The Other Side of the Story: The Disenfranchisement of Muslims in the West

A lot of what you hear from Islamophobes in the United States and the West.  They give only one side of the story, and it's not usually very accurate.  In this article, I will explain, based on a video interview of Sheihk Hamzi Yusuf by Chris Hedges, some of the fundamental ideas that many Americans don't understand about the world as it relates to Islam.

One of the distinct negatives brought to bear by Donald Trump is an increased hatred of Muslims by Americans. I have facebook friends who have lost all sense of logic on the issue, claiming that all Muslims are violent and should be essentially exterminated.

Even though we're much more likely to be overtaken by Trumpian fascism, American Islamophobes often raise the specter of Sharia law, claiming that it is fast coming to America, and that we will all be destroyed by it.  This bogeyman not only is nowhere near our shores, but is not what Islamophobic Americans even claim that it is.

The punishment facet of Sharia is called Hudud.  Here are some interesting facts about Hudud.

1. Apostasy from Islam is not considered punishable under Hudud by all Muslims.
2.  Only until the last 70 years or so have Hudud punishments ever but rarely been imposed, and the punishments exacted in public these days often represent a backlash against Western suppression of Muslims in the Middle East.
3.  Hudud punishments can only rarely if ever happen, because the required mountain of evidence against any alleged perpetrator is enormous.
4.  Groups such as ISIS that have overused Hudud punishment have alienated their Muslim people, and thus ISIS controls very little of the land that it needs to be able to call itself an Islamic State.  A significant number of Muslims consider ISIS thoroughly un-Islamic.
5.  Although Muhammad taught Sharia and Hudud, he encouraged administrators of the law to err on the side of mercy in every case.

In a very insightful recent interview of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf below, several facts about the history and current status of Islam in the world are brought to light.  Not very many Westerners understand these concepts, instead intoxicated by their anger over an Islamic straw man that does not exist.  The video is embedded below, and the rest of this article is a digest of the more salient points of the video interview.

Muslims make up just over 2% of the American population.  In the year 2000, hate crimes against them were about 1.9% of all US hate crimes.  Today, that percentage is 16%. In 2014, that figure was 14%.  This percentage has been inflamed in the last two years by the rhetoric of Donald Trump.

A spiritual and economic vacuum sweeping across the globe today is giving birth to a new fascism.  Fascism believes that goals can be achieved only through force.  Much of today's nascent fascism is the result of oppressed peoples seeing no other alternative at hand.  ISIS, although it is currently losing prestige in the Muslim world, was onetime seen as such an alternative by oppressed Middle Eastern Muslims.  Donald Trump is a similar savior to many Americans.

Prior to 1948, significant strides were being made toward democracy in Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the Middle East.  Then came the artificial planting of the state of Israel in that region, along with decimation of the Palestinian population that had lived there for hundreds of years, and democracy took a back seat to helping the Palestinians in their struggle.

At that time many in the Arab world were inspired by America, because America was seen by them as an anti-colonial force that respected the sovereignty of the peoples of the Middle East.  At that time, the artificial borders making up such entities as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq did not exist.

But then America quickly became like the other colonial powers that negatively used their power in the region. Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, for example, was betrayed by the American CIA.  A few years later, this led to the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, president of Zytuna University in the United States, was visiting Egypt after 9/11 when he struck up a conversation with a Lebanese taxi driver living there.  Yusuf asked the driver what he thought of 9/11.  "In Lebanon," the driver said of the event, "we [call it] 'hit me so that I can beat the crap out of you.'"

The Sufi tradition of Islam is not violent, but the Wahhabist version is.  Sadly, in the last 70 years, the Brits and other Western powers have funded and fomented the violent Wahhabi version, to the detriment of all.  Wahhabism was a fairly recent protestant-type innovation of Islam that deeply mixes religion and politics.  See the books "Devil's Game" by Robert Dreyfuss and "A Peace to End All Peace" by David Fromkin.

Interestingly, Saudi and other Islamic scholars are consistently pointing out that suicide (and suicide bombings) and the killing of women and children and other innocent civilians is not allowed in Islam.

Osama bin Laden had no religious training at all, and thus he was not authorized to issue fatwas (religious decrees) on behalf of Islam.  His doing so dismayed and angered Muslims all over the world.

The United States funded radical Islamists because of our undue fear of the communist menace.  This reaction to Communism was a follow-on to the overreaction of the British Empire against Czar Nickolas and Russia in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

The Middle East had been meddled with by Western powers for decades prior to World War I, and it was thus one of the fronts in World War I that never really went away.  The Treaty of Versailles, which supposedly ended World War I, with its very unfair demands against Germany, essentially guaranteed that World War II would happen.

Disenfranchised youth are among the Muslims segregated into their own enclaves in Europe.  Prisons are disproportionately filled with Muslims, and racism against Arab and Black Muslims in Europe is often overt.

Immigration to Europe was a result of the effects of WWII.  Many minorities were brought in to do reconstruction following the Allied bombings, and the mostly Muslim minorities brought in for this work were not highly educated.  By contrast, most Muslims who immigrate to the US are well educated and very skilled, such as doctors and engineers.  They do very well in the US and feel very enfranchised.

Most Americans are comfortable to accept the immigrant. By contrast, through non-acceptance, most French Muslims don't feel French, and most Muslim Britons don't feel British. But if they go back to the countries of their births, they don't feel at home there either.

Groups like ISIS are very much like American gangs, which provide a suitable replacement for the family and society that Arab and European Muslims desperately need as part of the human condition, but don't feel a part of.  Because they are unaccepted and unintegrated, and because they have such a hard time finding regular employment, they become petty criminals and spend time in prison.  While in prison, they come into contact with other mostly Muslim minorities, who are also marginalized and angry, and they are given what seems to them a divinely legitimized reason to feel rage against the West.

To solve the problems of Muslim disenfranchisement, Europe needs to be more welcoming, as the US already is for the most part. Otherwise, petty criminals become terrorists.  To avoid Muslim disenfranchisement in the US, socialization between Muslims and non-Muslims must drown out the angry cries of ignorant American Islamophobes.

There was a deep anti-Semitism in German society before Hitler came to power, but it was not yet lethal. Although they were looked down on, Jews in 1933 did not think that it would get as bad as it did, and American Muslims, with the increase in hate crimes in the US against them, wonder if they need to worry about the same kind of backlash against them. Japanese ended up in internment camps during WWII, and it's important to be concerned that the same thing could happen to Muslims.

During times of deep economic malaise, megalomaniacs have historically come to power.


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