Monday, 12 September 2011

Islamophobia now more prevalent than after 9/11

Islamophobia in the United States is even more prevalent now than it was in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to Faiz Shakir, the vice president of American think tank Center for American Progress and editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress.org.
 
Shakir and five colleagues published a report titled “Fear,” demonstrating just how seriously Islamophobia has taken hold in America. According to the report, there are seven organizations in particular that fuel Islamophobia in the US and between the years of 2001 and 2009, they were able to collect $42.6 million in donations.

The report states that major media outlets Fox News and The Washington Times and experts Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, David Yerushalmi, Robert Spencer and Steven Emerson support Islamophobia in the US and are the leading “merchants of religious hatred and fear.”

As for the politicians who support Islamophobia, the report cites names such as US Congress member Peter King, who considers all Muslims terrorists; Michelle Bachman, a Republican presidential candidate; and Congress members Sue Myrick, Allen West, Renee Elmers and Paul Broun.

According to Shakir, there are three reasons behind the rise of Islamophobia in the US.
First, he said is the use of Islamophobia among conservative circles that mostly harbor Islamophobic feelings in the wake of an absence of leadership in conservative circles following the departure of former US President George W. Bush and Republicans using Islamophobia as a tool for competition. Shakir said Bush visiting a mosque and saying that Islam is religion of peace played an important role in weakening radical approaches among conservatives against Muslims.

As a second reason behind the rise of Islamophobia, Shakir pointed to Islamophobia networks, saying that these networks have been causing provocations over incidents related to Muslims over the past two years.

He said people working for such networks are low in number; however, they have been very successful in recent years in provoking people on issues such as the issue of a construction of a mosque near ground zero and fear of possible terrorist attacks.

Shakir said these people promoted the belief that Islamic terrorism is now more than it was in the past, they attributed negative meanings to Islamic terms such as jihad and Shariah and frightened Americans by saying that their Muslim neighbors are not who they think they are.

He also noted that these groups were working before the Sept. 11 attacks to convince the American people that if Muslims are allowed to live in the US they would change American values. The Sept. 11 attacks simply gave them a greater opportunity to spread their claims.
Although these groups are small, they have recorded significant success by raising donations totaling $42 million in nine years, Shakir said.

“These people have dedicated themselves to this cause and they work very hard. They hold meetings across the country. They have become really successful. Today, more people than there used to be in the past have concerns about Islam,” he said.

As for a third reason, Shakir pointed the finger at media outlets that he said were allowing Islamophobia networks to spread their hatred propaganda and foment fears in the public.

Not Islam but Islamophobia is a threat to the US

According to Shakir, the real threat to the US does not come from Islam but from Islamophobia and he thinks there are three things that need to be considered to prevent the spread of Islamophobia in the country.

He said the biggest responsibility in preventing the spread of Islamophobia falls on the shoulders of benefactors, some of whom do not even know that their donations are being used to foment Islamophobia among people.

After the release of the report, Shakir said one person who donated $200,000 to one of the Islamophobic networks discovered that he was unaware of the activities of the group and declared that he would cut his support to the group.

Second, Shakir called on the US media not to give an opportunity to the merchants of hatred to spread their hate messages.

Third, he called on Muslims in the US to engage in social life in the country more, open up their mosques to other people and try to engage in dialogue with broad cross sections of people.