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“Spread Hummus Not Hate” in Beaver, Pennsylvania
by Hugh Fitzgerald
One more example of Meet-Your-Muslim Neighbor Ninnies:
“Clearing the Air on Islam through ‘Spread Hummus, Not Hate’ events in Beaver,” by J.D. Prose, Beaver County Times, March 31, 2017:
BEAVER — If any two things bring Beaver Countians together, it’s food and religion, and Center Township resident Toni Ashfaq will incorporate both to educate residents about Islam during events in Beaver.
“There are a lot of misunderstandings, a lot of false information floating around,” said Ashfaq, a Muslim and the organizer of two Spread Hummus, Not Hate: Meet Your Muslim Neighbor gatherings Wednesday and Saturday at Beaver Area Memorial Library. “We just want people to meet us and see that we’re just like everybody else.”
“A Wisconsin native and convert from Catholicism, Ashfaq said she and two friends — Julia Chaney, a Christian, and fellow Muslim Dr. Raniah Khairy, an OB/GYN specialist at Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton Township — began brainstorming ideas “just to kind of build bridges and promote understanding” because of the “current political climate.”…
“We thought it was a pretty catchy title,” Ashfaq said with a laugh. Just one gathering was initially planned, but after receiving an “overwhelming” response, she said a second one was added.”
“Islam has been distorted by politicians and certain media, she said, not naming anyone specifically. Regardless, Ashfaq said Muslims are “not in denial” about Muslims committing violence, but “the media too often focuses solely on Islam.”
Yes, how true. What on earth could possibly be the reason for this unwonted fixation on Islam? Could it be that the media “too often focuses solely on Islam” because there have been more than 30,500 terrorist attacks by Muslims on non-Muslims, all over the world, since 9/11? Could it be that the attacks – let’s just list a few of the places that come immediately to mind, in Paris, Nice, Toulouse, in Brussels, Berlin, Wurzburg, Munich, Reutlingen, Ansbach, in Moscow and Beslan and St. Petersburg, in Amsterdam and Madrid, in New York and Washington and Boston, in Fort Hood and San Bernardino, in Orlando and Chattanooga, in St. Cloud and Little Rock, in Bali and Mumbai and New Delhi, in the Moro Islands of the Philippines, in Buenos Aires and in Beijing – are the reason why there is this “focus”on Islam? Or might it be because Muslims are engaged in so many other kinds of violence, including the sectarian conflict, pitting Sunnis against Shia, in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Pakistan, and Yemen, which also means that in several of these countries both Iran and Saudi Arabia are also involved, fighting proxy wars? Or could it be the continuing warfare against the Egyptian state from terrorists based in the Sinai, who are both Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State sympathizers? Or the Muslims of Boko Haram, who have continued to kidnap Christian girls in Nigeria and use them as sex slaves? Or the attacks on Christians and Yazidis by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria? Or the continuing wars in post-Qaddafi Libya, with Misratan militias battling the forces of the Libyan National Army, while the remnants of the the Islamic State, defeated at Sirte in December 2016, remain a once-and-future threat in Libya, a country where things are so bad that there are those nostalgic even for Qaddafi’s mad rule? Could it be the violence by Muslims who have driven 200,000 Hindu Pandits out of Kashmir, terrified Christian farmers in the Moro Islands of the Philippines, pushed Buddhists out of the Chittagong Hills tract in Bangladesh, and killed hundreds of thousands of African Christians in the southern Sudan? Could it be the murder of the Christian Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan, for daring to question the blasphemy laws? Could it have something to do with the grooming gangs in England? Or the fact that in Sweden 70% of the rapes are committed by Muslims, though Muslims constitute only 4% of the population? Could any, or some, or all of this, and a great deal more in the same vein, be the reason the media “focuses” — if, in fact, it does — on Islam?
Does the media, in fact, really “focus” on Islam anyway? That it should, given all of the terrorist attacks committed by Muslims, just a few of which I’ve listed above, is clear – but does it? Don’t we see the Western media doing what it can to avoid “focusing on Islam,” by reporting with a straight face on terrorism by Muslims, but often not identifying the perpetrators as such, or by misleadingly labeling them, as in the U.K., as “Asians,” and then, compounding the willful error, immediately quoting someone who forcefully denies that “Islam had anything to do with it.” The blood had hardly dried on Westminster Bridge after a Muslim attacker had struck than Theresa May announced that “it is wrong to describe this as Islamic terrorism. It is Islamist terrorism. It is a perversion of a great faith.” Those years Theresa May spent studying at Al-Azhar turn out to have been well worth it.
If it’s a single Muslim attacker, he’s a “lone wolf” acting on his own, without any discernible motivation. Or he may be a “disgruntled” employee guilty of “violence in the workplace.” That was how the Obama administration and the Pentagon first described the mass murderer Major Nidal Malik Hassan, and it took six years for his murders to finally be officially described, correctly, as “terrorism.” If there were several attackers, they may be described as a “small handful of extremists” or as those who “misunderstand” Islam, or who have somehow accepted a “perverse interpretation of Islam.” Or they are not the real Muslims, but the “radicalized” ones, though what constitutes “radicalization” is never explained.
When was the last time you saw, in a newspaper, or heard on a broadcast, simply stated, that “Muslim terrorists, following the texts and teachings of Islam such as [here would follow the quoting of a few verses] struck again at [here put in the details, the where and when and who, of the attack].” Of course you have never read nor seen any such coverage. There is no “focus on Islam,” as Toni Ashfaq claims, but quite the reverse: a constant effort to divert attention away from Islam, to convince people that Islamic terrorism “has nothing to do with Islam.” No matter how absurd, by dint of repetition, it’s having its insidious effect.
“People get the wrong idea that those people represent the whole faith, and they don’t,” Ashfaq said, recalling a recent conversation in which she told a woman that equating terrorists with Islam would be akin to equating the Ku Klux Klan with Christianity.
This is Tu Quoque with a vengeance. To wit, we all, Christians and Muslims, have our crazies. Except that the Ku Klux Klan does not cite the Bible, because it cannot, to justify its violence, while Muslim terrorists are able, and eager, to cite Qur’anic passages that justify their attacks on non-Muslims. If Toni Ashfaq, a convert to Islam, is unware of those Qur’anic passages – the four I always like to adduce first are 9:5, 9:29, 3:151, 8:12, but there are more than 100 other “violent Jihad verses” to choose from — then she needs to study her Qur’an a bit more.
It would be fascinating to know what she knew about Islam before she converted, and what, if anything, she has learned since. Has she run across anything in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira that has disturbed her? Any doubts, or second thoughts, about the sheer wonderfulness of Islam?
“Critics have accused President Donald Trump of fanning anti-Muslim sentiments with his proposed immigration ban, since halted by courts, that targeted Muslim-majority countries. He has argued that the ban is necessary to make sure terrorists are not entering the United States as refugees.
“Ashfaq said she has not experienced any overt discrimination, but has seen an increase in people’s curiosity about Islam and Muslims.”
“People are really starting to ask questions,” she said. “They are really wanting to understand.”
“Most questions, Ashfaq said, concern sharia, Islamic canonical law; jihad, an Arabic word meaning “struggle,” but which has taken on the connotation of “holy war”; the treatment of women in Islamic societies; and how some Muslim women dress in public, which can include wearing a hijab that covers the head and chest. Those aspects of Islam, including its basic beliefs and similarities with Christianity, and a question-and-answer session will be on the agenda Wednesday and Saturday.”
Yes, “people are really wanting to understand.” But how will these “Spread Hummus Not Hate” gatherings help non-Muslims to understand what really matters? One is not impressed by Ashfaq’s definition of “jihad” as “an Arabic word meaning ‘struggle,’” but which, she says, has “taken on the connotation of ‘holy war.’” “Taken on the connotation?” When did this happen? This year? A decade ago? The correct answer is 1,400 years ago, for it is as old as Islam itself. And it’s not “connotation” here, but “meaning” that matters. So let’s rephrase her remarks for the sake of the truth: the primary meaning of Jihad has always been that of war against the Infidels, to extend the Islamic domain, Dar al-Islam,where Muslims dominate, at the expense of Dar al-Harb, the House of War, where Unbelievers still dominate. Muslim apologists constantly tell Infidels, that “Jihad” really means an “internal struggle” to be a better human and better Muslim, and they quote a doubtful Hadith, about Muhammad returning home from war, in which he describes himself as returning from the lesser Jihad to the greater Jihad. If that is the meaning Toni Ashfaq wants to claim “Jihad” means, then one hopes that someone in her audience of Infidels will ask her, during the Q-and-A, the series of questions posed by Robert Spencer:
If Jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, why is there an entire chapter of the Qur’an entitled “Booty” or “The Spoils of War” (al-Anfal)? What spoils ensue from a spiritual struggle? If jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, how is a Muslim supposed to make Jews and Christians “pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29) spiritually? If jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, why are there thousands upon thousands of Muslims worldwide who have joined violent jihad groups? Why are there any violent jihad groups at all? Why is this misunderstanding of jihad so widespread?
And as for learning about the Sharia, do you think that the visitors to these Spread Hummus Not Hate feelgood fests will learn about the punishment, according to the Sharia, meted out to those who leave Islam for another religion – that is, death? Or will they be misleadingly reassured by being told only about Qur’an 2:256? “There is no compulsion in religion,” and naturally will take that verse at face (and in this case false) value? Do you think her visitors will be told by Toni Ashfaq about the punishments that, according to the Hudud, the criminal law part of Sharia (with its fixed penalties established by God), are prescribed for certain crimes? Will they learn about such barbarities as amputation of limbs, public crucifixions, stonings, decapitations, being thrown from a high building? And will she tell them – does she herself know? – that among those “crimes” punishable by death in Islam, along with apostasy, are not just murder, but also adultery and homosexuality? How will she explain away these cruel punishments, or justify treating as “crimes” behaviors that we in the West do not criminalize at all? She claims that among the topics her visitors most want to find out more about is the Sharia. How will she deal with the criminal law part of the Sharia? Or will she avoid that subject altogether, and stick to the most anodyne parts of the Sharia, such as laws pertaining to no-interest loans?
Ashfaq said she and her friends are hoping the events raise enough interest that others might want to organize similar gatherings to promote interfaith relationships and understanding.
“If you see somebody face-to-face, it’s harder to hate them,” she said.
Oh, I don’t know about that. If I meet someone face-to-face whom I have every reason to believe is deliberately attempting to mislead me about life-and-death matters, such as what Islam teaches, given that we non-Muslims are being undermined by the Stealth Jihad that is being conducted all over the Western world, and threatened too, by Islamic terrorists, I don’t think I would find it hard to hate that someone.
Toni Ashfaq complained that “there are a lot of misunderstandings, a lot of false information floating around,” and that she hoped to dispel at these Spread-Hummus-Not-Hate gatherings. It would be fascinating to have her list, say, ten examples of “false information” about Islam that she found particularly egregious. What one would like from Toni Ashfaq is, if not the whole truth, at least some part of it. That would include an admission that Jihad does have, as its primary meaning, the struggle to subdue Infidels and bring about the triumph of Islam everywhere in the world. And then Toni Ashfaq could suggest that Muslims such as herself are attempting to bring about “a real reformation in Islam,” beginning with a change in the accepted meaning of Jihad, so that the examples of Jihad as warfare in the Muslim texts are “contextualized” and Jihad as a “spiritual struggle” is promoted to become its main meaning. Let her admit, too, that there are unpleasant aspects of Islam which she, and other “reformers” recognize as needing to be changed, such as the misogyny and antisemitism that run through the Islamic texts, and that, too, need to be “contextualized” so that Muslims today can slough off those antiquated attitudes. And those changes, for a start, might give us all the chance, Toni Ashfaq can announce to her audience, for some sort of real convivencia, and not, Toni Ashfaq now feels compelled to admit, the “phony one made so much of by the likes of Karen Armstrong.”
No, skip that last paragraph. I was just kidding. It’s completely unthinkable. I don’t know what came over me, to entertain the thought that such an admission about Jihad would be possible. Instead, let’s try to forget the nonsense and lies we are going to have to endure, until we come to the most pleasant and least controversial aspect of these “Spread Hummus Not Hate” meetings. The part we’ve all been waiting for. The hummus. The pita. The baklava.
First published in Jihad Watch.