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Hugh Fitzgerald: Hannah Allam Advises Journalists: Islam Is Unfairly Treated (Part Four)

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Editor’s note: Part I here. Part two is here. Part three is here.

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank focused on the American Muslim community, noted in a 2018 report that over 11 percent of New York City’s engineers are Muslim. Thus, it makes sense to include Muslim voices in stories about engineering. Similarly, a large number of Muslims work in medical professions.

Is the author suggesting that the media is unfairly reporting on Muslims? We see Muslim professionals — especially engineers and medical personnel — mentioned frequently, and always positively. Members of the media hardly need to be reminded to do this; they are already, without prompting, presenting Muslims in the best possible light. Think of Khizr Khan, the Pakistani-American father of Humayun Khan, who was killed while serving as an American soldier in Iraq: Khizr Khan is probably the best known father of any serviceman killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s appeared as an honored guess at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, to speak about his son, and to wave a copy of the Constitution by way of reproaching Donald Trump, who presumably needed to be reminded about “the equal protection of the laws” clause. And Khizr Khan has been trotted out on other occasions since, to make the same point: “we Muslims are loyal Americans. And the death of my son proves that.” Actually such anecdotal evidence — a single death — proves nothing. On the subject of Muslim patriotism, you will never find, save at a few islamocritical websites, the information that CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has conducted a campaign to urge Muslims in America not to cooperate with the FBI in their investigations of terrorism. Is that patriotism? And as noted above, Muslims make up 1.1% of the American population, but only 0.4% of the military. Those figures, and what they imply, are nowhere to be found in the mainstream American media. Hannah Allam needn’t worry; the media are doing a superb job of protecting the image of Muslims.

Look at the sanitized coverage of Rashida Tlaib, whose increasingly open antisemitic remarks — now that she’s been elected — and her Palestine-First antics (as wrapping herself in the flag of “Palestine” for her victory speech) have been insufficiently denounced, nor has much been made of her tweeted remark that Israel “does not have a right to exist” and that “Nazis and Zionists are similar.” Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic remarks have, admittedly, received more attention. But for some just as disturbing as her remarks about Israel — such as “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel” — were her remarks accusing AIPAC of buying support for Israel by making campaign contributions of “benjamins” (Benjamin Franklin’s face is on the $100 bill) to campaigns; AIPAC does not make political contributions. The scandal involving Omar’s “marriage” to her brother appears to be of little interest, nor has anyone followed up the story of how she declared a false address when she ran for state senator in Minnesota.

Allam suggests that journalists covering anything to do with Islam strive for “diversity in your image choices, too”:

While many resource-constrained newsrooms have a shortage of photographers, it’s important not to rely on stock photos of random women in head coverings. In the interest of avoiding stereotypes, there are many other ways in which Muslims can be represented. “I seldom see pictures like those of my brothers, who served as U.S. Marines,” Allam says.

No doubt Allam would prefer that those photos of new converts to Islam in this country who promptly began plotting mayhem and murder of Infidels be kept out of the media. They might give the wrong impression, that Islam has something to do with Islamic terrorism, just the kind of unfair conclusion that is to be avoided at all costs. So let’s have more photographs of Muslim Marines, like her brothers, and of those Ahmadis, who are fond of sweeping streets and cleaning up parks, while making sure their good-samaritan deeds are fully covered by the press (and there’s no need for the Western media to mention that other Muslims don’t regard Ahmadis as real Muslims, for that would only confuse matters). Other photos should show Muslims distributing food to the poor at food banks, or handing out turkeys at Thanksgiving (even though Muslims are not supposed to observe the Infidel holiday of Thanksgiving), or “praying with their Christian and Jewish brothers” for world peace at some interfaith gathering.

Just keep up the feelgood photos and videos, and eventually many in the pubic will identify Muslims with such behavior. No one will bring up — no one in the mainstream media ever has — the Qur’anic verse that describes non-Muslims as “the most vile of created beings.” Nor would any reporter who wants to keep his job mention, much less quote, the more than 100 verses in the Qur’an that command Muslims to fight against the Unbelievers. It doesn’t matter if that statement is true; it’s “islamophobic” and must be punished. Let’s keep the Qur’an and Hadith out of reports on Islam; there’s so much more to the faith than those texts.

Indeed, Barzegar [Abbas Barzegar, a professor of religious studies] writes about “the so-called ‘unmosqued’ millennials — a younger generation of Muslims who prefer nonprofits and social startups to mosques and minarets,” who can be found in Silicon Valley and Syrian refugee camps — and also on Snapchat.”

The advice here from Ms. Alllam is simple: journalists should pay more attention to those Muslims who are, in her view, the least Islamic, who rarely or never attend the mosque — they are “unmosqued millennials” — and who are at most “cultural Muslims” or “Muslims-for-identification-purposes-only Muslims.” They can integrate into American society precisely because they are not real Believers. Should non-practicing Muslims be considered Muslims at all? Don’t they belong to the increasing number of apostates from Islam who, because of death threats, choose to be vague about their current beliefs, merely stating what can easily be observed, that they no longer attend any mosque.

Hannah Allam need not worry. The American media have long been practicing what she now preaches. American reporters are not “overwhelmingly negative in their portrayal of Islam,” as she insists. Instead, they accentuate the positive at every turn. Muslims are shown as doctors, engineers, professors, lawyers (especially doing splendid work at the A.C.L.U.), contributing to the American economy. Their wives too are shown not as submissive creatures, but instead, seen as finding their own voice, not only being attentive mothers of large broods, but managing as well to set up their own businesses, establish their own careers. Muslim families are presented as soothingly, just like their non-Muslim neighbors; their kids want the same things that non-Muslim kids want, from Lego to Little League.

Muslims are already depicted — relax, Ms. Allam — in all their “diversity” of clothing and, especially, cuisine. The implication that Muslims also differ in their “beliefs” is allowed to hang in the air. Having established that Muslims are “diverse” — look at how they dress, look at what they eat — the reporters feel no need to explain how, aside from the Sunni-Shi’a split, their beliefs differ. The differences among Sunni Muslims, who make up 85-90% of the world’s Muslims, are not as great as Hannah Allam would have you believe, more a matter of fervor than of faith. Fearing that generalizations about Muslims are likely to lead to a closer look at the texts all Muslims share, Allam has a stake in preventing any generalizations about Muslims being made.

Reporters have not focused only on those Muslims who attend the mosque regularly, as Allam worries they might. They are eager to report on a wide variety of Muslims, those who were born into the faith and those who have converted, those who are deeply devout and those who express doubts, those who come from any one of the more than 50 Muslim-majority  countries. Mostly these reporters are looking for feelgood stories, demonstrating just how much like other Americans these Muslim Americans already are, or eventually turn out to be. Hannah Allam should take a closer look at how Islam in America is covered; she would be pleasantly surprised.

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