NYC forum on Islamophobia

MORE THAN 100 people gathered at the Alwan Center for the Arts in New York City on September 6 to mark author Deepa Kumar's launch of her new book Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire, and to hear Kumar speak about the poisonous Islamophobia that is impacting Muslims, Arabs and other people of color in the U.S. and abroad.

Haymarket Books sponsored the event, in association with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Kumar was introduced by Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor of English at Brooklyn College and editor of Midnight on the Mavi Marmara and author of How Does It Feel To Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America.

Kumar began by discussing the wave of anti-Muslim attacks that occurred throughout the U.S. this summer and the rise in anti-Muslim hate groups over the past two years. She attributed this to the depiction of Muslims as barbaric, undemocratic and violent. Some people--political leaders among them--believe that "Islam is to blame and [they] shall look no further," Kumar said.

Kumar noted that Islamophobia is very visible in some situations, but not always blatant in others. Of course, there are the obvious neo-conservative, ultra-Christian and Zionist groups that openly profess their loathing for all things related to Islam and Muslims. However, Kumar added, "At the end of the day, both Democrats and Republicans participate in this charade."

Kumar offered several suggestions for starting a movement aimed not just at equality, but respect for all cultures and people, including Muslim Americans. First, she argued for continuously challenging the far-right propaganda that allows anti-Muslim ideas to proliferate. Second, she encouraged the crowd to rebuild an anti-imperialist antiwar movement in America and to make sure that voices against the war on terror are strong and loud.

Finally, she focused on the importance of defending the civil liberties of all Muslim Americans, in order to combat Islamophobia and create a solidarity movement with Muslims around the world.