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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

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Arthur Scott

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January 1, 2011

2010 another hard year for American Muslims

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

- An Alabama restaurant sign says: No Muslims Inside.(1)
- Nebrasca councilman places a sign on his property reading
 "Never Trust a Man Named Mohamed" (2)
- Ohio Muslim woman attacked near the mosque.(3)
- Ohio mosque received anti-Muslim e-mail.(4)
- Muslim religious leader called 'camel jockey,' 'terrorist' during attack in New York. (5)
- Colorado Muslim Republican switches parties over GOP bigotry. (6)

These recent episodes symbolize the dilemma of the seven-million-strong American Muslim community more than nine years after the 9/11 tragedy. Such frequent episodes are the result of almost a decade old demonization of Islam and Muslims by increasingly aggressive far-right groups and government-stocked xenophobia about Muslims. Across America, right wing radio hosts and preachers of many stripes have been cranking up their virulent rhetoric spreading hatred of Muslims. The constant vilification of Islam and Muslims over the air on radio talk shows, in newspapers and the Internet is contributing to the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment across the country. At the same time bigotry has become a major tool of the conservative movement as seen during the midterm elections.

The Oklahoma anti-Islam measure

Islam-bashing for political gain was a chilling feature of this year’s election campaign and demagogues misled Oklahomans to pass an anti-Muslim ballot measure. The Oklahoma anti-Islam measure is one of the best examples of politicians duping the public through fear mongering. It is demonizing the Muslims in order to mobilize votes. The voters of Oklahoma were badly misled by demagogues into passing a profoundly un-American measure.

Demagoguery is defined as: “the practice of a leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.” Oklahoma Rep. Rex Duncan’s proposed the anti-Islam ballot measure, known as SQ 755, is a great example of this practice. When it was proposed, Sen. Anthony Sykes, a co-author, dubbed it the “Save Our State,” amendment saying, “Sharia law coming to the U.S. is a scary concept.”

The anti-Muslim frenzy strengthened by a media blitz by Muslim-basher Act! For America in support of the measure brought the desired results. While, nearly 70 percent of voters in the state cast ballots approving the measure, it also helped in posting historic gains for the Republicans in Oklahoma House and Senate after several Democratic incumbents were knocked out of office. Perhaps every Republican now imagines to have discovered the winning formula to either get reelected or unseat their Democratic opponent in the coming elections.

Not surprisingly, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange on November 29, 2010 granted an injunction that bars certification of the anti-Islam state ballot measure (SQ 755) passed in the November 2 election. If certified, the ballot measure would have amended Oklahoma State's constitution to forbid judges from considering Islamic principles or international law when deciding a case.


Since 9/11, there has been a steady rise in Islamophobia, however during mid-term election campaign there was an exponential rise of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry. Many Religious Right leaders and opportunist politicians asserted over and over that Islam is not a religion at all but a political cult, that Muslims cannot be good Americans and that mosques are fronts for extremist ‘jihadis.’ There was a substantial increase in the number of political candidates using Islamophobic tactics in an effort to leverage votes, and use such tactics as a platform to enhance their political visibility.

A few examples: A Minnesota Republican congressional candidate, Lynne Torgerson, says that the religion of Islam cannot be protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, one of three Republican candidates running for governor, says Islam may be called a “cult” instead of a religion. Ron McNeil, a Florida congressional candidate tells local high and middle class students that Islam is against everything America stands for. Another Florida Republican candidate for Congress, Dan Fanelli, runs television ads in which he points to a white man and asks, "Does this look like a terrorist?" and then turns to an Arab-looking man and asks, "Or this?" A Texas congressional hopeful, Canyon Clowdus, wants no more Muslim immigration to America. The American Family Association also wants a halt to the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. to “protect our national security and preserve our national identity, culture, ideals and values.”

As Dr. Habib Siddiqui points out, Islamophobia is no longer an isolated issue that is thriving in some bigotry-ridden corner in Europe. Thanks to its evil promoters, the beast has become a global phenomenon today. One such promoter is the group called Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE). The group has its American equivalent in Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), which was created by anti-Muslim bloggers, bigots and militants Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. SIOE’s motto is, “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” (7)

Bigotry and inciting hatred of Islam and Muslims is the substance of Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA). The patent office rejected SIOA’s attempt to patent its trademark because of its anti-Muslim nature: The applied-for mark refers to Muslims in a disparaging manner because by definition it implies that conversion or conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped or caused to cease. One may recall that in 2008, SIOA’s co-founder Pamela Geller announced that Barack Hussein Obama is not, as previously reported, the son of Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., but rather the illegitimate son of Malcolm X. In a 2009 blog she called for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Ground Zero Mosque

On September 11, the SIOA held  “Stop the Mosque at Ground Zero” rally that was practically ignored by the media. Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands' anti-Islam Freedom Party came to New York for the sole purpose of showing at the rally.

The inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the Park51 project popularly known as the Ground Zero Mosque, actually a cultural center and already approved by the New York City Planning Commission, has stirred hatred toward Muslims in America. There has been so much fear-mongering and so much misinformation in the debate peddled by bigots and rightwing politicians.

The hate speech and fear-mongering has resulted in hate crimes against Muslims and their prayer centers. At least three anti-Muslim acts were reported in one day, on August 24. In New York, taxi driver Ahmed H. Sharif was stabbed after the passenger asked the driver "Are you Muslim?" When the driver said yes, the man slashed him with a knife on the throat, arm and face. The same night a drunk man barged into a Queens (New York) mosque and shouted anti-Muslim slurs at the congregation during the nightly Tarawee prayers. He then proceeded to urinate on the prayer rugs. Anti-Muslim acts are not limited to New York. Several thousand miles away in Madera, California, a mosque was vandalized with a sign reading 'Wake up America, the enemy is here.' Tellingly, earlier last month, a mock pig inscribed with "No Mosque in NYC" was left at a California Islamic center. It was also inscribed with "Remember 9-11" and "MO HAM MED the Pig."

Amid growing anti-Muslim sentiment — stirred up by a raging debate over the Ground Zero mosque, at least two more incidents were reported till August 31. In New York State’s tiny town, Carlton, five teenagers harassed worshippers at the town mosque. The teenagers were charged with disrupting religious services at the mosque after they honked their car horns and yelled obscenities during one prayer service, and fired a weapon outside of another. In the Nashville suburb of Murfreesboro (Tennessee) a fire was reported at the site of a planned Islamic center and mosque. More alarmingly, gunshots were fired when the community members arrived to inspect the site.

All these hate incidents come in an atmosphere of near anti-Muslim hysteria that is currently being generated by the feverish discourse and manufactured controversy over the Ground Zero mosque. It is generating anti-Muslim and anti-Islam public sentiments. A poll on August 29 by the extreme right San Diego, California 760 KFMB AM talk radio station indicated that 70% of those polled are in favor of forced registration for American Muslims in a national database. The same day a poll conducted by Chris Matthews show at the MSNBC revealed that more than half of Republicans polled say they have a negative attitude toward Islam, this compared to only 27% of Democrats. A  PEW Institute poll result released on August 24 corroborated the findings of Chris Mathews show. By more than two-to-one (54% to 21%), Republicans expressed an unfavorable opinion of Islam and by more than four-to-one (74% to 17%), Republicans say they agree more with those who object to the building of the Ground Zero Mosque. By contrast, more Democrats agree with the center’s supporters than its opponents (by 47% to 39%).

One may ask. If the feverish discourse about the so-called Ground Zero mosque is only about the building of a new mosque or something else? To borrow, Stephan Salisbury of Tom Dispatch, the mosque controversy is not really about a mosque at all; it’s about the presence of Muslims in America, and the free-floating anxiety and fear that now dominate the nation’s psyche. The dark stain of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry or Islamophobia had spread far and wide long before the controversy erupted. As Salisbury pointed out, “those opposing the construction of the center in New York City are drawing on what amounts to a decade of government-stoked xenophobia about Muslims, now gathering strength and visibility in a nation full of deep economic anxieties and increasingly aggressive far-right grassroots groups.”

Burning of the Quran stunt

Desecration of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, is another method of bigotry. Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim Pastor Terry Jones of a tiny Florida Church, known as the Dove World Outreach Center, planned to commemorate 9/11 by burning copies of the Holy Quran. He abandoned the Quran burning stunt when US Secretary of Defense phoned him saying that his provocative act would inflame the Muslim world and jeopardize the lives of American troops now deployed in many Muslim countries. However, Jones message was not lost to many. Torn pages of the Quran were found on Sept 10 at the front of the Islamic Center of East Lansing, Michigan. Some of the pages appeared to be smeared with feces.

Amid heightened hate speech and fear-mongering mosques in California, Tennessee, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Texas, and Florida have faced vocal opposition or have been targeted by hate incidents. In one incident, on the 9/11 eve, vandals spray-painted "9-11" on windows and countertops at the Muslim owned Jaffa Market in Columbus, Ohio. Some cash and a laptop computer were stolen, while several display cases were vandalized. On Sept 8, back wall of the Hudson Islamic Center in New York was pained with slur "sand n**gers" and an obscenity. In early September, a Phoenix under construction mosque was vandalized. Paint was spilled on the floor and several tall, arched glass windows were broken by what appeared to be gunshots. There was also anti-Muslim graffiti. The same mosque was vandalized in the February.

The presence of mosques and the building of new mosques have become a divisive issue in several communities across the country in recent years. A church may be a church, and a temple a temple, but through the prism of emotion that grips many Americans, almost a decade after 9/11, a mosque can apparently represent a lot of things.

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