While protesters at a Polish mosque construction site chanted
"Radical Islam, no thanks," counter-protesters turned out
carrying banners reading: "Warsaw is for everybody" and
"Stop Islamophobia." (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
Acting on his 2009 promise of a fresh start between the United States and the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, President Obama is now the driving force behind an effort to remove “Islamic radicalism” from national security documents. According to the Associated Press, the revision is expected to be released in several weeks and will no longer target Islamic radicalism as “the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.” Instead, the new American policy will expand its focus to include common economic interests with the world’s population (Muslim and non-Muslim) and the mutual benefits enjoyed by working together in peace.
As National Security Council staffer Pradeep Ramamurthy said, "Do you want to think about the U.S. as the nation that fights terrorism or the nation you want to do business with?"
The White House’s shift away from any reference to Islam will likely be applauded by local, national, and global organizations that have been warning of rising Islamophobia in the United States since 9/11. In Miami-Dade, for example, UN representative Doudou Diène held a series of public hearings in which he heard firsthand accounts of rampant Islamophobia in the area. Nationally, the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been working to improve interfaith relations through education, civil rights work, media relations, research, and specific initiatives such as the “Explore the Quran” campaign that distributed almost 34,000 free copies of the Quran to Americans who requested one.
One key challenge in the struggle against Islamophobia is the widespread belief among non-Muslims that Islam is a religion of war instead of peace. It’s not unusual to hear a TV or radio host angrily challenging people to pick up a copy of the Quran and see for themselves the statements such as:
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth [i.e. Islam] (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." (9:29)
However, people from outside the Judeo-Christian tradition would likely be equally suspicious of Biblical passages such as:
“If the prophets then say, 'Come, let us worship the gods of foreign nations,' do not listen to them… The false prophets or dreamers who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery in the land of Egypt. Since they try to keep you from following the LORD your God, you must execute them to remove the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
Learning and talking about each other’s religious or nonreligious beliefs might be a key to changing the sobering statistics from a 2006 poll, in which 40% of Americans want Muslims to carry a special I.D. card, 25% don’t want a Muslim in their neighborhood, and 33% believe American Muslims sympathize with al-Qaeda.