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Combating E-Islamophobia

Posted by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 9:14 PM
  • 12 Replies

 This showed up on my Facebook... I enjoyed reading it, so  just wanted to share :)

Combating E-Islamophobia

"My student just sent 500 of his closest friends and me an e-mail that says Obama is a radical Muslim only pretending to be a Christian. He wrote that if Obama becomes president, our country will be run by a terrorist. How should I respond to his e-mail?" This was the last question -- the stumper -- in a long and grueling interview. I hardly had an answer to the question at the time; more has become discouragingly clear since.

At the time of my interview, then-Senator Obama was running for president and engaging in online organizing as no candidate had done before. Supporters could donate to his campaign at the click of a button, after watching motivational speeches that reverberated across YouTube, and then sign up to volunteer at a local campaign office. Obama was inaugurating new online campaigning strategies -- and the responses to his campaign were a similar portend for what lay ahead: hateful e-mails and blog posts and the use of social media to create rumor-mills.

While many groups and individuals have fallen pray to the scathing "echo-chambers" created in chatrooms, blogs, and Facebook communities, a disproportionate number appear to be Muslim or, like our president, those arbitrarily called "Muslim," as though it were a term of denigration. Whenever a bomb goes off or a round of shots is fired -- even if by a Basque Separatist, Hindu Nationalist, atheist, Christian, or Jew -- the blogosphere fills with venom about Muslims. "Could it be a Muslim?;" "She must be a Muslim;" "Islam teaches hate ... go figure;" "let's kill the Muslims before they kill us."

The ideas reverberate and reverberate, confirming people's preexisting prejudices. By the time the bloggers and their online communities have exchanged blog posts about an event or idea, everyone is convinced of their bigoted perspectives.

A classic example of this took place this summer. Some witty journalist decided to affix a new label to the Muslim community center set to house the same group that had been gathering in lower Manhattan for 25 years. It was no longer just a community center -- it was now the "WTC Mosque." The name then bounced to another part of the blogosphere, landing on the screen of a prominent blogger who re-labeled it "Monster Mosque." A few bounces later, and the name "Ground Zero Mosque" stuck for good.

A reporter and some glib bloggers transformed a legal question (the right of the religious community to use property zoned in a particular way) into a distorted, nightmarish question about whether we as Americans could let "terrorists" claim "victory" "at" the World Trade Center. It became instant national news -- and reverberated in the blogosphere overseas, confirming the unfortunate perceptions of those who never thought Muslims would have a fair chance in America anyway.

None of this would have been possible without the large, growing, and raucous blogosphere and the critical mass of Islamophobes who inhabit it. Unlike Internet skeptics ever predicted, the blogosphere now has profound consequences for politics and the public perceptions that underlie it.

So, getting back to the interview, what can be done? Or, more pointedly, "How should I respond?" Finally, years later, I have some thoughts.

The first is countering misperceptions with fact. When someone spits venom or generalities about Muslims online to thousands of their closest "friends," factual, reliable information is a potent antidote. Cite sources, quote experts, and establish the information you do provide as more credible. In the world's first era of "too much information," credibility is a kingmaker.

The second is presenting that information in an engaging way. It is bland (at least by Internet standards) to note that "Senator Obama has demonstrated his Christian faith repeatedly, and there is no credible evidence to suggest that any terrorist organization has established ties with him." Readers will already have clicked on to another site by the time they get halfway through that sentence. By contrast, an exclamation can say it all: "How many times has a guy gotta convert before he's a Christian?!" Intermingling these exclamations with more careful statements of fact are the strongest combination of all.

The third is helping to fill the blogosphere with voices that don't accept bigotry. This can be as simple as responding to inaccurate or bigoted articles or as elaborate as creating articles, videos, and chatrooms dedicated to combatting hatred and correcting misperceptions. There is already a critical mass of people online who further Islamophobia (and anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia) as though it were their day jobs. Much as E-Islamophobia produces negative results in the real world, so too can E-activism reverse or preempt them.

So long as bigotry goes unchecked, it will hold a disproportionate influence in both realms. Yet this need not be the case. The hatewave is here, but our beliefs charge us to counter it. See you online.

~Is it, then, possible, to reach the heart of the Qur’an merely by reading its words, without ever stepping upon the battlefield of faith and disbelief, of Islam and ignorance, without passing through any stage of the struggle? No, you can understand the Qur’an only when you take it up, begin to act upon it, and call mankind to God, and when every step you take is in obedience to its guidance.~ Syed al-Maududi


American Muslims Admin - Questions about Islam? Join us!!


One Love, Many Paths Admin - Bully-free zone for women of all faiths!

by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 9:14 PM
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Replies (1-10):
mommajen32
by Platinum Member on Feb. 9, 2011 at 9:30 PM

 Fantastic.

Some time ago a lady from my church sent an article about how muslim student organizations on college campuses were just fronts for radical terrorist groups - I just hit reply to all (the local Tea Party list) and set it straight  I agree you can't let things go unchecked

Kaelansmom
by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Awesome article.

I have put it on my FB... :)

stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:27 PM

Yes it's so true, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  I spend time in CM Answers and you would not believe the crap I hear there.  Every day it's something new.  Today I got told, after a heated exchange, to "go read your Qar'an like a good Muslim" as though it was an insult.  (And, by the way, I am not even Muslim.) This because I called people out for bigoted generalizations.  Every day I read "the religion of peace...yeah right" and people who use "terrorist" and "muslim" interchangeably.  They don't even realize they are doing it.

-LucyInTheSky-
by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:35 PM

 

Quoting stacymomof2:

Yes it's so true, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  I spend time in CM Answers and you would not believe the crap I hear there.  Every day it's something new.  Today I got told, after a heated exchange, to "go read your Qar'an like a good Muslim" as though it was an insult.  (And, by the way, I am not even Muslim.) This because I called people out for bigoted generalizations.  Every day I read "the religion of peace...yeah right" and people who use "terrorist" and "muslim" interchangeably.  They don't even realize they are doing it.

 Yeah I avoid the answers section for that reason. I can't believe someone tried to insult you by telling you to read the Qu'ran. I don't think most people realize how it sounds when they speak like that... it seems like speaking to and about Muslims like this has just become the norm to a lot of people.

~Is it, then, possible, to reach the heart of the Qur’an merely by reading its words, without ever stepping upon the battlefield of faith and disbelief, of Islam and ignorance, without passing through any stage of the struggle? No, you can understand the Qur’an only when you take it up, begin to act upon it, and call mankind to God, and when every step you take is in obedience to its guidance.~ Syed al-Maududi


American Muslims Admin - Questions about Islam? Join us!!


One Love, Many Paths Admin - Bully-free zone for women of all faiths!

stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:46 PM


Quoting -LucyInTheSky-:

 

Quoting stacymomof2:

Yes it's so true, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  I spend time in CM Answers and you would not believe the crap I hear there.  Every day it's something new.  Today I got told, after a heated exchange, to "go read your Qar'an like a good Muslim" as though it was an insult.  (And, by the way, I am not even Muslim.) This because I called people out for bigoted generalizations.  Every day I read "the religion of peace...yeah right" and people who use "terrorist" and "muslim" interchangeably.  They don't even realize they are doing it.

 Yeah I avoid the answers section for that reason. I can't believe someone tried to insult you by telling you to read the Qu'ran. I don't think most people realize how it sounds when they speak like that... it seems like speaking to and about Muslims like this has just become the norm to a lot of people.

I do not blame you one bit for avoiding that section, Lucy!  I come to this forum for my nice Muslim friends fix!  :)  Anyways I do not let them get away with it...I call them out very bluntly.  And also I told them that they could call me a Muslim all they wanted.  I do not consider it an insult.  

OneToughMami
by on Feb. 9, 2011 at 10:48 PM

I just read some crap that made me angry on PhotoBucket :-(

muslimahpj
by Ruby Member on Feb. 10, 2011 at 12:41 AM

BUMP!

Mandipants
by on Feb. 10, 2011 at 1:07 AM

Great article.

This kind of thing scares me. And horrifies me.

A reporter and some glib bloggers transformed a legal question (the right of the religious community to use property zoned in a particular way) into a distorted, nightmarish question about whether we as Americans could let "terrorists" claim "victory" "at" the World Trade Center. It became instant national news -- and reverberated in the blogosphere overseas, confirming the unfortunate perceptions of those who never thought Muslims would have a fair chance in America anyway.

shadowladie01
by on Feb. 10, 2011 at 12:09 PM

again?

-LucyInTheSky-
by on Feb. 10, 2011 at 12:10 PM

 Me too

Quoting Mandipants:

Great article.

This kind of thing scares me. And horrifies me.

A reporter and some glib bloggers transformed a legal question (the right of the religious community to use property zoned in a particular way) into a distorted, nightmarish question about whether we as Americans could let "terrorists" claim "victory" "at" the World Trade Center. It became instant national news -- and reverberated in the blogosphere overseas, confirming the unfortunate perceptions of those who never thought Muslims would have a fair chance in America anyway.

 

~Is it, then, possible, to reach the heart of the Qur’an merely by reading its words, without ever stepping upon the battlefield of faith and disbelief, of Islam and ignorance, without passing through any stage of the struggle? No, you can understand the Qur’an only when you take it up, begin to act upon it, and call mankind to God, and when every step you take is in obedience to its guidance.~ Syed al-Maududi


American Muslims Admin - Questions about Islam? Join us!!


One Love, Many Paths Admin - Bully-free zone for women of all faiths!

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