There have been many indications in the last year that Islamophobia has been increasing: the protests around the building of Cordoba House in New York, the attempts in some states to ban sharia law, and Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of Muslim Americans. All these stories revolve around the concept of fear, specifically fear of Islam and Muslims. While many people have strong opinions on Islam and Muslims, many actually do not know that much about the faith or its followers, even though it is the second largest religion in the world.
Uchujin, a Tokyo-based photographer, recently made a short film highlighting the spiritual journey of Abdullah Taqy, Tokyo’s sole native Japanese Imam. Amid the restaurants, bars, brothels, and nightclubs of the notorious Kabukicho District (????) is a modest-looking mosque run by Taqy. A professional tattoo and body piercing artist of 20 years, Taqy is an anomaly in the “Sleepless Town” of Tokyo’s Kabukicho.
Sharia, an Arabic word translated as “way” or “path,” is the code of conduct or religious law in Islam, and has been the subject of a number of recent hate rallies and growing prejudice against Muslims in the U.S. and around the world. A few countries with significant Muslim minority populations have experimented with various ways of integrating sharia into their legal systems, often using it in civil law situations involving divorce, inheritance, etc. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 156 million people, is a good example of the diverse forms of sharia implementation.
Last month, Egyptians went to the polls to vote on a referendum for constitutional amendments that would pave the way for free elections later this year. Since Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11th, Egyptians have witnessed a wave of political activity. Various groups are trying to mobilize to be prepared to participate in the parliamentary and presidential elections. In this new atmosphere, there continues to be fear of an Islamist take over.
Among many events in Madison this week raising awareness about Islam and Muslims was the film, Unveiled, hosted by UW-Madison’s International Student Services and the LGBT Campus Center. The film (Fremde Haut in German), directed by Angelina Maccarone, follows Fariba, an Irani woman seeking asylum in a small, industrial German town. Following the discovery of Fariba’s love affair with a married woman in Tehran, the Irani government threatens to prosecute her for her relationship, which is illegal under Iranian legal code. Fariba’s lover begs forgiveness and swears under oath that she will change and is freed, but Fariba decides to leave Tehran for good.
Today, April 5th, Nicholas Sarkozy’s ruling party will hold a national debate on the role of religion and secularism in France. Even though it is being framed as a discussion on France’s doctrine of laïcité (secularism), many believe that it is singling out Islam. Among the topics that will be examined in the debate is overcrowding in mosques, serving halal meat in school cafeterias, and whether patients should be allowed to request doctors of a certain gender.
When the Egyptian revolution was beginning, many saw hope for democracy and change in a country that had suffered under the same president for 30 years. However, people like Fox News commentator Glenn Bleck saw something more sinister in the Tunisian revolution, Egyptian revolution, and the following protests in the Middle East. Beck did not see these uprisings as the people speaking and finally having their voice heard. Rather, he argued that these uprisings were indicative of a move towards establishing a new caliphate not only in the region but over the whole world.