The Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is in the news again. The last time Inside Islam covered the center, it had been delayed on a procedural technicality. Most recently, a federal judge overruled that decision, and the center is expected to open sometime this month, hopefully in time for Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.
This development gives us an opportunity to reflect on similar stories that we have covered over the years. Rather than an isolated case of pushback against Islam, the Murfreesboro debate is just one example of attempts to ban or otherwise stifle expressions of faith. As I went through the Inside Islam archives, it really struck me what a monumental torrent of hate and Islamophobia Muslims are up against.
First, there have been numerous efforts to ban Islamic social and religious spaces. In addition to the Murfreesboro mosque mentioned above, there were also efforts to ban Cordoba House in New York and minarets in Switzerland. Then there have been efforts to ban cultural and religious practices like the wearing of burqas in France and Belgium, the consumption of halal meat, and circumcision. There was even an effort to ban a Muslim TV show that aimed to portray Muslim Americans as regular Americans (as opposed to America-hating, jihadi terrorists).
In addition to external bans that affect Muslims, it is important to highlight efforts by those within the Muslim community to ban practices like text message divorce, FGM, discriminatory laws against women, child marriage, and hitting wives. There have also been efforts within the Islamic community to ban sex manuals, niqabs, and certain types of music. These efforts demonstrate the diversity of opinions and activism within Islam itself, which so often get forgotten in debates that portray Islam as a monolith.
External bans such as then ones highlighted above come out of fear of the unknown and a lack of understanding about Islam. Hopefully efforts such as Inside Islam will help change that.
Do you see Islam as having to fight an uphill public opinion battle worldwide? What motivates bans on burqas, halal foods, and mosques? What can we do to ameliorate some of the fear associated with Islam? We welcome your questions and comments below.