Islamophobia is an American Tradition

Loon Watch - 20 November, 2015 - 18:51


Moro Crater Massacre Victims

Article originally appeared on the History News Network website.

By Karine Walther

When Republic presidential candidate Ben Carson made news recently by questioning whether a Muslim American could (or should) ever become president of the United States, his assertions recalled similar concerns raised by a political supporter of John McCain’s presidency at a rally seven years earlier. “I can’t trust Obama,” Gayle Quinnell told McCain, “I’ve read about him…and he’s an Arab.” Whether she meant Arab or Muslim, two identities often conflated in American understandings of Muslims, her fears revealed deeper concerns by some segments of the American public about the loyalty of Muslim Americans to the United States. McCain’s response was equally revealing. He did not challenge the idea that Arab Americans or Muslim Americans could and should be trusted to occupy the highest office of the land, but instead, he defended Obama against the “accusation” of being Arab. Obama was not an Arab, he responded, “he’s a decent family man, citizen” as if being an Arab or Muslim American prohibited decency or ties to family – or even American citizenship.

As Carson’s more recent statements have revealed, public expressions of hostility and distrust towards Muslim Americans have only become more prominent and normalized in American public discourse. This rise in public expressions of Islamophobia have undoubtedly been fueled by American governmental policies of targeted surveillance of American Muslim communities that emerged after 9/11 and have resulted in dire repercussions that move beyond just public discourse, including a dramatic rise in discrimination and hate crimes against people perceived to be Muslim or Arab.

But it would be a mistake to assume that such sentiments are a recent phenomenon that emerged only after 9/11. Islamophobia has a long history in the United States that can be traced back as early as the colonial era when European settlers carried their antagonism to the Islamic faith with them to the New World.  Debates over the ratification of the U.S. Constitution included discussions over whether Muslims and other non-Protestants should ever be able to assume political office. Indeed, as scholars have demonstrated, anti-Federalists used the specter of a Muslim, Catholic or Jewish-American becoming president to unsuccessfully argue for religious tests in the U.S. Constitution.  Despite failing on the national level, religious tests banning non-Protestants from occupying political offices were integrated into several state constitutions. In this regard, American Islamophobia must also be understood alongside historical expressions of anti-Semitism, anti-Mormonism and anti-Catholicism. Of course, over the course of American history, fears of disloyalty have also extended to other minorities deemed potential fifth columns in American society. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the majority of whom were American citizens, is only one of the most telling examples.

But throughout American history, Islamophobia extended beyond just the domestic sphere.  In the nineteenth century, many Christian Americans saw themselves as a crucial leader of global Christendom. Fueled by the religious fervor of the Second Great Awakening, Christian activists saw it as their divine role to spread Christianity to the “heathens” of the world. When it came to the Islamic world, they portrayed the “Christian world” in a global battle of “cross against crescent.” Such feelings would rise to the fore when Americans witnessed revolutionary movements by Ottoman Christian subjects against Ottoman Muslim rulers. American support for revolutionary insurrections in Greece in 1821, Crete in 1866, and Bulgaria in 1876 drew the attention of thousands of Americans who rallied to their cause, based in part on their belief that such battles were part of this alleged global battle between Christianity and Islam. At these moments, Americans maintained that Muslims’ alleged religious fanaticism, political and religious decadence, and intolerance for other religions made their rule over Christian subjects, and to a lesser extent, Jewish subjects, an imperial, political and moral anomaly.  Such beliefs also pushed American to actively support the extension of European empire to lands ruled by Muslims, including the Ottoman Empire and Morocco.

Although it would be a mistake to trace an unbroken trajectory from the nineteenth century to the post–Cold War period and, more importantly, to the post-9/11 era, it would be equally erroneous to discount the ways in which hostility towards Islam and Muslims has persisted, albeit in varied forms. Indeed, American Islamophobia never fully vanished; it reappeared with force during the ideological and foreign policy vacuum that emerged after the Cold War. Whereas some political scientists advanced the notion that the end of the Cold War had brought about the“end of history” and the ideological victory of liberal, secular democracies, the late Samuel Huntington theorized an alternative vision of the world in his 1993 essay, “The Clash of Civilizations,” which he later expanded into a full-length book. According to Huntington, a simplistically defined “Islamic Civilization” would play a central role in a global “clash” against an equally simplistic construction of the “West,” broadly understood as Euro-American civilization. His theory resonated with many Americans not because it was accurate but because this particular kind of discourse has a long history of shaping how Americans identified itself against the Islamic world.

Huntington’s arguments appeared particularly prophetic after the events of 9/11. As President Bush noted days after the 9/11 attacks, “the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.” Less than a decade after the publication of Huntington’s influential article, the Bush administration’s “Global War on Terror” borrowed heavily from such theories to explain its emerging ideological conceptualizations.

Simplistic understandings of Islam and Muslims would help drive the actions of American policymakers and military officers during post-9/11 engagements in the Middle East. During and after the 2003 war in Iraq, military rulers and policymakers at the highest levels relied on the book, The Arab Mind, a widely discredited study by Raphael Patai originally published in 1983. The book purported to explain the shared (and identical) “mentality” of Arabs in the diverse areas of the world, noting that people in the West did not realize how much Arabs hated them. Patai’s book helped convince neoconservative policymakers in Washington “that Arabs only understand force.” The book became “required reading” for many soldiers and officers on their way to Iraq.As a journalist for the New York Times noted in 2003, such beliefs were publicly expressed by American military officers: “‘You have to understand the Arab mind,’ Captain Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. ‘The only thing they understand is force—force, pride and saving face.’”

The repercussions of such dehumanizing beliefs about Muslims on American policies at home and abroad appear obvious, particularly after the release in December 2014 of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the use of torture by American CIA agents between 2001 and 2006. Such policies reveal a continued and unfortunate practice of simplifying the identities of peoples around the world who happen to be Arab or Muslim, often with brutal consequences. As these most recent examples demonstrate, American Islamophobia remains a powerful force in shaping domestic and foreign policies that impact the lives of Muslims in the United States and abroad. Far from a recent phenomenon, however, such attitudes are deeply grounded in American history.

Karine Walther is an Assistant Professor of History at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.  Her book, Sacred Interests: The United States and the Islamic World, 1821-1921 traces the impact of American Islamophobia on American foreign relations in the long nineteenth century. 

‘I will bomb your f*cking location’: Muslims face violent threats as Trump urges ban on mosques

Loon Watch - 20 November, 2015 - 17:44


By Travis Gettys, RawStory

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump helped fan the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of last week’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris.

Trump renewed his call Monday morning to shut down mosques or at least place them under surveillance.

“You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques, because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” less than a month after telling Fox Business that “absolutely” shut down U.S. mosques to defeat Islamic State militants.

“From what I heard in the old days, meaning a while ago, we had great surveillance going on in and around mosques in New York City, and I understand our mayor totally cut that out, he totally cut it out,” Trump added, apparently referring to New York’s controversial racial and religious profiling investigation — which was discontinued after it resulted in zero arrests or leads.

Police are investigating several threats made over the weekend against Muslim houses of worship.

A caller left a threatening voice mail message that referred to the massacre about 7 p.m. Friday at the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg, Florida — which canceled Sunday school over safety concerns.

“This act in France is the last straw,” the caller warned. “You’re going to f*cking die.”

“I personally have a militia that’s going to come down to your Islamic Society of Pinellas County and firebomb you, shoot whoever’s there on sight in the head,” the caller added. “I don’t care if they’re f*cking 2 years old or 100.”

Continue reading …

Donald Trump: we need to track all Muslims in America – video

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 16:10

The Republican presidential frontrunner said that if elected president, he would implement a system to track Muslims in the country. Trump even suggested further steps to ensure US security: ‘There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,’ he told NBC, saying such policies would help America to crack down on illegal immigrants. Asked how he would implement such a system, Trump replied: ‘Good management’

Continue reading...

Police Scotland confirm spike in hate crime after Paris attacks

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 14:41

Muslim community leaders warn of ‘fierce backlash’ as police receive 64 reports of racially or religiously motivated crimes

Police Scotland has confirmed a significant spike in hate crime since last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, as Muslim community leaders warn of a “fierce backlash”.

Iain Livingstone, deputy chief constable, said there had been 64 reports of racially or religiously motivated crimes across Scotland, including online and offline abuse.

Related: The fight against Islamophobia is going backwards | Matthew Goodwin

Related: Hate crimes against Muslims soar in London

Continue reading...

Three Britons fight extradition on terror charges

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 14:33

Isis-related group sought to set up caliphate in Iraqi Kurdistan and establish cells in Europe to wage jihad, says prosecutor

Three men alleged to be key members of an Isis-affiliated terror group that plotted to execute attacks across Europe and kidnap diplomats are fighting extradition from Britain.

Bakr Hamad, Zana Rahim and Awat Hamasalih held senior positions in Rawti Shax, a “transnational, radical and fundamentalist group” whose purpose was to carry out violent acts in the west, it is claimed.

Continue reading...

'The media have failed us': British Muslims on coverage of the Paris attacks

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 13:33

One week after Isis-affiliated jihadi killed 129 people in coordinated attacks, British Muslims tell us how their lives have changed

Islamic leaders and the Muslim population have been quick to show solidarity with France and condemn last Friday’s terror attacks.

On social media, people used the hashtags #IamMuslim and #PrayforParis in a show of unity. But what effect have the attacks had on Muslims and do they feel public sentiment towards them has changed?

Being ostracised for being a Muslim isn’t great. It makes me feel impure, vulnerable and worst of all, a victim

We were born and bred in this country and now fear a simple walk to the shop

I'm the 9/11 generation … now is the first time I’m worried to travel on public transport

Related: It’s time the media treated Muslims fairly | Miqdaad Versi

We shouldn’t change because of how other people perceive us – and we shouldn’t have to

I try to avoid sitting by myself in empty train carriages to avoid being harassed or targeted

I wish people would just put humanity before anything else​. We need to teach the ignorant how it’s meant to be

Continue reading...

Sadiq Khan's words on Islamists and Britain were authentic and shrewd

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 12:17

The Labour mayoral candidate’s speech about the Paris attacks, his family and his fellow Muslims combined political know-how and true conviction

The stakes were pretty high for Labour’s London mayor candidate Sadiq Khan when he addressed parliament’s press gang on the subject of Islamist fanatics on Thursday. A Muslim who, as a civil rights lawyer, had represented fellow Muslims beguiled by fundamentalist visions, Khan would have known that political foes, not least among journalists, had already been sniffing for ways to hang the “extremist” tag on him prior to next May’s election. In the wake of Paris, one perceived equivocation, one word out of place, and he’d have been paying for it until polling day.

Judging by the coverage of his words so far, Khan has emerged from the occasion not only undamaged but fortified. The London Evening Standard majored on his appeal to fellow British Muslims to recognise the threat extremism poses here and to embrace the “special role” they can play in combatting it “not because we are more responsible than others, as some have wrongly claimed, but because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else.”

Continue reading...

As an FBI agent, I know communities hold the key to fighting terrorism| Kaiser Gill

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 November, 2015 - 09:57
And as a Muslim, I know the best chance of stopping young people joining jihadi groups is to give them a sense of acceptance in their adopted countries.

When the Paris attackers struck, my first feeling was of empathy for the French law enforcement and intelligence officers. As a special agent in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigated international terrorism for many years, I remember getting that same feeling of despair and self-doubt when I heard of the London bombings on 21 July 2005: how could we have missed something, since an attack had just occurred two weeks before?

With attacks in France and a cell being disrupted in Belgium earlier this year, this is a question many have on their minds. But the hope of stopping the next attack will provide a sense of purpose that will drive these men and women to work tirelessly.

Related: The Guardian view on defeating Isis: winning hearts and minds | Editorial

Related: Now we're at war? We've been at war since 9/11, from Paris to Peshawar | Stan Grant

Continue reading...

Far-right activist charged with illegally possessing weapons and bomb-making manual

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2015 - 20:37

Police arrest Phillip Galea, active in the United Patriots Front, as tensions rise over weekend anti-mosque protest in Melton, Victoria

A Melbourne man active in the far-right United Patriots Front has been charged with illegally possessing weapons and a bomb-making manual days before an anti-mosque rally in Victoria.

Phillip Galea, 31, of Braybrook, was due to appear before Melbourne magistrates court on Friday charged with possession of a prohibited weapon and one count of possessing a prescribed chemical.

Related: United Patriots Front head Shermon Burgess resigns over video mocking him

Related: The UPF and Reclaim Australia aren't 'concerned parents' or a bad joke | Andy Fleming

Continue reading...

Interview with Comedian Eman El Husseini

Muslimah Media Watch - 19 November, 2015 - 19:38
Guest contributor Stéphanie Renée Roy (@LGD_Stephy) interviews Eman El Husseini.    It was 2 years ago that I first saw Eman El Husseini’s stand-up comedy. I was then a fairly new convert and Eman impressed me when she spoke so honestly about Canadian experience as a Palestinian Muslim. She began professional comedy in 2006 because she [Read More...]

Trump won't rule out special ID for Muslim Americans noting their religion

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 November, 2015 - 19:07

‘Some people are going to be upset’ Republican frontrunner says, adding he would consider warrantless searches of Muslims and surveillance on mosques

Donald Trump would not rule out tracking Muslim Americans in a database or giving them “a special form of identification that noted their religion”, Yahoo news reports in a long interview with the Republican presidential candidate.

Related: Bernie Sanders defines democratic socialism and details Isis plan – live

Continue reading...

The Dark Business of the Journey of Light – Hajj Fraud

Muslim Matters - 19 November, 2015 - 05:39

Last year I wrote the following story for The Muslim Link newspaper. There has been an update on the case. The Civil Rights team at CAIR- Chicago worked with the victims in collecting evidence of the fraud and with their permission, reported it to law enforcement. “The defendant, Rashid Minhas, perpetuated two separate schemes against victims in the United States, Canada, Pakistan and around the world. He was prosecuted and convicted in both cases for scamming victims through his fraudulent companies: City Travel and Light Star Hajj.  In February 2015, Judge Feinerman found Minhas guilty after a bench trial in the City Travel fraud case, and in June 2015, Minhas plead guilty in the Light Start Hajj case. He is scheduled to be sentenced by the court for both cases before Judge Feinerman. If you are victim of these Hajj fraud scams, or if you know of any victims, please inform them, and they may attend the court sentencing date next Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 10:15 a.m. at the U.S. District Courthouse in Chicago, 219 South Dearborn, in Courtroom 2125 (21stfloor).” 




In September 2014, Virginia resident Shazia K. Farook flew to California to see off her parents who were headed off on the trip of a lifetime— Hajj.

They had suitcases packed and ready in their Southern California home and airline confirmations in their hands. Their passports with visas were 'in the mail'. Then a packet arrived from the Hajj travel agency, informing them that their visas were not approved. Devastated, Farook's parents — the Kamals— didn't know what to do. They called her uncle in Chicago who was supposed to leave with them, travelling with the same company.

Unfortunately, the uncle had received the same news about his own visa and was trying to get in touch with their agent, Rashid Minhas of Light Star Hajj Group. Farook's uncle had chosen the travel package, which at that time looked like quite the deal. The travel agent was not picking up the phone or returning text messages.

A quick trip to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles revealed that Minhas was not registered as an authorized Hajj agent. The Kamals did not even have electronic reference numbers filed for their names. In short, Minhas had never applied for their visas. When her parents finally reached Minhas and demanded an explanation, the agent became agitated and rudely told them there was nothing he could do, said Farook .

News media in the Chicago area picked up the story of the man who perpetuated injustice towards the Kamals and 48 others hoping to complete a religious tenet and word spread through the American Muslim community of his arrest and charges of mail fraud of over $500, 000.

Farook and her family think about the warning signs. Minhas had insisted on receiving a money order, which they had sent out right after Ramadan. The materials sent by Minhas's agency were subpar and unprofessional, says Farook. She gave him the benefit of doubt yet the odd font and folder prophesied things to come.

“If my parents had just shared the information with us before they send the money, we would have Googled him and found out about his previous [illegal activity],” says Farook. Looking back, she says she should have paid closer attention and investigated further on behalf of her aging parents.

Minhaj had done this before. A Facebook page dedicated to victims of VIP Travels– the agency that Minhas ran before he started Light Star – has dozens of anguished messages from victims of the fraud. Three years ago, ABC news 'exposed Minhas as he was facing an angry crowd of travel agency clients who had paid thousands of dollars for trips to Mecca that never happened.'



From October 2008 to March 2009, he operated a travel agency by the name of City Travel and Tours. On Nov. 21, 2013, Minhas, who previously went by the name Rashid Faridi, was charged with seven counts of mail and wire fraud, according to a complaint filed in local courts in Chicago. According to Chicago Tribune, the indictment against Minhas alleges that he sold or helped sell about '$340,000 in airline tickets that were voided, resulting in losses of $293,000 to Emirates Airlines and others.'

Minhas found a loophole in the electronic payment system for paper airline tickets. He voided tickets “without notifying the customer or the airline and fraudulently retained customers' funds for his personal use.”

Hajj Business in America

An estimated twelve to fifteen thousand pilgrims travel every year from America for hajj, with numbers increasing every year. Only 40 agencies in the United States are licensed with the Ministry of Hajj to arrange groups. All other agencies, branches, or partners do business with these authorized agencies directly or indirectly.

“Some people want to save money and go for good deals,” says Maqsood Ibrahim Fareed, of Royal Travels in Houston, TX. He warns about fly by night or 'boiler room' operations and random brothers in the masjid who are taking people on hajj.

Dealing with companies from other states can also be an issue as it is harder to assess if the company is legitimate, he says. He mentioned a story of a rogue agent from New York who absconded with half a million dollars from people wanting to make the Hajj trip from Houston.

“[T]he main points are that one must be in good standing with the [Saudi] Hajj Ministry and have a contract with a Hajj/Umrah company within Saudi Arabia,” says Muhammad Aslam of Metro International Travel Inc. The Saudi Embassy requires that travel agents provide the consulate with residence, transportation and general services contracts. According to the Ministry of Hajj this contract must include the name of the organizer, the code given to them by the Ministry of Hajj, and the number of visas they are allowed to get. Prior to the issuance of any hajj visas, they must also provide the consulate with a letter from the Ministry of Hajj office in Mecca. If any of the pieces of the puzzle are missing then a visa can be rejected, often due to the inexperience of a 'boiler room' travel agent.

Akila S. and her family were set to go for Hajj in 2014. Akila's father had seen a flyer in local masjid in Chicago, Ill. The cheaper rates promised a saving for the family of six. They submitted all their paperwork, she says. She reflects on the expense of Hajj and wonders why prices are tripled during the Hajj season. Maqsood from the Texas travel agency says that during Hajj season the cost factors go up in Saudi Arabia for everything from catering to accommodations. His company makes payments to the airlines and hotels 6 to 8 months in advance.

A local imam, who did not have the experience or resources to fulfill the commitments the company had made in their fliers, led her hajj group. The entire group was unable to obtain visas and so never made it for Hajj.

Some pilgrims will arrive in Saudi Arabia to discover the accommodations they booked do not exist, while others will find that their whole trip is in fact a scam. Minhas did manage to send a few travellers to Jeddah but once they were there they were left to fend for themselves. Farid says a legitimate company will have contacts in Saudi Arabia who arrange accommodations, transportation, food and various other support services.

Pilgrims are urged to get everything in writing. “Always get written terms and conditions as this details your contract with the travel company. Make sure your flight details, accommodations and Hajj visa are valid. Establish an auditable paper trail and keep records of financial transactions,” suggests a national awareness campaign on Hajj fraud that ran in the United Kingdom where Hajj fraud is so common that there is a special police division for it.

Don't send cash or checks to individuals. Most legitimate companies will have facilities with a bank to accept credit or debit cards. Fareed from Royal Travels said that travel agents can accept credit cards for airline tickets but in his experience hotel packages have to be paid by wire transfers by the agent for the whole group.

Marsin Travels Intl. refunded $30,000 to Akila's family; they are still waiting for the remaining $10,000. “If I don't get my refund then I will file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau,” says Akila S.

“We trust too easily, we think it is Hajj and no one will commit fraud on a Hajji. We can't be blind and have to do our research,” says Akila S. who looked up the website of the travel group after submitting payment and found it very rudimentary.

“The number of pilgrims performing Hajj each year from around the world is increasing very rapidly. [The] government of Saudi Arabia is trying their best to keep up with the influx. Unfortunately until the planned expansion of Haramain and areas surrounding is completed, it will be difficult to manage these huge numbers,” says Shahzad Ahmad of ZamZam Travel, which is listed on, an official web portal for information about authorized Hajj agencies.

“If there is a problem with any arrangement in Saudi Arabia, the authorized agency can contact the Ministry of Hajj for intervention and resolution. Sub-agents or sub-groups are not recognized by the Ministry of Hajj and so cannot deal with the Ministry of Hajj directly. Also, if pilgrims face any trouble with their arrangements, they can hold the authorized agency accountable in front of the Ministry of Hajj. On the other hand, if a sub-group or sub-agency doesn't deliver on its promises, there is usually not much pilgrims can do.”

Ask for references and a second opinion, says Farook. “As a community, we have to talk about a more efficient method for hajjis—we have to lead to good.”

This year the Saudi Embassy will not enter passport information manually.  “You must use a passport reader,” says Ayman Ali. He runs Haj On Soft, a software solution for agents that he says allows submitted passport data, finances, tickets and required paperwork to interface seamlessly with the Ministry of Hajj's requirements. This requires passports to be scannable. “Companies must know which reader is required and how to order it. Some old passports may not be able to be scanned by the reader. Travelers should update themselves about new developments.”

Filing a Complaint

Some Muslims don't want to file complaints because they want to be able to go to Hajj and think that complaining will flag their names on a list and their visas may be denied in the future. This makes little sense as the Saudi Ministry of Hajj has an easy portal on their website to file complaints to minimize fraud. is also a website where Hujjaj write reviews of Hajj companies after their trips.

Others are spiritually abused into silence; scared to commit gheebah (backbiting), scared that they are not practicing sabr (being patient) or that filing a complaint would be tantamount to dishonoring another Muslim. “If someone has been wronged [they] need to speak up because who knows how many Muslims may be defrauded by this process,” says Akila.

It's a balancing act to keep hujjaj from North America happy. The biggest challenge for legitimate travel agents is the high expectations of pilgrims and how they adapt to foreign rules and culture, say travel agents. “During Hajj many pilgrims expect buses to arrive on time and all the processes involved to happen in a quick and timely fashion. However, there are millions of other pilgrims waiting to be transferred from location to location along with us. Therefore not everything is fast during Hajj and often times we must wait for buses and hotels for hours. This is all apart of the process and some pilgrims find this hard to deal with,” said one travel agent.  Some return and file complaints based on these experiences. “We prepare our Hajjis ahead of time and emphasize the need for patience. Most of these logistical setbacks are not in our control, however the bottom line is we perform all the rites and rituals of Hajj as prescribed,” says Aslam, who is a veteran in the field.

“The best experience is du'a received from other Hajjis. If they are satisfied, then I am satisfied. I want to make sure people enjoy their time,” says Aslam of Metro Travel.

This journey of a lifetime should start with du'a and research. As the Prophet recommended: Trust in Allah but tie your camel.

Here is an excellent new resource for rating  your hajj experience if you have been to Hajj in the past five years. Please share other resources.


Subscribe to The Revival aggregator