Correcting the Distorted Lens of Islamophobia

Posted on August 14, 2010


Sally Steenland, Huffington Post

Protesters have recently been rallying against a proposed Islamic educational center containing a mosque near Ground Zero, claiming that the proximity of anything Muslim to Ground Zero would contaminate a hallowed place. Protesters claim they aren’t anti-Muslim; they merely want the center and mosque to be built someplace else.

But it turns out that “someplace else” is not acceptable, either. Protesters in Tennessee, Wisconsin, and California are fighting proposed mosques in their communities, as well. Some of these mosques would be built in formerly used store fronts, others on vacant land. The New York Times reports that protests are going beyond concerns about traffic, noise, and zoning. They increasingly reflect fears that “mosques will be nurturing terrorist bombers, that Islam is invading, that civilization is becoming undermined by Muslims.”

Such fears run counter to the facts. A recent study by Duke University and the University of North Carolina found that community mosques actually deter radicalization and extremism through a range of efforts, such as publicly denouncing violence, confronting extremists, providing programs for youth, and cooperating with law enforcement.

But factual reality doesn’t seem to be enough to stop conservative pundits and politicians — in fact, a whole cadre of critics — from fanning public fears with apocalyptic warnings about the spreading menace of Islam in America.

Anti-Muslim Ranting Puts Our Security at Risk

Who knows whether Islamophobes like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin actually believe their own rants. The sad thing is, they’re getting away with blatant nonsense. There are nearly seven million hard-working, law-abiding Muslims in this country. They participate in virtually every sector of society and engage in vibrant interfaith efforts that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews to work for the common good. Yet most Americans know almost nothing about Muslims or Islam — not to mention the media, which loves apocalyptic battles, as long as the weapons of mass destruction are words. [Please click here to read the remainder of this article.]