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Confronting the Monolith: The Struggle against Islamophobia and Osamaism

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Hatalles Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 01:37 PM
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Confronting the Monolith: The Struggle against Islamophobia and Osamaism
Edited on Mon Aug-07-06 01:43 PM by Hatalles
Confronting the Monolith: The Struggle against Islamophobia and Osamaism
by Jehanzeb Hasan
(Monday August 07 2006)

"Whites speak of Muslims almost synonymously with violence. Whenever Muslims are mentioned by them, violence is brought up; but it's not connected with any other group. This is a sort of a propaganda tactic, or, what I would call psychological warfare, to, in some way, make the image of the Muslims in this country be a violent image rather than a religious image."

- Malcolm X, Muslim American Civil Rights Leader, Oct. 1963

After almost forty years, these words still bear some relevance on the situation Muslims find themselves in today. Malcolm X first uttered them in Berkeley, California, just six months before he embarked upon his historic pilgrimage to Mecca. He would return to the United States as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and renounce his formerly held views, admitting to making "sweeping indictments" of all white people in the past. "The true Islam," he declared, "has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks" (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 416). After leaving the Nation of Islam and adopting mainstream Islam, the message of Malcolm X became an all-inclusive one:

"Since I learned the truth in Mecca, my dearest friends have come to include all kinds some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, socialists, and communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, red, yellow, and white!" (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 432)

When he engaged in the kind of essentialist rhetoric of some whites of his time, the pre-Hajj Malcolm X participated in the same sort of "psychological warfare" he condemned. After his pilgrimage, however, he recognized the serious problem and danger in viewing a broad segment of people as a singular monolithic entity.

The transformation of Malcolm X into El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz serves as an important reminder for today's Muslims who still find themselves struggling against those who would attempt to essentialize their beliefs. On the one hand, Muslims are confronted with Osamaists (those who can be characterized as approving of an Osama Bin Laden variant of Islam) who espouse a doctrine of religious violence and oppression. On the other hand, Muslims are also confronted with Islamophobes (those who can be characterized as harboring fear, hatred, or prejudice towards Islam or Muslims) who fully equate their religion with violence and oppression. What is most remarkable about both groups is that the arguments they make about "Islam" are actually founded upon the same antagonistic, literal, and selective interpretation of the religion.

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