By Isa Abu Jamal
The media seems to have a thing for portraying Muslims in the most sensationalistic, frightening way imaginable. Newsweek released their popular “Muslim Rage” cover a year ago, which quickly became an internet meme sensation with America Muslims mocking the ridiculousness of it. While Burmese Muslims have been slaughtered by their Buddhist neighbors, the Western media has managed to refrain from stereotyping Buddhists as violent murderers, and rightly so. But “The Muslim Threat” has sold in the West since the Crusades, and the media knows any suggestion of “Creeping Shari`ah” or other similar Islamophobic paranoia, will get them the ratings they are after.
For the past week, the Right Wing pundits were fuming over the claim that a “Million Muslim March” was planned for the anniversary of 9/11 this September. But to walk into any mosque in the United States and ask just about anyone if they had heard of this before last week and the answer would have been “no” or more often, just a strange look.
There is, however, an idea for a march that was kicked around by an organizer named Isa Hodge. He put up a website of an organization calling itself “AMPAC” or American Muslim Political Action Committee. If you haven’t heard of AMPAC, you are not alone. The widely-known Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has absolutely no connection to AMPAC. Muslims all over the country seem clueless as to who AMPAC is, outside of Missouri where AMPAC is based.
Steven Nelson of US News interviewed Hodge, who says that he renamed the march the “Million American March Against Fear,” almost immediately after it was conceived. Hodge said that the name was changed in February because many of the organizers do not believe that Muslims were involved in 9/11.
“They’re focusing on what it was [called] before February to continue the misinformation and fear that we’re trying to stop,” Hodge explained. “It’s more sensational if they can put out there that it’s just Muslims going to dance on the graves of the 3,000 souls that were lost that day. That’s not what we’re doing.”
But the name originally conceived of stuck, even though Hodge never got any significant numbers to back the idea with that name, and quickly abandoned it. Nelson explains that even still, the “National Park Service spokesperson Carol Johnson told U.S. News in July that organizers applied for a National Mall permit citing just 1,000 likely participants.”
The only reason any of us are even discussing this is because pundits all over the media have been warning of a what they deemed a quasi-terroristic march of a million angry Muslims on Washington to rub the 9/11 attacks in the faces of America. But that doesn’t seem to be what Hodges ever had in mind, nor what he has in mind today.
While the originally-conceived march would have almost never have been heard of by most American Muslims (or by most Americans in general), since the Islamophobic media got a hold of the story, Hodge revised his projections for the turnout.
“I expect the numbers to be astronomical,” due to the attention given to the march, “I expect many anti-protesters, but they’re going to be pleasantly surprised, I think. We’re not going to be up there whining about civil rights violations of Muslims. There’s going to be a presentation on rights and events that affect the liberties of all Americans.”
While that certainly sounds like a laudable goal, many in American Muslim communities are not convinced, Nelson reports that not only will “Opponents of drones and the National Defense Authorization Act,” be represented at the event, but also “north-central Pennsylvania’s Williamsport Tea Party are now involved with the event.” As many Tea Party members have been anything but friendly to the American Muslim community, this should be a tough sell for Hodge. But
Nick Defonte of the Williamsport Tea Party said, ”We all deserve to be judged on our own merits, and that is precisely why I will show my solidarity with peaceful, Constitution-loving citizens.”
Stay tuned for updates on this event. We’re likely going to hear a lot more, whether the turn out is 1,000 or 1,000,000.