Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), spoke at an event titled "Challenging Islamophobia with My Vote" at the Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC), California on April 20, 2018. He said that the U.S. governmental Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program exclusively targets American Muslims although white supremacism is the number one cause of "domestic terrorism and violent extremism" in the U.S. "Do you know how many hundreds of Jewish American kids are recruited to join the Israeli occupation army?" he asked, adding: "No one has ever established a CVE program to see why normal American kids leave their homes to become part of an army committing war crimes... They go to the American Muslim community, although the number of Muslims who join ISIS and Al-Qaeda is... tiny." Professor Khaled Beydoun of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, the other speaker at the event, said that it falls upon the shoulders of the community to spearhead efforts to educate people about Islam and to counter Islamophobia. The event, co-hosted by the IIOC and CAIR, was billed as encouraging Muslim Americans to fight Islamophobia and empower themselves through voting. The event was posted on the IICO YouTube channel.
Hussam Ayloush: "One thing that I will use as an example, and I don't want to elaborate much, is in terms of how law enforcement has continuously dealt with the American Muslim community. You know, we as American Muslims, and this has nothing to do with Trump by the way, this existed under Obama, so those of us who cheered for Obama, same thing. We have been dealt with as a suspect community until proven innocent. If anything happens, you have to prove. When you stop at the airport, when you arrive from overseas, you have to prove that you are worthy of coming back to your country, in ways that no other person has to. When you're traveling, you have to prove that you are worthy of getting on an airplane. When the FBI visits you at home, you have to convince him he has no reason to continue scrutinizing your life or going to your workplace. If you are an American Muslim youth, especially male, young Muslim male, you have to prove that somehow you are not a secret or underground terrorist. And this is dangerous. Obviously, for us it might be something new. For our brothers and sisters in the African-American community, it has been the story of their life. So for us it's something new we're learning about... to basically, you know, to talk about driving while black. You know, we have driving while Muslim now, flying while Muslim. We are slowly joining that, you know, 'VIP' club, I guess, of America.
"An example of law enforcement is something we're all familiar with. You know, how many of you have heard the term CVE? How many of you? Not enough. This is what targets you and me and my children and your children and your nephews and nieces. It's the program called Countering of Violent Extremism. Before Trump, Obama's time. And the purpose of it sounds really good. Who is against countering violent extremism? You know we're all for safe, harmonious society and country and the world, right? The problem with that program, which is a very law enforcement program, mostly DHS with some DOJ, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, mostly targeting, it's actually exclusively targeting American Muslims. And what it is, it's based on the premise that somehow being a Muslim makes you more prone, susceptible to violence in ways, for example, that a white Christian wouldn't be. Although statistics collected and gathered by the Department of Justice prove, not us, prove that the number one cause of domestic terrorism and violent extremism in this country is white supremacism in this country. And yet there is no program to watch and monitor violent extremism within white neighborhoods and white communities.
"You know how many hundreds of Jewish American kids are recruited to join the Israeli occupation army? Hundreds. Every year. They leave their country, leave America, to go join with an army that is engaged, with no debate, in major violations of human rights, and maybe some would argue, and I'm one of them, war crimes. And yet people in America leave this country and go there. No one has ever established a CVE program to see, why would normal Jewish American kids leave their home and join to be part of an army committing war crimes. Why? But none of that is happening. They go to the American Muslim community, although again and again we've seen the numbers of Muslims who join extremist terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda is very, very, very, very tiny. Very tiny. Not justifying these tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions... But again the point is going back to the question that sister Asma asked, and that is stigmatizing American Muslims, making us feel that somehow we're guilty, we're suspect, and making the rest of the country feel that there is a reason, there is a need to scrutinize this community. So that's why fighting Islamophobia is not just about us feeling good. It's not just about me being able to go to the supermarket or drive without feeling threatened. This is important, but it's more than that. It's about the future of our existence as proud Muslims in our own country.
"We have two types of Islamophobes. The one who are deliberate, the one who maliciously are intention... They know you're fine. They know there's nothing to worry about. They know you're just like them, trying to live your life, do good, and raise your family and so on. But they don't care that they have an agenda. These are the people who constitute what we know as the Islamophobia industry. They're the ones who try to poison the well. They're the ones who go and tell average Americans, 'Watch out of the Muslims. They're bad. Let's push policies against them. Let's write about them. Let's make their life miserable. Let's push for bullying, etc.' These are the ones with the agenda. We at CAIR, the Center for American Progress, and many other organizations, did a study and found out that actually there are 33, if not 34... 33 entities that are fully dedicated to producing anti-Muslim material in America. Thirty-three, imagine. Day in, day out, they go to work, the way you go to work you know to produce something productive and good. They go to work to actually create misinformation, lies, fake news, false books, false material... produce you know for media, for TV, for whatever it takes. They influence politicians, media, books, authors, or semi-authors, pseudo-authors... and these people, and with a budget of about $50 million a year, think about that. And this is what we know of, this is the foundation we were able to measure. There are many others that are unknown or under different operation, different names.
"So what these guys do, try to poison people's minds about Islam. So what happens is we have the polls, you know when we look at the surveys, depending on the year Pew, Gallup, They found out that about two-thirds of America, 60 to 67% depending on the year on the survey, 60 to 65% of Americans have unfavorable views about Islam. Now the overwhelming majority of them are, in my opinion, I'm not justifying and I'm not excusing bigotry or racism... You know, subconscious racism, as they describe it sometimes... But what I'm saying is they themselves are the victims of Islamophobia. What it means is, I wouldn’t waste my time on the Brigitte Gabriel and the Daniel Pipes of the world, the malicious Islamophobes. But I will try to spend time on my neighbor who fears me for no reason other than he watched Fox News last night."
Professor Khaled Beydoun: "And I argue with a lot of young millennials about this, right, young activists will tell me: 'Professor Khaled, it's not my responsibility to educate non-Muslims about Islam. It's not my responsibility to dismantle Islamophobia.' And my response to them is: 'Then whose responsibility is it?' Because to be American is to be Islamophobic. And the point about there's a considerable segment of individuals who are victims of Islamophobia is a real one, right, because think about it. As Americans, who are non-Muslims, everywhere they turn, everything they consume, everything they watch, whether it's Black Panther, whether it's Fox News, whether it's some sort of sitcom on television, a commercial, is inundated with a negative idea or image or representation of Islam. So it's actually natural for people to be Islamophobic in this country. And the reality is this: Responsibility falls on us as Muslims and on organizations like CAIR, which I'm happy we have them on the frontlines doing the grassroots work that they do, to do that work because they're not going to get it from politicians. They're not going to get it from mainstream media. They're not going to get it, and I teach at a law school, they're not going to get it from their professors. So it falls on our shoulders to spearhead these educational efforts in these communities, which can be difficult sometimes obviously, because sometimes they're hostile to us, right? But it's really incumbent upon us to do that educational work, and it starts with first understanding our history in this country and, second, understanding what our rights are as they derive from the constitution."