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Monday, September 17, 2012

Islamophobia at its best: Newsweek's "Muslim Rage."

Apparently Newsweek wants to join the hot debate on the offensive anti-Muslim film and the angry reactions it sparked across the Muslim world. Newsweek's latest issue opens with a rather catchy cover that glares "MUSLIM RAGE" in all caps. I'm glad to say though, that what was meant to be a serious (yet ignorant & biased) account on the anti-Islamic film turned into a joke on Twitter.

The Newsweek issue features an opinion piece by ex-Muslim Ayan Hirsi Ali titled: "Muslim rage & the last gasp of Islamic hate." This headline pretty much sums it up!

This piece reeks of Islamophobia from beginning to end. Her very first sentence reads: "Islam’s rage reared its ugly head again last week." Thus, right from the lede, Ali confirms the  most recycled stereotype of Islam as the ugly and violent religion. A close-up of angry bearded Muslim men is included in the article, thus adding to the drama!

Ali criticizes Libyan civilians and holds them responsible for the tragic deaths of US embassy officials. She claims the US contributed to the Libyan revolution and was unfairly repaid with these tragic deaths!

Ali, who describes herself as an ex-Muslim, is all of a sudden the Arab Spring expert, and predicts that Libyans, might follow the steps of their Egyptian counterparts and choose a government that "stands for ideals diametrically opposed to those upheld by the United States." 

This here is the first evidence of Ali's total ignorance of Arab countries. Ali fails to mention that this so-called Egyptian government that is everything that the US is not, is a strong US ally.

Ali makes unfair accusations at the Libyan people, the people who have expressed deep sorrow for the unfair and tragic deaths of US officials. Last Thursday, a stream of images went viral, showing Libyan men and women holding posters that said they were sorry, and that this violence is against Islam. Today, a new video was released, showing Libyans trying to rescue ambassador Chris Stevens. Yet, Ali ignores all of this and makes hateful accusations.

From there, Ali shifts to her own personal story, with Ali of course playing the innocent victim, who was mistreated by her religion and found freedom after fleeing to the liberal Netherlands. She tells the story of how she suddenly discovered that Islam was a hateful religion that fuels evil attacks, the likes of 9/11.

It's quite a shame that Newsweek, a magazine I had a lot of respect for, joins the Islamophobes of this world and selects a hateful former Muslim to speak about Islam. To ignore the large pool of informed, educated and level-headed prominent Muslim speakers and go for a pro-Western, anti-Muslim feminist, is distasteful and stereotypical. For sure there are many who will embrace Ali's account, as it confirms old, recycled stereotypes that depict Islam as the evil and Muslim women as the oppressed victims.

Just to confirm my point on Ali's excessive hatred of Islam, I will rely on the analysis of columnist, Nicholas Kristof (2010), who says that Ali's ferocious criticism of Islam even makes him uncomfortable as it feeds "religious bigotry."

Here's how Kristof sum's up his opinion on Ali's unfair and biased claims on Islam:

"To those of us who have lived and traveled widely in Africa and Asia, descriptions of Islam often seem true but incomplete. The repression of women, the persecution complexes, the lack of democracy, the volatility, the anti-Semitism, the difficulties modernizing, the disproportionate role in terrorism — those are all real. But if those were the only faces of Islam, it wouldn’t be one of the fastest-growing religions in the world today. There is also the warm hospitality toward guests, including Christians and Jews; charity for the poor; the aesthetic beauty of Koranic Arabic; the sense of democratic unity as rich and poor pray shoulder to shoulder in the mosque. Glib summaries don’t work any better for Islam than they do for Christianity or ­Judaism."

I therefore, feel sorry for Newsweek audiences, who won't get the chance to receive a fair and informed account/analysis of the recent riots that sparked much of the Muslim world. These audiences will learn nothing accurate about Islam, but will get a colorful imaginative description of a faith; a description that cannot be true, given Islam's 1.6 billion followers and given that it's the fastest growing religion on earth!