By Polly Mann  WAMM Newsletter  October 2013
The excellent 200-page book, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire by Deepa Kumar (Haymarket Books 2012) could be described as a succinct primer for those of us who have given little thought as to why there is such mistrust of Middle Easterners among Americans. This fear was exacerbated by the Twin Trade Towers bombing of 9/11 and subsequently, the word “terrorist” became connected with Middle Easterners in the minds of many Americans. This book brings together past history and current events as it examines the prevalent myths about Islam that have produced such fear in this country.
A summary of the myths and the reality follow:
Islam is a monolithic belief. A common misperception is that all Middle Easterners are Arabs and all Arabs are adherents of Islam; people also think there are no variations in the way the religion is practiced. Kumar makes a comparison of Christianity with Islam. As there are Baptists, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists and scores of groups professing Christianity and Orthodox and Fundamentalist Jews so there are different varieties of Islam of which there are two main categorie: Sunni and Shi’a’.
The Sufi Islam practiced in India is quite different from the Shi’a Islam practiced in Pakistan. They could be compared to Catholic and Protestant Christians.

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Islam is a sexist religion. As the British in the 1800’s denounced sexism in Islam, they worked to deny British women the right to vote. Discussion of the rights of women continue in Islamic society as in Christian and Judaic society.
Some scholars argue that Islam is not inherently misogynistic and point to the egalitarian passages in the Koran that suggest equality between men and women. Equality for women is a tenet of most religions today—the fact that equality has not yet been fully achieved is a condition of all.
The “Muslim Mind” is incapable of reason and rationality. There are many excellent books and articles, listed in Kumar’s footnotes, that tear to shreds the concept of biologically defined races and the spurious connection between biology and intellectual capacity. The European Renaissance could not have occurred without the contributions of Muslim thinkers and scientists.
Islam is an inherently violent religion. This virulent myth is strong today, helped, of course, by 9/11. Author Amitabh Pal, Managing Editor of “The Progressive” magazine explored this myth in his book, “Islam” Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today with examples of non-violence from the Koran. The bloody history of early Christianity with attention given to the Crusades is cited as a correlative of Islamic violence. The reader is reminded that after the Sultan Saladin retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders, he forbade acts of violence against them.
Muslims are incapable of democracy and self rule. This is the false basis for much of Western policy with regard to the Middle East. Again and again Western nations have interfered in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern nations looking to avail themselves of their natural resources, such as oil and minerals, while claiming to be “bringing democracy.”
Today the worldwide Occupy movement is reminding people about the humanity we all share and how the greedy capitalist system is, in its essence, violent and how we can work together to bring about a peaceful world. When we are aware of the things that divide us such as Islamophobia we are more capable of making that dream a reality.
Polly Mann is a co-founder of Women Against Military Madness and a regular contributor and columnist for the WAMM newsletter.
Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire
by Deepa Kumar.
Available at MayDay Bookstore, Minneapolis
Deepa Kumar is an associate professor of media studies and Middle East studies at Rutgers University and has published commentary in media outlets throughout the world. Her commentary and articles at Empire Bytes: Beyond the Soundbytes of Empiral Culture
Legislating Fear
“Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and Its Impact on the United States 2013 Report,” based on 2011-2012, now available from the Washington, D.C. office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. To obtain copies of this report, please and state the subject: “Islamophobia Report 2011-2012.”

© 2013 Women Against Military Madness.

By Published On: October 24th, 20131 Comment

One Comment

  1. dissentingdemocrat October 26, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Yes, but . . .
    No, Islam is not a monolithic religion and neither is Christianity. Yet a very intolerant form of Christianity makes the headlines and intrudes upon the public sphere imposing its extremism in the name of all Christians. So too, Islamism imposes its extremism upon many countries and people.
    Islam is not uniquely sexist but there is more organized, and state-sponsored oppression of women in Islamic societies than in the secular West. Should we remain silent about it, excusing it as a mere cultural difference?
    Rationality is something of which all humans are capable. But those who surrender their independent faculties to Islamism, or Christianism, or other ‘isms tend to repress their reasoning faculties.
    Islam actually means “submission” and not peace, although there is a semantic dispute over this. It appears that some believe that when we all submit there will be peace. iIsuppose that could be true, but it wouldn’t be the peace I would wish.
    I too look forward to democracy in the Middle East, and all people are capable of it (someday maybe even Americans may be granted a democracy) but in our understandable urge to tolerate other cultures let us not neglect certain universal values. I choose to criticize Christians when they fail to adhere to such universals, and I will not hesitate to criticize Islamists when they do so as well.

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