Nafees Syed

Nafees Syed
I felt like I was in a fishbowl last Thursday. The halls of the House of Representatives office buildings were teeming with visitors for the King hearings. With my headscarf, I was obviously Muslim, and with my Blackberry and fast walk, a Congressional staffer. When someone asked me, as many others had done, if I had attended the King hearings, I shrugged and answered, “I had more important things to do,” and we laughed. But my real answer was that I didn’t want to give King or his witnesses, known Islamophobes, the attention that they undoubtedly wanted and didn’t deserve. The only real expert witness was the one who was brought in by the Democrats — law enforcement expert Sheriff Lee Baca. To me, Rep. Peter King had lost his credibility far before he began saying anything about Muslims. That a chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee was and is a staunch supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), a terrorist organization that has killed hundreds of civilians, astounds me. So when Peter King announced these bigoted hearings for homeland security, after years of voicing outlandish comments about Muslims, I wasn’t surprised. Prejudice by any other name — even national security — smells just as awful. It wasn’t until I realized it was impossible to work on the Hill without watching the King hearing that I reluctantly saw it. And I was moved. Even people who saw the hearings to try to confirm their own biases could not leave without seeing the absurdities exposed, one by one. Rep. Keith Ellison’s heart-wrenching testimony of a Muslim-American who died rescuing others during the 9/11 terror attacks, assumed to be a radical because of his faith until proven innocent by his remains, moved him, me and many others to tears. It was as if every tear represented a spiteful comment, a nasty look, things we Muslims in America have grown to expect. The unwarranted suspicion that hurt Hamdani’s family epitomizes the accusations that cloak us even today, something that underlies the foundations of this hearing. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee highlighted this when she upheld the right of Muslims to practice their faith in America — opposed to King’s offensive remarks about mosques and the recent anti-Islamic laws circulating in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas legislatures. With prosecutorial grace, she left Rep. King floundering: “I am overwhelmed by this hearing and the lack of factual basis for it,” she said after deftly proving how Muslims were cooperative with law enforcement using the very witnesses who were called in to prove otherwise. More importantly, she showed how the hearings dangerously ignored important issues in homeland security in its obsession with Muslims. All of the Democratic members of the House Homeland Security Committee played a role in undermining the McCarthyesque hearing, which highlights one of the most positive consequences of the hearings: it has led to a unified Democratic stance against this witch-hunt of Muslim-Americans.


Chua has no right to belittle (anyone) and act in a condescending manner towards other people’s culture and religious practices.’

Chua must apologise, say Muslim lawyers NGO
I fully support and empathise with Muslim Lawyers Association president Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar’s call for an apology from MCA chief Dr Chua Soi Lek.

Chua has no right to belittle anyone and act in a condescending manner towards other people’s culture and religious practices. He should issue an unqualified public apology.
PAS candidate Normala Sudirman’s worth as a representative is not decided by what she wears nor her religious beliefs. For Muslims and many Asian women, it is culturally inappropriate to have physical contact with males.

Gandhi, when he was a student in England, explained his vegetarian diet with this remark: “We have to respect those beliefs just as we want others to respect our beliefs.”
Just as I understand the hurt by Muslims over this issue, I hope others too can understand why Indians are hurt over the condescending and derogative and superficial way that the novel ‘Interlok’ has described the Indian caste system. Hindus too, being human, have feelings.

When the DAP representative Teo Nie Ching was invited to a mosque to give a speech, her attire was made into a big issue. A certain BM-language daily really condemned her for a lengthy period. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also condemned her roundly. Later she got into trouble again for supposedly wearing sports attire which was deemed inappropriate during aerobics with some mosque-goers. Again, Abdullah and the national daily condemned her.
Here Chua is wilfully belittling a respected Malay/Muslim custom with impunity and only Zainul Rijal raises the matter, and that, too, after so many days. Where is Abdullah and the national daily?
Chua, campaign all you want but don’t touch on people’s cultural and religious practises. Normala is a married Malay/Muslim woman, and we have to respect her cultural beliefs. She must be judged by her performance as a people’s representative if she wins, not by her attire or religious/cultural beliefs. Chua should apologise.


The intense levels of Islamic hatred emanating from this country. I have been writing about this for years at my own site. The Gaza ‘aid’ flotilla, which happened in 2010, not 2009, got an enormous amount of press here in the government-run media here in Malaysia…media that is licensed and in truth essentially owned by the Malaysian government. They took the opportunity to demonise Israel and laud the jihadists on the flotilla itself at every opportunity. The nine Malaysians who themselves were onboard the flotilla, and are lionised as national heroes, were greeted upon their arrival here in KL by no less than the Malaysian Prime Minister himself (Najib).


div> Gujarat explodes in anti-Modi frenzy. Things are not good in Gujarat and its capital of commerce Ahmedabad and Banglore. A few years ago Narendra Modi orchestrated a vile pogrom of bigotry against the Muslims. More than 3000 Muslims were systematically targeted and massacred. More than 400,000 were thrown out the state. They still yearn … Read more
Najib’s country, his government, clerics, media and educational arms clamor and shriek for another holocaust, for the wholesale removal if not slaughter of Jews. And the kufr, dhimmified world turns a deaf ear and a blind eye.

Malaysia, lest we forget, is also the home of some of Southeast Asia’s most dangerous and lethal terrorists, such as Noordin Top and Azahari Husin. These men who both at one time taught at government-run universities were behind the Bali bombings and a number of other deadly attacks on infidels in Indonesia. After these monsters finally reached room temperature, the bodies were shipped to their homeland of Malaysia for a hero’s sendoff before huge fawning crowds, their Malaysian families intensely proud of their relative’s deeds.
Malaysian muslims has been suppressing and discriminating minority, ethnic chinese and indian, since the independence of Malaysia. I am glad to know that americans are getting to know the true colour of malaysian muslims who are mostly ethnic malay. Muslims are the cancer of the world. Those malaysian muslim leaders are taliban in suit. So, don’t be fooled by their appearances.
Did Obama take any of this into consideration before declaring Malaysia to be a great ‘friend, ally and partner’ of his country the United States?
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer stated about the hearing: “We all need to work together to keep our nation and Americans safe, and we need everyone’s cooperation to do so. Targeting one segment of our population is not helpful to that objective.” I remember a few years ago feeling like the nerd at the dodgeball game. Neither team wanted anything to do with the Muslim voters, and one team was actively bullying us. Now, as Michael Cohen of the American Security Project argues, “as the U.S. grows more diverse, the King hearings and GOP attacks on Muslims look not only like bad policy but even worse politics.” In complete contrast, elements of our society are engaging Muslims. Earlier this month, the State Department invited me and other contributors to a book of essays by Muslim women, I Speak for Myself, to Farah Pandith’s wisdom session, giving a platform to a group of people often talked about but rarely heard from. White Cloud Press, the publisher of the book, is offering discounts on its Islam-related books to help Americans better understand Muslims, Islam and the Quran. People are taking action even by saying, “Hey, it’s not OK to say that,” when someone cracks an anti-Muslim joke. Their actions recognize something that we upheld as a country 224 years ago. Our founding fathers appreciated the fact that the first country to recognize America’s independence was a Muslim country, Morocco. A few years later, we signed a treaty with Tripoli, again during the holy month of Ramadan, asserting, “The government of the United States of America has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” With Rep. King’s hearings, we found forces trying to move us centuries backwards. But although cliché, a simple phone call or a letter to your Congressman really can make sure that the House Homeland Security Committee, which exists to protect us, actually does its job. That such a hearing is occurring in the halls of a democratic U.S. Congress is both a tragedy and a farce. Let’s make sure that such a drama doesn’t occur again.
The recently held Congressional hearing about Muslims in America returns us to the question of whether “Islam is peace,” as President George W. Bush put it on September 17, 2001, or a religion that promotes hate and violence, as its critics allege. Both are wrong. Islam — like all other religions — can be read both ways.
Muslims seeking to justify the use of force quote verses in the Quran such as, “Slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them”‘ (9:5). And they can cite the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet, stating, “I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah” (Muslim 1.9.30). At the same time, the champions of peace can quote the Quran itself, which states, “There is no compulsion in matter of faith” (2:256) and “No human can force a change of heart over which God alone has control” (10:99-100).
For some, jihad is interpreted as a “holy war” to subdue the non-believers; for others — a spiritual struggle for moral self-improvement.
Most revealingly, similar texts, open to both kinds of readings, are found in other religions. On the one hand, Christians draw on passages from the New Testament, which portray Jesus as a wrathful conqueror striking down sinners with his sword and ruling with an iron rod (Revelation 19:15); while on the other, they can quote Matthew to “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-39) and “Put your sword back in its place” (Matthew 26:52).
Jews can read the Old Testament as condoning violence. For instance, “As for the towns of these people that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You must annihilate them,” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). And even revenge, as in “An eye for an eye.” However, through the ages, rabbis have interpreted the same passage as referring merely to monetary compensation. And Jews have invoked pacifistic passages, such as “Nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4; c.f. Micah 4:3)
I could go on and on. However, two observations seem incontestable. Those who seek to point to Islam as a religion that promotes violence should take note: It can be just as readily quoted to support nonviolence. And, in this way, it is not different from other major religions. It is up to the believers which interpretation they follow. However, condemning their faith as inherently violent cannot be justified.
Hence, to the extent that the Congressional hearings are focused on finding out which interpretation of Islam is gaining ground among our Muslim fellow citizens, it is a legitimate pursuit. So is to call on Muslim leaders and Mullahs who embrace the nonviolent version of Islam — and to urge all religious mavens to follow the same course.
Rep. Peter King’s hearings about the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community was just the first in a series of similar inquiries. Moving forward, I hope King takes to heart the sincere and fair-minded critique of his inflammatory rhetoric and sweeping generalization about the Muslim community. Controversial topics and contentious debates need not be avoided, but we need to engage them with substance rather than bluster.
I was proud to stand with diverse faith leaders, national security experts and civil rights groups in strong opposition to King’s prejudiced premise. The fundamental disagreement, though, is even bigger than whether King’s actions in this specific instance were right or wrong. This is now a debate about whether American values are bedrock pillars that help keep us safe or mere pretenses that we cast aside in the face of serious threats or political opportunity. This debate cuts to the core of who we are as a nation.
In response to the very real threat of terrorism, casting a cloud of suspicion over the Muslim-American community violates our ideals of religious liberty and equality. It also doesn’t work. The authoritative report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security states that building relationships between Muslim leaders and law enforcement is crucial to preventing the radicalization and alienation that can lead to violence. Impugning Muslims as insufficiently committed to protecting our nation ignores overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and it undermines the bonds of trust and community across religious and ethnic lines that make us unique in the world.
In King’s opening remarks he said heeding his critics would amount to “craven surrender to political correctness” and “an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee: to protect America from a terrorist attack.” This clichéd juxtaposition — the cowardice of “political correctness” versus the courage to defend our country in the face of criticism — is not only a false choice, it’s a dangerous one. If King thinks national security and counter-terrorism experts, law enforcement officials and interfaith leaders are all just being “politically correct” for stating that sweeping accusations against Muslims are untrue and counterproductive, he is rejecting the help of key partners. We can’t achieve the unity we need to effectively fight terrorism if we caricature all stakeholders as either tough guys who confront Islamic terrorists or cowards who coddle them.
Throughout the lead-up to this hearing, King made numerous decisions that put him at odds with faith leaders. He started by explaining the hearings as an investigation of the entire Muslim community. He repeated and defended his baseless claim that more than 80 percent of mosques are radicalized. His first proposed witness was someone who claimed there’s no such thing as moderate Islam. Rather than relying or empirical arguments or nonpartisan expert opinion, he based his entire case on individual anecdotes that reinforced his predetermined narrative. King wasn’t marching forward in spite of controversy; he was openly provoking it. His later statement that the vast majority of Muslim Americans make enormous contributions to our country was welcome, but it begs the question of why he couched the hearings in such sweeping terms in the first place. (However, none of King’s rhetoric in any way justifies the threats he received earlier this week.)
But ultimately, this isn’t about King. It’s about our future. I don’t want my son to grow up in a country that treats an entire religious community like second-class citizens. Investigating how to best prevent terrorism is essential, but we can and must do so without questioning the loyalty of Muslim citizens and leaders. It strains credulity to argue that Congress would ever hold inquiries into the radicalization of the Christian community or the Jewish community, and it’s not just because these religions are rarely publicly associated with terrorism. It’s because you just don’t do that to those faiths; they’re simply held in higher regard. I hope the overwhelming display of unity from the interfaith community moves us closer to treating Muslims with the same esteem. They deserve the respect, and it’s the American way.

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