Discrimination in US against Muslims

How are Muslims perceived and treated in the US? An interesting experiment and discussion by ABC news. Not that it would decide how Americans or even other cultures behave with Muslims, but I would be curious if someone in say, Saudi Arabia or even Pakistan ever gives thought or does any research on the blatant discrimination prevalent in those cultures? I am not sure where the lady who helped in this experiment was originally (her parents’ country/culture) was from and if she ever had an iota of thought of the minorities living and facing worse discrimination in those cultures?

I don’t think people should be discriminated, but I can understand when people know how the other side would react if they were in the same situation in the other’s culture, that they loose the fairness in their own character.

It is always news-worthy and interesting to slam US and Americans on discrimination, but the fact is that after having travelled in roughly 4 continents in the world, I haven’t found a more fair place, except for Canada. Yes, its not perfect, but in the comity of nations that we live in, try doing what you do in another country. And I don’t mean Nahaya goes to a Muslim country and does what she does in the US… but she takes her liberal American friend and has her do all she does in the US .. in that country! And STAND by her .. fight for her rights! Would she? That’s the question. So, in a way, America is in competition with itself in this game of fairness and discrimination… for the rest of the nations don’t even show up!! :)

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure what you’re trying to say in your post.

    It’s not a competition, as you see it. Every individual, every community and every country sets it’s own standards on moral issues. And I think this is exactly what this discussion is trying to do. The discussion is helping the US set its own standards. If it was an “outsider” blaming the US for being discriminatory against Muslims (or African-Americans, South Asians, turban-wearing Sikhs or any other…), one could argue your case. You could say, go back and look in your own country and that US is much better than them. BUT, that is not the case here – this is Americans talking and introspecting about their own behavior, which I think is not only fair but laudable. I don’t see why you see this as competition, unless you are also “wrongly” looking at Nahaya as an “outsider” in the US.

    Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia have their own morals which don’t and don’t have to tally with those of the US. The US prides itself as the “land of the free”, of “equal opportunity” and of “non-discrimination”. Saudi Arabia does not. The law in the US protects its citizens against discrimination on the basis of religion, the law in Saudi Arabia (probably) does not. The US says there is no “official religion” of the country, Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country. You may argue that is wrong but that still would not mean that such experiments should not be conducted in the US. You may argue that every country in the world should be “secular” and “non-discriminatory” but you cannot say US is better than some others so lets not bother about getting any better.

    I think the discussion brings out the difference between the US’ “stated” policy and morals; and the “actual” behavior of some of its citizens. So, as long as the law of US promises to protect ALL its citizens against discrimination, all those who gave the “thumbs up” to the (actor) shopkeeper were wrong and their actions condemnable, irrespective of what goes on elsewhere in the world.

    It is true that discrimination on the basis of gender, color of skin, religion, and numerous other factors exists everywhere. It is also true that no country can ever be perfectly non-discriminatory, not even Canada. But to try and capture what proportion of people openly support or silently approve such discrimination in the US through an experiment and to present the results in a public discussion is laudable, especially when its being done by Americans themselves. No?

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure what you’re trying to say in your post.

    It’s not a competition, as you see it. Every individual, every community and every country sets it’s own standards on moral issues. And I think this is exactly what this discussion is trying to do. The discussion is helping the US set its own standards. If it was an “outsider” blaming the US for being discriminatory against Muslims (or African-Americans, South Asians, turban-wearing Sikhs or any other…), one could argue your case. You could say, go back and look in your own country and that US is much better than them. BUT, that is not the case here – this is Americans talking and introspecting about their own behavior, which I think is not only fair but laudable. I don’t see why you see this as competition, unless you are also “wrongly” looking at Nahaya as an “outsider” in the US.

    Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia have their own morals which don’t and don’t have to tally with those of the US. The US prides itself as the “land of the free”, of “equal opportunity” and of “non-discrimination”. Saudi Arabia does not. The law in the US protects its citizens against discrimination on the basis of religion, the law in Saudi Arabia (probably) does not. The US says there is no “official religion” of the country, Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country. You may argue that is wrong but that still would not mean that such experiments should not be conducted in the US. You may argue that every country in the world should be “secular” and “non-discriminatory” but you cannot say US is better than some others so lets not bother about getting any better.

    I think the discussion brings out the difference between the US’ “stated” policy and morals; and the “actual” behavior of some of its citizens. So, as long as the law of US promises to protect ALL its citizens against discrimination, all those who gave the “thumbs up” to the (actor) shopkeeper were wrong and their actions condemnable, irrespective of what goes on elsewhere in the world.

    It is true that discrimination on the basis of gender, color of skin, religion, and numerous other factors exists everywhere. It is also true that no country can ever be perfectly non-discriminatory, not even Canada. But to try and capture what proportion of people openly support or silently approve such discrimination in the US through an experiment and to present the results in a public discussion is laudable, especially when its being done by Americans themselves. No?

  • Desh

    Well, I don’t think I have any quarrel with the experiment in any way. In fact, I found it very interesting.

    And contrary to what you deduced or chose to interpret from my piece the second line clearly states, that no matter what others do, that should not affect the American standards. I repeat my assertion AGAIN in the last line – that US is in competition with itself. I wish you would read the entire piece.

    Now, when the store-owner chose NOT to serve the lady clad in Burkha, he was NOT reacting to the lady. He was reacting to the “Islam”. IN fact, this was more clearly brought out later in the film when two girls start arguing with him and call him sick. One of them – dark haired – WAS actually a Muslim… but chose not to wear a Burkha (instead clothe like an American).

    Now, “Islam” is a word. Just as “Heaven” is a word. In itself, the words mean nothing. What you associate with them really make up your perception. To one, Heaven is 72 virgins.. to another – a kid – it is a place made with chocolate and candies.. to another it is made of Gold… and so on. The quarrel in the world is NOT about the WORD “Heaven” .. but what we believe it is. So, the fight is on interpretations.

    I am merely saying that what happens in Saudi Arabia MAKES UP the meaning of the word “Islam” for the store-owner.

    Now, just as you argue that Saudi Arabia has a right to choose their INTERPRETATION of what “right’ or acceptable is via its laws – that do discriminate between one religion and another (and it is NOT a “probably”.. try building a Gurudwara in Saudi Arabia and you will know what I mean).. then.. every one has a right to have their own meanings as well of what “right” or acceptable means to them.

    So, Just as Saudis’ interpretation of being “religious” means “not admitting” the faith of others to be worthy of respect.. similarly, this guy has the right to believe that from all that he has heard and seen, he considers “Islam” as derogatory to human dignity. And someone who chooses to bear an open symbol of that “practice” he considers to be not worth serving.

    That is his right. If you are righteous about giving the Saudi clerics their right to discriminate… then you have to give this store owner the right to USE that information and make his own judgments.

    In the end, everyone is responsible for what happens to you. So, if the lady Nahaya felt relieved of her responsibility for helping everyone to display equality to all.. by putting the blame squarely and simply on the store-owner and walking away saying “I am just a victim”…. then the problem has been cosmetically addressed at best!!

    “I am a victim and all others are aggressors” is a common refrain of some people. This never helps them. I have believed that there are two ways to view the world:

    1. Oh the world is so bad… it SHOULD BE like “That” and “somebody” should do something about it.
    2. World IS like “this” and I cannot wait for it to be like “That” .. so what the heck, I will do what needs to be done NOW.

    The latter way I call the Punjabi-way of thinking. When I talked to my grand-father and most of those who came to India after Partition, this was the predominant sentiment. None of them sat down to cry over how bad the world had been to them. They just went on with their business to rebuild their life and show magnanimity. Today the most commercial centers in Delhi – Lajpat Nagar, Karol Bagh, GK, etc are those places where these “Displaced Refugees” camped when they first landed in Delhi. Try to buy a piece of land there for a small house.. today!

    So, “I am a victim” is only HALF the truth. The other half, as they say, is CRITICAL – which is How are you contributing to the Issue .. and its solution.. not just its cosmetic wish-away.

  • Desh

    Well, I don’t think I have any quarrel with the experiment in any way. In fact, I found it very interesting.

    And contrary to what you deduced or chose to interpret from my piece the second line clearly states, that no matter what others do, that should not affect the American standards. I repeat my assertion AGAIN in the last line – that US is in competition with itself. I wish you would read the entire piece.

    Now, when the store-owner chose NOT to serve the lady clad in Burkha, he was NOT reacting to the lady. He was reacting to the “Islam”. IN fact, this was more clearly brought out later in the film when two girls start arguing with him and call him sick. One of them – dark haired – WAS actually a Muslim… but chose not to wear a Burkha (instead clothe like an American).

    Now, “Islam” is a word. Just as “Heaven” is a word. In itself, the words mean nothing. What you associate with them really make up your perception. To one, Heaven is 72 virgins.. to another – a kid – it is a place made with chocolate and candies.. to another it is made of Gold… and so on. The quarrel in the world is NOT about the WORD “Heaven” .. but what we believe it is. So, the fight is on interpretations.

    I am merely saying that what happens in Saudi Arabia MAKES UP the meaning of the word “Islam” for the store-owner.

    Now, just as you argue that Saudi Arabia has a right to choose their INTERPRETATION of what “right’ or acceptable is via its laws – that do discriminate between one religion and another (and it is NOT a “probably”.. try building a Gurudwara in Saudi Arabia and you will know what I mean).. then.. every one has a right to have their own meanings as well of what “right” or acceptable means to them.

    So, Just as Saudis’ interpretation of being “religious” means “not admitting” the faith of others to be worthy of respect.. similarly, this guy has the right to believe that from all that he has heard and seen, he considers “Islam” as derogatory to human dignity. And someone who chooses to bear an open symbol of that “practice” he considers to be not worth serving.

    That is his right. If you are righteous about giving the Saudi clerics their right to discriminate… then you have to give this store owner the right to USE that information and make his own judgments.

    In the end, everyone is responsible for what happens to you. So, if the lady Nahaya felt relieved of her responsibility for helping everyone to display equality to all.. by putting the blame squarely and simply on the store-owner and walking away saying “I am just a victim”…. then the problem has been cosmetically addressed at best!!

    “I am a victim and all others are aggressors” is a common refrain of some people. This never helps them. I have believed that there are two ways to view the world:

    1. Oh the world is so bad… it SHOULD BE like “That” and “somebody” should do something about it.
    2. World IS like “this” and I cannot wait for it to be like “That” .. so what the heck, I will do what needs to be done NOW.

    The latter way I call the Punjabi-way of thinking. When I talked to my grand-father and most of those who came to India after Partition, this was the predominant sentiment. None of them sat down to cry over how bad the world had been to them. They just went on with their business to rebuild their life and show magnanimity. Today the most commercial centers in Delhi – Lajpat Nagar, Karol Bagh, GK, etc are those places where these “Displaced Refugees” camped when they first landed in Delhi. Try to buy a piece of land there for a small house.. today!

    So, “I am a victim” is only HALF the truth. The other half, as they say, is CRITICAL – which is How are you contributing to the Issue .. and its solution.. not just its cosmetic wish-away.

  • Anonymous

    First of all, like I said, “I am not sure what you are trying to say”, so if I mis-interpreted your opinion, I apologize. My intention in not to impose my interpretation on you but simply to ask you to clarify your position, so let’s not go there, that is futile.

    Well, I totally agree with you on the second half of your reply. Punjabi way IS the right attitude to have and I am not a big fan of sob-stories and breast beating either. Yet… here is where we disagree…

    —————-
    “Just as Saudis’ interpretation of being “religious” means “not admitting” the faith of others to be worthy of respect.. similarly, this guy has the right to believe that from all that he has heard and seen, he considers “Islam” as derogatory to human dignity. And someone who chooses to bear an open symbol of that “practice” he considers to be not worth serving.

    That is his right. If you are righteous about giving the Saudi clerics their right to discriminate… then you have to give this store owner the right to USE that information and make his own judgments.”
    —————-

    The shopkeeper DOES NOT have the right to discriminate like Saudi Arabia because the law in his country, which has been framed by his democratically elected representatives, takes that “right” away from him.

    I am personally against such discriminatory laws but the fact that I find them unfair and unjust shows my own values and prompts me NEVER to follow their footsteps. If I were to discriminate myself, I should either be a supporter of the Saudi way (and should go and live there, not in the US!) or a hypocrite to “talk” about non-discrimination and “practice” discrimination.

    The shopkeeper MAY create a civic movement against the “non-discrimination” clauses in the US constitution. He can peacefully protest against them, gather support for “religious-discrimination”, write blogs about it, etc etc etc. BUT, he still CANNOT practice discrimination as that would mean breaking the law.

    You cannot claim a right to murder anyone in the US simply because Saddam was freely killing innocent people in Iraq! Can you? Likewise, as a shopkeeper in the US, you are not allowed to choose the people you serve (or not serve) based on religion (or color, or ethnic origin or accent…or dress) when the constitution guarantees non-discrimination.

    Just as Saudi Arabia, the US too has the right to choose its values and it has chosen not to be like Saudi Arabia. If the Saudi law says, just as an example, that a non-muslim cannot be served in any restaurant and if you are a Saudi citizen, you MUST follow the law – irrespective of how “secular” or “non-discriminatory” your personal values might be. The same logic applies to the shopkeeper in the US. Doesn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    First of all, like I said, “I am not sure what you are trying to say”, so if I mis-interpreted your opinion, I apologize. My intention in not to impose my interpretation on you but simply to ask you to clarify your position, so let’s not go there, that is futile.

    Well, I totally agree with you on the second half of your reply. Punjabi way IS the right attitude to have and I am not a big fan of sob-stories and breast beating either. Yet… here is where we disagree…

    —————-
    “Just as Saudis’ interpretation of being “religious” means “not admitting” the faith of others to be worthy of respect.. similarly, this guy has the right to believe that from all that he has heard and seen, he considers “Islam” as derogatory to human dignity. And someone who chooses to bear an open symbol of that “practice” he considers to be not worth serving.

    That is his right. If you are righteous about giving the Saudi clerics their right to discriminate… then you have to give this store owner the right to USE that information and make his own judgments.”
    —————-

    The shopkeeper DOES NOT have the right to discriminate like Saudi Arabia because the law in his country, which has been framed by his democratically elected representatives, takes that “right” away from him.

    I am personally against such discriminatory laws but the fact that I find them unfair and unjust shows my own values and prompts me NEVER to follow their footsteps. If I were to discriminate myself, I should either be a supporter of the Saudi way (and should go and live there, not in the US!) or a hypocrite to “talk” about non-discrimination and “practice” discrimination.

    The shopkeeper MAY create a civic movement against the “non-discrimination” clauses in the US constitution. He can peacefully protest against them, gather support for “religious-discrimination”, write blogs about it, etc etc etc. BUT, he still CANNOT practice discrimination as that would mean breaking the law.

    You cannot claim a right to murder anyone in the US simply because Saddam was freely killing innocent people in Iraq! Can you? Likewise, as a shopkeeper in the US, you are not allowed to choose the people you serve (or not serve) based on religion (or color, or ethnic origin or accent…or dress) when the constitution guarantees non-discrimination.

    Just as Saudi Arabia, the US too has the right to choose its values and it has chosen not to be like Saudi Arabia. If the Saudi law says, just as an example, that a non-muslim cannot be served in any restaurant and if you are a Saudi citizen, you MUST follow the law – irrespective of how “secular” or “non-discriminatory” your personal values might be. The same logic applies to the shopkeeper in the US. Doesn’t it?

  • Desh

    I agree with you.

    However, (1) businesses can choose their target segment to serve, so to me its still in the grey zone whether that store owner went against law or not.

    (2) let’s assume that he did go against the law. That’s fine. Nahaya may go and file a suit. Why start making value judgments on whether he should or should not have served her. There are many people who go through bad experiences in childhood and snap later to become criminals. Not that this should save them from a capital sentence if they murder… but I think to make a value judgment .. say that they are Devils incarnate.. or that all people who agree with them or scorn them are good or bad… is not very helpful.

    The outward solution is very simple for Nahaya – go file a suit and prosecute the guy under the law that he has broken.

    The real solution is very tough and goes to the root of the issue. WHY? Why indeed did the storeowner associate “Islam” with something that he vehemently disagreed with.. to an extent that he did not want to have any association with it.

    Now, for Nahaya to say.. well Saudis are not following “Islam” is not helpful. For, she has never sat across the table from the Saudi clerics and debated each and every verse of Quran and Hadiths etc. She is making a broad and generic statement. There is no substance or “meat” in it. It lacks specificity. Saudi clerics, however, are SPECIFIC. They cite the verse that helps them do whatever they do… there is no ambiguity to their SOURCE. Now, to cite a “peaceful verse” to counter that Saudi cleric is ALSO NOT useful. Because if you have to counter evil.. counter it head on. Mind you, the source is NOT in question. The “interpretation” is. Let Nahaya take on all those who “mis-interpret” the source head on.

    So, for example, if Saudi cleric cites a verse to claim the right to kill an infidel.. then it behooves Nahaya to reinterpret THAT VERY VERSE. and explain to the cleric where he is wrong.

    If you have read the story of Dayananda Saraswati and his debates with the pundits in Benaras, you would realize that THAT is EXACTLY how he did it. He had realized that those pundits had hijacked the very philosophy of Hinduism and twisted it to their own convenience. He couldn’t just sit on the sidelines and proclaim generic homilies. He had to jump in the water and fight the sharks. So, thats what he did!

    Same goes for Adi Shankaracharya. Evil can be eradicated by Wisdom and knowledge. It takes effort and seriousness. You cannot simply counter a Hard working lunatic by some high-road but lazy one-liner wisdom.

    So, that’s what I am saying is required. Either file a suit and shut up (because she cannot or does not want to debate the EXACT verses interpretation and consequent actions based on which, have “made” her a monster in the store-owners eyes).. or go and study.. THINK.. and then debate openly!

    There is one lady who is trying to do it. Her name is Wafa Sultan. She is the closest I have seen to “Dayananda Saraswati of Islam”. She doesn’t hide behind some generic homilies. She hits at the very verses directly and mindset and stories DIRECTLY. And her conclusion comes out to be totally different from that of Nahaya.

  • Desh

    I agree with you.

    However, (1) businesses can choose their target segment to serve, so to me its still in the grey zone whether that store owner went against law or not.

    (2) let’s assume that he did go against the law. That’s fine. Nahaya may go and file a suit. Why start making value judgments on whether he should or should not have served her. There are many people who go through bad experiences in childhood and snap later to become criminals. Not that this should save them from a capital sentence if they murder… but I think to make a value judgment .. say that they are Devils incarnate.. or that all people who agree with them or scorn them are good or bad… is not very helpful.

    The outward solution is very simple for Nahaya – go file a suit and prosecute the guy under the law that he has broken.

    The real solution is very tough and goes to the root of the issue. WHY? Why indeed did the storeowner associate “Islam” with something that he vehemently disagreed with.. to an extent that he did not want to have any association with it.

    Now, for Nahaya to say.. well Saudis are not following “Islam” is not helpful. For, she has never sat across the table from the Saudi clerics and debated each and every verse of Quran and Hadiths etc. She is making a broad and generic statement. There is no substance or “meat” in it. It lacks specificity. Saudi clerics, however, are SPECIFIC. They cite the verse that helps them do whatever they do… there is no ambiguity to their SOURCE. Now, to cite a “peaceful verse” to counter that Saudi cleric is ALSO NOT useful. Because if you have to counter evil.. counter it head on. Mind you, the source is NOT in question. The “interpretation” is. Let Nahaya take on all those who “mis-interpret” the source head on.

    So, for example, if Saudi cleric cites a verse to claim the right to kill an infidel.. then it behooves Nahaya to reinterpret THAT VERY VERSE. and explain to the cleric where he is wrong.

    If you have read the story of Dayananda Saraswati and his debates with the pundits in Benaras, you would realize that THAT is EXACTLY how he did it. He had realized that those pundits had hijacked the very philosophy of Hinduism and twisted it to their own convenience. He couldn’t just sit on the sidelines and proclaim generic homilies. He had to jump in the water and fight the sharks. So, thats what he did!

    Same goes for Adi Shankaracharya. Evil can be eradicated by Wisdom and knowledge. It takes effort and seriousness. You cannot simply counter a Hard working lunatic by some high-road but lazy one-liner wisdom.

    So, that’s what I am saying is required. Either file a suit and shut up (because she cannot or does not want to debate the EXACT verses interpretation and consequent actions based on which, have “made” her a monster in the store-owners eyes).. or go and study.. THINK.. and then debate openly!

    There is one lady who is trying to do it. Her name is Wafa Sultan. She is the closest I have seen to “Dayananda Saraswati of Islam”. She doesn’t hide behind some generic homilies. She hits at the very verses directly and mindset and stories DIRECTLY. And her conclusion comes out to be totally different from that of Nahaya.

  • Anonymous

    I agree what you are saying needs to be done… and if someone is doing it, brilliant, others should join in and help. However, I still cannot see any reason for justifying the shopkeeper’s actions. Notions about Islam (or about immigrants or african americans or jews) do not appear overnight and nor will they disappear overnight.

    But first, on a rather lighter note, come on.. I mean really comaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! Are you serious about all this management jargon of “target segment of customers”?? Really? I might give that argument a second thought IF all these shopkeepers declare in BOLD outside their shops that they will not serve a particular segment of the US population. I would love to see a business which declares publicly that they “will NOT serve muslim women dressed in Hijab because they fear that they might be carrying a bomb”! If they do that, then yes, they can argue that we have chosen a particular target segment and that their business will only cater to non-muslims-not-wearing-hijab or muslims-not-wearing-hijab. If not, then this argument is, to put it mildly, invalid.

    Your thoughts about getting rid of discrimination, on the other hand, are very valid and interesting. Let us look at the case of discrimination against african americans. No one can deny that in our collective minds, there still remain a lot of misconceptions about african americans. Sure, over the years, things have improved but they still exist. Now, a few decades back, we all agreed that these should change, so… what did we do?

    1. We created laws against discrimination… a lot of cases were filed, some were won and a few of the guilty were suitably punished, justice was served.

    2. More importantly, we created “norms” in the society that made it clear to anybody and everybody that EVEN IF you have preconceived notions about african americans, you shall not let those become apparent in your public behavior and in your dealings with people. Irrespective of what you might think, you MUST treat each individual with respect without letting their race or color of skin becoming a variable in your behavior decisions.

    The former was an essential first step, the latter is really what’s helping change people’s public behavior. Though not completely successful, these societal norms have definitely helped. Now, people’s public behavior and private opinions may vary easily. And these private opinions cannot be changed overnight through laws, nor can they completely be changed through societal norms. So…

    3. Parallel to 1. and 2., efforts should be (and, I guess, are being) made to ensure that such notions and private opinions die out naturally over years, even decades. These could be in the form of spreading education, providing opportunities, changing media-led perceptions etc. 3 is assisted by 1 and 2 which work in the interim, in the build-up to achieving 3, which is a long term target.

    What the discussion is essentially doing is telling people not to be, what you call a “Hard working lunatic”. Hard working, or otherwise, a lunatic is a lunatic and there’s enough of them on this planet so we could certainly do with a few less.

    Moreover, your so-called “Hard working lunatics” are unlikely to be impressed by debates of the Shankaracharya kind. Why? Because THEY ARE LUNATICS! They themselves have NO, ABSOLUTELY NO knowledge of Islam. Which of these lunatics do you think can even point to Islamic countries on a world map? NONE. And YET, they behave like morons and propagate hatred in society.

    If discrimination is to be eradicated, these idiots are the low-hanging fruits. A simple wrap on the knuckles or even an appropriate glare of disapproval will make them mend their public actions. However, a “thumbs-up” or even “silent approval” will only make these duffers believe that what they are doing is right and will also make them more gullible to (religious) fanaticism.

    Sure they might continue to keep their opinions privately, opinions which need correction, and that’s where all the (very valid) things you point out should step in.

  • Desh

    Any society or group can change within one generation. That is what I believe. The perceptions are also totally your own creation.

    And, as for African Americans, I believe that in some way they need to fight their own devils as well. I remember one prominent Black lady say on TV after Obama’s win that just because the whites “had elected” Obama does not mean that all discrimination is “over”. A lot, she said, needs to be done.

    I was so amazed at her views. No white did a favor to Obama!! Obama won.. because he beat the HECK out of each of his opponent! She seemed to suggest as if someone had “gifted” Obama his presidential victory. FAR from it! He earned it! He fought harder than John Kerry or Al Gore had.. or even Bush or McCain had.. but that’s what was required. Then so be it!

    The day the African Americans get this as a community, their success is assured! The same goes for all the communities.

    You also said:

    “They themselves have NO, ABSOLUTELY NO knowledge of Islam. Which of these lunatics do you think can even point to Islamic countries on a world map? NONE. And YET, they behave like morons and propagate hatred in society.”

    You know this is the argument – broad, generic, and self-congratulatory – that every “moderate” Muslim and activist has been making for past so many years and centuries. It has amounted to nothing! From Babar and Genghiz Khan to Aurangzeb to Zia ul haq to Bin laden to the last Taliban… each of them have used inspiration that they claim they see in Quran to hit at others. Meanwhile all we have heard from others is “they don’t know Islam”. Hmmm okay… then why don’t YOU go and teach them some Islam? Because, at the end of the day, their victims don’t care what YOU think.. but what THEY think of Islam.

    Moreover, what is your claim to fame on the knowledge of Islam? Pardon my directness, but are you some kind of Islamic scholar who got his decree from the Prophet himself? Or do you have any special status to say so?

    If I want, I can take Mein Kampf and explain to you how peaceful and constructive Hitler was. I will bring up enough references in it to prove my point.. if I steer clear of stuff that may say otherwise. The point is to read things comprehensively and honestly.

    Again, just because some belief is followed by one billion people doesn’t make it necessarily peaceful or violent. It is important to take away the emotive association of people to one concept and THEN debate over it.

    I know when I have as much as just cited.. just reproduced .. not my interpretation.. just reproduced the verses from Quran or from Hadiths here to point to the malady that besets the Muslim world, I have been accused of fanning hatred for Muslims. That is incredibly telling. Just by citing someone scriptures and certain uncomfortable verses one becomes a hate monger.

    And its not like Hinduism.. where you have some one believing in Gita and the other in Ramayana.. or someone else in something else.. but herre is a case of ONE book and some appendices (Hadiths) that constitute the entire theology.

    The situation is serious. Like I said, generic and high-level “certificates” would not help much. There is a strong need for serious discussion.

    Another last point.. the Shankaracharya or Dayananda style debate is not for the “lunatic” but to change the course of public discussion overall. I doubt those Benaras pundits changed much during their time, but Dayananda Saraswati was successful in putting in motion a new way of looking at things and challenging the status quo. Before Adi Shankara Hinduism had deteriorated into Tantrism and black magic.. until he came to put the spiritual Vedanta BACK into its right place. It took time.. but the changes are for everyone to see.

    If Adi Shankara had not made the effort, people like Vivekananda and Dayananda Saraswati would not have been possible! If Dayananda had not made the efforts then Sati would have been still prevalent.

    Things have changed.

    Renaissance in Europe achieved the same thing for Christianity. It was not easy …. some like Galileo paid with their lives.. but then so be it.

  • Anonymous

    I agree what you are saying needs to be done… and if someone is doing it, brilliant, others should join in and help. However, I still cannot see any reason for justifying the shopkeeper’s actions. Notions about Islam (or about immigrants or african americans or jews) do not appear overnight and nor will they disappear overnight.

    But first, on a rather lighter note, come on.. I mean really comaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! Are you serious about all this management jargon of “target segment of customers”?? Really? I might give that argument a second thought IF all these shopkeepers declare in BOLD outside their shops that they will not serve a particular segment of the US population. I would love to see a business which declares publicly that they “will NOT serve muslim women dressed in Hijab because they fear that they might be carrying a bomb”! If they do that, then yes, they can argue that we have chosen a particular target segment and that their business will only cater to non-muslims-not-wearing-hijab or muslims-not-wearing-hijab. If not, then this argument is, to put it mildly, invalid.

    Your thoughts about getting rid of discrimination, on the other hand, are very valid and interesting. Let us look at the case of discrimination against african americans. No one can deny that in our collective minds, there still remain a lot of misconceptions about african americans. Sure, over the years, things have improved but they still exist. Now, a few decades back, we all agreed that these should change, so… what did we do?

    1. We created laws against discrimination… a lot of cases were filed, some were won and a few of the guilty were suitably punished, justice was served.

    2. More importantly, we created “norms” in the society that made it clear to anybody and everybody that EVEN IF you have preconceived notions about african americans, you shall not let those become apparent in your public behavior and in your dealings with people. Irrespective of what you might think, you MUST treat each individual with respect without letting their race or color of skin becoming a variable in your behavior decisions.

    The former was an essential first step, the latter is really what’s helping change people’s public behavior. Though not completely successful, these societal norms have definitely helped. Now, people’s public behavior and private opinions may vary easily. And these private opinions cannot be changed overnight through laws, nor can they completely be changed through societal norms. So…

    3. Parallel to 1. and 2., efforts should be (and, I guess, are being) made to ensure that such notions and private opinions die out naturally over years, even decades. These could be in the form of spreading education, providing opportunities, changing media-led perceptions etc. 3 is assisted by 1 and 2 which work in the interim, in the build-up to achieving 3, which is a long term target.

    What the discussion is essentially doing is telling people not to be, what you call a “Hard working lunatic”. Hard working, or otherwise, a lunatic is a lunatic and there’s enough of them on this planet so we could certainly do with a few less.

    Moreover, your so-called “Hard working lunatics” are unlikely to be impressed by debates of the Shankaracharya kind. Why? Because THEY ARE LUNATICS! They themselves have NO, ABSOLUTELY NO knowledge of Islam. Which of these lunatics do you think can even point to Islamic countries on a world map? NONE. And YET, they behave like morons and propagate hatred in society.

    If discrimination is to be eradicated, these idiots are the low-hanging fruits. A simple wrap on the knuckles or even an appropriate glare of disapproval will make them mend their public actions. However, a “thumbs-up” or even “silent approval” will only make these duffers believe that what they are doing is right and will also make them more gullible to (religious) fanaticism.

    Sure they might continue to keep their opinions privately, opinions which need correction, and that’s where all the (very valid) things you point out should step in.

  • Anonymous

    I have ABSOLUTELY no claim to fame, on Islam or, for that matter, any other religion. I am not a religious scholar nor have I got any decree from any Prophet. And I don’t think you have either. You interpret Islam as violent. Fine… that is YOUR interpretation and to be equally direct, I would say, it’s no better than mine since you are not a religious leader or Prophet yourself. You have your views and I have mine… perfectly okay.

    On African Americans, I agree with you. Nobody can help anyone who doesn’t want to help himself/herself. That’s why I do not approve of self pity. I see this disease has infested entire nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. Partly the “Western Donors” are to be blamed for creating this “dependence syndrome” but a large degree of the blame must be shouldered by African leaders themselves.

    On Obama too, I agree. When I saw and read about celebrations of his victory across the globe, especially among Black communities, it made me uncomfortable. I hope he did not win just because he is (half) Black. To me, he seemed to outclass his opponents by a mile and I think he should have won even if he wasn’t Black. But when the world celebrated his victory for his “blackness”, it upset me. Anyway…

    I think no religion can have a single interpretation. You say that Islam is not like Hinduism where some people follow Gita, others follow Ramayana. But you should know that there are several versions of Ramayana itself and several interpretations of the text(s) which do not always concur with each other. Even if Ramayana was the only Holy book in Hinduism, there would have been different interpretations. Why then can’t you accept that Islam can have different interpretations as well? Hundreds of books are published every year, some people like one, others dislike the same. Some like it for one reason, others for another. Some interpret the book in one way, others interpret is differently – even if they all like it or dislike it equally.

    Some Islamic fundamentalists claim to be the know-all’s of Islam and they get strengthened by those who believe them and propagate the view that they are the real and only face of Islam. I am not an Islamic cleric, I am not even a Muslim but I know enough Muslims to confidently say that they don’t agree with each other on everything – not the values, not the stories, and certainly not the (violent) means. The same is true for Hindus, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and every organized religion in the world. Islam is not an exception.

    Now, EVEN IF we assume, for a moment, that your interpretation of Islam or of the Quran is correct. So what? Does that give you or anyone else a right to discriminate against every Muslim? No. Does that mean we should start treating 1 billion people as inhuman and as evil terrorists? NO. Does that justify a lunatic shopkeeper’s discriminatory actions? CERTAINLY NOT.

    What percentage of the 1 billion Muslims do you think subscribe to the violent fundamentalist views? 1%… 5%… 10%… 25%… 50%… 90%…? EVEN IF you think it is 90%, treating all Muslims as terrorists would be unfair to 1 million people (not a small number!) and you are likely to find these 1 million Muslims in the US more than anywhere else.

    Anyway, when I say the “shopkeeper” has no knowledge of Islam, I am not expecting him to have either. The point I am making is that these notions are created by the media and not through religious scholar. The lunatic shopkeeper only insanely exaggerates the images created by the media. He is not against Islam because he has read and interpreted the Quran like probably you have. If they had done that, I would respect his opinions a bit more – but that’s not true, is it?

    Let me introduce a comedy clip by a Canadian-Indian comedian – maybe you have heard of him – Russel Peters, who makes this point beautifully with the help of humor. I hope you will like it and appreciate the point he is trying to make.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    Almost all his shows are about racism, about discrimination and about stereotypes. And, most importantly, they are all very funny. You should also watch some of his other videos.

    Finally, you seem to be hoping and waiting for an Islamic Renaissance. Fair enough. But such a thing, if ever, will and MUST come from within Islam, not from outside. If it is externally-imposed, it is called “Forced Conversion” not Renaissance. Discrimination against Muslims will not help bring about a Renaissance in any way.

  • Desh

    Any society or group can change within one generation. That is what I believe. The perceptions are also totally your own creation.

    And, as for African Americans, I believe that in some way they need to fight their own devils as well. I remember one prominent Black lady say on TV after Obama’s win that just because the whites “had elected” Obama does not mean that all discrimination is “over”. A lot, she said, needs to be done.

    I was so amazed at her views. No white did a favor to Obama!! Obama won.. because he beat the HECK out of each of his opponent! She seemed to suggest as if someone had “gifted” Obama his presidential victory. FAR from it! He earned it! He fought harder than John Kerry or Al Gore had.. or even Bush or McCain had.. but that’s what was required. Then so be it!

    The day the African Americans get this as a community, their success is assured! The same goes for all the communities.

    You also said:

    “They themselves have NO, ABSOLUTELY NO knowledge of Islam. Which of these lunatics do you think can even point to Islamic countries on a world map? NONE. And YET, they behave like morons and propagate hatred in society.”

    You know this is the argument – broad, generic, and self-congratulatory – that every “moderate” Muslim and activist has been making for past so many years and centuries. It has amounted to nothing! From Babar and Genghiz Khan to Aurangzeb to Zia ul haq to Bin laden to the last Taliban… each of them have used inspiration that they claim they see in Quran to hit at others. Meanwhile all we have heard from others is “they don’t know Islam”. Hmmm okay… then why don’t YOU go and teach them some Islam? Because, at the end of the day, their victims don’t care what YOU think.. but what THEY think of Islam.

    Moreover, what is your claim to fame on the knowledge of Islam? Pardon my directness, but are you some kind of Islamic scholar who got his decree from the Prophet himself? Or do you have any special status to say so?

    If I want, I can take Mein Kampf and explain to you how peaceful and constructive Hitler was. I will bring up enough references in it to prove my point.. if I steer clear of stuff that may say otherwise. The point is to read things comprehensively and honestly.

    Again, just because some belief is followed by one billion people doesn’t make it necessarily peaceful or violent. It is important to take away the emotive association of people to one concept and THEN debate over it.

    I know when I have as much as just cited.. just reproduced .. not my interpretation.. just reproduced the verses from Quran or from Hadiths here to point to the malady that besets the Muslim world, I have been accused of fanning hatred for Muslims. That is incredibly telling. Just by citing someone scriptures and certain uncomfortable verses one becomes a hate monger.

    And its not like Hinduism.. where you have some one believing in Gita and the other in Ramayana.. or someone else in something else.. but herre is a case of ONE book and some appendices (Hadiths) that constitute the entire theology.

    The situation is serious. Like I said, generic and high-level “certificates” would not help much. There is a strong need for serious discussion.

    Another last point.. the Shankaracharya or Dayananda style debate is not for the “lunatic” but to change the course of public discussion overall. I doubt those Benaras pundits changed much during their time, but Dayananda Saraswati was successful in putting in motion a new way of looking at things and challenging the status quo. Before Adi Shankara Hinduism had deteriorated into Tantrism and black magic.. until he came to put the spiritual Vedanta BACK into its right place. It took time.. but the changes are for everyone to see.

    If Adi Shankara had not made the effort, people like Vivekananda and Dayananda Saraswati would not have been possible! If Dayananda had not made the efforts then Sati would have been still prevalent.

    Things have changed.

    Renaissance in Europe achieved the same thing for Christianity. It was not easy …. some like Galileo paid with their lives.. but then so be it.

  • Anonymous

    I have ABSOLUTELY no claim to fame, on Islam or, for that matter, any other religion. I am not a religious scholar nor have I got any decree from any Prophet. And I don’t think you have either. You interpret Islam as violent. Fine… that is YOUR interpretation and to be equally direct, I would say, it’s no better than mine since you are not a religious leader or Prophet yourself. You have your views and I have mine… perfectly okay.

    On African Americans, I agree with you. Nobody can help anyone who doesn’t want to help himself/herself. That’s why I do not approve of self pity. I see this disease has infested entire nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. Partly the “Western Donors” are to be blamed for creating this “dependence syndrome” but a large degree of the blame must be shouldered by African leaders themselves.

    On Obama too, I agree. When I saw and read about celebrations of his victory across the globe, especially among Black communities, it made me uncomfortable. I hope he did not win just because he is (half) Black. To me, he seemed to outclass his opponents by a mile and I think he should have won even if he wasn’t Black. But when the world celebrated his victory for his “blackness”, it upset me. Anyway…

    I think no religion can have a single interpretation. You say that Islam is not like Hinduism where some people follow Gita, others follow Ramayana. But you should know that there are several versions of Ramayana itself and several interpretations of the text(s) which do not always concur with each other. Even if Ramayana was the only Holy book in Hinduism, there would have been different interpretations. Why then can’t you accept that Islam can have different interpretations as well? Hundreds of books are published every year, some people like one, others dislike the same. Some like it for one reason, others for another. Some interpret the book in one way, others interpret is differently – even if they all like it or dislike it equally.

    Some Islamic fundamentalists claim to be the know-all’s of Islam and they get strengthened by those who believe them and propagate the view that they are the real and only face of Islam. I am not an Islamic cleric, I am not even a Muslim but I know enough Muslims to confidently say that they don’t agree with each other on everything – not the values, not the stories, and certainly not the (violent) means. The same is true for Hindus, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and every organized religion in the world. Islam is not an exception.

    Now, EVEN IF we assume, for a moment, that your interpretation of Islam or of the Quran is correct. So what? Does that give you or anyone else a right to discriminate against every Muslim? No. Does that mean we should start treating 1 billion people as inhuman and as evil terrorists? NO. Does that justify a lunatic shopkeeper’s discriminatory actions? CERTAINLY NOT.

    What percentage of the 1 billion Muslims do you think subscribe to the violent fundamentalist views? 1%… 5%… 10%… 25%… 50%… 90%…? EVEN IF you think it is 90%, treating all Muslims as terrorists would be unfair to 1 million people (not a small number!) and you are likely to find these 1 million Muslims in the US more than anywhere else.

    Anyway, when I say the “shopkeeper” has no knowledge of Islam, I am not expecting him to have either. The point I am making is that these notions are created by the media and not through religious scholar. The lunatic shopkeeper only insanely exaggerates the images created by the media. He is not against Islam because he has read and interpreted the Quran like probably you have. If they had done that, I would respect his opinions a bit more – but that’s not true, is it?

    Let me introduce a comedy clip by a Canadian-Indian comedian – maybe you have heard of him – Russel Peters, who makes this point beautifully with the help of humor. I hope you will like it and appreciate the point he is trying to make.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm-z5smrrT8

    Almost all his shows are about racism, about discrimination and about stereotypes. And, most importantly, they are all very funny. You should also watch some of his other videos.

    Finally, you seem to be hoping and waiting for an Islamic Renaissance. Fair enough. But such a thing, if ever, will and MUST come from within Islam, not from outside. If it is externally-imposed, it is called “Forced Conversion” not Renaissance. Discrimination against Muslims will not help bring about a Renaissance in any way.

  • Desh

    Very valid points, indeed.

    First, we must differentiate between Practice, Ideology, Philosophy and the Adherents.

    Let me take the example of say Communism. Its philosophy of equality of human beings is indeed laudable. Ideology forces that philosophy on people and snatches things from people who work hard to make something and gives it to people who do not necessarily work that hard. That is not so good.

    Practice in communism has seen subjugation of common men and women by those in power. That is even worse.

    Now come the adherents. Adherents are neither good nor bad because of ideology or philosophy. They are what they are as they Practice whatever they practice.

    Besides every one is always a multi-dimensional personality. Many influences affect a person. So, even though one may be of a certain religion, one cannot be said to be only affected by that association.

    So, Adherents of one Ideology or philosophy could be very different.

    That is why I have mentioned the ideology. The people – Nahaya or that storeowners are not necessarily bad or good. They are affected by many things and manifestations.

    That is why I think it is better to discuss the ideology itself and its effect on people – believers (specifically those who hold that dimension in their lives MORE important than any other dimension) and non-believers.. to bring about a change in the world.

    And you are right. The “Renaissance” can’t be brought about by an outsider. The issue I have seen in Islam that is really unique is that anybody who proposes a “re-look” and renaissance is instantly supposed to become an outsider. History of Shias and Ahmediyas makes it obvious.

  • Desh

    Very valid points, indeed.

    First, we must differentiate between Practice, Ideology, Philosophy and the Adherents.

    Let me take the example of say Communism. Its philosophy of equality of human beings is indeed laudable. Ideology forces that philosophy on people and snatches things from people who work hard to make something and gives it to people who do not necessarily work that hard. That is not so good.

    Practice in communism has seen subjugation of common men and women by those in power. That is even worse.

    Now come the adherents. Adherents are neither good nor bad because of ideology or philosophy. They are what they are as they Practice whatever they practice.

    Besides every one is always a multi-dimensional personality. Many influences affect a person. So, even though one may be of a certain religion, one cannot be said to be only affected by that association.

    So, Adherents of one Ideology or philosophy could be very different.

    That is why I have mentioned the ideology. The people – Nahaya or that storeowners are not necessarily bad or good. They are affected by many things and manifestations.

    That is why I think it is better to discuss the ideology itself and its effect on people – believers (specifically those who hold that dimension in their lives MORE important than any other dimension) and non-believers.. to bring about a change in the world.

    And you are right. The “Renaissance” can’t be brought about by an outsider. The issue I have seen in Islam that is really unique is that anybody who proposes a “re-look” and renaissance is instantly supposed to become an outsider. History of Shias and Ahmediyas makes it obvious.

  • Rami Sarhan

    well,americans r not all good or all bad but,i have a friend who was stucked in a very stupid situation,the story starts when he wanted to complete his study in u.s.a with a scholarship,he arrived and stayed in a hotel,of c they know he was a Muslim,he caught the room service woman stealing his wallet he forgave her but u know what did she do?…
    she accused him that he raped her …(she was an old women,while he is just 25) so police got him in jail,and stayed a long time tell we could prove he is innocent,is this justice,they only imprisoned him cause he is Muslim and didn’t ask for evidence or DNA test,or whatever

  • Rami Sarhan

    well,americans r not all good or all bad but,i have a friend who was stucked in a very stupid situation,the story starts when he wanted to complete his study in u.s.a with a scholarship,he arrived and stayed in a hotel,of c they know he was a Muslim,he caught the room service woman stealing his wallet he forgave her but u know what did she do?…
    she accused him that he raped her …(she was an old women,while he is just 25) so police got him in jail,and stayed a long time tell we could prove he is innocent,is this justice,they only imprisoned him cause he is Muslim and didn’t ask for evidence or DNA test,or whatever


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