Shout to be heard


There is anti-Islam animus in the media and a Muslim organisation needs to scream much louder than anyone else to get media attention

In an op-ed piece that he wrote for the Los Angeles Times (July 14, 2002), academic and Islamic scholar Dr Khaled Abou El Fadl, an important and influential voice, argued that Muslim organisations in the US had failed to establish their credibility and to convince the American public of the outrage felt by most Muslims over the tragedy of September 11. "American Muslims must demand that either this leadership reform itself or be changed," he concluded.

Though El Fadl did not name any organisation in his piece, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil liberties group in the US, felt compelled to respond, claiming the academic’s claims were not founded on facts. CAIR said that within two hours of the 9/11 attacks it had issued a joint statement along with other Muslim organisations sharply condemning the terror attacks, issued a nationwide call the same day asking Muslim medical professionals to rush to the rescue of victims, published a full page advertisement in The Washington Post the Sunday after the attack condemning the attacks and sending condolences to victims’ families, and participated in innumerable protest meetings to express the outrage of America’s Muslims.

In response, El Fadl wrote a long letter to CAIR. Though the above exchange is now over five years old, some of the points raised by the writer remain relevant even today. We reproduce excerpts from El Fadl’s letter to CAIR:

"I have been extremely concerned with the massive influx of Islam-bashing books and the high sales these books are achieving. We (Muslims) must publish our thought in mainstream presses in order to effectively disseminate our ideas. However, in order to be published in mainstream presses there is a mode of discourse and a style of analysis that very few American Muslims have mastered. Many of the books published in, what one might call, ghetto-like Muslim presses are embarrassing if examined from the perspective of standards set by mainstream publishers.

"The influx of hate-tracts written against Islam, and published and disseminated by influential mainstream publishers, feed the type of governmental policies that persecute many Muslims. We seem to fail to understand that a hundred works published by a relatively small Muslim press is not as effective in shaping public opinion and influencing public policy as a single book published by Harper Collins, for instance.

"The literature and governmental policies of the Islam haters are finding a receptive audience because of the popular conception that we Muslims have not done enough. What is missing is what might be called a proportional public relations campaign. Certainly, a Muslim American campaign existed but, in my view, it was not proportional to the gravity of events and accusations levelled against us. When someone threatens you with a tank, you cannot respond with a handgun. We needed to respond with a concerted, systematic, unified and unrelenting effort considering the stakes and dangers to our religion.

"Keep in mind that academics are the ones who write history and, as such, they are also the ones who construct reality for future generations. Your voice, as activists, must break through the barriers of isolation, if such barriers do in fact exist, and breach the proverbial tower. For the sake of our religion you must convince the writers of history and not just other activists.

"There is anti-Islam animus in the media and a Muslim organisation needs to scream much louder than anyone else to get the media’s attention. This is simply a reality of Muslim life in the USA; we must work ten times as hard as our Jewish or Christian counterparts to achieve the same results.

"Considering the stakes, considering the animus and hostility to us, considering the plots and conspiracies against us, our voice, as Muslims, must be loud, resounding and even deafening. We must be so loud to the point that we are able to drown out the voices of the (Islam bashers) Emersons and Pipes of our world.

"(Muslims) must do things that are so visible, so compelling and so unequivocal that they could not be denied by anyone. For instance, I want to be able to document, as an academic, for history’s sake, that Muslims on such and such date marched in the thousands to tell bin Laden to "get lost". I want to be able to cite such a public Muslim stance in my interviews, write it in my books and throw it in Emerson’s and Pipe’s faces next time I meet them at a conference or at a counter-terrorism intelligence briefing in the State Department or White House.

"Main (Muslim) organisations, despite the façade of democracy, are still trapped within the mainly despotic paradigms that they imported from back home. Put simply, we have our god-sent and god-inspired gurus and these gurus, regardless of official title and position, remain the effective and real source of leadership in our organisations."

Archived from Communalism Combat, November-December 2007  Year 14    No.126, Jihad Against Terror, Cover Story 1



Related Articles