Islamophobia Rides Bus in NYC -
Leave Islam' Ads Disguised as 'Help'
Is it "Free Speech"?
Is it "subliminal stereotyping"?
Or - Is it "Islamophobia"?
Recently, about 30 buses in New York City's fleet started running ads professing to assist individuals trying to leave Islam; they ran for about one week.
These are messages of hate masquerading as messages of help - and all New Yorkers who believe in peaceful coexistence should reject them.
Sponsored by an organization called Stop the Islamization of America, led by Pamela Geller, the ads read like something aimed at battered women trying to escape abusive relationships: "Fatwa on your head? Is your community or family threatening you? Leaving Islam?" Readers are then directed to a Web site aimed at providing support as they "escape" their religion.
The implication: Countless American Muslims are trapped in an oppressive and violent faith, dying to get out. And if they dare try, they could be injured or killed.
These are lies, and offensive ones at that. We should be clear: Few of the 5 million to 7 million Muslims in America want to escape their faith - and those who do are free to do so. There are extremists of all faith traditions, including those who identify as Muslim. But they are a small minority and do not represent Islam as a whole or American Muslims, for whom Islam is a beautiful and inspiring faith - not a prison.
So should the ads be banned from the buses? No. That's not the solution. Instead, the message should be countered by informed people of goodwill, who are ready to demand that we treat one another with respect.
In fact, a ban probably wouldn't hold up to legal scrutiny. Similar ads ran earlier this year in Miami-Dade, Florida. When Miami-Dade Transit yanked the ads from 10 buses because they could be offensive, the sponsoring organization threatened to sue. The county attorney's office intervened and found that, even though the ads might be offensive, they were within permitted guidelines. They were reinstated.
There is precedent across the country for using public transit ads as the platform for political or religious messaging that is sometimes offensive and targets different groups (including Christians and Jews). Many U.S. cities have recently had pro-atheist advertisements appear on buses - one of which states, "You can be good without God."
We should recognize the right of diverse voices to free speech - and the corollary responsibility to name the message when it stirs ill-informed hatred. Unless we understand the ads and reject their message, their ultimate impact will be to reinforce prejudice.
Islamophobia and anti-Islam hatred are on the rise in the U.S., especially after the events of 9/11. Even before that fateful day, Muslims were often portrayed in the media as democracy- and America-hating terrorists - a portrayal that, unfortunately, has increasingly seeped into our consciousness. In 2002, 41% of respondents in a national poll admitted to harboring anti-Muslim sentiments (even though only 7% said they understood Islam very well). In 2009, the percentage of those admitting anti-Islam attitudes reached 46%.
The bus ads fuel the fire. Although Geller says that practicing Muslims should simply ignore the ads, and that they are aimed at those who want to leave the religion, the reality is that people frequently switch religions in the U.S., Islam included. Approximately half of all Americans change religious affiliations at some point in their lives.
And violence is not a U.S. response to those who leave a tradition, whether it is Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism or any other faith.
Thus, the ad is not really directed at a marginalized group of individuals yearning to leave Islam across the U.S. Rather, these ads subliminally reinforce the fearful stereotype that Islam is a religion of violent coercion. That it is cultlike in its hold over adherents. That it is a dangerous belief system from which people must escape.
A comparison across a wide range of traditions, Islam included, results in one conclusion: Most of our fundamental values are common across religious beliefs - values like compassion, respect for the "other," charity, peace, forgiveness and, above all, the golden rule. In every case, Islamic texts strongly support those values.
Geller's group has the right to buy ads that are within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's regulations. And those of us who find the message offensive have the obligation to condemn them for what they are - statements designed to stoke fear and hatred, without cause, without facts, without justice. To do anything less is to let hate win.
Dubensky is CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, a secular, nonsectarian not-for-profit organization.
Yusuf Estes along with Sheikh Salem Al Amry, Mutahhir Sabree and Yusha Evans have been "combating" this type of attack against Islam for many years.
They are saying "We need to turn this 'bus' around and come from another way.
Let's change their 'evil' to become 'live' -and we have LIVE broadcasts daily, on the Internet (now) and soon on satellite:
Then maybe Allah will turn it around, like this:
[CLICK PHOTO FOR WEBSITE GUIDE US TV - not actual photos of NYC buses]
The advice they offer is -
|Take it slow and careful. Remember the eyes of many other Muslims are on you and if you do something wrong, you might have others following you in that and take the punishment for all of those who copied you.
Don't loose your temper. That is exactly what the devil and his friends want you to do.
Keep your cool, speak clearly and firmly but with a kind voice and simply begin where our prophet began - with the "Tawheed" (monotheism) of Islam.
Explain the God of Islam is the very same "God" Adam worshipped, Noah worshipped, Jonah worshipped, Moses worshipped, David worshipped, Solomon worshipped and Jesus worshipped and Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us the very same thing:
"Worship God, alone without any partners".
Then you have a chance to talk about the topic they brought up, such as "treatment of women in Islam" or "violence in Islam" or "Islam spread by the sword" - we have all of these answers already prepared on our websites. So, if you need any references or proper English words, check our website at www.SearchForIslam.com and type in the keywords you need. For instance:
"What about the age of Ayesha when she got married to the prophet?"
You begin as follows:
"Thank you for asking me about my religion. Islam is based on truth. If I lie I could go to Hell forever, and I don't want that for sure."
"Sometimes people ask questions that are not really intended to be questions, they are more like statements and cruel ones at that. So, if someone asks you, 'Answer me with 'yes' or 'no' - Is your mother out of jail yet?' - What would you say?"
"If you say 'no' they will laugh and say, 'Too bad' - And if you say, 'yes' they will say, 'Good. I am glad she got out' Either way you can't answer because they were just tricking you."
Now ask this question before you go further, "If you hear something in the answer that you like, and you find something that is better that what you have in your religion - are you able to make changes in your life to fit what is better that what you have?"
Basically, you are directing them to look inside of themselves while you are answering so they can see the very truth as it appears in front of their own eyes.
Now answer the question by explaining these words:
1. Islam - means the surrender, obedience and peace with Allah with whatever He wants you to do
2. Muslim - means the one who is doing the surrender, obeying and being in peace with Almighty Allah
3. Allah - means the One and Only God, Creator of the university and owner of the Day of Judgment. He has no partner.
4. Quran - is the spoken word of Almighty Allah to the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, by way of the angel Gabriel
5. Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a human being who was given miracles to prove to his people and to people of all times, that he was indeed a truthful, honest and upright man, sent as a warner to humans until the last days.
Islam has some basic principles that must be obeyed or a person is no longer a Muslim.
A. God Almighty has ordered us never to commit oppression or aggression and NEVER take someone's rights nor disrespect them.
B. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, must always be respected and honored and followed in matters of belief and religion
C. The Quran is the recited words coming from Allah to us by way of Muhammad and the written words of Quran are highly appreciated
D. Parents must be honored, even if they are not Muslims
E. All people are to be given totaly and proper respect by every Muslim
F. No Muslim can lie.
G. Never go to sleep at night with your stomach full, while your neighbor's stomach remains empty.
H. Whoever takes an innocent life, it is as though they have killed all of humanity. Whoever saves a life it is as though they saved all of humanity
These teachings alone, should cause someone to take a step back, and ask "Wait a second here. If this is true, then how is it we are seeing all of these things going on in the world today?"
And that is a fair question - because we know a lot of what they think is based on twisted and fabricatd stories and things happening in places that are really not true Islam.
For more on this topic, visit our sites at:
Audio - www.HearIslam.com
Video - www.WatchIslam.com
TV - www.GuideUS.TV
And for dawah - www.ShareIslam.com
Research - www.SearchForIslam.com
Latest news (you are already here) - www.IslamNewsroom.com
To ask questions - www.ChatIslam.com and talk to our scholars - live everyday
Or refer to our answer site at - www.JustAskIslam.com
For people of other faiths - our video site is very nice - www.BridgeToFaith.com
Our events and bookings are on - www.IslamEvents.com
May Allah bless us all and guide us all to work, share and have hope all together, ameen.
Director for Share Islam Project