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Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

SF State Muslim community quells media driven stereotypes

SF State's Muslim Student Association (MSA) members Moaan Ahmed, left, and Ali Al-Arabi, right, pray in room C-139 in the lower level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center on Monday, April 29, 2013. Photo by Frank Leal / Xpress
SF State's Muslim Student Association (MSA) members Moaan Ahmed, left, and Ali Al-Arabi, right, pray in room C-139 in the lower level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center on Monday, April 29, 2013. Photo by Frank Leal / Xpress

Soon after the bombing of the Boston marathon, the world saw gruesome photos of the bombing victims with blast wounds, melted clothing and lost limbs. People wanted to know what happened and who was responsible.

When SF State student and biology major, Yaman Ahmen, 24, and member of the Muslim Student Association at SF State first heard about the bombing he thought one thing: “I hope it’s not a Muslim or someone claiming to be a part of an Islamic organization.”

Many Muslims in the SF State community braced themselves, fearing that conclusions would be drawn. They followed the unfolding investigation with anticipation, hoping that the bombers wouldn’t turn out to be Muslim.

“When bombings happen, like in Boston, it’s always assumed to be Muslims or Arabs,” said Rabab Abdulhadi, SF State associate professor of ethnic studies. “When the Oklahoma City bombing happened nobody was looking for Christians.”

Abdulhadi and many Muslims on campus blame the media for fueling the terrorist stereotype by popularizing terms like “radical Islam” and “jihadist” to describe violent terrorists. These labels can cause uninformed people to lump a very small number of violent people with the one and a half billion Muslims in the world.

“The media defines all Muslims as radicals,” said Muslim Shafah Arsala, a 20-year-old business administration major.“There is nothing in our religion that condones violence.”

David Fischer, an international relations professor at SF State, said that terrorism is not only limited to Muslim people.

“Terrorists are found in all religious communities,”  said Fischer, who teaches a course here on terrorism. “They’re found in the Christian community and the Jewish community.”

Fischer estimated that about “20 to 30 percent of the general population has fundamentally racist views toward Muslims.”

Abdulhadi, senior scholar of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative here, said that since 9/11 she’s been stopped on many flights to and from Palestine and questioned by security, and that her bags always have the tag that says they’ve been randomly selected to be searched. People confuse her name. Some even laugh the first time they hear it.

“It’s very troubling and takes its toll on their daily lives,” she said, referring to the psychological effects on Muslims. “You’re always wondering when something is going to drop (or) when something is going to happen.”

It didn’t help squash the Muslim terrorist stereotype when the Boston marathon bombers were identified by law enforcement as self-radicalized Islamists.

“The minute they catch the two guys, all of a sudden, everything falls neatly in place,” Abdulhadi said, adding that everybody then acts like “it’s natural; of course it’s going to be Muslims.”

The suspects were brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. Both are Chechen, born either in Kyrgyzstan or Dagestan, predominately Muslim regions. Dzhokhar is  thought to have been influenced by his older brother’s increasingly radical views.

Tamerlan was killed during a police car chase and shootout. The younger Tsarnaev was captured after suffering multiple gunshot wounds and is being charged with using a weapon of mass destruction.

Most Islamists aren’t violent. In 2012, just 12 Muslim-Americans were indicted in terrorist plots, with only one that resulted in violence, according to FBI and Homeland Security data reported in University of North Carolina study by Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology. That’s 12 out of roughly 2.6 million Muslims living in the U.S., according to a study of the Pew Research Center.

Only a small minority of Islamists believe that the use of violence is necessary whenever Islam is threatened and that all Muslims have a responsibility to attack, according to Fischer.

“The use (of) violence separates them from the 99 percent of Muslims,” he said.

Fischer doesn’t like to use “radical Islam,” preferring political Muslim or Islamist instead, as it helps better identify those pushing for a political form of Islam.

Islamists want a theocratic system, a form of government guided by the divine and ruled by religious leaders.

“They want to create here on earth a form of political rule based on the word of God spoken in the Quran,” Fischer said.

Longtime criminal justice professor Daniel Vencill said the Islamic views are hard for mainstream westerners to understand, which adds to the negative stereotypes of Muslims.

“The Sharia law — we’re scared to death of it,” Vencill said, referring to the strict moral code outlined in the Quran followed by devout Muslims. “Most westerners hate Sharia law, they don’t like the misogynistic culture and the maltreatment of women. It’s so anti-western.”

But none of the stereotypes present the whole picture, far from it. Most people don’t understand Muslims because they lack the information.

“The information they do have,” Vencill said, “is legend, myth, misapprehension— propaganda that people have unwittingly been fed and absorbed.”

Some people doubt whether Islam or if any terrorist influence played any real role in the bombers’ motives, suggesting that they were just alienated kids.

“The Boston bombers were just pissed off kids who suddenly had access to an idea that would glorify their actions,” Fischer said. “The young kid, I probably know more about Islam than he does.”

The New York Times did a profile of Tamerlan Tsarnaev April 27 that  suggested his devotion to Islam increased, but “only after his more secular dreams were dashed.” The Times was referring to when Tamerlan quit boxing apparently over the frustration of no longer being able to compete in Golden Gloves tournament because of his immigration status.

Whatever the reasons the suspects had for bombing the marathon, you can be sure on one thing, agreed Fischer and Vencill: we will absolutely see more bombings like what happened in Boston happening in major cities across the nation.

While terrorists who pursue violence in the name of Islam are a small minority of  Muslims, it only takes a small number of people to inflict serious violence.  As the potential for more attacks increases, so does the potential for misinformation to spread, adding to the terrorist stereotype of the Muslim people.

Terrorists around the world are going to say “look at what two (young people) did in a big American hub city with just $500 worth of fireworks and crockpots,” Vencill said. “They shut down an entire city for five days and terrorized the entire population. For almost no money they got in every newspaper in the world. In every other part of the world they’re going to say ‘Good lord look at what you can do.’ Talk about a force multiplier, talk about asymmetric warfare.”

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  • A

    ArafatMay 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Here is just a small sample of former Muslim Student Association members. The MSA is obviously a breeding ground for terrorists.
    Anwar al-Awlaki, an influential American-born al-Qaida cleric who recruited a series of homegrown jihadists before being killed by a U.S. drone strike;

    Aafia Siddiqui, convicted of attempted murder and assault on U.S. officers and employees in Afghanistan;

    Zachary Chesser, convicted of attempting to provide material support to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab and soliciting attacks on “South Park” producers for an episode in which the prophet Muhammad was shown in a bear suit;

    Jesse Morton, convicted with Chesser of threatening the South Park producers with murder;

    Adam Gadahn, an al-Qaida spokesman who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for treason and material support to al-Qaida;

    Waheed Zaman, who was convicted of plotting to blow up transatlantic flights;

    Adis Medunjanin, who is awaiting trial for plotting to bomb New York subways;

    Ramy Zamzam, who was convicted in Pakistan of conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks;

    Omar Hammami, who was indicted on charges of providing material support to al-Shabbab and is designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for his terrorist connections;

    Muhammad Junaid Babar, who pled guilty to his support to al-Qaida; and

    Syed Hashmi, who pled guilty to providing material support to al-Qaida.

  • H

    Hippies SmellMay 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    [Fischer spat: “20 to 30 percent of the general population has fundamentally racist views toward Muslims.”]

    Remind folks again, Professor Race-Baiter: What “race” are Muslims?

    Cluebat to Candorphobe: +20K deadly Islamo-supremacist attacks globally since 9/11 don’t lie.

    Cluebat to Sharia-phile: Islamo-supremacists celebrated the Boston Marathon bombings.

    Try harder to avoid using your “20 to 30 percent” of your head for a public colonoscopy, while crabwalking across the stage of academia expecting folks to admire your new hat.

    Grade: F- (fetid)


  • L

    Lan astaslemMay 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    [FALSE: “Only a small minority of Islamists believe that the use of violence is necessary whenever Islam is threatened and that all Muslims have a responsibility to attack, according to Fischer.”]

    TRUE: Professor Andrew Bostom summarizes a new international survey’s findings about the broad support in Muslim countries for the harshest Sharia punishments.

    72% of (showcase “moderate”) Indonesian Muslims, 84% of Pakistani Muslims, 82% of Bengladeshi Muslims, 74% of Egyptian Muslims, and 71% of Nigerian Muslims supported making Sharia the official state law of their respective societies. The population-weighted average from these 5 countries was 77% supportive.

  • H

    HajMay 4, 2013 at 12:23 am

    And some time ago Former Muslims United members sent out a mailing to 165 Muslim leaders asking them to pledge that:

    “I renounce, repudiate and oppose any physical intimidation, or worldly and corporal punishment, of apostates from Islam, in whatever way that punishment may be determined or carried out by myself or any other Muslim including the family of the apostate, community, Mosque leaders, Shariah court or judge, and Muslim government or regime.”

    Looks good to me. Clear. Concise. Unambiguous. Robust. And plain damned decent.

    They got back two, yes, count them … TWO (that’s 2) answers. I’ll repeat that. That’s two out of 165.

    On top of this rather shocking result, it seems that a certain Sheila Musaji, editor of The American Muslim, found this effort highly offensive — and is further incensed at Nonie Darwish for making the matter public knowledge. According to their website, “The American Muslim is dedicated to the promotion of peace, justice, and reconciliation for all humanity.” Inspiring. And the gentle Ms. Musaji presented the following bill of particulars against Former Muslims United and Ms. Darwish:

    “This FMU pledge is simply another attempt to create propaganda. Thus, she [Darwish] planted the idea that American Muslims have not taken a position against punishments for apostasy and attempted to make it seem as if only former Muslims can stand for what is right, and frankly to attempt to increase the visibility of the FMU at the expense of the Muslim community. This is shameful behavior (although typical of members of this group who go beyond denouncing Islamic radicalism to denouncing all of Islam) and is simply another example of attempting to marginalize the Muslim community.”

    You be the judge….

  • H

    HajMay 4, 2013 at 12:13 am

    It is the voices of ex-Muslims that we need to hear more of. And we would likely hear more from them if it was not so dangerous for them to speak out. But the official and unoffical death penalty for Islamic apostacy is alive and well here in North America, unfortunately. Yet Muslims remain deafly silent or deceptive about this matter. From Former Muslims United, including ex-Muslim and Islamic scholar Ibn Warraq, author of Why I Am Not A Muslim:

    “Former Muslims United does not criticize any religion, in the sense that the religion is practiced as a personal relationship with God. But if a religion expands itself to become a one party totalitarian State, ruled by an elaborate legal system controlling every aspect of private and public life, and requiring the killing and incitement of violence against those who leave it, then that religion cannot be immune from criticism. It is no longer a private religion, but has become instead a totalitarian dictatorship. It is in this sense, since Islam’s apostasy laws condemn former Muslims to death and allows vigilante violence against apostates, that Islam itself has opened itself to criticism. Therefore, Former Muslims United, welcoming all former Muslims including converts to all other religions, as well as atheists or agnostics, will pursue these goals:

    And first among those goals it lists:

    Develop a legal framework for and ensure the civil rights of American individuals and organizations to provide sanctuary for former Muslims without being subject to legal penalties or threats.”

  • T

    tu quoque?May 3, 2013 at 8:12 am

    [“Terrorists are found in all religious communities,” said Fischer, who teaches a course here on terrorism. “They’re found in the Christian community and the Jewish community.”]

    Academics should know better than to use transparently fallacious ‘tu quoque’ reasoning.

    Moreover, when one examines the motivations of terrorists embedded in Western faith communities (e.g., IRA, Baider-Meinhoff, Weather Underground, etc.), one inevitably discovers that atheistic-Marxism or fascist-progressivism typically motivates their terrorist acts.

    Naturally, that pattern is perfectly consistent with the terrorist heritage of the Democrat-KKK.

    Try harder to avoid the bigoted reflex to smear Christianity and Judaism for the terrorist acts of Marxists and progressives.

  • I

    Investigative ProjectMay 3, 2013 at 6:03 am

    In the interest of full disclosure, MSA are a notorious Muslim Brotherhood affiliate and propaganda mouthpiece for Hamas terrorists.

    Recall also, in a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes it a crime for Americans to provide “material support” of any kind (be it in the form of cash, weaponry, training, personnel, services, or “expert advice or assistance”) to a foreign terrorist organization, even if that support is for (ostensibly) peaceful purposes.

    Hamas would be one such example. It conducts terrorist attacks against Israel with one part of its organization while spitting propaganda lies with another. Propagandizing for them allows Hamas to not have to spend propaganda funds for its terrorist activities.

    Upcoming Congressional hearings will undoubtedly focus the spotlight on MSA terrorism enablers. For those interested in a fuller disclosure of the MSA, read their dossier @

    So, thanks once again to MSA propagandists for making it easier for Obama’s NSA to track your activities and Holder’s Justice Department to prosecute your material support propaganda campaign.

    And good luck finding a job with “terrorism enabler” emblazoned on your resume.

    • M

      Moaan AhmedMay 21, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Come to the MSA and you’ll find that we are just a group of hard-working students who appreciate having a room to pray in. We are NOT affiliated with ANY outside group nor are we closely in-touch with other chapters.

  • G

    Ganesha akbarMay 3, 2013 at 6:01 am

    [Islamo-supremacist spat: “When the Oklahoma City bombing happened nobody was looking for Christians.”]

    Cluebat to Bigot: McVeigh was never described as killing out of any religious motives. Nor was there any evidence McVeigh considered himself a Christian. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

    At his execution, Jesus Christ made no appearance in McVeigh’s rhetoric. McVeigh’s last public act before he was executed was to distribute copies of the 1875 poem “Invictus.” It begins: “I thank whatever gods may be/ for my unconquerable soul,” and ends “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Those sentiments are blasphemous of Christianity– but perfectly consistent with the secular conceits of most progressives.

    In contemporaneous reporting on his execution, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described McVeigh as “an avowed agnostic” whose sudden last-minute decision to see a Catholic priest (just before his execution) surprised everyone who knew him. Even Barbara Ehrenreich (writing in the Progressive) didn’t portray McVeigh as having religious motives. She identified McVeigh as a “neo-Nazi mass murderer.” Lest we forget, neo-Nazis (national socialists) are atheistic Marxists who venomously reject Judeo-Christianity.

    Sorry, bigots, but much like the 20th century’s bloodiest mass murderers (Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Honneker, Mussolini, Caeucescu, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi, il Sung, Mugabe, Mengistu, Castro, Che, PFLP, PKK, FMLN, FARC, IRA, ETA, Red Army faction, Shining Path, etc., ad nauseum), Tim McVeigh was inspired by secular Marxism– not Christianity.

    For a more scholarly discussion of the phenomenon, try “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left”
    [Library Stacks HN90.R3 H583 2004]

    Try harder to avoid smearing Christianity with silly taqiyya lies.

    • H

      Holy Prophet APFMay 3, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Moments after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, an all-points bulletin was issued based on several eyewitnesses at the scene saying they’d seen a “middle eastern looking” running from the scene. The APB was rescinded once the feds (Janet Reno) intervened. The investigation that identified McVeigh and Nichols also found that a Moslem from the Middle East, a professor at an Oklahoma City college, had spent hours the previous night with McVeigh in a strip bar engaged in an intense conversation, as sworn in affidavits by several eyewitnesses from the bar that night. Then there are the affidavits from eyewitnesses connected to the Moslem professor’s rental property business, swearing that several Iraqi men were “working” at the business as painters for two weeks prior to the bombing, although they never saw the men, who stated they fought for Saddam in the Republican Guard during the first Iraq war, actually do any work. They were said to be house painters, but the eyewitnesses never saw any cans of paint, paint brushes, or paint on their clothes or bodies. Then there were the other apparent Moslems seen in around the rented truck that was carried the explosives, to include a Moslem with terror connections from Lebanon who was caught with a bag full of bomb making equipment in London after landing in a flight from the U.S. British officials seized and interrogated him, strongly suspecting he was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing. They contacted the CIA, who declined to have the U.K. hold the man, whose trail led back to Oklahoma City.

      The eyewitnesses were stunned when the Moslem professor/slumlord was not charged in the mass murder. The then head of the Oklahoma state police spoke out publicly his anger of the APB being rescinded, and accused Reno of a cover up of Islamo-terrorist involved in the Murrah blast.

      Those soft on jihad invariably cite invoke Oklahoma as proof of Infidel terrorism, Christian terrorism, when the established facts of the matter indicate that a larger Moslem conspiracy, probably led by Saddam from Iraq to avenge his humiliation in the first Iraq war, used McVeigh and Nichols as “cutaways,” an old spymaster trick, to deflect blame for who funded the deal.

  • G

    GuestMay 3, 2013 at 5:24 am

    Whatever the reasons the suspects had for bombing the marathon, you can be sure on one thing, agreed Fischer and Vencill: we will absolutely see more bombings like what happened in Boston happening in major cities across the nation.

    Gee, isn’t that stereotyping? Btw Fischer, Islam is political by nature.

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SF State Muslim community quells media driven stereotypes