Islamophobia did not suddenly start after the horrific 9/11 event. Like anti-Semitism , it has long and deep historical roots; however, its contemporary resurgence has been triggered by the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As a result of several people’s inane folly, Islamophobia distorts the photograph of the entire Muslim community wherever they live; Muslims today are guilty until proven innocent.
According to John Esposito (2011), significant minorities of non-Muslim Americans show a great tolerance for policies that would profile Muslims, require special identity cards, and question the loyalty of all Muslim citizens. According to the 2006 USA Today- Gallup Poll, substantial minorities of American people admit having negative feelings or prejudices against Muslims, and favor using greater security measures in places where Muslims reside to prevent terrorism. In the same survey, fewer than half the respondents believed that US citizens who are Muslims are loyal to the United States. Nearly one-quarter of Americans-22 percent- said they would not like to have a Muslim neighbor; 31 percent said they would feel nervous if they had to fly with a Muslim man on their flight, and 18 percent said they would feel nervous if there was a Muslim woman on their flight. About 4 in 10 Americans favor more rigorous security measures for Muslims than those used for other US citizens: requiring Muslims who are US citizens to carry a special ID and undergo special, more extensive and intense, security checks before boarding airplanes in the United States. In the World Gallup Poll, when US respondents were asked what they admire about the Muslim world the most, 33 percent of Americans’ response was ‘nothing”; the second most common answer was “I don’t know”(22 percent).Order now
All over the United States, a major chaos broke out over the building of a community center by a Muslim man, a few blocks down the Ground Zero. In June 22, 2010 New York Post editorial author stated: “There’s no denying the elephant in the room. neither is there any rejoicing over the mosques… because where there are mosques, there are Muslims, and where there are Muslims, there are problems…”
This Sociology paper discusses the millions of dollars spent on organizations that support and persist bigotry and ignorance, racism; and those who create a scary environment for the Americans and the people all over the world against the Muslims living around them.
The political and social environment of 2010 was a perfect time for the bigots to heighten an expressions of hate against the Muslims. Nine years after September 11, 2001, many of those who expected the Anti-Muslim sentiment to decline were wrong. As a matter of fact, the sentiment grew larger than ever; the scare was even more than the couple days after the September 11 attacks. Pew Research Center polls from 2001 show that 59 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of Muslims two months after the hijacking of the Twin Towers (Mark Egan, 2010). Things soon began to change drastically, though. In 2002, an annual report released by the FBI showed that hate crimes against Muslims had increased by 1600 percent; 28 incidents were reported in 2000 and 481 were reported two years later (Tanya Schevitz, 2002). In 2004, only one out of four Americans talked of a positive view of Islam.
According to a Pew Research poll (Pew, Views of Islam Remain Sharply Divided), forty-six percent of Americans believed that Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence. In 2010, ABC News and the Washington Post reported that the percentage of Americans with a favorable view of Islam was at its lowest since October, 2001. Just 37 percent of Americans admitted to having a favorable view of the Islam faith due to its supposed commands of violence.
In contrary to the assumption that Osama Bin Laden’s- the biggest villain who was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks- death would change the public’s mind about the Muslims, it did not. In fact, the fear toward Muslims grew. Two months after Laden’s death, the Religion News Service announced that anti-Muslim sentiment had grown. Additionally, CNN reported that half of Americans would be uncomfortable sitting by a woman wearing the burqa, a mosque being built in their neighborhood, or a Muslim man praying in an airport.
The reason for the growth of anti-Muslim sentiment could not be the presence of Muslim terrorists in the United States because in contrary to the popular belief, there were not that many. A study conducted by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (Charles Kurzman, Feb. 2001) found that since 9/11, eleven Muslim Americans had successfully executed terrorist attacks in the US. In the span of more than nine years, they had killed 33 people. In comparison, the United States had witnessed approximately 150,000 murders in the same amount of time.
What then, is the cause of such persistent anti-Muslim sentiment? Why is it that ten years after September 11, 2001, fear, mistrust, and hatred of Muslims were at their peak?
As it turns out, ever since the hijacking of the Twin Towers, right-wing fear merchants were doing everything they could to keep and exacerbate the decade-long spasm of Islamophobia. Bigoted bloggers, fundamentalist religious leaders, Fox News pundits, racist politicians, religious Zionists labored since the day the Twin Towers were attacked, to scapegoat the entire Muslim community as a rising dangerous power and influence in the West.
One example of a fear-dispensation agent is Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), an Islamophobic activist group headed by blogger Pamela Geller. On May 6, 2010, she wrote about Park 51 on Atlas Shrugs that was to shake the American public called “Monster Mosque Pushes Ahead in Shadow of World Trade Center Islamic Death and Destruction,” disapproving the proposed Muslim community center set to be built two blocks away from the fallen Twin Towers. Initially, not many people disapproved the project. In fact, many people endorsed the idea of having a cultural center that would strengthen the ties between Muslims and people of all faiths. Even conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham from FOX news liked the idea. “I can’t find many people who have a problem with it,” she said (mediamatters.org). Soon after, when the Lower Manhattan Community Board had voted 29-1 in favor of allowing the project to move forward, Geller blogged again. She stated: “What better way to mark your territory than to plant a giant mosque on the still-barren land of the World Trade Center…How Disgusting.” Within an hour of blogging her write-up and posting it on various Facebook pages and Twitter, Geller became an overnight celebrity who was making money out of her ignorant write-ups on her own blog. In one of her video blogs posted on Youtube ( Geller, Pamela “Atlas Shrugs Vlogs A Very Merry Christmas To Our Soldiers) Geller in her sunbathing suit sent greetings to the American troops in the Middle East during her vacation in Florida. She stated:
“I want to thank the troops for sacrificing everything so that I can be here in my bathing suit, opening up my incredibly big mouth and saying exactly what I want.”
Then she picked up a magazine that highlighted the latest hijab trends, she called the depictions “moronic.” Changing the subject to the 2012 US presidential elections, Geller said: “I am going to endorse any candidate who can beat the anti-Christ on the Democratic ticket. First of all, the choice is a Muslim,” she said, referring to President Barack Obama. Geller is also the person who had launched the Anti-Muslim ads in New York’s subway. The ads are currently on some of Chicago’s CTA busses as well “protected” by the First Amendment.
Another such example of an Islamophobia agent, a fellow friend of Geller’s, is an American blogger Robert Spencer who receives a paycheck from his boss, David Horowitz, for his bigotry and hate spreading messages on his daily blog posts for Jihad Watch. His is quite a lucrative investment! Geller and Spencer combined the Atlas Shrug and Jihad Watch to start a movement called Freedom Defense Initiative, to act against the “treason being committed by national, state, and local governments, the mainstream media, and others in their capitulation to global jihad and Islamic supremacism(Lean, The Islamophobia Industry p.54).” This federation helped- and still does today-, them in further spreading of the hatred and bigotry against the Muslims by misinterpreting the Quran and making up lies in conferences organized by themselves or their fellow friends who are in favor of the growing Islamophobia sentiment.
Another hate group is a three-way alliance comprising of conservative Evangelical Christian groups with pro-Israeli camps and factions of the Tea Party. The “teavengelicals” as Nathan Lean calls them, are an emotional and vocal crew and have been one of the starters of the Sharia scare impinging the American society. This three-way alliance binds so strongly because they agree and try to exacerbate the ignorant statements like “Sharia law is taking over America, that Christianity is the only way, and that the Palestinians must relinquish their land to the Jews.” This alliance has planted chapters of local activists in all 50 states, lobbying elected officials to implement legislation that would block the supposedly emerging Muslim menace (Lean, The Islamophobia Industry p. 125).
This three-way alliance unfortunately had succeeded in their ambition to spread hatred. Even prominent people like the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich made Anti-Muslim statements his campaign’s central platform for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination just several months ago. This, by all means, confirmed the Islamophobic ideology of the far-right wing candidates. A 2010 Newsweek (Obama/Muslims) poll found that 52 percent of Republicans believed that President Barack Obama sympathized with Muslim fundamentalists and wanted to impose Sharia law in the United States! When the 2012 election cycle was coming along and with it came very familiar stereotypes, false claims, and emails adducing that President Obama was a Muslim. A Public policy poll that took place in Mississippi in March of 2012 reported that 52 percent of Mississippi Republican voters believed that the president was a Muslim-even if he were a Muslim, he is probably the worst one not walking into a mosque even once during his first term presidency as opposed to Bush’s couple visits, even 6 days after the 9/11 attacks-; 36 percent were not sure and 12 percent said “they took his word” that he was a Christian. As ridiculous as it sounds, one in four of these respondents said that the interracial marriage of president’s parents should have been illegal!
Last but not least, among the many Islamophobia agents stands FOX news as one of the most productive in spreading hatred and bigotry. In February 2011, the Think Progress website released a study that detailed the specific ways that Fox News manipulates language to insinuate, or state explicitly, that Muslims and Islam should be feared. Using three months’ worth of material gathered from various television programs from November 2010 to January 2011, a graph was compiled to show that the network disproportionately deployed terms that reflected a negative view of Muslims more so than its competitors. For example, Fox used the term “Sharia” 58 times over a three month period while MSNBC used it 19 times. Similarly, Fox hosts brought up the phrases “radical Islam” or “extremist Islam” 107 times in three months, while MSNBC used it only 24 times. Still, Fox used the word “jihad” 65 times, while MSNBC used it 13 times (Seitz-Wald, Think Progress, 2011)” The fact that Fox used these terms was not the problem, but the way they were used was. According to the poll conducted, these phrases were often used as part of stories that made a larger point about allegedly nefarious Muslims who had either participated in some act of violence or were thought to be working their way into the politics of the U.S.
Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism, will not be eradicated easily or any time soon. As can be very well observed from the history of anti-Semitism, and of racism in America, bigots, ignorants, and racists are not born. As the lyrics from the musical South Pacific very well remind us: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year,” the public needs to be educated from year to year, whether it be for or against Islamophobia. I side with the against-Islamophobia and believe that the society should be educated about what the Islamic faith really is and try to understand why the adherents of this faith say “Assalamu Alaikum” to greet each other.
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Pamela Geller, “Atlas Shrugs Vlogs A Very Merry Christmas To Our Soldiers,” December 24, 2007 .
Mark Egan, “Fears Rise Over Growing Anti-Muslim Feelin in US,” September 12, 2010, Reuters,http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/09/12/us-usa-muslims-view-idUSTRE68BO92010912>.
Tanya Schevitz, “FBI Sees Leap in Anti-Muslim Bias Hate Crimes,” November 26, 2002, San Francisco Chronicle.
Pew Research Center, “Views of Islam Remain Sharply Divided,” September 9, 2004 < http://www.people-press.org/files/2011/02/96.pdf>.
“ABC News, Washington Post Poll: Views of Islam,” September 8, 2010 .
Charles Kurzman, “Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting,” February 2, 2012, Triangle Center for Terrorism and Homeland Security.
Newsweek Poll: Obama/Muslims, Princeton Survey Research Associates International,” August 27, 2010 .
“Very Close Race in Both Alabama and Mississippi,” March 12, 2012, Public Policy Polling .
Lean, N. (2012). The Islamophobia Industry (p. 13). London, England: Pluto Press.
Alex Seitz-Wald, “Fox News Watchers Consistently More Likely To have Negative Views of Muslims,” February 16, 2011, Think Progress .
Esposito, John L., and Dalia Mogahed. WHO SPEAKS FOR ISLAM? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. New York: Gallup Press, 2007. Print.