nationwide May 6.)
Many Muslims were concerned about the possibility of religious or ethnic stereotyping when they first heard that yet another Hollywood movie would feature Arab-Muslim characters. That concern was not without valid precedent.
In his exemplary book "Reel Bad Arabs," Professor Jack Shaheen notes that only Native Americans outdistance Arabs and Muslims in being vilified by Hollywood. Dr. Shaheen details a sad history of stereotypes in films that portray Arab-Muslims as terrorists ("Black Sunday," "The Siege"), greed mongers intent on controlling U.S. banks ("Rollover") or bumbling comic foils ("Ishtar," "Protocol," "Jewel of the Nile"). He notes that only a handful of films have portrayed Arabs and Muslims with any sympathy ("Three Kings," "The 13th Warrior").
Bucking the general trend, "Kingdom of Heaven" provides a balanced portrayal of a painful historical conflict. It refrains from the usual stereotyping or dehumanizing of Muslims.
American Muslim representatives recently took part in a screening of "Kingdom." They said the film is a "positive" depiction of Islamic culture during the Crusades. They also said that one of the film's most striking messages, that Muslims and Christians can live together in peace, will provide an opportunity for increased interfaith dialogue.
In the film, the bad guys are not all Muslims and the Christians are not all angels. Perhaps "Kingdom of Heaven" will do for Muslims that Kevin Costner's "Dances with Wolves" did for Native Americans, humanize a perceived "other."
Unfortunately, Internet chat rooms and talk radio shows are already abuzz with the concerns of those who cannot fathom how Muslims can be portrayed as dignified, proud and humane people for whom the ends did not justify the means. Media reports indicated that some conservative Christian are "marshalling their forces" against the film, claiming it is "insulting and unfair."
Perhaps all of us could take a lesson or two from Salahuddin Ayubi the great Muslim general depicted in the film who, even when attacked, upheld Islamic traditions of hospitality, prohibiting the killing of non-combatants and advocating kindness to people of other faiths.
The Quran, Islam's revealed text states: "Fight in God's cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression - for, verily, God does not love aggressors." (2:190) And also: "As for those who do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably." (60:8)
Stereotypes about Islam and Muslims used to rally the Crusaders persist to this day. These misperceptions are not mere footnotes in history, they continue to have a negative impact, sometimes influencing our nation's policies when dealing with Muslims both at home and abroad.
If nothing else, "Kingdom of Heaven" may spark renewed efforts to promote interfaith understanding and reconciliation based on an appreciation for the real history of that violent period in the histories of both Christianity and Islam.
We must all take advantage of this film to take whatever constructive steps are necessary to ensure that we learn from, and do not repeat, the mistakes of the past.
More Islamic Charities Shut Down
December 15, 2001
Federal officials have raided and shut down two more major Islamic charitable organizations, days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The offices of Global Relief Foundation (GRF) and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) were raided by federal officials on Friday. All of their financial assets and records have been blocked, pending an investigation into possible ties to terrorism.
This government action has effectively shut down all major Islamic charitable outlets in the United States. On December 4th, government officials raided and froze the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF). These three charitable groups are the largest and most-respected Islamic relief organizations operating in the U.S., passing tens of millions of dollars to needy children and families throughout the world each year. All three organizations are registered non-profit 501(c)(3) charities -- HLF since 1989, BIF and GRF since 1992. Officials from all three organizations are reportedly cooperating with investigators and providing voluntary interviews, in the belief that this error will be cleared and the funds released. All three organizations have vehemently denied any link to terrorism.
The organizations have provided emergency and developmental assistance in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Lebanon, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Turkey, and within the United States. While the government has not yet issued an official statement about Friday's action, Treasury officials previously acknowledged that a 'substantial amount' of the money raised (by HLF) does go to worthy causes.
The government action comes two days before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims make their annual charitable contributions. Muslims are required to pay 2.5 percent of their savings and assets in charity each year, a pillar of the faith called zakat (purification of wealth).
Muslim Condemnations of 9/11
Muslim leaders speak out against violence and terrorism
Quotes from the Quran
Most certainly, it is We
(God Almighty) who have
Created you all
From a single (pair)
Of a male and a female,
And it is We who
Have made you into
Nations and tribes,
That ye may recognize each other
(Not that ye may despise each other).
Verily, the noblest of you
In the sight of Allah
Is (he who is) the most
Righteous of you."
Holy Quran 49:13
"And mankind is naught but a single nation." Holy Quran 2:213
"And among His Signs
Is the creation of the heavens
And the earth, and the variations
In your languages
And your colors; verily
In that are Signs
For those who know."
Holy Quran 30:22
"Say: We believe
In God, and in what
Has been revealed to us
And what was revealed
To Abraham, Isma'il (Ishmael);
Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes,
And in (the Books)
Given to Moses, Jesus,
And the Prophets,
From their Lord:
We make no distinction
Between one and another
Among them and to God do we
Bow our will (in Islam)."
Holy Quran 3:84
"Let there be no compulsion in matters of Religion"
Holy Quran 2:256
"Verily, those who believe (in the Quran)
And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures)
And the Christians and the Sabians,
Any who believe in God
And the Last Day,
And work righteousness
Shall have their reward
With their Lord; on them
Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."
Holy Quran 2:62
In the aftermath of the violence and horror of 9/11, criticisms were made that Muslim leaders and organizations were not outspoken enough in denouncing acts of terrorism. Muslims are constantly perplexed by this accusation, despite unified condemnations by leaders both in the United States and worldwide. For the record, the inhuman attacks of September 11 were condemned in the strongest terms by virtually all Islamic leaders, organizations, and countries. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia stated that, "...hijacking planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood, constitute a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts."
Since Sept. 11, there have been many statements issued by Muslim leaders around the world, as well as by governments, non-governmental organizations, and Muslim-American groups--who have all denounced the terrorist attacks.
International gatherings have also condemned the attacks, such as the April 2002 conference in Malaysia which unanimously adopted the "Kuala Lumpur Declaration on International Terrorism" (adopted by the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers which represents the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference, OIC).
KUALA LUMPUR DECLARATION ON INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
ADOPTED AT THE EXTRAORDINARY SESSION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE OF FOREIGN MINISTERS ON TERRORISM
1-3- APRIL 2002
1. In the name of Islamic solidarity, we, the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), have gathered in Kuala Lumpur to state our collective resolve to combat terrorism and to respond to developments affecting Muslims and Islamic countries in the aftermath of the 11th September attacks;
2. We recall earlier measures adopted by the OIC in combating international terrorism, including the Code of Conduct for Combating International Terrorism, the OIC Convention on Combating International Terrorism, which, inter alia, provides a definition of terrorism, and the Declaration of the 9th Extraordinary Session of ICFM as well as relevant OIC Resolutions on combating international terrorism;
3. We take note of the important inaugural statement by The Honourable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, which constitutes an official document of this Extraordinary Session;
4. We reaffirm our commitment to the principles and true teachings of Islam which abhor aggression, value peace, tolerance and respect as well as prohibiting the killing of innocent people;
5. We reject any attempt to link Islam and Muslims to terrorism as terrorism has no association with any religion, civilization or nationality;
6. We reiterate that preventive action taken to combat terrorism should not result in ethnic or religious profiling or the targeting of a particular community;
7. We unequivocally condemn acts of international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including state terrorism, irrespective of motives, perpetrators and victims as terrorism poses a serious threat to international peace and security and is a grave violation of human rights;
8. We reiterate the principled position under international law and the Charter of the United Nations of the legitimacy of resistance to foreign aggression and the struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for national liberation and self-determination. In this context, we underline the urgency for an internationally agreed definition of terrorism, which differentiates such legitimate struggles from acts of terrorism;
9. We also underline the imperative of respect for international humanitarian law protecting civilian populations;
10. We reject any attempt to link terrorism to the struggle of the Palestinian people in the exercise of their inalienable right to establish their independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital;
11. We reject any attempt to associate Islamic states or Palestinian and Lebanese resistance with terrorism, which constitutes an impediment to the global struggle against terrorism;
12. We condemn Israel for its escalating military campaign against the Palestinian people, including the daily brutalization and humiliation of its civilians, resulting in mounting casualties, strangulation of the Palestinian economy, systematic and indiscriminate destruction of houses and residential facilities as well as infrastructure, institutions and structures of the Palestinian National Authority;
13. We emphasize the importance of addressing the root causes of international terrorism, convinced that the war against terrorism will not succeed if the environment that breeds terrorism, including foreign occupation, injustice and exclusion, is allowed to thrive;
14. We reaffirm our commitment to international action in combating international terrorism undertaken in conformity with the principles of the Charter of United Nations, including the principles of non-intervention in internal affairs and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as international law and relevant international conventions and instruments;
15. We reject any unilateral action taken against any Islamic country under the pretext of combating international terrorism, as this will undermine global cooperation against terrorism;
16. We reiterate our call for the convening of an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations;
17. We thus reaffirm our commitment to action at national level and through international cooperation in combating terrorism and agree to the following Plan of Action:
Plan of Action
We hereby establish a 13-member open-ended Ministerial-level OIC Committee on International Terrorism with the mandate to formulate recommendations on the following matters:
1.1 measures to strengthen OIC cooperation and coordination in combating international terrorism;
1.2 ways of expediting the implementation of the OIC Code of Conduct and the Convention on Combating International Terrorism;
1.3 measures in projecting the true image of Islam. These include holding seminars and workshops to promote a better understanding of Islam and its principles;
1.4 measures in strengthening dialogue and understanding among different civilizations, cultures and faiths, for instance, by building on initiatives such as the United Nations Dialogue Among Civilizations and the OIC-EU Joint Forum on Harmony and Civilization;
1.5 other measures, as appropriate and in accordance with the Charter of the OIC as well as Summit and ICFM resolutions, in response to developments affecting Muslims and Islam arising from action to combat terrorism.
We agree that the Committee will present its recommendations to member states and to the ICFM for consideration and action. The Committee is mandated to study the work of other international organizations in matters related to international terrorism. Member countries of the Committee are mandated to contribute to the work of the OIC Group in New York in matters related to international terrorism.
We will work towards the early conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. In this regard, we reiterate our support to the positions adopted by OIC member states at the ongoing negotiations on the said Convention.
We will work towards an internationally agreed definition of terrorism and terrorist acts, which shall be differentiated from the legitimate struggle and resistance of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for national liberation and self-determination, for incorporation into the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
We will work towards the early convening of an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to formulate a joint organized response of the international community to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
We will, at all relevant multilateral fora, maintain a united front in upholding the principled position on the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for national liberation and self-determination.
We will continue to work through the United Nations Security Council and directly with countries concerned to put an end to the escalating Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, provide the necessary international protection for the Palestinians and undertake efforts to secure a just, comprehensive and durable solution to the Middle East conflict based on UNSC Resolutions 242, 338 and 425, UNGA Resolution 194 and the principle of land for peace. In this context, we will exert every effort to realize the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the 14th Arab Summit in Beirut on 28 March 2002. Further, we will continue to provide political, material and moral support and assistance to the Palestinians.
We will continue to work with other countries and support efforts of the international community in combating international terrorism undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations in a transparent and impartial manner and in conformity with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and relevant international conventions and instruments. These include implementing relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, particularly UNSC Resolution 1373, as well as expediting our accession to or ratification of relevant international Conventions and Protocols relating to terrorism.
We will make every effort at the international level to promote a collective security regime responding to security and development needs of all countries as well as to promote conducive political, socio-economic environment that will stifle support for terrorist activities and eliminate the causes of terrorist acts.
We will, at the national level, continue to pursue policies and strategies aimed at enhancing the well-being and prosperity of our peoples, as well as addressing and resolving domestic factors that contribute to terrorism.
Adopted this 20 Muharram 1423H
3rd day of April 2002 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
 Members of the Committee comprise the Troika of the Summit, current ICFM Chairman and 3 members each representing the African, Arab and Asian Groups.
FROM : www.oic-oci.org/english/fm/11%5Fextraordinary/declaration.htm
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