Long Island University political science associate professor Dalia Fahmy stated her goal of "breaking the Islamophobia industry" in the April 24 webinar, "Islamophobia & the American Muslim Community." Her reiteration of hackneyed distortions under the contrived term of "Islamophobia" took center stage at this American Muslim Institution (AMI) event for the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
AMI executive director Shahid Rahman introduced the panel by claiming that during Ramadan "we have seen our Muslim-American community live up to their reputation as the most charitable of people." Yet a 2019 Philanthropy Roundtable study found that "Mormons are the most generous Americans . . . Evangelical Christians are next. Then come mainline Protestants. Catholics lag both." Muslim scholars who studied Muslim-American philanthropy in 2018 found that "U.S. Muslim giving to religious causes and institutions is far behind that of other U.S. religious groups."
Among other reasons, these Muslim academics noted under one heading that "U.S. Muslims Are Relatively Less Affluent." Among the "poorest of the poor in America, comparatively speaking, the larger percentage of them are Muslims." Irrespective of means, charity among Muslims also raises doctrinal disputes within Islam over whether Muslims should aid non-Muslims.
By contrast, Fahmy strove to present Muslim-Americans as model citizens, with reference to statistical claims such as Muslim women are America's second-highest educated religious minority group. Thus "Muslim Americans are productive, educated, and civic-minded individuals." She ignored that America's prison population is disproportionately Muslim.
"The more you understand the Quran, the more pro-justice you are," Fahmy said, citing her former Princeton University adviser in a proposition that would astonish victims of Islamic sharia oppression throughout history. Overlooking Islam's traditional division of the world into Dar al-Harb (house of war, or non-Islamic lands) and Dar al-Islam (house of Islam, the lands Muslims have conquered), she claimed that the Muslim "ummah is one body, and when one part of the body hurts, the entirety of humanity suffers." Therefore, she added, people should "think about Muslim issues as being human issues."
For Fahmy's Muslim social justice warriors, "Muslim issues are healthcare, ensuring that the poor are taken care of, that the hungry are fed, that there is equal access to education." Seemingly leftist Muslims should be "going into the inner cities, breaking the boundaries of privilege, and saying that we can't fight for Muslim rights until we fight for the rights of all," she said. She praised a "positive correlation between Muslims being engaged in their local mosque and Muslims being civically engaged as Americans." Yet her defense of radical, antisemitic Representative Ilhan Omar, who she asserted "has endured a campaign of hate and defamation," exposed her desire to whitewash such Muslims activism.
Fahmy's accusations of widespread anti-Muslim bigotry are largely unfounded.
"Islamophobia is defined as the unfounded or irrational fear towards Islam and Muslims," Fahmy stated, but her accusations of anti-Muslim bigotry themselves are largely unfounded. She cited several incidents from 2015, including the "arrest of young people with nothing other than, for example, a boy with a clock." This "Clock Boy," a fourteen-year-old Muslim high school student in Irving, Texas, triggered a security scare at his school by bringing in a science project that closely resembled a bomb. His family launched a series of lawsuits in response, the last of which a court dismissed "with prejudice" in 2018 while denying "all relief by plaintiff."
Fahmy also condemned what she called the "execution-style murder of three young people in [Chapel Hill] North Carolina," but a disturbed anti-religious, leftist man murdered these three Muslims over a parking dispute, not "Islamophobia." She cited arson at a Houston Islamic school, but the alcoholic homeless man with a criminal record who was convicted said that the school's destruction was an accident caused by a fire he started to keep warm on a cold night. She also noted a stabbing attack against an Arab-American in Brooklyn, but one of the two Asian-Americans brothers who perpetrated the stabbings was later found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Given that activists like Fahmy fail to adhere to a consistent definition of "Islamophobia," it is unsurprising that her fellow Americans do not share her twisted outrage. She paraphrased President Barack Obama's 2015 State of the Union address, in which he said the "United States is a nation that will not tolerate antisemitism" to standing congressional applause. "But in his next breath he said that the United States is also a country that will stand against rising Islamophobia and much of the chamber remained silent, but we as Muslims heard this loud and clear," she added.
Fahmy also denounced political "language that, for example, the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation, indicating that Islam has no presence here or that Muslims can't be trusted." This would, she claimed, "exclude Muslims from the definition of what it means to be American." Yet Jews, Christians, and others from myriad faiths and no faith at all have recognized that America's moral character as a society respecting rights for all stems from its biblical heritage.
"Islamophobia" in Fahmy's telling has a long history, as found, for example, in the 1921 book The Sheikh, which appeared the next year as a hit silent film starring Rudolph Valentino. Yet Muslims themselves have praised Washington Irving's 1849 biography of Islam's prophet Muhammad, contrary to Fahmy's criticism of that work. She also did not explain in her condemnation of Mark Twain's 1869 travelogue, Innocents Abroad, how it was inaccurate in its harsh description of the Ottoman Empire in places like Palestine. Similarly, she offered no proof for her claims about the "Islamophobia industry," which she complained is "well-funded," and "unregulated," as if the First Amendment is inapplicable to commentators on Islam.
Fahmy bemoaned survey results showing Americans' negative impressions of Islam and Muslims, but her skewed, superficial sophistries simply reinforce the reasoning behind those impressions. Middle East studies academics like her do a disservice to Muslims concerned about bigotry by refusing to truthfully critique difficult issues within Islam. These range from what the late Harvard scholar Samuel P. Huntington called "Islam's bloody borders" to the unwillingness of Muslim immigrants in the West to assimilate to their host cultures. True friendship and understanding can develop only with frank, truthful discussions of these and other problems – virtues sorely lacking in Fahmy's warped presentation.
Andrew E. Harrod is a Campus Watch Fellow, freelance researcher, and writer who holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at @AEHarrod.