Friday, March 20, 2015

A Discussion on Islamophobia (Sort of)

This past week, the University of New Mexico Student Government passed a resolution condemning Islamophobia.

The resolution stirred up a lot of notice-not just on campus, but nationally as well.

Here is a letter that appeared in The Daily Lobo in response to the resolution and the original report of same. It appears the writer of the letter, a student, did his homework.

In addition, a letter was written to the UNM reporter who wrote the original story (David Lynch) by an observer in California who is also quite knowledgeable on the topic of Islam. He is known to me, but I am deleting his name. The writer took the effort to reach out to one of the persons mentioned in Lynch's article in an attempt to begin a dialogue.

"Your Daily Lobo article about the ASUNM resolution 6S to oppose Islamophobia got nation-wide circulation.  As a former reporter and editor for my own college daily newspaper, I would have loved to have gotten that much readership.  The only problem with your article, however, was that it fell short of asking the obvious questions of the people you interviewed. 

You devoted over a third of your article to your interview with Ihsan Wadud-Rodriguez who claimed, “Those very cultural practices which are not supported by Americans are also not supported by Islam.  There is no contradiction: I don’t experience any self-discrepancy between my American values and Islamic values.”

Why didn’t you ask her, “For example?”  or “Name a few Islamic cultural practices which are not supported by Islam.”    I think you would have found if you had taken the interview one level deeper, you would have discovered that she was blowing smoke.  In Islam that practice is called Taqiyah.

I tracked down Ihsan, and I asked her about her statement.  Here is the dialogue:

Name deleted:  Ihsan Rodriguez was interviewed extensively yesterday with regard to a resolution by the ASUNM.  I would like to ask her a couple of questions, but I cannot find her email address.  Perhaps you can put me in contact with her.

Ihsan:  Hello, this is Ihsan Wadud-Rodriguez.  I believe you have been trying to contact me?

(Name deleted):  Thanks for getting back to me.  There was an article recently about University of New Mexico’s ASUNM Resolution 6S which calls for a ban on “prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.” You were quoted in the article   According to the article, you said, “Islam has been unfairly confounded with cultural practices. Those very cultural practices which are not supported by Americans are also not supported by Islam.”  Your impressive résumé indicates that you came from Saudi Arabia.  Some of the practices there which are clearly not supported by Americans include beheading people for minor offenses including leaving Islam, chopping of the hands of petty thieves, forbidding Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, stoning adulterers, FGM, and allowing old men to marry pre-pubescent children.  So I am trying to understand your statement.  Are you saying that  all of these offensive practices “cultural” and therefore unrelated to Islam?  Looking forward to your response.

Ihsan:   It seems that you have learned a few things about me. Would you mind introducing yourself?

Name deleted:  I am nobody in particular.  I have studied Islam in depth since before 9/11,  and I written three books about Islam.  (You can’t Google them, because I use a pseudonym.) The comments that were attributed to you indicate that you either know much more about Islam than I do, or that you really don’t know much at all,  That’s why I wanted to find out what you meant by your comments.

(Ihsan never responded.)

Name deleted:  It has been over a day since I responded to your email, introducing myself, but you have not answered my question.  You  told the reporter, David Lynch, that you just wanted to spread understanding.  Well, this is your chance.  If people have misunderstood the religion of Islam or the cultural practices that are not part of Islam, please explain those things to me and help me understand.  In turn, I will help spread the word to my large audience.   I want people in all parts of the world to live in peace, and that sounds like your objective, too.  Let’s make this happen.

(Ihsan still has not responded after two more days.)

The “teaching opportunity” from this exchange with Ihsan is that merely recording an interviewee’s talking points without follow-up questions puts the reporter in the position of being a convenient megaphone for propaganda.  Challenging the interviewee to provide facts and data, helps ferret out truth from falsehood.   Reporters are (or should be) reporting the truth – even when it cuts against the grain.  As Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

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