Ebrahim Moosa – Cii Radio | 29 Rabi uth Thani 1436/19 February 2015

As a US federal inquiry commences its investigations into the killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina, and amidst reports that an Islamic center in Houston, Texas, was intentionally set on fire last Friday, a new investigation is shedding further light on the severe extent to which Islamophobia has become institutionalised in the United State of America.

The research by the Center for American Progress called, “Fear, Inc. 2.0: The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America,” chronicles how an elite group of foundations and donors is providing money – to the tune of more than $57 million – purely with the intent to demonise and engender fear.

According to the report, that money is then given to a selection of tightly knit organizations that rely heavily on a handful of so-called experts that orchestrate misinformation about Islam. That misinformation then spreads to a larger network of activists, politicians, media and more, creating an echo chamber around the false idea that Islam is a violent religion.

Ordinary Americans are ultimately the consumers of such hate-mongering, and a constant barrage of this content evidently possesses the latent potential to stoke acts of violence against Muslims, the like of which have been witnessed recently.

For Muslims on the receiving end of this bombardment, the USA may appear to becoming a less hospitable place for them to reside in and practice their faith, and anxieties on the safety of themselves and loved ones have gradually become a more acute concern.

Concerns run deep, especially amongst Muslimahs, aware of the potential that the donning of Hijab may have in making them more conspicuous targets.

Among those keeping a keen eye on these emerging realities for the American Muslim, is Imam Mohammed Abdul Azeez of the Tarbiya Institute in California, who recently spoke to Cii Radio.

The Imam, as with other authorities in the US Muslim community, are today repeatedly being called on by congregants to offer solutions in navigating this difficult terrain.

And as perilous as the situation may today appear, Imam Abdul Azeez believes the Chapel Hill Shootings may just well serve as the catalyst for the rejuvenation of Islam in the United States.

“One commentator, in fact, referred to the shootings as the Trayvon Martin moment for the American Muslim community,” the Imam said, in reference to the police killing of a African American teen in 2012 that activated large segments of the often marginalized black community.

“The Muslim community is transforming from being on the defensive all the time, to being on the offensive when it comes to all the media stereotypes..I pray that Insha Allah this is a transformative moment, where American Muslims are able to reclaim their rights”.

Central to this ‘fight-back’, the Imam believes is a sense of assertiveness from members of the Muslim community – which is an approach, he points out, that has been epitomized by Dr Suzanne Barakat, the Hijab donning sister of one of the murdered Muslims, whose cool-headed interviews with local media have won her great acclaim.

“Overnight, an American Muslim leader was born,” Imam Abdul Azeez said of Dr Barakat. “She is an amazing spokesperson. She is calm, she is collected, she is compassionate. She embodies all the values and characters we would like to see in our leaders”.

“This is not the time to hide, this is not the time to be scared, it is not the time to take off your Hijab,” adds the Imam expanding on the approach he believes is now vital for American Muslims.

“This is the time to be proud of who you are. It is the time to be out there, engaging people, having conversations, showing people who you are and walking around with the compassion of Islam as opposed to contributing to the complexity of the situation by hiding.”

Abdul Azeez characterized the current witch-hunt(by some) of Muslims in America as a product of a sustained campaign that singled Muslims out as societal bogeymen – a drive, he said, that had proven to be highly profitable for some.

Muslims, he said, also had to share some blame in engendering this fear, often due to the community’s failure to properly engage with society as well as criticize fellow faithful when they had indulged in actions that besmirched the image of Islam.

The Imam advocated a more “meaningful presence” from Muslims in the media, arguing that the loudest voices on the scene currently were often proving to be Muslims-in-America’s most formidable foes. In addition, he suggested that a greater involvement from Muslims in grassroots local structures such as councils, schools and newspapers could prove instrumental in altering the balance for Muslims in America on the whole.

“America is a country that is founded in the small municipalities,” he said.

Among the precautions Muslims in some parts of America are being advised to adopt in the prevailing climate are avoiding loitering individually at quiet times and always remaining vigilant.

Ultimately, however, the Imam points out, the Muslim community should realise that the current circumstances – including the inconvenient parts thereof – are all a piece of the grand Divine Plan.

“We plan, and it is okay to plan, and we absolutely have to plan, but I think Allah SWT in the the end has His own Plan. And His Plan as He has guaranteed in the Quran is to preserve the Deen. Islam has faced much graver challenges during the course of its history – and you know what – it still stands and is still beautiful and is still clear..I count on that – it is a big part of my own plan. Allah SWT will make sure, because it is his own Deen, that it will reach every heart and every mind.”

“Yes, the methods seem strange to us, but ultimately, when the dust settles, we are able to see Allah SWT’s Wisdom in everything that happens,” he added reassuringly.