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On Allegations of Islamophobia

Illustrative picture. (Photo: Public Domain)
Illustrative picture. (Photo: Public Domain)

In general, Clarion Project prefers to let the record speak for itself and let the public be the judge of how we are perceived, rather than getting bogged down in catfights on social media with our critics. However, it is important for the mission we have set for ourselves that there is no ambiguity about what we are doing and what we stand for. 

Clarion is repeatedly accused of anti-Muslim bigotry, racism and other things of that nature. We’ve also been accused of being “far-right,” despite the fact that the traditional definition of left and right pertains to economic issues and radical Islam is not an economic issue. At any rate, these are not positions that we hold. 

So, let us set the record straight.

Clarion has repeatedly, clearly and unequivocally stated that we have no animus against Islam as faith, only to those interpretations of Islam which support Islamism: the political project of attempting to impose Islam onto others and implement sharia as state law. 

All of our films have stated something to that effect.

Honor Diaries featured Muslim women’s rights activists telling their own stories and speaking to the challenges they face promoting women’s rights while proudly remaining Muslim and engaging with their faith. The film explicitly decoupled theology and culture in tackling these abuses. In doing so, it promoted the stars of the film as positive role models of Muslim women who are succeeding in their lives and work. For this nuanced stance, Honor Diaries was awarded ‘Best Documentary’ in the interfaith category at the St Louis International Film Festival.

Spurred on by the success of Honor Diaries, producer Paula Kweskin went on to launch the Censored Women’s Film Festival. This groundbreaking event showcased films (three years running) by Muslim and other female filmmakers that had been censored. Paula brought highly-acclaimed films such as Academy Award-nominated Persepolis and India’s Daughter to audiences in New York, Los Angeles, Palm Beach and Berlin. The festival also screened never-before seen shorts from around the Muslim world. One such film, Two Lives in Karachi, showed the work of progressive activist Sabeen Mahmud, shortly before she was tragically assassinated in 2015. Like Honor Diaries, the festival highlighted the diversity and strength of Muslim women.

Another of our films, By The Numbers, uses respected Pew Research data to debunk the false claim that all Muslims support terrorism and provides hard facts to assess how many Muslim genuinely do hold radical beliefs. In doing so, it clearly delineates between jihadists, Islamists, conservative Muslims and Muslims in general.

We made this movie (and indeed, all our movies) because we wanted to put out the data so the public can have an honest, fact-based conversation on this topic that does not veer into generalizations and hate. 

Our opposition to anti-Muslim bigotry is not because we believe that the battle against radical Islam will be far more difficult if it’s misconstrued as an attack on Islam in general (although that’s true). It’s because we believe that painting all Muslims with the same brush is wrong. For the same reason that we oppose Islamism — due to our commitment to the values of freedom of conscience and deed — we oppose anti-Muslim bigotry. Our stance is supported by our advisory board, which includes Raheel Raza and Dr. Zudhi Jasser, both prominent Muslim activists. 

This is laid out in our full statement on anti-Muslim bigotry.

That statement also underscores our editorial policy. Clarion has also frequently reported on anti-Muslim bigotry around the world. This includes reporting on the arrests of neo-Nazis in the UK, plots to carry out a terrorist attack against a housing complex occupied by Somali Muslims in Kansas City and the persecution faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar.

We’ve also covered dangerous attacks in the United States against Muslims, including when a Minnesota mosque was firebombed, vandalism at a Tucson mosque and the murder by a seeming white supremacist of two men  when they intervened to stop him abusing a woman in a hijab on a light rail train in Portland, Oregon.

It is not enough, however, to merely report. We also explain why anti-Muslim bigotry is wrong.

This is not just in analysis articles, such as when we called out President Trump for retweeting the anti-Muslim British political group Britain First, or warned how rhetoric like that of a North Carolina activist who asked “can we not just kill them all” can lead to violent results.

After the Charlottesville protests, in which a left-wing demonstrator was killed by  a far-right protester, we issued a call to reject all forms of extremism whatever the source. We also delve into in-depth refutations of anti-Muslim arguments in pieces such as Is Islam Inherently Fascist?, Why Eradicating Islam is Not the Answer and Why Clarion Project Ignores Theology, in which we argued, “Religious freedom is a key principle that must not be abandoned in the fight against radical Islam.”

We have taken our fight against anti-Muslim bigotry to the governmental level. Raheel Raza, a tireless Muslim advocate against radical Islam who is proud to work with Clarion Project, testified at a hearing on Combating Homegrown Terrorism before the House Committee on Congressional Oversight and Government Reform.

In the second paragraph of her written testimony, she reiterated the vital necessity of fighting anti-Muslim bigotry, saying:

“I would also like to condemn those who seek to use the problem of Islamic extremism as an excuse to target all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry is a real and serious problem. It is never an acceptable response to the problem of Islamic extremism. It must be condemned and opposed.”  

The real work, as ever, is done behind the scenes. Clarion Project staff members spent hours responding to messages and engaging with members of the public who want their valid fears about radical Islamic terrorism and their questions about Islam answered in an honest and open way.

We have been told our responses have changed minds about Islam and its future in the West. Of course, engagement is not always effective and on multiple occasions, Clarion Project has reported individuals spewing violent and dangerous rhetoric to law enforcement so that any anti-Muslim plots can be halted before it is too late.

This is by way of opposing hatred against Muslims, a much needed task to which we remain committed.

But we go further, and seek out Muslim activists, community leaders, writers and theologians to tell their stories, the better to inform our readers about the complex, varied and diverse lives of Muslims around the world. We do this because we believe that once exposed to the rich tapestry of Muslim experience, much of anti-Muslim bigotry will melt away.

As part of this effort we have interviewed, among others:

Looking through the stories of these wonderful individuals, whose work we are proud to draw to your attention, I am impressed by how many unique and brilliant people there are within the Muslim community doing amazing work to bring about positive change in all sorts of directions. We hope our readers will come to the same conclusions.

This commitment to highlighting the positive is also a feature of our reporting. Where possible, we publish uplifting stories such as the heartwarming mercy shown by a mosque which paid off the fine of the man who vandalized their building and exciting ventures like the Inclusive Mosque Project in Berlin and the Marrakesh Declaration, which saw Muslim leaders from around the world gather at the request of King Mohammed VI of Morocco and issue a joint statement in support of religious rights for minorities.

We also have stand-alone features on Islamic theories of non-violence and Islamic human rights, to make sure our readers are aware that these ideas are flourishing and developing within the Islamic tradition.

We fully intend to keep on fighting anti-Muslim bigotry and supporting positive, humanist and pluralist expressions of Islam worldwide, regardless of the allegations of our critics, because it is the right thing to do. We welcome constructive criticism on how best to achieve that goal and are very aware that, like any organization, there is always room for improvement.

We compiled this collection of Clarion’s work in fighting anti-Muslim bigotry and supporting Muslim human rights to allow the reader to make up their own mind about it with the full picture. We would simply add that if we are motivated by hatred for Islam and Muslims this would be a very odd way of going about things.

If you have constructive criticism of Clarion’s efforts or suggestions on things we could do better, please contact me at [email protected].

 

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EF
Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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