Muslims should not write off the fears of fellow Americans

By Imam Johari Abdul-Malik When it comes to the Juan Williams controversy, I believe that dialogue is a two way … Continued

By Imam Johari Abdul-Malik

When it comes to the Juan Williams controversy, I believe that dialogue is a two way street. Muslim-Americans should not simply write off the fears of our fellow Americans as completely imaginary. We all turn on the TV and see that there are many terror plots being thwarted against our country by people that call themselves Muslim. It does none of us any good to pretend that all fears of terrorism are irrational. Likewise, Americans of other faiths should do more to get to know their Muslim neighbors.

Let me be clear! In no way do I want to be blamed for 9/11 or lumped in with extremists. Let me also state that none of the 9/11 hijackers were actually wearing the “Muslim garb” to which Williams alluded. On the other hand, as a Muslim Imam (who often wears “Muslim garb”) I try to understand – given the attacks on 9/11 and others attempted attacks on our nation by zealots – that there are some of my fellow countrymen that may be a little uneasy with my presence. Realizing that, I often go out of my way to make them feel more comfortable by being cordial and/or introducing myself. I consider this to be part of the dialogue that we must have in this country. Part of my job at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center is to assuage the types of fears that people like Juan Williams have and to help differentiate between the irrational (“Muslim garb”) and the rational fears (Al-Qaeda).

If we are to have honest dialogue in this country, then we must allow people to express their honest opinion and allow them to explain why they feel that way. This is the way that we can change hearts and minds. Mr. Williams’ personal conflict gives us a chance to rebut myths and to educate, however, if we create a climate of fear and setting up crippling taboos on the debate where one cannot express their honest feelings then we will never work past these types of irrational fears.

I would welcome Juan Williams to meet with Muslims to have a serious and honest dialogue and to get below the surface of this divisive issue. I hope to listen and learn from Juan Williams on the free airwaves including NPR in the future. Thank you Juan for creating this great opportunity for dialogue! Peace be upon those who following guidance

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik is the former Muslim Chaplain at Howard University and the current Director of Outreach at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center located in the Washington, DC area. His website is www.imamjohari.com.

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  • Carstonio

    I try to understand – given the attacks on 9/11 and others attempted attacks on our nation by zealots – that there are some of my fellow countrymen that may be a little uneasy with my presence.It’s sad that the imam doesn’t understand that the reaction is

  • Secular

    Mr. Malik, in the recent past we have read far too many articles, protestations of the kind you penned today. For all the hot air being blown by these windbags and hot heads, there has not been any increase, beyond anecdotal acts of vendetta or sheer violence against, muslims of statistical magnitude in the past 9 years or in the recent days. But on the other hand take for instance the so called Koran burning, which that crack pot had been dissuaded from. That did not stop the loons and the rabble rousers in the OIC countries from having a field day. Similarly when the danish cartoons came to light the wanton pillage that affected that tiny country in all the OIC countries was not trivial. Given that do you not think your energies are better invested in attending to the misinformation prevalent in the OIC countries rather than here in the USA. Please give it a thought and if you would deign address that issue in your next column or in response.

  • Carstonio

    Similarly when the danish cartoons came to light the wanton pillage that affected that tiny country in all the OIC countries was not trivial.In fairness, what happened with the Danish cartoons is that demagogues in the region repackaged them with other, unrelated images that made the cartoons appear much more offensive than if they were left alone. That was a deliberate attempt to inflame anti-Western resentment. The equivalent would have been if Andres Serrano’s infamous photograph had been put into a collage with, say, drawings of Bibles burning and Jesus having gay sex – one very well might have seen violence in America from that.

  • AKafir

    Imam Johari Abdul-Malik,Islam hates non-muslims. This fact can be most clearly seen in the laws for non-muslims as written and implemented in the muslim countries around the world. Most of these laws for non-muslims are derived from the Sharia that used to be enforced in the region of the muslim country. The question to you, Imam, is why is that? Why do the overwhelming majority of Muslims accept these hateful laws and by that show that they agree with that hate? Consider how non-muslims are treated in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Eygpt, Yemen, Malaysia, Sudan, etc. and what the laws are for the non-muslim when there is an issue between a muslim and a non-muslim. Is it possible that the supremacist and domineering attitude that these laws have bred into the majority of muslims, has been brought into USA by the muslim immigrant cultures? American Kafirs will be remiss if they ignore the actual facts of seeing how muslims in muslim majority areas treat non-muslims and try to pretend that the muslims here have different attitudes towards them and their culture.

  • halozcel2

    Imam Johari Abdul-Malik,-*Americans of other faiths should do more to get to know their Muslim neighbors* No,Americans of other faiths will not get to know,but,muslims should learn Contemporary Values,Human Rights and Democracy.Have a great weekend and good luckhalozcel2/halozcel1

  • abrahamhab1

    “Likewise, Americans of other faiths should do more to get to know their Muslim neighbors.”This is not so easy since such neighbors are endowed by their religion of two principles that legitimize deception; “taqqiya” and “m’areed”. The first legitimize deception by outright lying in a number of cases one of which is furthering the cause of Islam. The second principle (ma’ared) enables the Muslim to get around the truth by giving the listener an impression different than what he says. Such as replying on the phone to say that so and so “is not here” thinking to himself “he is not here in front of me” while at the same time giving the caller the impression “he is not here in the house”.

  • AKafir

    Jihadist writes:”Muslim garb” is the slow awakening that Islam really does hate the non-muslims. The Koran really does teach ALL muslims to hate the non-muslims. It is the amazing aspect of human spirit and the “natural” law that more muslims do not hate the kafirs to the extent that some like the Al-Qaeda do. For example, (since you call yourself a Malaya)”Muslim Garb” is the realisation that Islam has taken a peaceful people like the Malay and turned them into the deeply supremacists and racist who now hate the non-muslims among them, and are making laws to enforce that hate.

  • RobertSF

    It’s true that many people are focused on the wrong thing. To literally get nervous at the sight of people in “Muslim garb” is ridiculous. It’s also true that terrorism in general poses little threat to each of us individually. We are much more likely to get hit by a car than to die in a spectacular 9/11 sequel.But a dialogue won’t necessarily be helpful because what America really opposes is Islamization. We do not want Islam to visibly change our culture, and we don’t have to apologize for that. It’s our culture, and we have a right to defend it.And that has nothing to do with religious freedom. Nobody cares what Muslims do behind closed mosque doors. They’re welcome to whatever legal practice they wish in private. But they’re not welcome to bring Islam into our public life. Other religions are not allowed that, and Islam shouldn’t either.

  • abdilhaqq

    “Clothes don’t make the man” This is a popular phrase or quote in our social lives worldwide. So how is it that when it comes to Muslims clothes are the indentifying factor? There isn’t any so called “Muslim garb” all Muslim cultures have “preferred garb” or dress they have chosen to wear. Here in America the majority of Muslim wear the dress of this culture and not the dress of other cultures. So how can you identify us by our dress? Deceitful or hateful people can put on the dress you think, is for a Muslim and display all kinds of disruptive behavior. Although some Americans like or prefer to dress like Muslims of other cultures, their dress should not be considered the identifying dress of Muslims. We are many different ethnic groups, tribes, or cultures, with many different tastes and many different ways of displaying our clothing choices. So to ignore the fact that “clothes do make the man” or correctly identify the man is in fact immature and shows lack of knowledge/wisdom on the part of the one who think like that. Should that person be imparting news and sharing ideas with the public? I agree with the first posting that we should have dialogue with anyone and everyone. But we all must come to the table of dialogue with good hearts and good intentions. Thanks for reading my post.

  • AKafir

    abdilhaqq | October 23, 2010 8:12 PM writes: “We are many different ethnic groups, tribes, or cultures, with many different tastes and many different ways of displaying our clothing choices”True but despite all those differences there is one thing common and that is the hatred for the Non-muslim, the Kafir, that is embedded in the Koran of ALL the muslims. That hatred for the non-muslims is in all muslim cultures, in all muslim ethnic groups, and tribes. It is in all the laws of all the muslim countries around the world. This hatred for the Kafir is the true “muslim garb”. I know it is not easy for many to believe what I write above, but do yourself and your children and their children a favor and find out what the laws are for the non-muslims in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Ghambia, etc. etc. Especially when the interaction is between a muslim and a non-muslim that requires the law to adjudicate.

  • Carstonio

    “America really opposes is Islamization. We do not want Islam to visibly change our culture, and we don’t have to apologize for that. It’s our culture, and we have a right to defend it.”Who’s “we”? If immigrants who are Muslim had an influence on American culture like any other immigrants, it would be impossible to discern how much of the influence is from the religion and how much is from the Arabic or Iranian or Indonesian cultures. Statements like yours were used in the 1920s allegedly against Catholicism, except the religion was a proxy for bashing Irish and Italian immigrants. Besides, there really isn’t any such thing as an “Islamic” or “Christian” or “Buddhist” culture, since religions are greatly influenced by the cultures where they exist. The practices of Christians in Lebanon and Ethiopia and Greece differ greatly from those of Western Europe.

  • AKafir

    Carstonio | October 23, 2010 9:14 PM writes: “it would be impossible to discern how much of the influence is from the religion and how much is from the Arabic or Iranian or Indonesian cultures”Is that why nearly in all muslim countries they decry the influence of cultures and want a purer form of Islam? The purer form of Islam invariably means arabic language since it is the language of Allah, it means the Abhaya, it means child marriages, and it means the dominance of all things Arabic. Muslims will tell you that Koran can not be understood in anything other than Arabic. In pakistan Panjab they do not teach their kids in their mother tongue because that is considered the language of the Kafirs, and a significant fraction want Arabic as the official language of the country. Arabic is compulsory in the religious classes. How about we say what Ohio is about to vote and that is laws from the Sharia cannot be considered by judges as they have been once before being overturned? How about if we accept that no child marriages regardless of the fact that the exemplary Human Muhammad married a six year old girl when he was 53? How about if we accept that we will not accept that it is okay to have four wives and as many women as “the right hand possess” that leads many sheiks in arabia, and rich guys in indonesia, and pakistan to have dozens of “concubines”? How about if we accept that there will be no Mutah marriages as in Iran and UAE and Baherin, that are Sharia complaint even if they last only for a couple of hours and the bride can be only a few years old? How about if say that “Mufakhathat” is not accepted here? There is an “Islamic” culture whether you want to acknowledge it or not. Travel a little and see.

  • RobertSF

    “What America really opposes is Islamization. We do not want Islam to visibly change our culture, and we don’t have to apologize for that. It’s our culture, and we have a right to defend it.”Who’s “we?” If immigrants who are Muslim had an influence on American culture like any other immigrants it would be impossible to discern how much of the influence is from the religion and how much is from the Arabic or Iranian or Indonesian cultures.”We” refers to Americans, people of any ancestry who are citizens and who hold or at least acquiesce to the notion that religion is a private matter with no place in public life.And if Muslims had an influence like any other group, there wouldn’t be a problem. But they in fact have an influence far, far greater than their numbers would suggest. We need not quibble or split hairs. Take a look at what’s happening in Sweden and Britain. I don’t want that happening in the US.

  • Carstonio

    “‘We’ refers to Americans, people of any ancestry who are citizens and who hold or at least acquiesce to the notion that religion is a private matter with no place in public life.”What does that point have to do with culture? “Islamization” of a culture sounds like, say, libraries are being stripped of books that don’t agree with Islam’s tenants, or that religious radio stations are discontinuing Christian programming in favor of calls to Muslim prayer. I agree in principle that religion is a private matter. I would add, however, that the greater threat to secular public life in America is probably not from Muslim fundamentalists but from Christian ones like James Dobson. I suspect that the Muslims who immigrate here (as opposed to the ones born here) generally acknowledge the principle of church/state separation to some degree, although I have no figures to prove this. As far as the ones who are from Saudi Arabia or Iran, it seems likely that if they wanted to live in a theocracy they would have stayed home. Most immigrants in general likely understand that their new home is never going to be like their old. Even in the communities of immigrants in places like New York, when they hold onto pieces of their home culture that really amounts to a synthesis of that culture and the one in their new country. Virtually all immigrant communities assimilate within three generations or so. There are rare exceptions such as the Amish, but that’s because they have the deliberate goal of maintaining insular communities. We should be highly skeptical of any claim that some immigrant group is overrun the nation and replace our culture with theirs – nativists have been ranting about that since colonial days.

  • RobertSF

    ‘We’ refers to Americans, people of any ancestry who are citizens and who hold or at least acquiesce to the notion that religion is a private matter with no place in public life.”What does that point have to do with culture? “Islamization” of a culture sounds like, say, libraries are being stripped of books that don’t agree with Islam’s tenants, or that religious radio stations are discontinuing Christian programming in favor of calls to Muslim prayer. I agree in principle that religion is a private matter. I would add, however, that the greater threat to secular public life in America is probably not from Muslim fundamentalists but from Christian ones like James Dobson. The thing is, you can’t separate religion from culture as easily under Islam as you can under Christianity. French and Paraguayan Christians, for example, feel no automatic bond thanks to their shared Christianity. But Muslims all over the world do feel a common bond, especially in the context of their relationship to the West.What is Islamization? When police departments create FMU (Forced Marriage Units) specifically to combat forced marriages and protect the victims, your country has been Islamicized. When all women must wear veils in certain neighborhoods or risk being beaten by self-appointed religious police while the real police refuse to act, your country has been Islamicized. When your country recognizes Muslim polygamy and puts all four wives and twenty-three children on welfare, you’ve been Islamicized.All that has already happened in Britain. I don’t want it happening here.

  • AKafir

    “As far as the ones who are from Saudi Arabia or Iran, it seems likely that if they wanted to live in a theocracy they would have stayed home.”That is ignorance borne of a complete lack of familiarity with Islam. Allah has promised that Islam will dominate the world. The entire world belongs to Allah and to the Muslims who Allah has promised that they will be his “Viceregents” on this earth. The muslims are commanded to go to the lands of the Kafirs and start communities that are to be used as toe holds which will flower into strongholds that will combine to become part of the Islamic lands eventually. That is why there are so many No go zones in Europe right now. There will be no go zones in USA soon enough.

  • reveric59

    I would like to hear from Mr Malik on this:

  • suraiyamosley

    Americans should write off the media’s undocumented fears of fellow ‘Muslim’ AmericansBy Suraiya MosleyHassanWith all do respect to our admired Imam Johari, his leadership, and position among the Muslims of America I must say thank you for sharing your ‘belief’ and words of reassuring calmness. “We all turn on the TV and see that there are many terror plots being thwarted against our country by people that call themselves Muslim.” The reality, however, is the ‘fears’ of our fellow Americans are not imaginary but [often repeated] messages of terror and trumped-up media hype! … I agree: “It does none of us any good to pretend that all fears of terrorism are irrational.” What’s irrational (or unfounded) is the association by the media (through constant repetition) of terrorism with Muslim (Islam) as if they were synonymous. How often has the media associated terrorist acts in our homeland committed by our fellow Americans with various religious persuasions? Try, not very often. They will do so only when person who has committed the act is not affiliated with ‘mainstream’ Christianity. “According to the FBI – Domestic terrorism in the United States between 1980 and 2000 consisted of 250 of the 335 incidents confirmed as or suspected to be terrorist acts by the FBI. These 250 attacks are considered domestic by the FBI because they were carried out by U.S. citizens.”Today, information flows through the airwaves faster than it can be communicated to the public. It is the responsibility of those who disburse information to share the most unbiased, accurate and up-to-date information possible. Leaders sharing personal ‘insecurities’ only contribute to confusion and apprehension on the part of the masses. Based on NPR’s policies they had every right to fire Mr. Williams for his ‘slip in judgment.’ Based on human compassion, maybe they should have considered giving him time to become fully aware of how to deal with his preconceived notions and offer an apology for his rush to judgment. Juan Williams a star among stars in the world of media has a voice of influence among the constituents of NPR and others. No, he should not be careful. Rather he should be informed. Ignorance is a failing of due diligence and a tool of the enemy to humankind. Concealing the truth is a crime against the innocent and unacceptable to the morally conscientious. So, what is Juan Williams really guilty of? Did Juan know the truth and not share it because it wouldn’t give that emotional high the media feeds the masses or is he truly ignorant and unaware of the truth? I don’t know the answer to that.

  • suraiyamosley

    Is Juan Williams’ statement – that he gets “worried” and “nervous” when he sees Muslims in their “garb” on airplanes really the issue? Seeing one, two, or a family of Muslims on an airplane shouldn’t be a frightening experience. It’s what you believe about ‘people’ that shape how you respond to them. Qur’an – Truth is clear from falsehood; Bible – Truth shall set you free. The truth is – the whole truth has not been told nor shown.What’s really scary, is that one person in the media, that one person at the airport, at the train station, at the bus stop – that one person whose fears provoke and incite others to support his fears and ignorance – thus, the mob impact is born. Compassion is putting yourself in the other person’s place, understanding how they could possibly feel – As a Muslim American woman who flies while wearing ‘Muslim garb;’ who walks down the street in ‘Muslim garb;’ who shops, goes to work, visits my son’s school, stands in line at the post office, etc.’ etc., etc. in ‘Muslim garb’ – I get nervous when I see people everywhere I go starring at me and watching every move I make. When I make my prayer (salah) sitting in my car, my seat on the plane, or on the park bench it is difficult to focus as I hear the whispers of the people around me. I’m constantly wondering if (or when) that person without accurate knowledge and understanding is going to holler ‘What’s she doing?” “Why is she praying?” “Maybe we’re in danger.”What the media hasn’t aired are the many stories of Muslims who have been wrongfully attacked since 911. What the media hasn’t are the many stories of Muslim Americans and the good work they are doing throughout the nation. Where’s the balance? What role does the media play in shaping the point of view that brings about this attitude of ‘fear’ among Americans? The Juan Williams’ of America must be responsible for what they say and held accountable for how they deliver it.It is our humanity, not our religious preference, which MUST dictate how we respond to others. It is our spirituality not our religiosity that allows us to have compassion with and for one another. America is the land that I love and the home of the brave and the free; let’s help keep it that way!