Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rise of Islamophobia in the U.S.

One the most radical changes I have seen in the U.S. since 9/11 has probably been the growth of negative public rhetoric about Islam. This though, like many other issues, has greatly divided the country.

While some Americans (in the great State of Minnesota) are tolerant enough to elect a Muslim (Dem. Keith Ellison) to Congress, others are quick to see it as a sign that all hell broke loose. As we pointed out before, right-wing host CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck said very clearly, when speaking to this new elect-member that he felt like saying "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."

Now recently, there has been much talk about Representative Virgil H. Goode’s letter to his voters warning that “the recent election of the first Muslim to Congress posed a serious threat to the nation’s traditional values.(Watch him on Fox News through Youtube link here, it's a riot! You'll also enjoy a bit more bigotry with a Southern drawl!). Interestingly, it is the very idea that a Muslim elected to Congress considers using the Koran during his (private) swearing-in ceremony that makes some conservative people so angry.

I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. (NYTimes)

Of course, Goode’s views have caused furor. As for Ellison, he was quick to respond that he is an African-American, not an immigrant and that he can trace his American ancestors back to 1742. Too bad he even needs to justify himself, isn't it?

Last month already, Dennis Prager, another conservative columnist and radio host, said very bluntly that Ellison’s decision (to swear on the Koran) would undermine American civilization. No less:

“Ellison’s doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal — the Islamicization of America,” said Mr. Prager, who said the Bible was the only relevant religious text in the United States. “If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress,” Mr. Prager said. (Star Tribune)

You may think Prager is some obscure bigot, but significantly enough, he is also a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. In fact, the executive committee of the museum has distanced itself from Prager’s comments, but they do not have the power to remove him from the council. Indeed, only the president does. In fact, President Bush appointed Prager in August to fill the remainder of a five-year term, which expires in January 2011. Great! We all know the "decider" won't change his mind..... or will Prager go down with Rumfeld?

In any case, this nasty anti-Muslim rhetoric has become more common in the United-States but it is mostly found in right-wing conservative circles, usually associated with very conservative evangelical Christians. Unlike other more liberal Christians, evangelicals have for the most part always rejected interfaith dialogue but things have taken another turn after 9/11.

Evangelical leaders have openly attacked Islam and polls show that evangelicals in general to have more negative views on Islam than other Americans.

Another Congressman, Rep. Robin Hayes from NC has a great plan for Iraq: convert Muslims to Christianity!

“Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior.” (Blue NC)

Needless to say that this will play quite well to the ideologists in al Qaeda who are trying to sell Muslims the obviously idiotic idea that Americans are just crusaders! Oh… and by the way, France is also seen as a crusade nation by those madmen.

The fact remains - there is growing Islmaophobia in the American conservative circles. In fact, I personally know a number of conservatives who hold very negative views of Muslims.

I tend to blame this rise of Islamophobic rhetoric not just on bigotry but also on ignorance and fear. It seems to me that the lack of exposure of most Americans to positive images of Islam but also to some personal relationship to Muslims is at the heart of the problem. Of course 9/11 and the war in Iraq have played a major role there, by triggering all sorts of fantasized nightmarish views of the Muslim threat.

One of them is the idea that Europe (and France in particular) has been “taken over by Muslims” – in other words that Europe is now Eurobia (as revealed by this issue of the Economist). Even if facts and hard data can easily debunk this myth, most people who believe those things, feel it must be true!


At 07:47, Blogger themanbehindthecurtain said...

Excellent post!
I am very amused about the uproar about the taking the oath of office using the Qur'an!
I believe that the oath of office has been trivialized over the years. I'm sure it started off being a very serious and important act to take the oath of office with your right hand on the Bible. I think its a good reminder that God is witnessing the oath, but it obviously has not deterred any politicians from doing evil. I would rather have a Muslim take the oath with the Qur'an then the Bible. Maybe that way he would be held more acocuntable by other Muslims, etc.
An even better idea would be to have all politicians take the oath of office with their right hands on their bank accounts! Maybe that would spur on some more acountability, but probably just increase the amoung of off-shore bank accounts.


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