Section: Opinion

Islamophobia persists

By Muhammed Asad Hansrod

A white man once explained to me that the difference between Islam and Christianity is that Christianity promotes love whereas Islam is legalistic.  Despite the obvious Islamophobia of this assertion, my response to his prejudice was deafening silence. Arabs and Muslims have long been unfairly characterized in this country as exotic, angry, violent and legally obsessed. Why should I have to defend my humanity? This semester, Richard Baehr ’69 delivered a campus-wide lecture at Kenyon in which he made blatantly Islamophobic statements. This time I refuse to be silent.

In the Feb. 19 issue of the Collegian, Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann commented that Baehr “presented a great deal of powerful factual information that I think the Kenyon community badly needs to learn and think about.” Respectfully, I completely disagree that Baehr’s rhetoric is in any way “factual.” In his lecture, Baehr asserted among other absurdities that Israel is the only “successful” country in the Middle East because it is the only country in the region not run by Muslims. Baehr’s online magazine The American Thinker  also teems with Islamophobic propaganda. One article entitled “Islamophobia, Hell Yes!” brazenly dehumanizes Muslims. The author of the article proclaims, “If we are going to defeat the terrorists,  we must become Islamophobes” and that “substantially all terrorists are Muslims.” In another article on The American Thinker’s website, the author argues that there is no Muslim Shakespeare, sarcastically asking Kenyon College professor Vernon Schubel, “If there is a Muslim playwright with such genius at exploring the universal human condition, please let us know so we can read him.” I invite the author of that article to read a sampling of Islamicate literature including Rumi’s Masnavi, Ghalib’s ghazals, Mahmoud Darwish’s insightful poetry and the memoirs of the South African anti-apartheid activist Fatima Meer. The American Thinker shamefully imagines a world in which Islam is an inherently violent religion and Muslims are potential terrorists. I think a reasonable person can safely conclude that Baehr is unapologetically Islamophobic for airing these deeply hurtful views both on his public website and on our campus.

Painting an entire global community with a dehumanizing brush should be unacceptable. Unfortunately, outrage toward Baehr’s obvious prejudice seems to have come from only a small fraction of the Kenyon community. Why has the Kenyon community remained largely silent in response to Baehr’s lecture? Is Kenyon observing Imam Ali’s advice, “Silence is the best reply to a fool?” One would hate to think that for some at Kenyon the victims of this hurtful and dangerous prejudice, most of whom are brown or black, do not matter as much as others. I, for one, can remain silent no longer.

Muhammed Asad Hansrod ‘17 is a religious studies and Asian studies major from Durban, South Africa. Contact him at hansrodm@kenyon.edu.

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