London, October 17, 2015 (Alochonaa): A friend of mine recently wrote an excellent piece about Islamsplainers – essentially, people who know little about Islam or have little or no relevance or credibility with Muslim communities, who seem to be keen to explain and redefine Islam – especially to Muslims. And good grief, do they get promoted by the misinformed ingenues in the mainstream media. The Islamsplainers.
I’ve spent the best part of a decade talking about the Muslim Civil Rights Crisis and as an activist and commentator I’ve defined Islamophobia and opposed it long before it became fashionable for champagne socialists to do so. Contrary to popular opinion amongst the phobes, it’s not about shutting down discourse on the roots and origins of Islam, nor is it about creating a firebreak on theology. Islamophobia is predicated on five myths and three behaviours which make up The Islamophobia Test:
♢ Immovability: it is a gigantic, monolithic bloc unresponsive to change.
♢ Separation: it is the “other,” lacking values in common with other cultures, and it can neither be affected by them nor in turn influence them.
♢ Inferiority: compared to the West, it is barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.
♢ Violent: it is aggressive, threatening and supportive of terrorism.
♢ Political: it is an ideology used for political or military advantage.
These five myths are accompanied by three recognisable Islamophobic behaviours:
○ Silencing: criticisms made by Muslims of “the West” are rejected out of hand, even though they may be well founded.
○ Hostility: negativity towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
○ Normalisation: anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural, normal and even recommended.
Far beyond the spectre of faux reformists and academic definitions, over recent years we have seen something far more sinister in the US – the advent of real anti-Muslim animus and prejudice at the highest levels of American politics. Views and actions which fail, wholescale, The Islamophobia Test. This week, two high profile GOP political candidates, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, acquiesced to and promoted, Islamophobia. Making a speech in New Hampshire, Trump was asked about Obama being Muslim (Trump, a leader of the Obama birther conspiracy movement). The questioner went further, suggesting that something had to be done about the Muslim problem in the US, insinuating that ethnic cleanisng was the answer. Disturbingly, Trump’s response was not to give this questioner asking “When can we get rid of ‘em?” the famous Trump-slam dunk but rather to acquiesce to it:
We’re gonna be looking at a lot of different things…we’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things
Christ, Donald. First Mexicans, then Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, now Muslims. However, you’ve only entertained a genocide of the latter. No offence, Megyn. On faith and politics, Trump has tried to be more circumspect lately – he was careful both with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and NBC’s ‘Meet The Press’, avoiding his repeating of outright claims on Islam, Obama and the top job in the US. However, Islam has now been injected front and centre into the GOP Presidential candidate debate as Ben Carson, another leading contender, claimed that the idea of a Muslim president was inconsistent with the US Constitution.
Well let’s tackle that issue head-on. Article 6 of the US constitution states that “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” and the 1st Amendment goes further “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. As it transpires, Carson’s views are entirely at odds with the US constitution – the irony is that Carson, by undermining and attacking the US constitution, is precisely the domestic enemy within forewarned in the Oath of Allegiance, the fight for the right to which so many African-Americans sacrificed their lives for. Why the Founding Fathers would go out of their way to enshrine freedom of religion in the US and in political life, is the real question. Well, here is the truth that Carson, Trump and their likes would not want us to know: the US constitution, the Founding Fathers and the thought and enlightenment behind it was entirely influenced by Islam, Muslims and Islamic thought. The history of America is intrinsically interwoven with Islam. There is just no getting away from it.
Jefferson and Paine were hugely influenced by the ideas of John Locke and Francis Bacon. Lockean thought on freedom, liberty and government influenced Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Even Voltaire was a fan of Locke. Americans are today, largely unaware that their whole, deeply entrenched views and values on freedom and government, are almost entirely Lockean.
So what of John Locke and his views? On theology, in Locke’s published works, he, like Muslims, rejected the idea that Christ was divine. He also, like Muslims, rejected the idea of the Trinity. English Calvinists like John Edwards, accused of Locke of being Muslim, so aligned were his beliefs. It’s not the first time, Roger II of Sicily suffered the same claims due to his embrace of Al Idrisi, Muslim advisers and his love for Islamic thought. Incidentally, without Roger and Al Idrisi, we wouldnt have our ‘Islamic’ map of the world which sees the Americas to the West, China to the East and Mecca at the centre.
Locke’s alignment with Islamic thought is not merely coincidental. Locke shared Islamic theology with another famous anti-Trinitarian, Isaac Newton. Locke’s enemies accused him of being a Muslim who interpreted the Christian Gospel according to the Qur’an. This is a thing asked of all Muslims, that the Qur’an as the final divine revelation, is in fact a Furqan (criterion) with which you assess the revelations that came before it for higher truth, which have become so corrupted.
Justin Champion assessed the criticisms of Locke by looking at his adversaries like Edwards. Champion says that Edwards in his C17th book, Socinianism Unmasked had “confronted John Locke, the author of The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695), firstly as a Socinian, and then by implication as a Moslem.”
Champion quotes Edwards on Locke
‘It is likely I shall further exasperate this author when I desire the reader to observe that this lank faith of his is in a manner no other than the faith of a Turk.’
Whether or not Locke relied on his “Mahometan bible” rather than his Christian Bible, what cannot be denied is the influence through Locke, the godfather of American constitutional freedom, so heavily relied upon by the Founding Fathers, and the introduction of Islamic thought and virtues into America.
I would go further than this. America and her history, is undeniably intertwined with Islam, even before Columbus. We know Muslim navigators were visiting, trading and intermarrying in the Americas up to five centuries before Columbus and his Western front of the Reconquista. This is no crazy revisionism, as much to the chagrin of Western historians who love the deft flick of their censorial pen, the President of Turkey has stated the case. His actions in the Americas were no more than to continue the European anti-Muslim purge. Forget the fact that up to half or more of the slaves taken from West Africa to the Americas via Britain, were Muslim. Perhaps also forget the 565 places in the Americas with Islamic and Arabic names, like California said to be named after the Caliph Harun Rashid of Al Andalus.
Woe betide any American Presidential candidate who denies the Islamic history of the Americas. The Chapel Hill massacre of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and Razan Abu Salha saw many Americans realise for the first time, it had a problem with anti-Muslim hate. Since then, attacks on Muslims in the US have been on the increase. Political classes inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments whilst we are seeing a rising tide of violence against Muslims in America, is reckless and dangerous.
It is simply unsustainable to deny the Muslim influence in America. It’s even more ludicrous this should come from a black GOP candidate. Carson is denying himself, quite aside from the history of his nation. America is a great promise. But she needs to grow up. She deserves the best of leaders, as does the world. We are on the precipice, on a knife edge. Ignorance, hate and prejudice is only going to lead to the worst of humanity. Can America do better? Yes, she can.
*Mohammed “Mo” Ansar is a British Muslim commentator and activist.
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