It's important to know the difference, and it's also important to not, while expressing concern about Islamic extremists or terrorists, either assume they are the majority, nor slip into anti-Islamic bigotry.
I first saw this story on the blog of Zack Ajmal. To quote:
The basic story goes like this: Some Muslims students planned to wear green stoles at graduation at University of California, Irvine. The Arabic writing on the stoles said “God, Increase my knowledge” on one side and “There is no god except God and Muhammad is God’s messenger” on the other.
Some groups, student and other, protested against that because they heard that the “Shahada” would be on the stole. They interpreted “Shahada” as martyrdom instead of the profession of faith. That by itself could be an honest mistake since these people don’t know Arabic and are not conversant with Islam. However, they persisted in calls for protesting or banning the stoles even when told about what would be on the stoles.Zack is absolutely right. This is pathetic reporting, and ignorance is no excuse. Imagine the lambasting if such ignorance were displayed of, say, the Niocene Creed, or the She'ma.
Let’s take a look at so-called better news sources. All of them played this story as a he said, she said one.
Students and administrators at the University of California, Irvine are debating the meaning of green stoles some Muslim students plan to wear this weekend at graduation.
Critics say the stoles are meant to show support for the terrorist group Hamas. But the Muslim Student Union says the stoles are a show of religious solidarity.
Dean of Students Sally Peterson […] says the two sides were waiting for an unbiased third party to translate the Arabic writing on the garment before releasing a statement calling for a “safe and celebrative commencement.”
According to Muslim students the Arabic translates to “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger” and “God, increase my knowledge.” They say the words are known as the “Shahada.”
Some say that the word shahada was Hamas’ call for Muslims to martyr themselves.
Jewish students and outside groups began to vigorously protest to campus officials about the Hamas armbands - reports of which even surfaced Wednesday night on “The O’Reilly Factor,” a Fox television show.
A very different truth soon surfaced, though. Although no one was wearing armbands, a handful of Muslim students did plan to wear stoles over their gowns, - as do many other graduates who want to commemorate groups they have ties to.
On one side, the stoles say “God, increase my knowledge.”
On the other side, they have the word “shahada” written in Arabic.
This mistake was present in almost all articles. The stoles did not have the word “Shahada,” they had the Shahada i.e. “There is no god ….”
Jewish students and outside groups that have gotten involved in the controversy, such as the American Jewish Congress, say the wearing of a garment with that word implies approval of terrorism and suicide bombings.
“I am offended by that,” said Larry Mahler, president of the UCI chapter of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. “What they are doing is ratifying the suicide bombing that killed innocent people.”
Again confusing Shahada as martyrdom.
Muslim students said the word is intended only as a religious statement. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Web site, shahada may be translated as, “There is no God but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
Shouldn’t the CIA website statement have killed this controversy? However, in the article, the reporter never authoritatively states any facts. Wasn’t it easy to ask the Muslim students to show the reporter a stole with the Arabic writing? Now, the reporter could not obviously be expected to know any language other than English because that would require surrendering his US citizenship. But he could have asked someone else, may be some scholar of Arabic, to translate that writing. May be his story might have more legs then?
And it is not a matter of one or two reporters. The LA Times was guilty of it as well.
Even after the graduation ceremony, the LA Times was saying that the words on the stole said “Shahada.” I wonder what happened to that translator that UC Irvine asked to check the writing on the stole.
Some Jewish students said that the stoles showed support for terrorism because the Arabic word on them, “shahada”, could be interpreted to show support for suicide attacks and the militant group Hamas.
The final story in LA Times on June 22 did not have any clue what was written on the stoles.
The idea that if a reporter just quotes both sides, she is being objective is completely nuts. There are lots of facts that can be easily checked. A reporter should check his facts and write based on them. The “he said, she said” method signifies a gossip column, not an objective news report.
And finally, our laugh of the day comes from Jewsweek;.These guys obviously have no clue. But hey, if they don’t know what shahada is, how can we expect them to know about Jazakallah Khair. Jazakallah Khair means “May God grant you good” or “May God reward you for the good.” It is quite obviously the salutation at the end of the Muslim Students Union email before the name of the person, which the Jewsweek columnist confused with the person’s name.
According to a letter sent by MSU board member Jazakhallah Kair [bolding mine – ZA] to all graduating Muslims, the word shehada (martyrdom) will be printed on one side of the arm band and a verse in Arabic on the other. Shehada is the term regularly used by Hamas terrorists in Gaza to describe suicide bombings in Israel.
In the comments, we see an "apology" form the ADL that is also pathetic. Offensive in itself, I'd say, which is extremely sad to see coming from an organization with the ADL's mission.
The Anti-Defamation League is respectful of the Shahada, the Muslim Declaration of Faith, which is expressed by millions of Muslims around the world.And on precisely the same logic, any Jew who wears a Star of David, is engaging in "abuse" by wearing the Star of David, per se, because many Jews who say that Yitzhak Rabin should have been killed, or that Palestinians are all murderers, also wear the Star of David. And Christians who say something murderous are engaging in the same "abuse" when they wear a cross. The cross is "closely associated" with the Crusades and Inquisition, you know.
ADL's statement referring to the Shahada addressed our concerns about the abuse of this religious expression by radical Islamic groups and individuals in connection with suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism. At UC-Irvine some members of the Muslim Student Union engage in this abuse by wearing the Shahada on armbands at the same time that they rationalize terrorism and express support for the terrorist groups, Hezbollah and Hamas.It was never our intent to offend anyone and we apologize to those who took offense.
Give me a break.
Compare it to the main story this "clarification" is attached to:
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is deeply troubled that members of the University of California, Irvine Muslim Students Union have chosen to wear a green graduation stole bearing the Shahada, a declaration of faith that has been closely identified with Palestinian terrorists. "We are troubled that members of the Muslim Students Union have chosen to display symbolism that is closely identified with Palestinian terrorist groups and that can be especially offensive to Jewish students," said Kevin O'Grady, ADL Orange County Associate Director. "This is part of an ongoing pattern of vicious anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents on the UC-Irvine campus, many perpetuated by the Muslim Students Union.Green is the color of Arab countries. This is no different from saying that anyone who wears pale blue and white obviously is for the genocide of Palestinians, just as is saying the She'ma and wearing a Star of David. The wearing of symbols held by the totality of a religion does not, of course, in any sane person's mind, mean that the wearer is displaying them because of the views of a murderous and horrific minority, no matter that, you know, they wear those symbols, too.
Green is the color of Hamas, and its activists and prospective suicide bombers wear the Shahada, a declaration of faith, on green armbands and headbands. The Shahada has come to represent, in radical Muslim circles, support for martyrdom and terrorist groups.
Zack also has some good points here:
I was just minding my own business and making plans to go home to Jersey for the long weekend when I heard Pakistanis were under suspicion.Ah, we don't care about all those other Islamic terrorists. Besides, sending out a memo saying "be on the look out for terrorists" would lack helpful specificity.The US Department of Homeland Security has alerted six major airports in the United States to carefully monitor all travellers of Pakistani origin, including US citizens.How exactly can one find out whether a US citizen is of Pakistani descent? Can you differentiate a Pakistani from an Indian, Iranian, or Afghan? I canít and I am a Pakistani myself.
One thing I donít understand is why the memo even needs to specifically mention Pakistani descent when what it seems to be on the lookout for is people coming from Pakistan with terrorist training. Is there any specific information on Pakistani terrorists, as distinct from non-Pakistanis trained in Pakistan, that this memo is based on?
In more depressing news from a key part of the Islamic world, David Remnick comes back from Egypt and isn't chipper.