From Cordoba to New York

Cordoba, Spain

In one way or another, Islam became the subject for a number of heated debates in the US recently. From the controversy over the Islamic center near ground zero, to the announced plans to burn the Quran and the rumors about Obama being the first Muslim president of the US. All of these topics are symptoms of a disease called Islamophobia. In this particular case, Islamophobia is conveying an internal dynamic of US society, one that is far more deeply rooted in the US culture, and it could have devastating effects on the future of the United States of America.

It is obvious that building an Islamic cultural center near ground zero have nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11, unless these attacks are in some way associated with the Islamic religion itself, rather than the misdeeds of a couple of dozens of bad Muslims. The plan to burn Quran on the 9th anniversary of the attacks also follows the same example.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the American public remains ignorant when it comes to Islam and the Muslim world. This ignorance is the main generator of this fear, and hatred towards Islam and Muslims.

Islamophobia is the real reason for all of these symptoms that we are witnessing nowadays inside America. Instead of dealing with each symptom separately, it will be much more efficient to take steps towards curing the disease itself, then the symptoms will disappear automatically.

The question here is whether America can afford to get rid of its Islamophobia!

Sociologists would agree that fear is the best tool to control the masses. In a dictatorship, people would fear the regime, and this fear will be used to rule, direct and manipulate the public. In a democratic country like the US, fear has always been ‘borrowed’ or imported from somewhere else.

In many defining moments throughout the American history, the American public was ruled with fear that was generated by ignorance. At the beginning there were the aboriginal Indians, followed by the Afro-American,  and then there were the Japanese, during WWII, and then the communists during the cold war, and now its Muslims.

The difference this time is that it is the first time this foreign enemy is taking the form of a religion, not an ethnicity or a political system, which makes it much more difficult, if not utterly impossible, to defeat it using the same approach.

Another distinguishing factor is the fact that Muslims represent the biggest group of ‘enemies’ in the history of the US. Can America really afford to be in a state of war with ¼ of the population of the world? Does America really need to be in conflict with the Muslim world? What is this conflict about ultimately? Who will benefit from something like that?

There are many groups that have interest in generating Islamophobia in the American society, hoping to instigate a conflict with the Muslim world for its own interests. To begin with, there are the Islamic extremists, who will benefit from this to employ new people both in the west and in the Muslim world, to carry out terrorist attacks.

In America, there are the politicians of the Republican Party who seem to see the world through the riflescope. Their political agenda is based on war, and they can only thrive on it, the enemy for them is just a technicality. There are of course weapon lobbies, Israeli lobby, oil profiteers, and others, who will benefit from any war between the US and
the Muslim world.

The American administration this time understands the possible implications of escalated hatred with the Muslim world; it just can’t do anything about it.

So where does that leave us? What will happen after few dozens of Qurans are burned, and millions of Muslims are zngry? Will the 1.6 billion Muslims of the world vanish with the ashes of the books? Will cancelling the Islamic center defeat terrorists, or reduce terrorist attacks in the world?

The real problem is not between the US and the Muslim world. The real problem is in two factors, both of which are inside America.The first factor is that the American public needs to be aware that there are always those who try to generate and manipulate fear, in order to control the public for its own interests. If it will not be Muslims, it will be some other people; there will always be the ‘buggy man.’

Secondly, Islam will not disappear. Fighting words with fire is only an indication of intellectual bankruptcy. There is no need for that fight to begin with, for there is no conflict between Islam and the American values. The illusion that these two great civilizations are in conflict is merely caused by ignorance that can easily be overcome, if moderates on both sides will genuinely reach out to each other, and discover that what they have in common is by far more than their minor and avoidable disagreements.

For that purpose, the Islamic cultural center in NY could be a good start to promote better understanding of Islam. The name of the center itself “Cordoba” speaks volumes about how Islam harnessed a civilization that was the best example of tolerance and coexistence in the history. That civilization was in the same land that produced Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America – Andalusia; and America could actually benefit from that example, then the whole world will follow the steps of the then glorious USA, this time willingly.

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