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See: Project Rebuttal: What the West needs to know about Islam

Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

Read: Background to the Project

List of all Issues | Summary 1 | Summary 2 | Summary 3‎ — completed, 28th June 2013


November 4th, 2012

Issue 77

Issue 77 [@1:18:45]: Video – with a title displayed – “New York City 2002”
[peaceful neighborhood demonstration by about 100-150 participants of various ages and ethnicities, men, women and children, chanting and displaying placards, during winter as is obvious by the snow on the sidewalks and participants wearing warm clothes]
[placard –] Media be Responsible
[placard –] Masjid Al-Salam means Mosque of Peace
[rhyming repeating chants –] There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is his Messenger
[placard –] We shall not tolerate prejudice
[placard –] Islam is not terrorism
[rhyming chants –] La ilaha ill-Allah – Jihad il fi sabeel ill-Allah…(some non-decipherable references to Quran)
[rhyming chants –] There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is his Messenger….(some undecipherable references) Neigh Muslim everywhere…(women and children faces in the crowd) La ilahaAllah-o-Akbar…(adult faces with repeated chants) Takbeer…Allah-o-Akbar…

Rebuttal 77: This is a tacit placement of a video clip in the build up by the documentary to subliminally put a human face on its targeted rancor and for the mostly Western audience to identify the ‘ethnicity’ of the Muslims amongst them. This is tantamount to putting Star of David on Jews under Hitler. Its intended implications are far beyond a casual reference to Islam. It is a venomous effort to seed hate amongst the Western audience against common citizen passerby on the street who is ‘foreign’ looking. It is another classical case of Nazism that not only identifies the Jews amongst them, but also has the intention to target them – “Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people… Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea.” Adolf Hitler wrote these words in his book Mein Kampf (1926), in which he first advocated the use of propaganda to spread the ideals of National Socialism — among them racism, antisemitism, and anti-Bolshevism [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]. Like Hitler, this documentary too is an effort to vilify Muslims in an attempt for public acceptance of the malice of this production. This documentary in its hate seems to have taken a leaf out of Nazi book which is summarized in Wikipedia under “Themes of Nazi Propaganda.” In order to cover up its clever agenda, the documentary itself uses ‘foreign’ experts of its own, who obviously are more loyal than the king. Their efforts are clearly an effort to please their funding sources, most of which have been identified to ultimately originate from Zionism.

If we play this short video clip on mute, we will only see the following placards written with:

* Media be Responsible
* Masjid Al-Salam means Mosque of Peace
* We shall not tolerate prejudice
* Islam is not terrorism

What is quite obvious by the demonstration is that Muslims are protesting against ‘Islamophobia‘, an old term in the West, pervasive before the Crusades, now with a new name given to it after 9/11, which is just another garb for racism, succinctly outlined in the published report of Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia:

Racism is not in the minds of black people, nor is Islamophobia in the minds of Muslims, nor antisemitism in the minds of Jews. Racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism are in the minds of white people, non-Muslims and non-Jews, and in the institutions, organisations and cultures that they mould and lead. [Islamophobia – issues, challenges and action, p. viii, pdf link]

This ‘neo-racism’ that reeks hate under its pseudo-intellectual camouflage in the current documentary is aptly summarized as:

‘It’s mindblowing, because nobody seems to mind. Islamophobia is a societal thing and it’s as though people aren’t aware how bad things are. Muslims are an easy target because we are visibly different. And people always need some focus for their hatred.’ [Islamophobia – issues, challenges and action, p. 4, pdf link]

Since the current issue is the climactic moment of Islamophobia, the main purpose of the documentary, it begets to understand the role of media in perpetrating this prejudice. This is pertinently explored in the research thesis “Islamophobia and the media : the portrayal of Islam since 9/11 and an analysis of the Danish cartoon controversy in South Africa” – Asmal, F., Thesis (MPhil (Journalism)) – University of Stellenbosch, 2008 [download the pdf at bottom of this link].

The seething falsehood of Spencer et al. would carry no punch unless they are provided a platform by the media. Besides, various broadcast outlets, cable channels, websites (JihadWatch.org etc.) this documentary itself is a prime example of role of media in creating and spreading prejudice, bias, hate, bigotry, intolerance, half-truths and plain simple Xenophobia. The above thesis is based upon this very hypothesis that is confirmed by its conclusion. Following is an excerpt from its pages 4-8 that dissect the underpinnings of such manipulation by the media:

1.3. HYPOTHESIS

It is this researcher’s hypothesis that the media is mainly responsible for propagating Islamophobia. If one were to view this according to the theories of the press, no one, single theory would apply. Instead one could describe it as an application of a matrix of theories. A brief discussion of some of these theories follows:

1.3.1. Marxist Theory:

Before proceeding further, one needs to define the meaning of political economy. According to Fourie (2001: 121) the political economy is an umbrella term for all those theories and analytical approaches which have the purpose of understanding how economic and political relationships, interests and affiliations determine the functioning of social institutions (including the media as a social institution), and the impact or lack of impact of these relationships on social transformation and development. In terms of Marxist theory, it is believed that all means of production, including media production, determines the nature of a society and that the economy is the base of all social structures, including institutions and ideas (Fourie. 2001: 122).

According to this theory, the working class is oppressed by those individuals and groups in society who own the means of production and whose sole purpose is to make a profit. In addition, Fourie writes that the economic and political control of the media determines the content and thus the ideological power of the media.

“By ideological power we mean the power (and means) to form, direct and influence the thinking of people. This power is mainly vested in those who own the media and who have the financial means to own and manage the media” (Fourie. 2001: 122).”

The global media trend seems to be one that is dominated by political agendas as well as profit- making. This follows in the footsteps of trends set by First World Western countries where profit motives direct the business, where the media is controlled by a small group of entrepreneurs whose primary, focus lies in generating capital. It seems that internationally, the media is mainly controlled by a small, elite capitalist group, who can exercise the right to control issues relating to content, propaganda, agenda-setting, etc. This was precisely what happened when the events of 9/11 occurred (Lewis. 2005).

The small, elite capitalist groups worldwide exercised their power in carefully selecting the footage and information they wanted the masses to consume (Lewis. 2005). According to Fourie (2001: 123), the concept of power is central to the critical political economy. Thompson (as cited in Fourie. 2001: 123) distinguishes between four types of power: economic, political, coercive and symbolic. The latter, i.e. symbolic power, is the real and potential power vested in all cultural institutions such as the church, educational institutions and the media. These institutions possess the power to influence people’s thinking and behaviour. They produce symbolic forms of expressions that guide people to understand and think about the world in certain ways. According to Fourie (2001: 136) the underlying assumption that is made in terms of Marxist capitalist theory, is that economic ownership leads to the control of content that promotes the interest of the ruling class at the expense of the masses. However, Functionalist theorists tend to disagree.

1.3.2. Functionalist Theory:

Functionalism views society as an integrated, harmonious, cohesive whole in which all parts (for example, institutions such as the school, the church, economic, political and cultural institutions) function to maintain equilibrium, consensus and social order (Fourie. 2001: 240). Furthermore, society can be viewed and analysed similar to a human body consisting of different organs all functioning together. Should one of these organs become sick/dysfunctional, it affects the whole body. Functionalism sees the media as one of the instruments in society, that should contribute to the harmonious and cohesive functioning of society (Fourie. 2001: 240).

The media can generally be held responsible for social attitudes. According to Fourie (2001: 265), the media can be viewed as a powerful instrument of socialisation whether it is through education, information or entertainment. The media holds society together in all spheres, whether social, economic, political or technological. In Fourie’s view, the media’s responsibility to society, is in providing information that the public has a right to know (2001: 265). As part of functionalist theories, the media has a role in contributing towards the development of society, as an agent of social change. Functionalists also believe that the public have a role to participate in the media in the form of opinion. In terms of functionalism, the media plays a somewhat authoritarian role in propagating the State’s interests to the public. Also, functionalists believe that the public is capable of formulating its own opinion about issues. Overall, the media is the glue that allows society to function in a systematic manner, creating a social order of sorts.

In terms of the Western media’s coverage of Islam or issues events relating to Islam, especially in terms of 9/11 and the cartoon controversy, it scents that the American media perpetuated its government’s stance. Even though the public was allowed to participate in responding to the events, the media still shaped societies’ opinions on Islam. This will be explored in Chapter Three.

1.3.3. Critical Media Theory

In terms of critical theory, the media are seen to be the most pervasive ideological agent in late twentieth and early twenty-first century society. This is according to Fourie (2001: 241) who adds that there is hardly a person who does not come into contact with media of one kind or another and the ideas and values they convey, be it newspapers, radio, television, advertisements, popular music or the internet. Fourie writes that the possible ideological implications of that media is what gave rise to critical media theory.

“Mass society theories were formulated at the turn of the twentieth century as a critical reaction to the rise of technology that in turn gave rise to industrialisation. urbanisation and what is referred to as the ‘mass man’ and ‘mass society’. Radio, film and the press of the day, and after the Second World War, television, were seen by critics on both sides of the political spectrum as products of technology used by a minority to manipulate the majority” (Fourie. 2001: 242)

This theory is brought forth in Chapters Two and Three, where it is described how society relies on some form of media, whether it is print, broadcast or the Internet, as a source of information and formulation of opinion on a particular subject.

Underlying assumptions of this theory include:

– Seeing the media as forms of symbolic expression, i.e. the communicator expresses his, her values, beliefs and attitudes on a particular topic/subject, thereby assigning a meaning to reality.
– The recipient understands and interprets the message fit her own manner, the meaning that he/she attaches to it being a result of the confrontation between the viewer and what he/she views on screen, hears on the radio or sees in the newspaper.
– Critical theory stresses the circumstances of the communicator. It is also concerned with how the ideologies of media owners influence content that is produced in the media. The theory also argues that the media mainly support the interests (political. economic and social) of one group at the cost of another group. (Fourie. 2001: 246)

1.3.4. Pluralist Theory:

Pluralism refers to the variety of media in a democracy.

“The underlying premise in pluralist media theory is that in view of the variety of media (various newspapers, television station, radio stations, films, videos, publishers, advertising agencies. all looking at reality from different perspectives) it is impossible to make one-sided and limited claims about the way the media function” (Fourie. 2001: 248).

According to Fourie (2001) pluralists argue that if one newspaper or television station adopts a particular ideological perspective, another newspaper or television station is free to propagate an opposing ideology. He adds that media users are free to be selective about their exposure to the media and the ideologies propagated.

In terms of coverage of 9/11 and the cartoon controversy, although media users were free to choose the type of media they were exposed to, they were limited in the sense that the news that was disseminated originated from one country. i.e. the USA, a hegemonic force in the international news arena. This will be discussed in Chapters Two and Three.

In order to understand how the various theories apply to the topic of this paper, one needs some historical background on key concepts which will be discussed after the methodology.

Those readers living in the West, who have reached this far in the current Project Rebuttal will be able to see the definitions and implications of Islamophobia unfold before them from this documentary that come to the fore in the said thesis (p. 12-15):

1.6. DEFINING ISLAMOPHOBIA

Simplistically, Islamophobia can be defined as the fear of the religion of Islam, or a fear of Islam’s followers who are referred to as Muslims (Islamophobia: a definition: 2004). However, one needs to delve beyond this definition in order to understand the term better.

According to a publication by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia entitled Islamophobia: Issues, challenges and action (Richardson, 2004: 7) manifestations of anti-Muslim hostility include:

– Verbal and physical attacks on Muslims in public places
– Attacks on mosques and desecration of Muslim cemeteries
– Widespread and routine negative stereotypes in the media, including the broadsheets, and in the conversations and “common sense” of non-Muslims – people talk and write about Muslims in ways that would not be acceptable if the reference were to Jewish people, for example, or to black people
– Negative stereotypes and remarks in speeches by political leaders, implying that Muslims in Britain are less committed than others to democracy and the rule of law – for example the claim that Muslims more than others mast choose between “the British way” and the “terrorist way”
– Discrimination in recruitment and employment practices, and in workplace cultures and customs
– Bureaucratic delay and inertia in responding to Muslim requests for cultural sensitivity in education and healthcare and in planning applications for mosques
– Lack of attention to the fact that Muslims in Britain are disproportionately affected by poverty and social exclusion
– Non-recognition of Muslims in particular, and of religion in general, by the law of the land, since discrimination in employment on grounds of religion has until recently been lawful and discrimination in the provision of services is still lawful
– Anomalies in public order legislation, such that Muslims are less protected against incitement to hatred than members of certain other religions
– Laws curtailing civil liberties that disproportionately affect Muslims (Richardson. 2004: 7)

Islamophobia also means that (Islamophobia: a definition: 2004):

– Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change
– Islam is seen as separate and “other”. It does not have values in common with other cultures, it is not affected by them, and it does not influence them
– Islam is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist
– Islam is seen as violent, aggressive and threatening supportive of terrorism and engaged in a “clash of ‘civilisations’
– Islam is seen as a political ideology and is used for political or military advantage
– Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand
– Hostility towards Muslims is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society
– Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal (Islamophobia: a definition: 2004).

The report, Islamophobia: issues, challenges and action (Richardson. 2004: 7) states that Islamophobia is a new word for an old fear, which has been recorded and can historically be traced back to eighth century European societies.

This antagonistic historical relationship between Islam and Western societies will be briefly analysed in the next section of this paper.

Since the last century, more specifically after 1960, Islam posed a threat to the world in other ways, including the economic leverage it held on the world stage of oil-rich countries, many of which were Muslim in their culture and traditions (Richardson. 2004). The West also became afraid of the emergence of political movements claiming to be motivated by Islam and that used terrorist tactics to achieve their aims (Richardson. 2004). The abuse of human rights by repressive regimes that claimed to be motivated and justified by Muslim beliefs was an additional reason to the animosity that existed between Islam and the West (Richardson. 2004: 7).

Henzell-Thomas (2004) identified the following problems which were created by Islamophobia:

– Prejudice, fuelled by unbalanced media representation in the following areas: the association of Islam and Muslims in general, explicitly or implicitly, with fundamentalism, terrorism and intolerance
– The use of biased language to stigmatise Islam and Muslims
– The reduction of the richness of Islamic tradition to a few simplistic clichés around controversial issues which tend to stigmatise Islam as “backward’ or oppressive – e.g. hijab, jihad, ritual slaughter, etc
– The misleading association of Islam with specific cultural identities and practices. especially Asian and African, e.g. female circumcision, forced marriage, honour killings
– Blatant and unchecked dehumanisation of Muslims, including abuse and incitement.

Sajid (2005: 9) further defines Islamophobia as follows:

“Islamophobia is the fear and or hatred of Islam. Muslims or Islamic culture. Islamophobia can be characterised by the belief that all or most Muslims are religious fanatics, have violent tendencies towards non-Muslims. and reject as directly opposed to Islam such concepts as equality, tolerance and democracy. Islamophobia is a new form of racism whereby Muslims, an ethno-religious group, not a race, are nevertheless, constructed as a race. A set of negative assumptions are made of the entire group to the detriment of members of that group. During the 1990s many sociologists and cultural analysts observed a shift in racist ideas from one based on skin colour to one based on notions of cultural superiority and otherness.”

According to Sajid (2005: 9), Islamophobia derives from Xenophobia and is concerned with culturalism and identity politics. It initially referred to inhumane conditions suffered by Muslim immigrants to the West, but has recently broadened in reference to ostracism suffered by Muslims globally.

There is a natural and inadvertent blow-back from the acts of Islamophobes whether in this movie or any other forum, they unknowingly foster unity amongst the mega-majority of peaceful Muslims, which in a comedy of errors is farthest from the initial intention of the documentary:

‘In a strange way, Islamophobia is bringing us together. Muslims have no common language and come from many cultures with their own traditions that have nothing to do with Islam. They will stand side by side in the mosque, but there are divisions. But now we are the common enemy and that is fostering relationships. The Pakistani, the Nigerian, the black convert from Jamaica – we are starting to see each other as brothers.’ [Islamophobia – issues, challenges and action, p. 4, pdf link]

Let’s revisit the placards in light of the Quran. The capitalized comments in verses below are from Issue 71 in context of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations :

* “Media be Responsible” – and by implication refrain from any rumor mongering and falsehood.

6:152. …And when you speak, be just…

6:6. O you who believe, if an unrighteous person brings you news,look carefully into it, in case you harm a people in ignorance, then be sorry for what you did.

24:15-16. When you received it on your tongues and spoke with your mouths what you had no knowledge of, and you considered it trivial, while with Allah it was serious. And why did you not, when you heard it, say: It is not worthy of us to talk of it. Glory be to You! This is a great slander.

* “Masjid Al-Salam means Mosque of Peace” – and so is the very purpose of every place of worship of all religions in Quran.

22:39-40. Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And surely Allah is Able to assist them — Those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And if Allah did not repel some people by others [so that people can profess and practice their faith in freedom], surely cloisters and churches and synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down.

5:2: …And do not let hatred of a people — because they hindered you from the Sacred Mosque [i.e. place of worship] — incite you to transgress [and become a source of DISCRIMINATION]. And help one another in righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and aggression, and keep your duty to Allah. Surely Allah is Severe in retribution [– thus conclusively in Islam ALL ARE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW AND ARE ENTITLED WITHOUT ANY DISCRIMINATION TO EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW. ALL ARE ENTITLED TO EQUAL PROTECTION AGAINST ANY DISCRIMINATION IN VIOLATION OF THIS DECLARATION AND AGAINST ANY INCITEMENT TO SUCH DISCRIMINATION ].

* “We shall not tolerate prejudice” – because Quran forbids it:

30:22. And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colours. Surely there are signs in this for the learned.

49:13. O mankind, surely We have created you from a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other. Surely the noblest of you with Allah is the most dutiful of you [and not by mere association with certain RACE, COLOUR, SEX, LANGUAGE, RELIGION, POLITICAL OR OTHER OPINION, NATIONAL OR SOCIAL ORIGIN, PROPERTY, BIRTH OR OTHER STATUS]. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.

3:103. And hold fast by the covenant of Allah [i.e. Quran] all together and do not be disunited. And remember Allah’s favour to you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favour you became brethren [WITHOUT DISTINCTION OF ANY KIND, SUCH AS RACE, COLOUR, SEX, LANGUAGE, RELIGION, POLITICAL OR OTHER OPINION, NATIONAL OR SOCIAL ORIGIN, PROPERTY, BIRTH OR OTHER STATUS.]. And you were on the brink of a pit of fire [of mutual hate, enmity and wars], then He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes clear to you His messages that you may be guided.

49:11-12. O you who believe, do not let a people laugh at (another) people [i.e. mock, ridicule or DISCRIMINATE on basis of RACE, COLOUR, SEX, LANGUAGE, RELIGION, POLITICAL OR OTHER OPINION, NATIONAL OR SOCIAL ORIGIN, PROPERTY, BIRTH OR OTHER STATUS], perhaps they may be better than they; nor let women (laugh) at women, perhaps they may be better than they. Neither find fault with one another, nor call one another by (offensive) nick-names. Evil is a bad name after faith; and whoever does not repent, these it is that are the wrongdoers. O you who believe, avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is sin; and do not spy nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You abhor it! And keep your duty to Allah, surely Allah is returning (to mercy) again and again, Merciful.

* “Islam is not terrorism” – because preservation of life is one of the core articles of faith in Islam:

5:8. O you who believe, be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice; and do not let hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably. Be just; that is nearer to observance of duty. And keep your duty to Allah. Surely Allah is Aware of what you do.

5:29. O you who believe, do not swallow up your property among yourselves by false means except that it be trading by your mutual consent. And do not kill your people [or yourselves by suicide].

17:31. And do not kill your children [by infanticide or keeping them ignorant by not providing them education, because EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND SECURITY OF PERSON] for fear of poverty — We provide for them and for you. Surely the killing of them is a great wrong.

17:33. And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause [because EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND SECURITY OF PERSON]. And whoever is killed unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority — but let him not exceed the limit [of the Law] in [committing extra-Judicial revenge] killing. Surely he will be helped [by the due process of the Law].

81:8-9. and when the one buried alive [as a child] is asked for what sin she was killed [while her RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND SECURITY OF PERSON was trampled at the altar of false societal prejudices],

5:32. …whoever kills a person, unless it is for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he had killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the lives of all mankind [because EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND SECURITY OF PERSON]. And certainly Our messengers came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them commit excesses in the land.

6:151-153. Say: Come! I will recite what your Lord has forbidden to you: Set up no partner with Him, and do good to parents, nor kill your children for (fear of) poverty — We provide for you and for them, nor go near to indecencies, open or secret, nor kill the soul which Allah has made sacred except in the course of justice. This He enjoins upon you that you may understand. And do not approach the property of the orphan except in the best manner [with the object of improving it or making it profitable], until he attains his maturity. And give full measure and weight with equity — We do not impose on any soul a duty beyond its ability. And when you speak, be just, even (against) a relative. And fulfil Allah’s covenant. This He enjoins on you that you may be mindful; and (know) that this is My path, the right one, so follow it, and do not follow (other) ways, for they will lead you away from His way. This He enjoins on you that you may keep your duty.

16:90-91. Surely Allah commands (the doing of) justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the near of kin, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion. He instructs you that you may be mindful. And fulfil the covenant of Allah, when you have made a covenant, and do not break (your) oaths after making them firm, and you have indeed made Allah your surety. Surely Allah knows what you do.

2:83. …And do good to (your) parents,and to the near of kin and to orphans and the needy, and speak good (words) [i.e. do kind dealings] to (all) people…

28:77. And seek the abode of the Hereafter by means of what Allah has given you, and do not neglect your portion of the world, and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the land. Surely Allah does not love the mischief-makers.

References:
Note: [text enclosed in square brackets above is not part of the original quoted sources]

Nazi Propaganda – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Themes of Nazi Propaganda – Wikipedia
“Islamophobia – issues, challenges and action” [pdf] – Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia
Islamophobia and the media : the portrayal of Islam since 9/11 and an analysis of the Danish cartoon controversy in South Africa – Asmal, F. (recommended)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – United Nations
Holy Quran – Muhammad Ali, edited by Zahid Aziz

One Response to “Issue 77”

  1. November 25th, 2012 at 5:05 am
    From Rashid Jahangiri:

    Are documentary ‘Islam: What West Needs to Know’ makers reading this Project Rebuttal?

    I think answer is Yes.

    Previously this video was open access. Today i tried to watch it through link provided in introduction of this Project Rebuttal, it gives following message. This is a kind of restriction:

    This video is private.

    If the owner of this video has granted you access, please log in.


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