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Monday, September 17, 2012

Islamophobia at its best: Newsweek's "Muslim Rage."

Apparently Newsweek wants to join the hot debate on the offensive anti-Muslim film and the angry reactions it sparked across the Muslim world. Newsweek's latest issue opens with a rather catchy cover that glares "MUSLIM RAGE" in all caps. I'm glad to say though, that what was meant to be a serious (yet ignorant & biased) account on the anti-Islamic film turned into a joke on Twitter.

The Newsweek issue features an opinion piece by ex-Muslim Ayan Hirsi Ali titled: "Muslim rage & the last gasp of Islamic hate." This headline pretty much sums it up!

This piece reeks of Islamophobia from beginning to end. Her very first sentence reads: "Islam’s rage reared its ugly head again last week." Thus, right from the lede, Ali confirms the  most recycled stereotype of Islam as the ugly and violent religion. A close-up of angry bearded Muslim men is included in the article, thus adding to the drama!

Ali criticizes Libyan civilians and holds them responsible for the tragic deaths of US embassy officials. She claims the US contributed to the Libyan revolution and was unfairly repaid with these tragic deaths!

Ali, who describes herself as an ex-Muslim, is all of a sudden the Arab Spring expert, and predicts that Libyans, might follow the steps of their Egyptian counterparts and choose a government that "stands for ideals diametrically opposed to those upheld by the United States." 

This here is the first evidence of Ali's total ignorance of Arab countries. Ali fails to mention that this so-called Egyptian government that is everything that the US is not, is a strong US ally.

Ali makes unfair accusations at the Libyan people, the people who have expressed deep sorrow for the unfair and tragic deaths of US officials. Last Thursday, a stream of images went viral, showing Libyan men and women holding posters that said they were sorry, and that this violence is against Islam. Today, a new video was released, showing Libyans trying to rescue ambassador Chris Stevens. Yet, Ali ignores all of this and makes hateful accusations.

From there, Ali shifts to her own personal story, with Ali of course playing the innocent victim, who was mistreated by her religion and found freedom after fleeing to the liberal Netherlands. She tells the story of how she suddenly discovered that Islam was a hateful religion that fuels evil attacks, the likes of 9/11.

It's quite a shame that Newsweek, a magazine I had a lot of respect for, joins the Islamophobes of this world and selects a hateful former Muslim to speak about Islam. To ignore the large pool of informed, educated and level-headed prominent Muslim speakers and go for a pro-Western, anti-Muslim feminist, is distasteful and stereotypical. For sure there are many who will embrace Ali's account, as it confirms old, recycled stereotypes that depict Islam as the evil and Muslim women as the oppressed victims.

Just to confirm my point on Ali's excessive hatred of Islam, I will rely on the analysis of columnist, Nicholas Kristof (2010), who says that Ali's ferocious criticism of Islam even makes him uncomfortable as it feeds "religious bigotry."

Here's how Kristof sum's up his opinion on Ali's unfair and biased claims on Islam:

"To those of us who have lived and traveled widely in Africa and Asia, descriptions of Islam often seem true but incomplete. The repression of women, the persecution complexes, the lack of democracy, the volatility, the anti-Semitism, the difficulties modernizing, the disproportionate role in terrorism — those are all real. But if those were the only faces of Islam, it wouldn’t be one of the fastest-growing religions in the world today. There is also the warm hospitality toward guests, including Christians and Jews; charity for the poor; the aesthetic beauty of Koranic Arabic; the sense of democratic unity as rich and poor pray shoulder to shoulder in the mosque. Glib summaries don’t work any better for Islam than they do for Christianity or ­Judaism."

I therefore, feel sorry for Newsweek audiences, who won't get the chance to receive a fair and informed account/analysis of the recent riots that sparked much of the Muslim world. These audiences will learn nothing accurate about Islam, but will get a colorful imaginative description of a faith; a description that cannot be true, given Islam's 1.6 billion followers and given that it's the fastest growing religion on earth!


  1. It is a consistent mistake of the "West"/U.S. to equate (muslim)violence with religion rather than politics---whether it is suicide bombers, terrorists or violent protests---the refrain is always that "its about religion"---well it isn't. Research shows that it is political ends that contribute to violence---but talking about that makes the "West" uncomfortable because it is the cause. The U.S. encourages/supports radicalism and arms the radicals---uses them for proxy wars or geo-political agendas---then when they get out of hand---they shove the "problem" onto Muslims to clean up!!!
    Muslims should condemn violence by radicals but also condemn the Wests support of radicals.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for your comment. I agree with your take on this. Unfortunately, the US has supported not only Muslim radicals, but almost every single Arab/Muslim dictator for political reasons. Yet, as you say, it's the majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims who are then blamed and accused of RAGE and violence when things don't work as planned.

  2. You would make us believe that the muslim community can be divided into two camps, the handfull of extremist radicals and a vast majority of peace loving moderates that want to have their political grievances heard.
    I find this view deeply inadequate and frankly disingenious. First of, if it is the case that these protests are about political grievances, why frame it within a religious context? Why associate yourself with islamist radical by going out for a protest at this point in time?
    Enough opinion polls (pew) have undeniably shown that many more people than you would like to admit give a tacit support to the islamist message and method.
    The unconformtable truth is probably that muslims simply have a more personal and intimate (cultural) bond with their faith and with its founder Muhammed. This bond is even more enforced by the regulatory nature of the islamic faith when compared to how for instance Christianity is experienced in Western countries. It seems to me that here lies a direct causal relation when that faith is critized. Critique on islam is simply felt more personal and thus insulting.
    I do not deny that politics play a factor, but an unwillingness to accept critique and a deep misunderstanding of liberal democracy and the essence of freedom of speech do as well.

    1. I don't disagree with you entirely, but here's where I do disagree:
      1) Yes, I stick to my claim that the majority of Muslims are NOT radicals. There's a huge difference between Muslim conservatives and radicals of any religion. There might be a large number of Muslim conservatives but it's wrong to lump these peaceful religious people with radicals.

      2) Not sure why you refer to the fact that Muslims have a more personal and intimate bond with Islam and the prophet as an "uncomfortable truth." It's not as if this is a new discovery by any means, because it is a well-known fact that Islam is a way of life for its followers. As Muslims, we follow the teachings of the Holy Quran as well as Prophet Mohammed's Sunna (Way of life). So, yes, of course it is much more personal and intimate.

      3) I disagree with you on your last point. Who said Muslims that reacted the way they did, did so coz of "critique"? That's actually very unfair on your part to assume that this whole burst of anger, even if it was by a few, was all because of some critique! If you have seen the movie clip, or if you even read or listened to any of the news media (NPR, ABC, CNN NOT FOX though!!), then you would get a very accurate description of this movie that is hateful, sleazy, insulting and quite offensive. So by no means is this a form of critique!
      As for your point on Muslims having a deep misunderstanding of liberal democracy, you are right that there are many Muslims who are hesitant of using a Western-model of democracy for various reasons, but that does not mean Muslims are against democracy. Why then did millions take part in the Arab Spring? Why are millions in Syria enduring the butchering by Al Assad's regime? Just for fun? Obviously not, these people crave for democracy and more liberty.
      Not all Muslims in a country see eye to eye on everything, just as here in the US you have Republicans Vs. Democrats, and other less prominent groups. These groups almost never agree or support each other's policies. The same is true in Muslim countries, where some would prefer a Western liberal democracy, while others prefer an Islamic-inspired democracy, and other groups offering, yet more diverse ideas.

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