Islam is also well known for enslaving women — remember Michelle Obama’s #BringBackOurGirls tweet in response to the Islamic kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls? The Koran is full of directions for Muslim men to oppress women including by physical force.
But many San Franciscans cling to the fantasy that Islam is a religion like any other instead of being a totalitarian ideology. At least that is the mainstream media’s portrayal of reaction to a new bus ad warning of Islam’s threat to freedom and public safety.
The bus ad is a creation of Pamela Geller, who has used commercial free speech and the First Amendment on earlier occasions to bring the issue before the public. Following is the bus ad which has upset San Francisco’s addiction to political correctness:
The Chronicle disparaged Geller’s efforts with a opinion piece from a couple of interfaith sillies. Neither is Muslim but they claim to know what the true Islam is. Meanwhile, thousands in ISIS say their actions represent the genuine Islam as written in the Koran.
Denounce Muni bus ads on Islam as false, San Francisco Chronicle, By Abby Michelson Porth and Michael Pappas, October 16, 2014
Thursday, advertisements appeared on San Francisco Muni buses depicting Islam as evil and claiming that devout followers of the faith are bound to be violent. This proclamation is utterly false and an attempt to manipulate the public with Islamophobic vitriol to address the very serious threat posed by the Islamic State group.
The faithful in San Francisco and beyond are greatly concerned by the Islamic State group’s advance in the Middle East, as its ideology is promulgated through violence and religious persecution. Last month, the interfaith community issued a statement condemning these atrocities. All Americans who value freedom of religion and speech should be gravely concerned about this group that captures and beheads foreign nationals, subjugates and beats women and is recruiting individuals from around the world to join their fundamentalist fight. But it is the Islamic State group and other extremist movements — not Islam — we must fear and fight.
This is not the first time that xenophobia has been given a prominent voice in response to political unrest. During this summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, a surge of global anti-Semitism was revealed. The Jewish community in Berlin was targeted by demonstrators chanting “Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight.” Incidents happened on American shores, too; in two violent assaults, four Jewish teens and a young Jewish couple in New York were attacked. There have been a dozen cases reported of anti-Semitic graffiti, including on a San Francisco Jewish institution.
The Muslim community also experiences a rash of Islamophobia when geopolitical tension soars. In New York last summer, thugs flung eggs at three elderly worshipers entering a mosque, shouting, “This is for your Allah!” These incidents are viewed in the context of wider antipathy toward Muslims in the United States. A recent Zogby Research survey showed a decline in the percentage of Americans viewing Muslims favorably, from 35 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2014.
Certainly there are times when geopolitics and disagreements over just solutions to Middle East affairs create local tension. What we need then is not incendiary imagery. Dueling bus advertisements that defame all of Islam and that grotesquely distort and demonize Israel, offending San Franciscans of all backgrounds, do nothing but inflame and provoke strain. We can have differing political views, and unite against inflammatory ads that seek to alienate a segment of the community, growing an atmosphere of intolerance.
What we need are credible, moderate voices to stand publicly for the values and teachings of our faiths. Such voices were heard when 111 global Muslim clerics issued an open letter to Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Point-by-point, they outline the ways in which the Islamic State group is antithetical to Islamic teachings, and operating under the guise, but not the tenets, of Islam. The clerics implore al-Baghdadi to “reconsider all your actions; desist from them; repent from them; cease harming others and return to the religion of mercy.” The local Islamic Networks Group issued questions and answers on the Islamic State group, demonstrating that its perversion of Islam is simply a vehicle for criminal behavior.
The most recent round of hateful bus ads falsely equate Islam with the behaviors these clerics have decried, which is why we must speak out against this gross misrepresentation of what it means to be Muslim. We are intimately aware of the feelings of vulnerability that arise from being a minority in America, met with suspicion, and faced with xenophobic fantasies of asserting an ulterior agenda. Join us in standing should-to-shoulder in opposing not only Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, but all forms of hatred based on religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender.
Abby Michelson Porth is associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. Michael Pappas is executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.