A wake-up call about Islamism in the United States | WORLD
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A wake-up call about Islamism in the United States

Chants of “Death to America” in Michigan warn of a vicious ideology in our midst

The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich. on Oct. 16 2023 Associated Press/Photo by Joey Cappelletti

A wake-up call about Islamism in the United States
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The infamous chant “Death to America” used to be heard from angry Muslims in Tehran or from zealous demonstrators in Kabul, but now it rings loud and clear from Arab Muslims in Dearborn, Mich.

According to The Detroit News, demonstrators appeared in a video, chanting “Death to America” on the streets of Dearborn. The chant was started by an Arab man shouting it in Arabic, followed by many in the crowd repeating it multiple times, adding “Death to Israel” as well.

This Dearborn rally wasn’t simply a haphazard pro-Palestinian protest or a general demonstration of various religious groups against Israel. Rather, it was a decidedly Islamic anti-Israel rally, held on the so-called “International Day of Al-Quds,” where “Al-Quds” is the Arabic Islamic name for Jerusalem. The day refers to an annual Muslim event, held on the last Friday of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

The organizer of the rally was Muslim activist Tarek Bazzi, who appeared in an earlier pro-Palestinian rally, exhorting Muslims: “Martyrdom must be sought. Israel is absolute evil, there is no way to deal with it peacefully,” before concluding, “‘from the river to the sea’ means the annihilation of the Zionist regime.” This puts the rally in perspective, especially if we acknowledge that Dearborn has become the largest city with an Arab Muslim majority in the United States.

While many Americans—Muslims and non-Muslim alike—may denounce the “Death to America” chant, this rally and its despicable chant highlight a unique phenomenon in our midst in the United States. A group of Americans—Arab Muslims—enjoy freedoms and resources that the nation offers, while explicitly despising the country and calling for its collapse. Keep in mind, this Arab Muslim group doesn’t want to live in the Arab world and chose to live in America.

How can we understand the nature and disposition of this group of Arab Muslim chanters? Two major observations.

First, these Arab Muslims don’t view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. role in the region in merely political terms. For these Arabs, the whole matter is religious and the conflict is theological. From their perspective, the United States and Israel are not merely fighting Palestinians but fellow Muslims. They don’t see political interest and economic benefits at play, but rather a religiously driven war aiming—in their opinion—to eliminate Islam. In most cases, these Arab Muslims are stirred by fervent and zealot preachers who operate within a political-Islam agenda, which seeks to advance the religion as both worship and political dominion. This is why most of these negative sentiments and anti-American chants often emerge after mosques’ Friday corporate prayers and with the aid of Islamist activism.

Most of these Arab Muslims and their ancestors left their countries of origin in pursuit of a better life in the United States.

Second, most of these Arab Muslims and their ancestors left their countries of origin in pursuit of a better life in the United States. They fled oppressive Arab Muslim regimes, because they viewed America with awe. The United States is definitely healthier than their Arab nations economically, politically, educationally, militarily, and above all in how human dignity is valued, cherished, and protected. After all, in much of the Arab world, these Arab Muslims would have never been able to voice—let alone chant—any anti-government slogans or words, or they would have faced immediate detention and severe punishment with no trial.

Once in America, they know they can express their views freely, especially as the U.S. system honors and elevates their minority voice. While many Arab Muslims may simply desire to live and let others live, there is a big problem: Islamism.

Islamism, or political Islam, is an ideology flourishing and sneaking into our society under the banner of freedom of speech and religious freedom, amplified through Islamist clerics and organizations that aim to advance Islam as a dominion power in all affairs of life. Under these clerics, activists, and organizations, many Muslims pine for a Muslim America, where Islam—as they see it—is superior. This propels many to forget the tyranny of Arab lands, mostly birthed through religious oppression, and begin to see America as a “Christian” enemy in coalition with a “Jewish” Israel in a war against Islam.

Allowing Islamism to grow unchallenged will lead to disaster. Islamism is a vicious ideology that seeks to cripple the West. This Dearborn chant is an alarming development, largely fueled by Islamist zealots granted freedom and opportunities in our midst. It is no surprise that Dearborn was recently identified in a Wall Street Journal op-ed as “America’s Jihad Capital.”

America needs to wake up to the threat of Islamism, before it’s too late.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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