America’s Charlie Hebdo moment
An incident occurred in October 2022 at Hamlin University in St. Paul, Minnesota. As part of her presentation, an associate professor of history displayed a 14th-century Persian artwork of the Prophet Muhammad in her class. Some members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) were evidently offended by this display and lodged a complaint with school officials. Jaylani Hussain, the executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), accused the Professor of exhibiting Islamophobia and suggested that if the institution did not take appropriate action, it would be subjected to violence like in the Charlie Hebdo incident in Paris in 2015.
Even though the professor in question issued a written apology, the complaints persisted until the university fired her, citing the incident as the reason for their decision.
There was a swift reaction to Hamlin University’s actions. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and Academic Freedom Alliance, both based in Princeton, NJ, as well as PEN America, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the New York Times, all condemned Hamlin for infringing on an instructor’s freedom to teach the course material, and for merely showing an existing artwork from Islamic sources.
In view of the CAIR leader’s threat of violence, the incident came to be referred to as the “Charlie Hebdo moment of America.”
Unfortunately, in a world where political correctness reigns supreme, one is not supposed to ask the tough questions. However, if we are to understand the interplay between the ever-present Islamic overreaction to routine situations and the phenomenon of Islamophobia, we must address the following questions:
- Is there something fundamental in the nature of the Islamic community that elicits “phobia?”
- While the Muslim community expects special consideration from others in matters of faith, does it extend the same courtesy to other faiths?
The religion of Peace?
The Islamic community loses no opportunity to proclaim their religion as the “religion of peace.” However, given the readiness with which the Islamic community uses violence or threat of violence, even in routine matters, one wonders how it rationalizes its violent behavior with the brand image it would like to project.
Islam, from its very birth, has shown an extreme propensity for violence. It has ravaged nations, committed mass murders, and destroyed places of worship of other faiths on a scale that is unparalleled in human history. Its adherents have indiscriminately massacred people of other faiths for no other reason than that they did not believe in Islam. This proclivity for violence continues to this day, as evidenced by numerous terrorist attacks around the world, including the 9/11 incident and the Boston Bombing incident, as well as the indiscriminate killing and forced conversion of non-Muslim minorities in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The Muslim community has been ruthless with its own kind as well. From the brutal suppression of the Arab Spring uprisings to the interminable civil wars in the Middle East, the Hijab protests in Iran, the denial of basic human rights to women in Afghanistan, to the millions killed in the never-ending Sunni-Shia conflicts, all bear witness to Islamic penchant for violence. The simple fact is that Islam and extremism seem to go together.
Since phobia means fear In Greek, is it not logical that the constant presence or threat of violence from Muslims would give rise to a “phobia of Islam”?
Some try to argue that it is the fringe element in Islam that is responsible for all the violence. However, that narrative bears no credibility given that 90% of the terrorist organizations on the U.S. Government’s watchlist are of Islamic persuasion  or that 15% of the global Muslim population has the potential to be a terrorist should the opportunity arise.
Clearly, the Muslim community needs to clean up its act if it wants to be respected as the “religion of peace.”
Nice Begets Nice
Muslims living in non-Muslim countries are invariably accorded status parity with the general population. However, Muslim-majority societies do not extend the same courtesy to their non-Muslims minorities. In fact, in most Muslim-majority societies, the minorities live a miserable existence. They are often denied the basic human rights to pray in public, gather for religious purposes, or display their religious texts and symbols. They are not permitted to build their places of worship; in fact, their places of worship are razed to the ground with great regularity and celebrated as acts of piety. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha is one of numerous such examples. Even if one chooses to overlook the terrible destruction the Islamic zealots have wrought on Hindu temples in India over the last 1000 years, one cannot ignore the continued desecration of Hindu temples in Bangladesh and Pakistan occurring in our own times. Other non-Muslim minorities fare no better in these countries.
Frankly, the Muslim community could learn a lot from the well-known adage: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
What’s with the ever-present chip-on-the-shoulder?
It is no exaggeration to say that, in matters of faith, Muslims are cognitively wired to interpret ambiguous situations negatively, and their reaction is invariably disproportionate to the situation.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1.9 billion adherents and 27 declared Islamic theocratic countries. Yet, despite such overwhelming numerical strength, the Muslim community always reacts with hypersensitivity to any perceived criticism of their religious norms. It defies common sense that the display of artwork from an Islamic source, no less, would invite an overwhelming violent reaction from the entire Muslim community. Similarly, it makes no sense that a Muslim in Kosovo, say, would feel impelled to respond to a relatively minor incident in the US. Why is it that the Muslim community invariably enlists support from the entire Muslim community around the world?
Unless, of course, it has a deep-seated insecurity about its basic ideology.
Contrary to whatever the Muslims of the world might think, the world does not hate them. People simply want to live in peace and harmony. But how can peace and harmony prevail when more than a billion out of the eight billion citizens of the world are constantly on a war path with the rest?