The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 27, 2010

Islamophobic or Islamo-focused?

Zachary Hubbard

— On Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Muslim terrorists, using commercial airliners as missiles, made two savage attacks against the twin towers of Manhattan’s World Trade Center complex, leaving nearly 3,000 dead.

Today, a debate rages over a controversial proposal to build an Islamic cultural center near so-called ground zero, site of these attacks. 

Supporters of the proposal claim Islam is a religion of peace and the center is meant to build bridges in 9/11’s aftermath.

Those opposed see it as a direct affront to the innocents who lost their lives in the attacks.

Some supporters have labeled the opposition as “Islamophobes.” Webster’s dictionary defines “phobia” as “an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.”

If seeing is believing, perhaps those who oppose this Islamic center might more correctly be called Islamo-focused than Islamophobic; there is nothing exaggerated, inexplicable or illogical about their fear of Islam, a fear stemming from observing Islam and its effects around the globe.

Many in the West see Islam as a highly politicized, radical religion focused on holy war and martyrdom.

This image might be justified considering what has occurred in the United States alone over just the past two years.

* May 2009: Five men described as “radical Islamists” by federal authorities were arrested for plotting a terrorist attack to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. A sixth man was arrested for helping them illegally obtain weapons.

* November 2009: Army Major Nidal Hissan killed 13 people and injured dozens more during a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas. Investigators discovered Hissan has ties to radical Islam and tried to contact the Islamic terrorist organization al-Qaida shortly before the attacks.

* December 2009: A Nigerian on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit attempted to ignite an explosive device hidden in his underwear. The would-be bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told officials he was being directed by al-Qaida.

* May 2010: Authorities in New York City discovered a bomb in a smoking vehicle parked at Times Square. 

They later arrested Faisal Shahzad, a native of Pakistan who had recently become a U.S. citizen. Authorities believe Pakistani Taliban members were behind the plot.

This list doesn’t include the murders and suicide attacks made against Americans by radical Islamists outside of U.S. territory during the same period. Just a few days ago, the London Telegraph reported that five suspected Islamist terrorists were arrested in London for plotting to assassinate the pope.

Where does it all end?

British statesman Edmond Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

Where were the voices of the good, moderate Muslims as these events occurred?

Where are they today? 

Even if some are trying to speak up, they are drowned out by the noise of radicals burning Old Glory and shouting “death to America.”

Fear of the unknown is a common human defensive mechanism. Many Americans are growing increasingly fearful of Islam, because Islam and Muslims are unknowns to them.

Madame Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

It is important that all Americans get to know the peaceful version of Islam that moderate Muslims claim has been hijacked by the radicals we constantly see in the media.

The moderates must increase their efforts to spread the word of peace throughout Islam. Judaism and Christianity, two key targets of radical Islam’s rage, can help. 

It’s time for more synagogues and churches to begin dialogues with local mosques. 

Eliminating the unknowns between these religions is essential for ensuring that the religious freedom all Americans enjoy endures.

Cries for a moratorium on Muslim immigration and the building of new mosques in America should trouble all Americans.

Sadly, the Middle Eastern news outlet Al Jazeera has provided better coverage of the radical vs. moderate Islam debate than the media in our own country.

Some of the actions of the American media are downright troubling.

In 2007, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, refused to air the documentary “Islam vs. Islamists.”

The film, describing the plight of moderate Muslims who challenged the radicals, was funded by CPB.

According to Fox News, which later aired the documentary, a CPB executive told the film’s producers CPB would not air it because it was “alarmist” and “overreaching.”

Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a Washington-based writer who was once a radical Islamic imam, is among today’s moderate Muslim voices. He recently joined the debate about the ground zero Islamic cultural center. 

On his blog, “A Singular Voice,” Muhammad accuses numerous American media institutions of being “outrageously biased” in covering the debate. He specifically names Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, NPB, PBS, MSNBC and CNN, noting they have “consistently portrayed popular opposition to this mosque and several other mosques around the country as evidence of bigotry and so-called Islamophobia.”

He labels their behavior “mass libel.”

Muhammad adds, “The mainstream media have deliberately ignored the fact that there is legitimate basis for fear of mosques – as it is a demonstrable fact that mosques and Muslims have been disproportionately connected to terrorism in this country and around the world, a fact that the media won’t report.

“Moreover, in the examples of opposition to specific mosques chosen by the media as evidence of popular ‘bigotry,’ the media have selectively ignored the openly available evidence showing unambiguously that these mosques or their officials are connected to or supportive of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and other radical Islamic fundamentalist organizations.”

That we don’t hear more voices such as Abdur-Rahman Muhammad reported in the American media lends credence to his accusations.

To the media I say: Let the moderate Muslim voices be heard.

To the moderates I say: It’s time to take your religion back.

Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer and freelance writer residing in Upper Yoder Township. He is a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Reader Advisory Committee.