Southern California Muslims Battle Islamophobia in a Post 9/11 World

(Note: This piece was published on Huffington Post today! Hooray!  I’d like to say that I am not Muslim, however I honor and respect all religions. I believe that we all should.)

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Terrorism. Terrorists. Since the planes flew into the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001, these words have become almost synonymous with Islam and being a Muslim. For many Islamic believers in Southern California, the aftermath of September 11 didn’t result in physical harm or even personal attacks, although there were some incidents. Muslims in Southern California express a different pain — the hurt of having their religion constantly associated with terrorism and violence.

From the front page of the daily newspaper to the broadcast channels on television, Southland Muslims said they feel the effects of this post 9/11 characterization of the religion that they care for and believe in deeply. For many, the Islam depicted in the media rarely resembles the one they practice.

“This event had a lot of effects on everybody, especially Muslims,” said Idris Traina, the President of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, California. “The media associated this event with Islam, not a group of people who were terrorists. That’s the problem. That’s the stigma that happened with 9/11, and it has had a large effect on Muslims here and everywhere.”

Traina, who is also a member of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California estimates there are more than a half a million Muslims in the Southland. He admitted there isn’t an official census of the Muslim community, but used the figure given by the Islamic Shura Council that compiles this information. The Council, which started in 1995, is an umbrella organization of Southern California mosques and Muslims organizations.

The Islamic leaders and Muslims of Southern California expressed a consistent response concerning their present life after September. Essentially, they think their lives are plagued with a persistent misunderstanding of their religion due to Islam’s repeated association with terrorism. And many Southern California Muslims think America has developed an anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia, which can be seen in the mainstream media.

“Too many Americans associate Islam with terrorism and extremism,” said Malik El-Amin, a 33-year old African American Muslim. “The American public is much more aware of Islam now than before 9/11, but the awareness derives almost entirely from negative stories, stereotypes and misconceptions.”

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey in 2007 found that “public attitudes about Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.” Thirty-five percent of Americans polled expressed a negative view of Muslims in 2007, up from 32 percent in 2004 and 29 percent in 2002.

In addition to negative impressions, “twice as many people use negative words as positive words to describe their impressions of the Muslim religion (30% versus 15%),” according to the 2007 Pew Report. The survey also found that “fanatic”, “radical” and “terror” were the most frequently used words to describe Islam.

The American association of the Muslim religion with words like “fanatic” and “terror” serve as examples to what many people now call Islamophobia, which has become a recognized form of intolerance alongside Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism since the 2001 “Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance.”

(more…)




CB’s Green Report: Stop Crying Detroit & Build Greener Cars

gmc_yukon_denalifront_left_view2007 Toyota Prius Touring Edition

GMC Yukon Denali vs. Toyota Prius Hybrid

Waaah Waaah Waaah Detroit
. Automobile makers are crying the blues at President Obama’s interest in imposing stricter emission standards on their vehicles. The president recently “ordered the government to reconsider whether California and other states could regulate vehicle emissions to help control greenhouse gas emissions, a reversal of a position taken by the Bush administration.” (At the moment, automakers say only the Toyota Prius hybrid and similar vehicles would meet those standards.)

In true Obama form, he emphasized his willingness to work with the carmakers to meet his administration’s goals: energy independence and stopping global warming.

“Let me be clear: Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry,” Obama said at the White House according to MSNBC. “It is to help America’s automakers prepare for the future.”

American automakers claim the emission modifications could potentially put them out of business because they would have to stop producing the larger, gas-guzzlers (read: more profitable vehicles). Although GM and Chrysler just borrowed billions of dollars from the federal government, it appears they were counting on the fat price tags of their less fuel-efficient and not low greenhouse gas emission vehicles like Cadillac Escalade (MSRP mid $60,000′s), Hummer truck (MSRP $60,000-70,000′s), and even the Saab 9-5 (MSRP $40,000′s).

“I think this is the pathway to their survival,” David Doniger of the National Resources Defense Council said to the New York Times. “If carmakers are going to survive in a world of volatile oil prices and global warming, they have to be making more efficient vehicles. When the economy comes back and people start buying cars again, they’re going to expect that gas prices are going to go up, and they’re not going to want the gas hogs that they used to want. Consumers’ tastes have changed in terms of what’s cool.”

Hey Detroit, you proved that you could make a hybrid Escalade. Surely, you can get to work on updating the technology for the rest of the cars, which gives options for larger families and is better for the environment. After all, Americans are paying for it – to the tune of $17.4 billion.

In other news…


Former Vice President Al Gore is urging Congress to support legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions. In his recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gore warned the government to not get so blindsided by the economic crisis that they forget to work on international global warming initiatives. In fact, he reminds them that “the economy, terrorism and the Iraq and Afghan wars are linked by a common thread – our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.” In addition to the greenhouse gas emissions cap, there is another solution that both Obama and Gore agree on: the President’s economic stimulus plan. Obama’s proposal includes investments in clean energy and green jobs that Gore and others think will help the U.S. economy. Green thinking could add up to more green..dollars that is.

Check out Gore’s recent testimony before Congress on greenhouse gases.




Were the Mumbai Terrorists Muslim?

Last week’s terrorist acts in India’s financial capital left more than 180 people dead and 280 wounded. The Indian and European press is reporting that the violence has sparked widespread debate as to whether the terrorists should be considered and referred to as followers of Islam, but most of the American coverage of the attack is oblivious to what could potentially be a remarkable transformation in the Muslim world.

Immediately after the attacks, several Bollywood stars began to blog about the problem of associating Islam with terrorism. OneIndia’s web site reported that actor Aamir Khan wrote that terrorists are neither people of religion nor people of God.

“When will these politicians realise and admit that terrorists have no religion,” wrote Khan. “Terrorists are not Hindu or Muslim or Christian.”

Further, Khan attributes their actions to mental illness, not Islam.

“They are people who have gone totally sick in their head and have to be dealt with in that manner,” Khan wrote in his latest blog.

Another Indian news outlet, Rediff India, interviewed Idris Ali, the president of All-India Minority Forum, shortly after the attacks. Ali is well known in India’s Muslim community as an advocate for minority and Islamic issues as well as a harsh opponent of anti-terrorism laws. When asked about the relationship between the events in Mumbai and Islam, Ali said:

“What we must realize is Islam never propagates violence. The word Islam is derived from aslama, which means submission to the supreme power. And submission can never be achieved through bloodshed. Those 10 bloodthirsty men who slaughtered innocent Mumbaikars cannot be the followers of Islam. Had they read the Quran, they would have waved olive branches and not automatic guns.”

Echoing the thoughts of actor Khan, Ali also said, “Fanatics have no religion, terrorists have no creed. The only religion that radicals follow is carnage.”

Many Indians and Islamic believers not only refuse to call the terrorists Muslim but have also denied the dead gunman burial in their cemeteries because in their eyes the men who committed these acts are not Muslims.

(more…)




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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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