By Azum Z. Ali, MPP’13, Correspondent
I give the Islamophobia Network some credit for identifying a new aspirational peer for me, as an American Muslim who aspires to serve the public.
Imagine my elation when I learned of the latest change on the national security team. The appointment of John Brennan, formerly Deputy National Security Advisor, as Director of the CIA is something of a game changer for Islamophobes too. That’s because lesser-known security experts have begun reporting Brennan’s apparent conversion to Islam in the 1990s.
Remember the character “Wolf” from the film Zero Dark Thirty, the high level CIA official who performs Islamic prayer in his office? That’s him.
So why is Brennan’s faith more worrisome for the Islamophobes than the ‘secret Muslim President’ we’ve had for four years? It’s likely because Brennan will, in his new capacity, have access to the most sensitive of state secrets, and advise the President on the most critical national security decisions. (This is a major change from Brennan’s previous counterterrorism post, where he had access to the most sensitive state secrets, and advised the President on the most critical national security decisions.)
If Brennan’s Muslim-ness didn’t wreak havoc on our democracy then, I’m sure it will in his new job.
The primary Islamophobic maxim is to halt “shariah creep”, the supposed orchestrated effort by American Muslims to subvert the fabric of American society into an Islamic way of life. Shariah creeps under the following three circumstances: First, when one more mosque is built in America to add to what Rep. Peter King (R-NY) says are “too many mosques in America.” Second, through pop culture, when the one Muslim member of pop band One Direction tweets something like “Eid mubarak to everyone :),” inducing sympathy from millions of naïve teenage fans. Third, when Muslims take up public office. That is, at least until the House Tea Party caucus outs them, as mid-career level officials like Huma Abedin was last summer.
Since I may want to pursue the third option at some point, I would like the Islamophobes to clarify my goals as an American Muslim. According to the “Defeat Jihad” bus and subway ads featured in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, and other cities, the Muslim agenda for destruction has never been stronger.
Yet, the Islamophobes also claim that the Muslim agenda for altering America via Islamic law is an equal threat. Under these conflicting narratives, I can’t figure out which figures higher: annihilation or conversion? This paradox makes shariah creep unlikely due, if nothing else, to the apparent Muslim mismanagement of goals.
Sadly, American Muslim management is something of a sore spot. To see what I’m talking about, visit the madness that is your local mosque’s parking lot on a Friday, or better yet, on an Eid holiday. Under a Muslim America, you might have to park on the grass when driving to the post office. Even worse, what if the most crippling partisan debate on Capitol Hill is about on what day NewYear’s falls? That sums up the annual “moonfighting” debates that take place in Muslim communities nationwide, when we can’t agree on what night the lunar month begins, and my friends at the neighboring mosque celebrate Eid the day after I do. Awkward.
It’s actually quite flattering that the Islamophobes think that this one percent segment of American society could successfully find some loophole around democracy to take over. It will probably happen some time after our community finishes its wrangling over some of its hottest partisan issues like the permissibility of wearing “breathable” nail polish, or whether Doritos are halal.
The best news yet is that Muslims don’t even want to take over. According to the report Fear, Inc. published by the Center for American Progress, “shariah creep” is a lie that has received $42 million in promotional funds from foundations with a fervent hatred for minority groups.
Muslims in America are an easy target because they are a quarter Black, a quarter South Asian, a quarter Arab and a quarter of many other ethnicities. These Islamophobic messages are advanced by DC think tanks like the Center for Security Policy, which, surprise, surprise, is behind the false rumor that John Brennan converted to Islam and will commit some misdeed as a result.
For those still fearful, rest assured that no amount of secret Muslims in government would advance shariah creep. Even if American Muslims are able to realign mainstream and entertainment media in their favor after years of severe demonization, see more than two of their peers elected to Congress, fully retain their civil rights, and competently organize themselves to circumvent widespread spying by law enforcement, the only thing they’re likely to take over is more land so mosques can build additional parking spaces. And even that’s a long shot.