Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football

September 9, 2011

Islamophobia alive and well in the US

July 15, 2008

This footage was filmed by ABC News as part of an undercover investigation on discrimination against Muslims in the US.

ABC hired two actors to play the store clerk and the Muslim woman. The clerk refuses to serve the woman and humiliates her with an assortment of racist comments.

The reaction from other customers who witnessed the incident is varied but the worst are there for everyone to see as are the many others who simply stood around in silence.

Truly vile and shameful and a reminder of the hate and racism that Muslims face everyday in the US.

Muslim novelist takes a stand

April 24, 2007

Muslim novelist takes a stand

BOOKS: Writer wants to get post-Sept. 11 ‘conversation’ going

By JOHN FREEMAN / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

NEW YORK CITY – In the 5 ½ years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Western world has been through a crash course on terrorism and radical Islam at its bookstores. And it’s not just journalists or historians doing the teaching. A growing number of novels have addressed the fallout of terrorism, from John Updike’s Terrorist to Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

But now we have a literary first: a novel about post-9/11 America by a Muslim writer. Right away he is singing a slightly different tune.

“As horrible and wrong as they were,” Mohsin Hamid says, “the attacks of 9/11 were a voice in a conversation. Something terrible was speaking to America, and immediately it was taken in at political levels which responded, ‘We don’t want to hear that.’ ”

When Susan Sontag made similar comments in The New Yorker two weeks after the attacks, she was widely criticized as unpatriotic and inappropriate.

Sitting at a hotel bar in lower Manhattan, Mr. Hamid, 36, believes now is the time for that conversation to be picked up again. He hopes his second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, will help.

The novel unfolds in the voice of Changez, a Pakistani man in a Lahore cafe, telling his life story to an off-stage American, who may – or may not – be a CIA agent come to kill him. Over a series of short, monologuelike chapters, Changez describes how he traveled to America on a scholarship, performed well enough at Princeton to earn a coveted consulting job and then quickly climbed the corporate ladder.

But Changez becomes so obsessed with fitting in he loses himself – a fact mirrored by the desperate lengths to which he goes to secure the affection of a white American woman.

“It’s not the story of someone who begins hating something,” says Mr. Hamid, eager to make it known this is not an America-bashing book. “It’s somebody who loves something so much that they are willing to do things which, upon reflection, when their love is rejected, feel demeaning.”

Mr. Hamid knows how Changez feels. He moved to the United States to attend Princeton University and Harvard Law School, later working for some years at the McKinsey consulting group in Manhattan – a famously competitive firm.

Mr. Hamid says burnout – and a feeling of having sold out – was endemic. As a Pakistani man, though, Mr. Hamid’s malaise had a sharper, more intimate angle. He watched as the United States used its power to leverage Pakistan in its nuclear race with India. Like his character, he was mistaken for being Arab. Watching post-9/11 America cheer on the invasion of Muslim countries was painful.

It was doubly painful because Mr. Hamid had lived in California as a boy. His family returned to Pakistan, but he came to the States for college. To this day, he says, “I cannot separate my Americanness out of me.”

Mr. Hamid believes what’s true about himself goes for the world at large, even the parts that look on the United States with disgust. There are even American echoes in the tenets of radical Islam, especially, he believes, martyrs who cast themselves as heroes.

“Much of the world thinks of itself in filmic, narrative and cultural ways that are heavily influenced by America,” he says. The bombers think of themselves as “the knights errant of the modern day. Instead of slaying dragons, they slay 3,000 innocent people. The failure to grasp the Americanness of all this means the U.S. doesn’t get what’s going on.”

He stresses that the suicide bombers are not “robots from another cultural world … they are from the same world as us – with some differences.”

Mr. Hamid, who now works part-time at a brand-management agency in London, knows that what he is embarking on with this novel is a rather large shift in American thinking, and he knows there are hurdles. For instance, what he perceives to be the U.S. media’s one-note portrayal of Arabs and Pakistanis.

“Our No.1 television talk-show host in Pakistan is a transvestite,” Mr. Hamid says. “We have a huge indie-rock band scene, we’ve got fashion models wearing next to nothing on catwalks; we’ve got huge ecstasy-fueled raves.” But you don’t see these things on American TV, he points out. We get “the guys in the caves instead.”

And for all the personal or imaginative narratives about Islam to emerge since Sept. 11, all too often, Mr. Hamid feels, they come from a certain perspective. “The ones [Americans] read are now almost solely from people who have chosen, often through the result of very unfortunate circumstances, to utterly reject that aspect of themselves. Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Salman Rushdie stories – it’s the we-hate-Islam Muslims.”

Or John Updike’s Terrorist, a book Mr. Hamid read with frustration. “What’s interesting about Terrorist is how deeply such a talented and gifted novelist can fail at a project,” Mr. Hamid argues. “He fails for the same reason that America as a project fails: that leap of empathy is just one step too far.”

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is his attempt to make the leap a little shorter, to be a bridge across a chasm that has been filled, already, with rhetoric. At less than 200 pages, it’s not much – but it’s something.

John Freeman is president of the National Book Critics Circle.

In Books, a Clash of Europe and Islam

February 8, 2007

Yet another book of Anti-Muslim trash in the news, they keep coming out in a steady stream. Islamophobia sells.

These books are not only published but are now even nominated for awards.

In Books, a Clash of Europe and Islam

Published: February 8, 2007

Award nominations are generally occasions for exaggerated compliments and air kisses, so it was something of a surprise when Eliot Weinberger, a previous finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, announced the newest nominees for the criticism category two weeks ago and said one of the authors, Bruce Bawer, had engaged in “racism as criticism.”

The resulting stir within the usually well-mannered book world spiked this week when the president of the Circle’s board, John Freeman, wrote on the organization’s blog ( “I have never been more embarrassed by a choice than I have been with Bruce Bawer’s ‘While Europe Slept,’ he wrote. “It’s hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual critique into Islamophobia.”

The fusillade of e-mail messages on the subject circulating among the Circle’s 24 board members mirrors a larger debate over a string of recently published books that ominously warn of a catastrophic culture clash between Europeans with traditional Western values and fundamentalist Muslims — books including “Londonistan” by Melanie Phillips, “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion” by Robert Spencer, and “America Alone” by Mark Steyn.

Most have been written by conservative authors and published by conservative presses, but not all: the celebrated Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who died last year, so angered Muslims with her strident books, like “The Force of Reason,” that she was sued for defaming Islam. The publication of such books coincides with a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment and reports of violent attacks and plots by radical Muslims in Europe. Bombings in London and Madrid, heated disputes over bans on women wearing the veil, gang attacks on young Muslims, rioting in Paris and violence in Berlin by disaffected Arab immigrants have brought to the surface anxieties over the growing number of Muslims in Europe.

In December the European Union reported that Muslims faced deep-seated discrimination in education, housing and jobs, but that they should also do more to integrate into society. In this environment, it is no surprise that the books have elicited a mixture of praise and contempt, raising the question of where the line is between legitimate criticism and bigotry.

For Mr. Bawer, the condemnations are more evidence of liberals’ one-sided blindness. “One of the most disgraceful developments of our time is that many Western authors and intellectuals who pride themselves on being liberals have effectively aligned themselves with an outrageously illiberal movement that rejects equal rights for women, that believes gays and Jews should be executed, that supports the coldblooded murder of one’s own children in the name of honor, etc., etc.,” he wrote on his own blog, In an e-mail message yesterday he said he did not have anything to add to his posts.

Mr. Bawer’s book jacket is covered with admiring blurbs from well-known conservatives, but he does not fit the typical red-state mold. An openly gay cultural critic from New York who has lived in Europe since 1998, Mr. Bawer has published books like “Stealing Jesus,” a harsh critique of Christian fundamentalism. “Some people think it’s terrific for writers to expose the offenses and perils of religious fundamentalism — just as long as it’s Christian fundamentalism,” he wrote on his blog.

“While Europe Slept” warns that “Europe is at a Weimar moment,” and that “by appeasing a totalitarian ideology” it “was imperiling its liberty.” “Political correctness”, he writes, is keeping Europeans from defending themselves, resulting in Europe’s “self-destructive passivity, its softness towards tyranny, its reflexive inclination to appease.” Reviews have offered plaudits and condemnations, acknowledging that Mr. Bawer has focused on a real problem, but complaining, as did a review in The Economist, that Mr. Bawer “weakens his argument by casting too wide a net.”

Imam Fatih Alev, a board member of the Islamic-Christian Study Center in Copenhagen, has not read Mr. Bawer’s book, but referring to the general level of tension, he said in a telephone interview, “I think there is of course a legitimate concern with regard to the differences of culture.” But he added, “The real problem is that the ones who ought to know better, who are well educated and well informed on the diversity of culture,” are manipulating the debate.

“In many senses it is a constructed idea that there is this very severe difference between Western values and Muslim values,” he continued.

Rushy Rashid, who has written a three-part memoir about growing up as a Muslim girl in Denmark, said that the biggest clash is not between Westerners and Muslims but “inside the small groups of immigrants all over Europe.” Speaking generally about the cultural divide in Europe, she said she does not believe in a “clash of civilizations.” When it comes to Muslim immigrants, she said, “the clash between the first, the second and third generations is huge.” She added, “If you can digest that kind of a clash, then you can overcome and integrate into the society you are living in.”

Other authors, like Ian Buruma in “Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance,” have taken a less apocalyptic tone than some of the other books, while Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant who settled in the Netherlands and worked with Mr. Van Gogh, a film director, offers harsh criticism of Islam from an insider’s perspective in her memoir “Infidel.”

J. Peder Zane, the book review editor and books columnist at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., was on the eight-member committee that nominated Mr. Bawer’s book. He said it “was not a contentious selection.” Mr. Zane was furious at the way Mr. Weinberger used the nominating ceremony on Jan. 20 as a platform for his views. “He not only was completely unfair to Bruce Bawer,” he said in a telephone interview, “he’s also saying that those of us who put the book on the finalist list are racist or too stupid to know we’re racist.”

Mr. Zane said he and four or five others booed when Mr. Weinberger, who was nominated last year for his 2005 collection of essays, “What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles,” made his comment to more than 200 people from the publishing world. Mr. Zane then threaded his way through the crowd to tell Mr. Weinberger he thought his comments in that setting were “completely inappropriate.” Mr. Zane recalled, “He flicked his hand at me like I was a flea and walked away.”

Mr. Weinberger could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Freeman, who said in an interview that he felt a “moral responsibility” to speak out about Mr. Bawer’s book, added that he expected further debate as more board members read the book before casting a final vote for the Circle’s award winner on March 8. Of the five nominees in each category, the book with the majority of board votes wins the award.

British Islamophobic Novelists

December 8, 2006

Welcome to Planet Blitcon
By Ziauddin Sardar

Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan dominate British literature – and they’re convinced that Islam threatens civilisation as we know it

The names of the most famous contemporary writers have become international brands. When they speak, the world listens. And increasingly, they speak not just through their fiction, but also via newspaper opinion pages, influential magazines, television chat shows and literary festivals.

Novelists are no longer just novelists – they are also global pundits shaping our opinions on everything from art, life and politics to civilisation as we know it.

What we want from them is clear: insight into the human condition. From the most favourable conditions in human history, we have generated terror, war and a proliferation of tensions grounded in mutual fear and hatred. Humanity is unquestionably in need of help. But is it amenable to literary soundbites? Do literary pundits provide us with the best insight into our conundrums or serve as useful guides to the future?

The British literary landscape is dominated by three writers: Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan. All three have considered the central dilemma of our time: terror. Indeed, Amis has issued something of a manifesto on the subject he terms “horrorism”. In their different styles, their approach and opinions define a coherent position. They are the vanguard of British literary neoconservatives, or, if you like, the “Blitcons”.

Blitcons come with a ready-made nostrum for the human condition. They use their celebrity status to advance a clear global political agenda. For all their concern with the plight of the post-9/11 century, they do not offer a radical new outlook on the world. Their writing stands within a tradition, upholding ideas with deep roots in European consciousness and literature. They are by no means the first to realise that fiction can have political clout; but they are the first to appreciate the true global power of contemporary fiction, its ability to persuade us to focus our attention in a specific direction.

How conscious Blitcons are of their traditionalism may be in question. But it is a question that must be put to them. Where are you coming from? And where do you want to take us?

The Blitcon project is based on three one- dimensional conceits. The first is the absolute supremacy of American culture. Blitcon fiction is orientalism for the 21st century, shifting the emphasis from the supremacy of the west in general to the supremacy of American ideas of freedom.