Monday’s Mtg: American Islamophobia – Causes and Impact

Since 9/11,  most American political leaders have gone out of their way to distinguish between Al Qaeda, radical Islamists, and Islam itself.  But, not everyone has.  For ten years, there has been a kind of subterranean campaign to blame Islam itself and to tar all Muslims as collectively guilty for 9/11 and associated radicalism.  This gets little media coverage, except when some state tries to ban sharia law or some city tries to block a mosque from being built.  But, it’s been percolating in conservative political circles for a decade now, and it should have come as no surprise when, in 2011, every single major Republican  presidential candidates listed “sharia law” as a major threat to America.

What is up with that?  Some of this reflects a decade of fighting radical Islam, at least in some of its forms.  But, I wanted to talk about what is often called, “Islamophobia,: because it reminds me of the anti-Catholic or even anti-German campaigns of earlier eras.  As with those historical movements, we have to be careful to distinguish actual bigotry from genuine concern over a foreign enemy,  and we need to understand Islamophobia’s broader origins.

I’m very under the weather this week, so I’ll keep my introduction brief, focusing on the origins of the decade-long campaign to treat Islam as the enemy religion.  If you think this is a minor topic ask yourself this:  What happens if we are attacked again by Al Qaeda or an affiliated group while Barack Obama is president?

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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. What is “Islamophobia?”  How does it differ from genuine concern  over terrorism and Islamist radicalism?  How can we distinguish one from the other when a person makes an Islamophobic-sounding statement?
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  2. How widespread is this blanket hatred of Islam and Muslims?  What causes have Islamophobes embraced; e.g., banning mosques and “sharia law,” birtherism, hate rhetoric campaigns?
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  3. Who is behind this movement and why does it resonate?  Is it just 9/11, the fight against Al Qaeda, our wars in the Middle East?  Or, are there other factors – including some not really related to Islam at all?
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  4. Will Islamophobia fade away in the years ahead?  What if we are attacked again?  What if the Arab Spring turns to radicalism?

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LINKS –  [Updated, revised]

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13 responses

  1. I just noticed that none of the articles above really define “Islamophobia,” as distinct from the totally JUSTIFIED concern over and even fear of radical Islamic ideology. From the Wiki entry on the topic:

    [A 1996 study on Islamophobia] … stated that the following eight “closed” views are equated with Islamophobia:
    1.Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
    2.It is seen as separate and “other.” It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
    3.It is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
    4.It is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.
    5.It is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
    6.Criticisms made of “the West” by Muslims are rejected out of hand.
    7.Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
    8.Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.[

  2. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    Of course, “Islamophobia” goes back to the First Crusade in 1098, or actually, considerably before. Non-Christian rulers were considered illegitimate; that was the basis of the Spanish claim to their empire.
    Another interesting question is, since Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are actually very much alike, despite some differences, and share common origins, why have they been so hostile? All are monotheistic (pretty much); all teach belief in an afterlife, final judgment, and punishment of sin. Moral code pretty much alike.
    Is this the “narcissism of small differences,” which someone, I forget now who, talked about?

  3. Aaron De Groot | Reply

    Follow-up on “phobia”: one of the definitions given is “disorder”, another “neurosis”. So, I still maintain that the term implies irrational to the point of mental disturbance. I think the term phobic should be bannished from our political dialogue since it implies those who don’t agree with you are crazy. “Homophobic” on its face insults opponents of gay rights as mentally ill; in reality they may not be that or even irrational; they simply could have thought out the issue and determined they are opposed to granting the right in question. That’s a legitamate political stance. Same is true of “Islamophobic”. Are Europeans who don’t want more Muslim immigration crazy? Or are they simply evaluating the issue like they would any other in the political arena? Let’s stop implying our opponents are disturbed because they don’t agree with us. I don’t want the other side calling me a “warphobe” because I disagree with all the recent U.S. military misadventures.

  4. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    I think the more general meaning of phobia is fear, as in arachnophobia, fear of spiders.
    That might apply here, fear of “the enemy,” (of course, we have to have one).
    Apparently we have a number of Islamophobes in the group.

    I have little good to say in favor of any religion, except perhaps Buddhism. But much of the irrational behavior of the Islamic countries is actually in reaction to American policies, particularly those in favor of Israel. We actually created people like Saddham Hussein and Osama bin Laden, to a large extent.

  5. Or this: http://www.salon.com/2013/01/09/more_anti_muslim_ads_go_up_in_new_york_city_subways/

    Or these: http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/12/the_year_in_islamophobia.php?ref=fpblg

    I hope Monday’s meeting did not put the object of prejudice on trial, rather than the prejudice itself.

    1. Aaron De Groot | Reply

      Okay, so I have figured out I am a warphobe, a Tea Partyphobe, a Wall Street excessesphobe, a Blackwater phobe, an assault riflephobe, and if I’d lived in 1860, would have been a slaveryphobe; if I’d lived in the 1960’s I’d be a segregationphobe, a nuclear warphobe, a Nixonphobe. See how sily this gets? Two words to banish from our political dialogue: phobe, and “narrative”, which all of a sudden every TV political talking head is using. I guess that makes me both a phobephobe, and a narrativephobe! ; )

      1. Aaron De Groot

        Part II: Jim Z., wouldn’t you describe your fellow Amnesty International friends as “torturephobes”?

      2. Actually, by using Islamophobia, I was trying to be kind. “Religious bigotry” or “hysterical fear of non-existent threats by a religion that only 1% of Americans practice” just seemed too harsh. Of course “phobia” is not accurate. I just thought the alternatives were worse, since “phobia” avoiding broaching the issue of intolerance in the topic’s title. People in this group have seriously suggested we have as a topic the threat Sharia law poses inside the United States.

  6. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    I’m perfectly happy to leave phobias behind!
    If there is an applicable clinical term, perhaps “paranoia” might be appropriate. Exaggerated fear of a non-existent threat?

    1. Aaron De Groot | Reply

      Bigotry and hysterical fear, as well as paranoia all seem much more appropriate to me. In the case of bigotry, it implies both intention and malice. Phobia seems to describe emotional reactions beyond our conscious control. A bigot is always worse than a neurotic. So, sure; any of the three aforementioned seem better than phobia.

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