By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota
Much of the industry of Islamophobia these days seems to operate based on a perceived existential threat to the American identity – the threat that somehow Americans may become “Islamicized” en masse and be brainwashed by Muslims either into converting to Islam or adopting Islamic viewpoints. The rhetoric of bigots like Robert Spencer and David Horowitz warns America from being nobbled into somehow becoming a Muslim nation.
Regardless of the hilarity of such a claim, there is something else about it that should be deeply insulting to Americans: It presumes that Americans are stupid.
Why else would someone be so concerned that a religion he views as patently and clearly false would gain popularity and spread around the Nation like wildfire? Islamophobes are essentially displaying their disrespect for the intelligence of Americans. I bet if you ask the American converts who attend my mosque if they were brainwashed into becoming Muslim, they would be offended by the question.
When you tell Islamophobes that some Americans choose to convert to Islam, they say that these poor Americans are being deliberately deceived by Muslims who show only one side of their religion and hide a different, sinister side.
Right. So when exactly are these poor deceived Americans supposed to learn the truth about Islam? They’re already attending mosques and listening to lectures by Islamic scholars. They are reading the same Islamic books that other Muslims read. They talk to Muslims and some are even married to Muslims. Many have traveled to Muslim-majority countries to learn more about Islam and Arabic language. If they haven’t realized that Islam is a demonic religion by now, then obviously the Islamophobes don’t think very highly of their mental capacities.
This paternalistic attitude seems to be a unifying feature of extremists around the globe. Dictators restrict the freedom of speech in order to prevent “pollution” of their people’s minds. The former USSR’s Iron Curtain was there for that reason. Extremists don’t trust the judgement of the general population because, deep down, they view the rest of the people as inferior in their decision making abilities.
No one would make a dramatic life altering decision such as changing their religion out of whim. At its best, the number of non Muslims converting to Islam is quite small compared to the general population, but even if it were a large number, it would be their choice and I would not expect them to be making an ill informed decision in a matter like this. Indeed, I have come across some converts who embraced Islam without even talking to a Muslim. They intentionally avoided asking Muslims about Islam in order to avoid getting a “biased” answer, relying solely on their individual research to reach their decision to convert. I’m sure they wouldn’t be thrilled to learn that bigots like David Yerushalmi think they’re dumb.
Interesting link: Read Sheila Musaji’s recent post in The American Muslim.