Not All Veils and Guns

The influence of the western media, especially the US, can be gauged from its success in creating the image of Muslim men as gun-toting religious fanatics and that of Muslim women as veiled ignorant cows. From Australia to the United States this image is now permanently engraved on the minds of the majority of westerners, and on many others’ who would like to see Muslims in that light because of their countries’ disputes with neighboring Muslim countries. And yet there are others who would equate Muslim sympathy for the suffering of Palestine, Iraq, or Afghanistan, as “terrorism.”

There are terrorists in all communities, including Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim. On the other hand, like other religious communities, Islam also has artists, intellectuals, athletes, entertainers, and rebels.

If a terrorist incident happens in Sri Lanka (where the majority is Buddhist), which the electronic media finds it worthy to display, than Sri Lanka will be in the news once only — unless the US is planning to wage a war against that nation, in which case the coverage will be 24/7.

There are over fifty countries where the majority of the population is Muslim. If the above criterion is applied to Muslim countries, than over fifty times those countries will be in the news. Now add the past animosities of the Crusades; the late 1940s creation of Israel on Palestinian land; Western greed for the Middle Eastern oil — which is the US “national interest;” the total US control of Middle East oil in order to cut off its allies Europe and Japan’s oil supplies, in case they show any trace of independent policies; its support of China’s oil-rich neighbors (the Central Asian nations) with the aim of locking China’s energy requirements when present relations deteriorate; its occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; its planning of war against Iran; and its dragging of Pakistan into the “war on terror.”

Reader can now imagine how many times the Muslim countries will be in the news?

After 2001’s ghastly act on the US soil, no other terroristic incident has happened and yet the government and the news media never shy away from creating a fear mania.

Paranoia makes people, as well as nations, do all sorts of crazy things. However, the US has gone pathologically crazy. Two news items of last year will make it clear: The FBI went through the grocery stores’ customers’ data for the year 2005 and 2006 for the San Francisco area. Its aim was to check any rise in the sales of Middle Eastern food such as falafel, together with other information, and thus get to the Iranian agents in the area. However, it was discontinued after the operation’s legality was questioned.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Deputy Chief, Michael P. Downing, ordered general mapping of Muslim areas “seeking to identify at-risk communities,” because he is “looking for communities and enclaves based on risk factors that are likely to become isolated.” The LAPD wants to “reach out to these communities,” and for that it’s necessary “to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are.”

Five words sums up the LAPD plan: Keep an eye on Muslims.

Under heavy criticism the plan was shelved.

There are three million Muslims in the United States. Let’s say that 1 per cent, or 30,000 of them, are terrorists and on average four of them join hands to carry on their nefarious activities. So now we have 7,500 terrorist groups and they all plan to destroy this country. However, out of those 7,500, only 1 per cent or 75 groups (or 300 “terrorists”) succeed in their plan. Imagine the scale of devastation! If they attack the major highways, airports, sea ports, bridges, down towns, and rail tracks the US economy would come to a standstill and China would be at its doorstep asking back for its loaned money. (Not that the US is going to pay back. It would probably declare a war on China-a final nail in the coffin of US imperialism.)

(Encyclopedia Britannica, PBS, and many others give a figure of 5 to 7 million where as some Jewish groups go for half that number. May be they are right or perhaps it’s their anti-Muslim bias. I have gone for the lower figure to make the Jewish Lobby happy. On the contrary, the Lobby in this example would, I am sure, prefer the higher figure.

The US State Department says that by 2010 the number of Muslims in the US will exceed that of Jews. Currently there are about two per cent Jews, or approximately 6 million.

In TV news, they frequently show how the reporters just slip in at the major airports without going through the security checks. So it is not an impossible task.

Like many non-Muslims, Muslims may feel hurt by the deaths and devastation visited upon Iraq and Afghanistan by the US. There may be many who would feel outraged and will think about avenging. But basically it is limited to that feeling only. Next day they may be going (as students, employees, or owners) to their offices, educational institutions, courts, liquor stores, gas stations, motels, hotels, and other working and business places.

But the image persists because the ordinary people are not given any respite from constant hateful bombardments from the mad media.

Another familiar sight on the TV news is the introductory footage to items about Muslim countries, which invariably shows Muslim men in various postures of prayer, as if they don’t do anything else in life. One can only wonder as to how the Muslim population is on the rise (besides the new converts), or how the economy runs, or how the underpaid adults and children produce goods for the Western countries, or so many other things.

Not every Muslim man is brandishing a gun nor is every woman clad in a burka.

Many Muslims are not only proficient in their fields but several of them also create history. A tiny uneven sample related to few fields:

Leila Ahmed is a professor who teaches at the Harvard Divinity School and is the author of “Women and Gender in Islam” and her autobiography “A Border Passage: From Cairo to America, a Woman’s Journey.”

Halid Beslic is a famous Bosnian folk singer.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (previously Yasmin Damji) is a journalist who lives in London, England, and writes for London’s Independent newspaper. Prior to that, she used to write for New Statesman. She frequently appears on BBC to debate on racialism and other issues.

Shamim Ara started out as an actress, a very fine and successful one, who later turned film producer and director. She is South Asia’s most prolific and successful woman director.

Another actor turned producer/director of several films is Sangeeta.

Inul Daratista means “the girl with the breasts.” (Ainul Rokhimah is the birth name of this Indonesian dancer.) The Islamists targeted her for her dengdut dancing (a mixture of Arabic, Indian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Malay) which has been termed as “drilling.” With bended knees, Inul gyrates her derriere with such a speed that it seems like a “glittering piston,” in the words of Time magazine reporters.

She counters her critics such as the Indonesian Ulemas Council in these words: “MUI should realize that Indonesia is not a Muslim country, it’s a democratic country.” Backers she has many too, including the former Presidents Ms. Megavati Soukarnoputri and Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of Nadhlatul Ulama, an Islamic organization.

Deeyah (since 1992, originally Deepika Thathaal) is a Norwegian born singer of Pakistani and Afghan parents. She is known as the “Muslim Madonna.” She has received her music training from Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Sultan Khan. But when one of her video had her with a bare back, her troubles began, and then harassment and threats forced her to move to London, England. There too she faced similar problems from her co-religionists for her dancing with a black man in a video “Plan of My Own.” Another of her video “What Will It Be” made many Muslims furious. The video starts with her in a burqa (a tent-like head to toe covering which some Muslim women don), but once the burqa is removed the only thing she has on is a bikini set.

Waris Dirie of Somalia is a former fashion model and an activist who concentrates her energy to abolish the practice of FGM or female genital mutilation.

FGM, wrongly called “female circumcision,” is a process which involves a partial or full cutting of the external female genitalia, in order to decrease a female’s sexual desire so at the time of marriage she is virgin. It is an extremely painful, torturous, and inhumane custom.

This cruelty Dirie herself experienced when she was five. She has described it in one of her book, a novel, “The Desert Flower.” In 1997, she was appointed the United Nation’s Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. She is cousin of another famous Somali-born model Iman Abdul Majid.

Sabina England is a deaf playwright of Indian origin who grew up in India, US, and England. She is currently living in the US.

Saghi Ghahraman is an Iranian/Canadian poet and lesbian who left Iran in 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power. In her recent interview to an Iranian newspaper “Shargh,” she said that “sexual boundaries must be flexible… The immoral is imposed by culture on the body.” The newspaper was shut down by the government.

Yasmeen Ghauri is a Canadian supermodel and has worked for Versace and Victoria’s Secret. (Some people declined to be led in prayers by her father, who was then an imam in a mosque in Quebec, Canada, because of Yasmeen’s work.)

Tissa Hami was born in Iran and raised in the US. She holds degrees in international relations and, besides her regular job, is a standup comic since 9/11. On stage she has tried to remove her black chador but the audience likes to see her covered.

Sabrina Houssami is Miss World Australia 2006 and Miss World Asia Pacific 2006.

Asma Jehangir is a lawyer, activist, and is associated with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She has successfully defended many victims (Christians, Hindus, and Muslims) of the draconian blasphemy (anything deemed insulting to Islam or Muhammad) laws and female victims of the Hudood Ordinance, introduced in 1979 and replaced by Rape Bill in 2006. Recently she was put under house arrest for opposing the baby martial law but was later released.

She and her family has been threatened and harassed several times. (In Yash Chopra’s film “Veer Zara,” Rani Mukherji’s character is loosely based on her.)

Farah Khan is one of the most famous choreographers in India and is the director of a hit film “Mein Hoon Na” and the recently released “Om Shanti Om.” She also choreographed Columbian/Lebanese singer Shakira in her video, “Hips Don’t Lie,” and the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical “Bombay Dreams.”

Another great Indian choreographer is Saroj Khan.

Irene Zubeda Khan is the first Muslim woman (also the first woman and the first Asian, for that matter) to be the Secretary General of the London-based human rights organization the Amnesty International. She has been serving in that capacity since August 2001. In 2006 she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize.

Shahrukh Khan “is the biggest film star in the world” who commands an audience of more than 3.5 billion, according to BusinessWeek. With his wife Gauri (who is Hindu) he produces films. His wax statue has been placed at Madam Tussaud’s wax museum in London and soon the Graven Museum in Paris is also going to have his wax statue. Actress Penelope Cruz has expressed her desire to work with him in a film. The “King Khan” as he is known has also hosted “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Few of the other top actors in India who are Muslims are Amir Khan, Salman Khan, and Saif Ali Khan.

Sania Mirza is the tennis player who is ranked 31st in the world and has become inspiration for many South Asian girls.

For wearing clothes such as short skirts, shorts, and sleeveless tops, she was issued with a fatwa, a religious decree, by Sunni Ulema Board’s cleric Haseeb-ul-hasan Siddiqui because Islam doesn’t permit those clothes:

“She will undoubtedly be a corrupting influence on these young women, which we want to prevent.”

Mirza has rightly ignored Siddiqui’s fatwa.

Shazia Mirza is a British writer and stand-up comedian.

Three weeks after 9/11 she was back on stage:
“Hello, my name’s Shazia Mirza, at least that’s what it says on my pilot’s license.”

In 2003:
“Last year, I went to Mecca to repent my sins, and I had to walk around the black stone. All the women were dressed in black, you could only see their eyes. And I felt a hand touch my bottom. I ignored it. I thought, ‘I’m in Mecca, it must be the hand of God.’ But then it happened again. I didn’t complain. Clearly, my prayers had been answered.”

A couple of more:
“I got on the plane to Denmark dressed like this, and this woman refused to sit next to me. So I said to her, ‘I’m going to sit on this plane and blow it up. And you think you’re going to be safer three rows back?'”

“I am becoming increasingly worried that if I die a virgin, when I get to heaven I’ll be one of the 72 virgins that have to sleep with one of the suicide bombers. I suspect they’d be a bit disappointed.”

Mariyah Moten is known as “Pakistan’s first Miss Bikini.” The Houston-based girl came to be known as such after she contested the Miss Bikini Universe 2006 pageant held in China. Her “main aim is to project Pakistan to the world as a moderate place.”

Aznil Nawawi is a Malaysian actor, director, and TV host who is credited with drastically changing the TV hosting. In 2005 he received the Best Talk Show Host award at the Asian Television Awards.

Asra Q. Nomani was born in India and raised in the US. An author and a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, she was the main person in arranging the woman-led prayer in New York City in March 2005. (Amina Wadood led the prayer.)

A friend and colleague of Daniel Pearl, in the movie “Mighty Heart,” based on Pearl’s abduction and murder in Karachi, Pakistan, her character is played by Archie Punjabi.

Three manifestoes “The Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom,” “Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque,” and the “99 Precepts for opening Hearts, Minds and Doors in the Muslim World” are written by her.

Nighat Rizvi initiated aid’s awareness in Pakistan and also staged Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologue” in that country. A very daring act on her and the artists’ part who acted in it. Ensler and Nadia Jamil were some of the artists.

When it was performed in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, Hibaaq Osman, a Somali Muslim and the special representative for V-Day (i.e., the Vagina-Day), said that she was eager to see the play being performed in a Muslim country. “Vaginabad” is what she renamed Islamabad and said: “I know if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”

(For a day Islamabad was “Vaginabad,” no doubt. But otherwise, unfortunately, the country has been turned into a Dickistan of feudal lords, ruthless capitalists, military dictators, Saudi rulers, fanatic mullahs, US diplomats, CIA agents, arms merchants, foreign corporations, and corrupt politicians.)

“Vagina Monologue” has also been performed in other Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Palestine, and Nigeria.

Shahzad Roy is a Pakistani pop singer who once said: “I feel so sad when I see some child working, or on the streets, not going to school. The [Zindagi] Trust is my best effort to do something about that.” His NGO (nongovernmental organization) offers Rupees 20 per day to a poor child who attends school and meets certain requirements.

Criticism has been levied against Roy which he is aware of: “Some people say its wrong to bribe children to be in school.” Very rightly he shoots back: “But well-off kids are rewarded for their marks all the time. There is no reason poor children should not have the same support.”

Salma (real name A. Rokkaiah) is an Indian poet and author who writes in Tamil on women-related issues. When she turned thirteen she was prohibited from attending school and had to stay home, but unknown to others she started writing.

Kolo Toure is a football player from Ivory Coast. He plays for Arsenal in England.

Chali 2na (real name Charlie Stewart) is a US rap singer and an emcee with the hip-hop group Jurassic 5. His music takes up political and social issues.

K’Naan Warsame is a Somali born poet and hip-hop artist residing in Canada. His poetry touches on turmoil in Somalia and race and colonialism related issues.

“With a sound that fuses Bob Marley, conscious American hip-hop, and brilliant protest poetry,” according to Jim Welte, K’Naan was “the most promising artist at the 2006 Reggae on the River festival.”

These are just a few names. The list can go on and on and on. Suffice it to say that the image of Muslim women and men in the western media is the product of Goebbels’s progeny who control the propaganda machinery.

B. R. GOWANI can be reached at







B. R. Gowani can be reached at