I grew up going by “Tutt”. Everyone back home grew accustomed to it and even though my last name is a bit masculine sounding, even my girl friends (not romantic) would call me Tutt. Since I have grown and come of age, I’ve gone by Daniel.
I dislike “Dan” and always have for reasons I won’t get into, so suffice it to say that I somewhat long for the days where people called me Tutt. I don’t know, it has a certain resonance, it’s lighthearted and a bit ironic as it sounds like someone who plays football or is a brother in a fraternity on the west coast would go by it. Besides, at first glance, I do look a lot like someone who would go by his last name. I’ll always associate people calling me Tutt with people that really know me.
I’m partly responsible for not keeping Tutt alive. Since I dedicated my life to my studies and activism, and not construction and manual labor, it’s probably been about 8 years since I’ve felt comfortable introducing myself as Tutt. That’s not necessarily a commentary on class, but it might be unintentionally so?
I give you this background because just last week I had about a dozen angry men calling me “Tutt” and it reminded me of the good old days. To add to the surrealism of this experience, I was in fact back in my hometown for Christmas and others were calling me Tutt, too. It was a blast from the past, a momentary slip back into an alter life. Ok, maybe not that much, but it was both stressful and a bit odd.
Three days into my Christmas vacation, someone alerted me to the fact that anti-Muslim bloggers Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller had gone on the attack against me for an Huffington Post blog that I wrote about the success of religious pluralists in pushing back against bigotry surrounding the fallout of Lowe’s Home Improvement pulling their ads on a reality show about American Muslims just being normal people.
Why did they attack me?
In my article, I noted how in the background of the Lowe’s controversy, many Americans felt that the missing person, “Aisha Khan” smelled of Islamophobia. No, I did not mean to imply that she was abducted by Islamophobe maniacs. What I meant was that her “potential” abduction was internalized by many people as linked to the Islamophobia that had once again taken center stage in our media-induced frenzy over the Lowe’s controversy.
The moment that Khan was discovered to have ran away from her family, Spencer set his hound dogs on the attack, resulting in multiple blogs accusing me of falsely creating an anti-Muslim hate crime that never happened. I added an addendum immediately to the blog clarifying the result of the Khan case, and called it a day.
But they persisted for 2 or 3 days to continually harass me online in as many different forums that they could.
This was right in the midst of my vacation. It bothered me, I’ll be honest, but more as an irritant, than as something that I felt I did wrong. To me, it really showed the pettiness of their entire industry, and it was, as one friend said, not even about me, as much as it was about spreading their very well-lubed spin onto the whole thing – immediately conflating me with the Muslim brotherhood, terrorists, and socialists.
It also made me realize the extent to which the Islamophobia industry depends on a well coordinated conspiracy theory framework to sustain its attack against Muslims. Their discourse depends on the myth of a vast liberal-socialist-Muslim network of enemies that they are up against, clearly a ploy to fundraise to their base. Help fight the good fight by contributing to push back on the liberal intelligentsia that’s taking over America and letting Muslims secretly run the country.
So all the while Spencer and his hound dogs, including Geller set loose on me over the blogosphere in a full blown attack. Calling out the Huffington Post and me for “inventing an anti-Muslim hate crime” and perpetuating the “myth of Islamophobia”. Because, after all, as they claim, Islamophobia does not exist, put aside the blatant contradiction and irony here for a minute. They argued that the socialist left wing cronies and supporters of Islamic radicalism have once again accused America of a hate crime.
Two things were really outstanding in their attack.
1. Spencer’s thugs Tweeted, Facebook’d, emailed, and commented on blogs calling me “Tutt”. It was awesome. I didn’t even ask them to call me that too!
Frequent comments were, “C’mon Tutt” and “Hey, Tutt, are you going to retract that statement?” and “Tutt, you are disgracing your ancestors” (that one was my personal favorite). Maybe they called me Tutt because Spencer’s thugs tend to be working class guys who wanted to “level” with me in some condescending way? But don’t get me wrong, people of all varying levels of education have fear of Islam and have bought into the Islamophobia universe.
2. They called me a journalist. This is hilarious because it shows that they didn’t even bother to really look into what I do for a living on a day-to-day basis. If they would have, man what additional rage they would have emitted. The fact that I am an activist for the American Muslim community and that I work on combatting Islamophobia day-in-and-day out would have emboldened their entire claim that the Huffington Post has “Islamic supremacists writing for it” even further.
Let’s not forget that they are professionals. Yes, it is true that a set of bloggers can indeed set a national discourse, or at least heavily influence it.
This amazes me still.
So they decided to conflate my little (it was just a sentence where I mentioned the Khan case, the entire article was about how their blogosphere lost the Lowe’s crisis at the end of the day) mention of the Khan case with how Muslims everywhere exaggerate the reality behind Islamophobia in America.
I’m not going to give into that accusation because it is absurd at face value, but they have managed to leave this impression fairly well on a lot of people, including Muslims, albeit for different reasons. But even to say that Muslims take on the victim status has some truth to it, but to be honest, the main issue here is not that Muslims are quick to call a case like Khan’s a hate crime because she is Muslim, rather, it represents the somewhat sheltered nature of the American Muslim community.
But I get that. American Muslims make up less than one percent of the entire American population and often, particularly for immigrant Muslims, it feels all too close to home when one goes missing, particularly when a drunk man was apparently harassing her.
Of course the whole thing blew over, thank God!
As it did, I fell into enjoying my vacation, and then towards the end, some friends of mine created a short conceptual video to communicate anti-Muslim bigotry.
I’m pleased with the end product. I wish it would have come out earlier, but it’s pretty darn good: