Saturday, June 11, 2016

More Harm Than Good: Making Muhammad Ali The Face of Islam(Part One)

Over the past week and a half we have seen a constant stream of articles, mostly paying tribute to the late boxer and humanitarian, Muhammad Ali, who passed on June 3rd from complications regarding his long-time bout with Parkinson's disease, which he was diagnosed with shortly after retiring in 1980.

While no one can deny there was a time when Ali was the most recognizable human on Earth, as well as the most recognizable of Muslims, some of the articles seem to have gone to great lengths to place him in a league of his own, referring to him as the face of "real Islam", or "America's first Muslim Hero." Such lofty accolades are given, considering the fact there was a time when Ali rubbed many Americans the wrong way, mostly White Americans, with his critique of race relations, his refusal to enter into the military service, his relationship with Malcolm X(Al-Hajj Malik Shabbazz), his defiance, and his constant rants and never-ending taunts of his opponents inside the ring.

Three articles come to mind, two of them similarly titled; one reads Muhammad Ali: America's First Muslim Hero, by Dean Obeidallah, a comedian of Palestinian and Italian descent, the other Muhammad Ali: America's First and Last Muslim Hero by Lorraine Ali, a journalist of Iraqi and French-Canadian descent. Together with an article from Al-Jazeera, a satellite channel based in the country of Qatar, entitled Muhammad Ali; The Face of "real Islam", these articles attempted to portray Ali as the  "true" image of Islam, with his promotion of peace, love, humility and supposed grace, his humanitarian ventures. Lorraine Ali tries to express in her article his "embracing American values" of hard work, fighting against racism and bigotry, and still becoming a beloved figure in the American mainstream.

What all three articles also intended was to portray Ali in the image of "moderate Islam", contrasting with "militant or radical Islam" in light of the mega-blitz of bigotry against Muslims in America and throughout the world, mostly generated by the media. This portrayal has had very negative effects against Muslims in the Western world. Having experience persecution, murdered, unjust incarceration, threats, laid off from jobs, and having laws being made against them using a suspicious claim of  "terrorism" ,"radical Islam" ,"radicalization" or as some would say "Islamicization". This is intended to caste Islam as an intolerant, belligerent way of life. The propagation of such beliefs give rise to some of the most despicable deeds such as the protests whereas people stand around the Muslims' place of worship, some carrying firearms claiming to "protect themselves" from the evil, bad, terrorists, and their "forced" conversions and Islamicization of America.

The articles also attempt to portray Islam as having values in line with "American values". The problem with such an attempt is that it fails to take into consideration the constant war of ideas taking place in America, as well as the rest of the Western world, where once conservatism ruled the political, social, and economic landscape, but is now being fiercely attacked by the liberal contingency. So these American values that Islam share a commonality with seem ambiguous, and Islam in America finds itself caught in the middle of trying to align itself, if ever possible, with whoever seems to be winning the war of ideas. The latest examples being that of feminism (often called women's rights), same sex marriage, homosexuality, and the transgender issue.

But the biggest problem with these articles is that the authors give the reader the assumption that there is such a concept of radical Islam, a concept not really fully described by anyone, especially since most of the articles, videos, reports and documentaries about radical Islam comes from outside the Muslim community anyway. Just Google the phrase radical Islam and you will come up with so many articles which discuss the concept, but none can ever give clear definitions of what radical Islam is. And where there is such definitions, it's usually provided with such outrageous distortions of the foundations and fundamental beliefs of Islam, that it seems inconceivable that such claims can be made without checking all of the facts. One cannot possibly think that such individuals who pride themselves as being "thinking", "intelligent" beings will stoop so low as to reintrepret Islamic concepts to fit their bigoted conclusions, but alas the propaganda is plentiful.

Take the website Answering Islam, a Christian website designed to prove the "brutalness" of the Islamic Way of Life. This site has an article entitled 164 Jihad Verses In The Quran, an outrageous claim that these verses in the Quran all relate to Jihad, a grossly distorted concept propagated by some non-Muslims, and even some ignorant Muslims. What is found in this article is a hodge-podge of misinformation, whereas the author/s took great liberty at redefining Jihad as simply holy war, then took verses out of the Quran which contained words like kill, death, fight, retaliate, and so on, with the intention of casting Islam as a religion of violence. Regardless of the context, these verses were posted as evidence of Islam's preoccupation with fighting and death.

One erroneous example given can be found in two verses from the second chapter, Surah Al Baqarah. The verses involved, verses 178-179 deal with the concept of Qisaas, or retailiation. The verses clearly apply to the event in which a Muslim intentionally kills another Muslim without right. The victim, or the victims' family in the case of murder has the option of either retailiation, or compensation (diya);

2:178-179 Oh you who believe! Retaliation(Qisaas) is prescribed upon you in the matter of the slain; the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if any remission is made for you by the aggrieved, then the diya(blood-money) should be made according to usage, and payment should be made in a good manner. This is an alleviation from your Lord, and a mercy, and whoever exceeds the limits after this, will suffer a painful chastisement.

Clearly these verses relate to dealing with the matter of Muslims killing other Muslims, yet Answering Islam chooses to display this as one of the verses relating to Jihad, which means to struggle on all fronts, not holy war. One would like to think that this is merely an oversight, but one can only make excuses for so long before suspecting other agendas.

                                                          (To be continued)

To Read Part Two, Click on the link;

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