The term islamophobia isn’t in the dictionary yet. In a matter of time, it will find its place. Even though this term should exclusively deal with an irrational dread, fear or hatred of Islam, Muslim organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have broadened it to include muslimophobia—irrational fear of Muslims. Why would an organization as organized as CAIR jumble these terms? Not especially when it wants to end them. We shouldn’t confuse islamophobia with muslimophobia. We can only effectively fight any kind of phobia if we know what it is.
I was saddened to read in the news two Muslim clerics who were headed to an islamophobia conference were deplaned two weeks ago. Why should these clerics miss their flight when they were subjected to and passed all airport security screening twice. Apparently, some passengers were uncomfortable with their mere presence on the flight and the pilot decided against having them aboard. This is a classic example of muslimophobia.
Islamophobia is also a problem and it is not endemic just to non-Muslims. Even Muslims suffer from it. Most Muslims who make media appearances in the West quote mostly abrogated verses of the Qur’an perhaps fearing their audience might not accept authentic Islam’s message. Even one of the Muslim clerics who was a victim of muslimophobia exhibited some signs of islamophobia in ensuing media interviews.
Imam Masudur Rahman, a professor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, in an interview with the Charlotte Observer said, “We need to tell people the truth about Islam: It is a religion of peace, a religion of justice, a religion honoring other people, regardless of color or religion.” He continued to say, “The Quran says: You practice your religion, I practice mine. There should be no compulsion in religion.” [Emphasis Mine.]
Imam Rahman quoted two verses from the Qur’an and totally misled reporter Tim Funk and every person who read his statement. Surah 109 verse 6 reads, “You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.” All commentaries of the Qur’an agree this verse was revealed when Prophet Muhammad was dealing with idolaters in Mecca when Islam was in its nascent stage and had just a few followers. However, later on when Muhammad gained more followers “he was commanded to wage war [against the idolaters].”
I wish Muslims who quote verses from the Qur’an would tell non-Muslims the meanings behind them. So much for Imam Rahman claiming Islam leaves non-Muslims to have their own religions. Contrary to what this verse remotely portrays, Prophet Muhammad ended up eradicating all religions that preceded Islam from the Arabian Peninsula and then declared, “Two deens [religions] shall not co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula.” Whatever happened to freedom of religion in Islam Imam Rahman claimed to exist!
Another part of Imam Rahman’s quote in the interview addresses Surah 2 verse 256 which wholly reads, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.” The Imam once again did not tell Mr. Funk this verse—CAIR and most Muslims in the media quote to show how Islam is about religious freedom—was abrogated. It was revealed in Medina when Prophet Muhammad had just migrated from Mecca and Islam still had only a few followers. Qur’an commentaries show this verse was revealed when the Ansar—Arabs of Medina who had embraced Islam—tried to convert their sons to Islam. The commentaries further show later, when two Muslims apostatized and Prophet Muhammad heard about their apostasy, he recited the same verse and said, “May Allah banish both of them. They are the first to disbelieve.” The founder of Islam cursed the first Muslims who apostatized because he did not have the power to kill them. He decreed later three times here, here, and here, every Muslim who apostatized should be killed. Muslims are required to obey Muhammad’s commands. Allah said twenty-nine times in the Qur’an a Muslim must also obey Muhammad. How could Islam be (quoting Imam Rahman again) “a religion honoring other people, regardless of … religion,” when the command against apostasy is very explicit?
Imam Rahman and CAIR spokespersons exhibit symptoms of islamophobia. How else would someone as knowledgeable as he or an organization as organized as CAIR mislead reporters about the meaning of verses of the Qur’an they quote?
We can only deal with islamophobia candidly if we can separate it from muslimophobia. The latter is unmerited. It is a sin for a Christian to hate a Muslim. We are called to love even our enemies. Most Muslims are peaceful and would not harm anyone. There is no point of being afraid of them. On the other hand, Islam is an ideology and the violent kind as practiced by “extremists” is authentic Islam. There is nothing wrong with a Christian raising an alarm about the violent aspect of Islam, especially when prominent Muslims aren’t brave enough to acknowledge it, instead call any critic of Islam a bigot.
Let us end muslimophobia and leave islamophobia to Muslims. Perhaps when Muslims agree with Irshad Manji and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser there is a dire need for reform in Islam and publicly distinguish islamophobia from muslimophobia, then maybe islamophobia might face its demise as well.
Hussein Wario is a former Kenyan Sunni Muslim. He is the author of Cracks in the Crescent. He blogs regularly at http://www.cracksinthecrescent.com You can listen to his testimony here or read it here.