By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The de facto criminalization of being Muslim or speaking Arabic, which is contrary to every core American value and contradicts the First Amendment, is proceeding apace. The number of anti-Muslim attacks in the US is up by 80% since Donald Trump announced his proposed Muslim ban last fall. The article just linked to concerns a Muslim man who was sitting in a parked care in Washington DC when a passer-by threw a fire-bomb into it and said, “Take that, Muslim!” The victim is in hospital.

In early September, a 32-year-old Brooklyn woman punched, kicked and tried to rip the veils off two Muslim women pushing baby carriages. She shrieked, “This is the United States of America, you’re not supposed to be different from us … You don’t belong here!”

Then in mid-September, a man came up to a traditionally-dressed Muslim woman in a department store in New York city, and used his lighter to set her blouse on fire. She didn’t notice him at first but felt the heat and patted out the fire.

Two veiled Muslim women were kicked off a Jet Blue flight by a flight attendant who said she did not like the way the women were “staring” at her. The airline maintained that the real reason the passengers were removed was that they had filmed the “sensitive in-flight activities.” If airlines are going to make it illegal to take phone videos of one’s flight, which lots of tourists and first-time flyers do, then they have to announce that policy beforehand.

A young UC Berkeley graduate was kicked off a Southwest Airlines plane at LAX for making a quick pre-take-off call to his uncle in Baghdad, at the end of which he used the phrase “inshallah” or “God willing” in Arabic. The young man said he had lived under Saddam Hussein in Iraq and recognized discrimination when he saw it. I guess he’s liberated, now.

Something like 400 million people in the world speak Arabic at home, and it is a liturgical language for 1.6 billion Muslims. It is spoken also by Lebanese and Egyptian Christians and by Moroccan and Tunisian Jews.

It is worth explaining “inshallah.” It is the same as in Christianity. Consider James 4 from the New Testament:

“13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes [

Ean ho Kyrios thelēsē], we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.”

Muslims feel just as the apostle James did, that you shouldn’t be overly proud and make plans for the morrow when we are mortal. There is an Omar Khayyam poem in which he says we don’t even know if we will live to expel the breath we just took in. So to mark that humility before God, Christians say about the future, “God willing.” And Muslims say the same thing, “inshallah.” In fact the sentiment behind the word is contrary to the attitude of terrorists from any religion, who try to take destiny in their own hands.

In September, a Trump-inspired felon allegedly set fire to and destroyed a prominent mosque about an hour’s drive north of West Palm Beach. His slogan? All Muslims are radical. Not even professional Islamophobes would say that. There is a long history of white supremacists destroying Black churches. The mosques have joined that fate.

If you follow all these disturbing incidents around the country, it is extremely alarming and shows the United States going in a very disturbing direction. Muslims comprise about 1% of the US population, about 3 million people. 99.999% of them are law-abiding, kind and generous citizens. A significant proportion of our physicians are Muslim. Only 100 Americans have died in terrorist attacks done by people of Muslim background in the past decade, and most of those were in the Orlando nightclub attack, which surely was more about conflicted gay identity than Muslim radicalism. You can’t criminalize 3 million people over the actions of a tiny fringe. At a time when the Alt-Right is boasting of being a Trump constituency, it should be remembered that the white far right kills far more Americans in terrorist attacks, but no one discriminates against white people on that basis.

—-

Related video:

RT America: “New York City launches ad campaign against Islamophobia”

Thanks much Juan for speaking up for Muslims in America like me. i have three kids and o am concerned about how they feel as they grow older.

I assume you meant to say Lebanese and Egyptian Christians above.

Thanks again.

Sad that Alt right is worried about terrorism when they support Pence for VP even though Pence supports Big Tobacco which kills over 400 000 Americans every year and kills millions worldwide.

But the tendency to separate people into groups and then denigrate, if not actually attack, others than your own is deeply ingrained. Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ is the mirror image of Trump at the same thing. It’s not peculiarly American, Israel is addicted to it. It tends to be cyclical and seems to be resurgent in Europe. Of course it’s irrational but the irrational is an absence of reason, not its opposite, and reason is individual, not collective. Ignorance fosters it. When the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth the Western world still employed Roman numerals and counters, which obviated any meaningful calculation. It was the Arabs who provided the world with its greatest key to thought by introducing the symbol for zero. Today it is literally unimaginable where we would be without that key.

It was actually India who introduced the concept of zero as having “null” value in the eighth century. The Arabs refined the symbol into the oval we recognize today, but the Indians developed the concept that became so important in mathematics. The Arabs borrowed it.

Well, I’m that case, the Arabs should return it. :-)

Seriously, many scholars have stated that it was the Arabs who introduced the concept of zero (nothingness) based on the Quran.

Based on what you have stated, not sure now what the truth is.

Thanks,

The modern notion of zero has been advanced by both Indian and Arab mathematicians. Brahmgupta introduced notions of multiplication and division of zero. He was incorrect about dividing a number by zero, but right about addition and multiplication of a number by zero.

Al-Kindi and Al-Khwarizmi contributed by providing a complete system of how to work with zero in arithmetic in the base 10 number system. It isn’t exactly right to say that Arabs “borrowed” it. They advanced what was done with the number zero, placing it firmly within the modern number system and not simply as a placeholder.

Thanks for informative comment.

The Sumerians and the Maya used “zero” as a placeholder. The Indians advanced the “zero” to have “null” value in the numerical scheme of things long before the Arabs. The Arab contribution was the oval symbol we know as “zero,” but the concept of the value of “zero” as being “null” was an Indian invention.

@William

Again, simply stating that Indians labelled zero as “null” in the number system does not invalidate what I wrote earlier. Your comments are extremely uninformative with regards to the history of mathematics and how mathematicians developed zero and used it in the modern number system. As I said earlier, Brahmagupta’s contribution to zero was seminal. Simply stating that there is a number that stands for “null” does not give mathematicians a mechanism to use this number in the number system. It was only when zero was incorporated into the number system, and rules were defined on how to use zero that mathematicians could fully make use of the concept. It is this latter part of defining mathematical rules on how to use a new number called “zero” that is crucial to it’s innovation.

It was only when Brahmagupta wrote what zero times an arbitrary number yields zero, or zero plus an arbitrary number gives another number that we are now on the track of providing rules on how to use zero in the number system. This was only the beginning. Al-Khawrizmi and al-Kindi’s work on zero was needed to fully incorporate zero into what we now regard as the base 10 number system. The “invention” of zero is a lot more than what you are describing as labeling a symbol as zero. Until you move beyond your prejudicial viewpoint that the first group of people to label zero as “null” have invented the number zero, you really won’t be able to appreciate the full history of the development of number zero.

@William

You write, “The Arab contribution was the oval symbol we know as “zero,” but the concept of the value of “zero” as being “null” was an Indian invention.”

The Arabs did a lot more with regards to the development of zero than simply providing an oval symbol for zero. A point that is firmly established in the history of mathematics, which is very cursorily remarked upon in my comments directly above.

It was the Indian concept of giving “zero” a value that was incorporated into mathematical calculations that was the seminal achievement. This takes nothing away from the Arabs who carried mathematics forward with their own achievements. But it was the Indian concept of “zero” as having a value that enabled them to do it.

This nonsense goes on for decades and people repeat it over and over again without trying to see, once and for all, where the names Khwarizmi (and not arabized Al-Khwarizmi), Khayyam (and not arabized Al-Khayyam who was another major mathematician) come from. Beside these two are not exceptions the same nonsense is related to many other non-Arab scientists like Razi (not Al-Razi) and Avicenna… and the list goes on.

It is easy these days to check few encyclopedias to find out. The confusion is related to these scientists because they wrote in Arabic which was the “Lingua franca” of the time. Saying all that, yes they were Muslims but not Arabs.

@William

I am afraid you are mistaken: the larger accomplishments with regards to zero were the discovery of the algebraic rules that made 0 a useful number. This mistake reveals your lack of training in mathematics, engineering, or history of mathematics.

What you write is actually an accomplishment that Indian mathematicians shared with mathematicians from other civilizations: “It was the Indian concept of giving “zero” a value that was incorporated into mathematical calculations that was the seminal achievement.”

This accomplishment of giving a number the value of “null” or “void” was an accomplishment that was achieved by different civilizations: Mayan, Sumerians, Chinese, and Indians. Just as a rough timeline: Aryabhata describes zero as “void” or “null” in the 5th centuary; Brahamagupta describes elementary notions of addition and multiplication with zero in the 7th centuary; in the 9th centuary, al-Khwarizmi describes how to carry out arithmetic in the base 10 number system, and so does al-Kindi. It was the discovery of how to use zero in arithmetic and in algorithms operating under the base 10 number system that was crucial for engineering. It is this part that is the real discovery of the number 0.

You should talk to a real historian of mathematics, and not consult wikipedia where people completely untrained in the history of mathematics edit pages to fit their prejudicial viewpoints.

@niaraz

To me, it really doesn’t matter what ethnicity you call al-Khwarizmi. His training and work was done in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. All of his works were in Arabic. Modern Iranians probably wouldn’t recognize al-Khwarizmi as Persian. He was born in Uzbekistan. As for al-Kindi, he was Iraqi. But, really all of this, oh, they were Arab, oh, they were Persian, oh, they were blah, blah… how silly…

Actually, Anon, it is you who should stop consulting Wikipedia to formulate your answers. I realized long ago that Wikipedia not only often wrong, but even more often incomplete.

Your latest response is a case in point. Your statement that the Sumerians and Mayans attached a value to “zero” is simply wrong. They used “zero” as a placeholder, but they attached no value to it, “null” or otherwise.

I find the discussion on zero to be fascinating and illuminating.

Many thanks to Dr. Cole for giving it an opportunity.

It appears that the Arabs were like Steve Jobs — while he and Apple did not invent the MP3 player or the smart phone, they nevertheless revolutionized and popularized these devices and took them to newer heights in the forms of the iPod and the iPhone.

Similarly, the concept of zero was revolutionized, popularized, and utilized to newer heights by the Arabs and the Persians within the Arab/Muslim civilization.

By the way, I have read that the word “algorithm” comes from al-Khwarizmi. It appears that many English words that begin with “al” (like alcohol, algebra, alkaline) come from Arabic.

al-Gore seems to be an exception. :-)

@Sufi Muslim

I wouldn’t quite put it that way that Al-Khwarizmi and Al-Kindi were only or primarily popularizes of zero much like Steve Jobs. If you define a new symbol that stands for “null” or “void,” but don’t define how this symbol operates in the number system, have you really said what this number is? Fine, you have said that this number represented by a dot or some other mark is “null.” Great, now, what? How do you use this number?

To a mathematician, defining an object involves giving the rules or axioms under which this object behaves or operates. So, when Brahamagupta writes that zero plus a number gives another number, or that zero times another number gives zero, this is a part of defining the number zero. To a lay person, just simply stating that the number zero is “null” or “void” might appear to be superficially enough to define what zero is, but to a mathematician the definition is incomplete. You have to say how zero is different from the other numbers. No, you cannot just deduce that zero times another number gives zero, or that zero plus another gives another number through defining zero as “null” or “void.” These axioms are key as part of the definition of zero. You cannot erase them. If you did, your definition of zero is incomplete.

So, what Al-Khwarizmi and Al-Kindi did was really complete the definition of zero. Otherwise, you’d have to attach what they did to the work of the Indian mathematician Brahamgupta plus the “null” definition of zero to call it a day. Yes, the definition of zero started with the placeholder definition in many civilizations, but, any way you parse it, it has to end with the defining characteristics of zero. And, those defining characteristics were given by Al-Kindi and Al-Khwarizmi.

Al-Khwarizmi’s other major accomplisment other than algorithm that you define was to be the first mathematician to use really use algebra in the modern sense of the word. At least that’s what I had heard… He was the first to abstractly posit a value or variable, say x, to stand for some unknown quantity.

Doubtless, but it was the symbol that set European thought afire. Mathematics became a passion. William Oughtred, Vicar of Albury in Surrey (1574-1660), introduced the multiplication sign and trigonometric identities.

By the tenth centaury, Arab mathematicians were well aware of all six trigonometric functions and had already tabulated their values. The famous law of sines and law of tangents were proved by al-Tusi. William Ougtred was responsible for the notation of “sin” and “cos” abbreviations of sine and cosine, but he didn’t introduce trigonometric identities. These trigonometric identities were around for many, many centuries prior. The notion of multiplication predated Oughtred by many, many centuries. He introduced the rotated cross symbol that is used for multiplication in elementary school.

Another one. Tussi means from the city of Tus (Tous). Tussi was not an Arab and the Arabic “Al” has nothing to do with this city and this mathematician. Do your homework and find out where the city is.

Beside, why people relate everything to religion in the Middle-East? Do we refer Galileo, Newton, Pasteur, … as Christian scientists?

“Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ is the mirror image of Trump at the same thing.”

No, Mr. Trump embraces racism, Hillary Clinton calls racists “deplorable” , which is quite different.

The point of great concern regarding Trump’s bigotry is not so much Trump himself as it is the legions of people who have responded to his squalid rhetoric. At one time, Adolph Hitler was regarded as something of a crackpot ranting from a soapbox in Vienna. He became a much different proposition when large groups of bigots rallied to support him and spread his vile messages.

The current situation against the Muslims provide a good opportunity for the Muslims to re-act/act through the higher consciousness whose characteristics and qualities include love, peace, generosity, forgiveness, not doing unto others what one doesn’t want done unto one, compassion, humility, etc.

We have been bombing so many Muslim countries for so long that it’s now no longer just the domain of the right to demonize Muslims. In fact, it’s our aggressive foreign policy that necessitates the ongoing demonization of Muslims as sub-humans. If we conferred Muslims their full humanity to which they are entitled under human rights laws, then we could no pursue those aggressive policies that bring death and destruction.

How else is it possible to keep supporting Saudi Arabia in their actions in Yemen, when the parts of Yemen are undergoing starvation as a result of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign? This loss of rights that are originally conferred by our constitution has first targeted American-Muslims, but we are also beginning to see the loss of constitutional rights for all Americans.

@ Anon

Your whole blah blah with William is about Mayans, Sumerians, Indians, Arabs … but ethnicity doesn’t mater to you when you are wrong. Avicenna was trained in Isphahan, khayyam was trained in Nishapour, Razi was trained in Rey and again the list goes on. So according to your argument (the place of training) these are not Arab scientists. The same nonsense goes into other subjects like “Islamic Art”, “Islamic science” and these days “Islamic cinema” and even “Islamic pornography”. The fact that we bomb the Midde East and we do other atrocities does not change the rules of mathematics. When Americans learn that all Middle Easterners are not Muslems or Arabs and all Musems are not Arabs? I don’t know.

I regret a sentence or two in one of the comments I made earlier (to William): I was getting impatient thinking that what I was writing really should be self-evident, and my tone was off. That was wrong on my part.

I don’t see how attaching “Islamic” to “Art” to define a collection of historical or present work is nonsensical. No, not all artists that worked in “Islamic Art” were muslims: I’d imagine that an overwhelming majority were, but even if they weren’t the case that doesn’t negate the argument for attaching the “Islamic” adjective to “Art.” Some of the that art was motivated or inspired or imagined in the artists minds by ideas from the Quran, the life of the prophet, or whatever Islam might think is sacred. If you don’t want to attach “Islamic” to it, you’d still in an exposition or summary of this collection of artwork, have to write about how the artists were inspired by ideas from the Quran, life of the prophet, etc, or that they were contemplating these types of “Islamic” ideas.

If one can buy that attaching “Islamic Art” isn’t a misnomer, then surely the arguments for “Islamic cinema” are similar. With regards to “Islamic science,” it is a different argument. One that to me… I think there are more important things in life. But, if you want it, some of the technology, mathematics, and engineering that muslims or even non-muslims innovated during the various Caliphates, were motivated by problems faced from muslim piety (for example, finding the direction of Mecca when you are in Damascus or much further away). See, here:

link to americanscientist.org

“The same nonsense goes into other subjects like “Islamic Art”…”

—–

Seyyed Hossein Nasr and others have written about Islamic Art. Those who are interested may want to look it up.

Here’s but one such work by Seyyed Hossein Nasr: “Islamic Art and Spirituality”, at link to amazon.com

From the above link:

“With remarkable breadth of vision, Seyyed Hossein Nasr reveals for both Western and Muslim readers how each art form in the islamic tradition is based upon a science of nature concerned, not with the outer appearance of things, but with their inner reality. Ranging across calligraphy, painting, architecture, literature, music, and the plastic arts, Nasr penetrates to the inner dimension of Islam and shows the role art plays in the life of individual Muslims and the community as a whole–the role of inspiring the remembrance and contemplation of God.”

=========

P.S. I find the quality of discussion here to be high. Thank you Dr. Cole for facilitating it.