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December 9, 2015

Anti-Muslim fever goes viral  after Paris
and San Bernardino attacks

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Anti-Muslim fever goes viral  after Paris and San Bernardino attacks. To borrow Andrew O'hehir of Salon, Muslim fever has spread through our national bloodstream and replaced all thought. Many U.S. leaders have unleashed discriminatory rhetoric in the name of counterterrorism. 

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Friday that the U.S. Constitution does not protect Islam the way it does Christianity. In "Close Up" program of Des Moines television station KCCI, he said “Islam is different from Christianity.”  The founder of Islam, the prophet Mohammad, established Sharia law to govern his kingdom on Earth, Santorum said, while Jesus Christ proclaimed that his kingdom was not on Earth.

Thirty-one governors said that Syrian refugees were not welcome in their states. Jeb Bush suggested that refugees should be allowed into the United States if “you can prove you’re a Christian.” Donald Trump said that he would “strongly consider” shutting down American mosques and that he wants “surveillance of certain mosques if that’s okay.”

The president of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr,  urged his student body to start carrying concealed weapons with their books in case Muslim terrorists target their Virginia campus. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” President Jerry Falwell Jr. declared at a Friday, Dec. 4, convocation before 10,000 people at the Christian college. Falwell was carrying a legal, licensed .25 caliber pistol in his back pants pocket as he spoke to loud cheers.

Commenting on Jerry Falwell's statement, Patricia McGuire,  President, Trinity Washington University, wrote in Huffington Post, "what happened in San Bernadino was appalling, to be sure, as it was in Paris, as it is in Syria and Yemen and Nigeria and so many places rife with terror and sadness. But inciting university students to be ready to shoot Muslims because of the acts of terrorists is morally repugnant and utterly irresponsible leadership. It's also historically and socially selective; where was President Falwell's call to be on the lookout for white men frothing with hatred after the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado, or after ten people were killed at Umpqua Community College, or after Dylan Roof killed nine people at the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston; or how about going after all of us Irish Americans who spell our names with "Mc" in light of the actions of Timothy McVeigh, the ex-Marine who committed what is still the worst act of domestic terrorism in Oklahoma City? Homicidal maniacs come in all colors, nationalities and faith traditions."

The San Bernardino shootings killed 14 people and wounded 21 at a meeting of public health officials that doubled as a holiday party. A dozen victims were county of San Bernardino employees. The FBI said the shootings by husband-and-wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were being investigated as terrorism. Malik posted a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook, authorities said.

Joshua Holland host of Politics and Reality Radio writes in The Nation, that regardless of what motive ultimately comes out, the reality is that Muslims have committed only a minuscule fraction of the mass shootings in this country. It was the 355th mass shooting on the 336th day of 2015. He says:

"We don’t yet know what set off this latest bloodbath, but we know a lot about gun violence in America. Perhaps the most frightening thing we know about gun violence comes from a study conducted by researchers at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia that was published earlier this year in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law. It found that almost one in 10 Americans who have access to guns are also prone to impulsive outbursts of rage. Among this group are almost 4 million people who carry their guns around in public and say they “have tantrums or angry outbursts,” “get so angry [that they] break or smash things” and lose their temper and “get into physical fights.”

"Easy access to guns lies at the heart of the problem. No other developed country has as much gun violence or experiences mass shootings at a rate even close to approaching our own, and that we have the highest rate of private gun ownership in the world. We know that out of 185 mass shootings over a 13-year period studied by the FBI, only one was stopped by an ordinary civilian with a gun.

"We also know that having access to a firearm almost doubles one’s chances of becoming the victim of a homicide, and triple’s one’s likelihood of killing him or herself. And we know that states with the highest rates of gun ownership have the highest rates of gun murders. The same is true of countries—more guns equal more gun deaths. The incidence of mass shootings has tripled over the past four years, a period that coincided with 37 states’ loosening their restrictions on owning and carrying guns.

"As of this writing, what set off Wednesday’s massacre in San Bernardino remains a mystery. But while mass-shooting incidents represent only a small fraction of all the gun violence in America, they’re nonetheless commonplace. And it seems that far too many Americans appear to be willing to accept a certain amount of bloodshed—as long as it’s not perpetrated by Muslims," Holland concludes.

Andrew O'hehir argues that there was a deeply unfortunate period of national debate just before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that was summed up in a memorable New York Times headline: “What shall we do with the Negro?” But in 2015, we are faced with a different question: “What shall we do with the Muslim?” There is endless iterations of this question all day long, on every news site and every cable TV talk show.

O'hehir pointed out that even before this week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino had any clear link to Islamic extremism – which is not to say the nature of that link is clear now – we heard Sean Hannity darkly murmuring that the suspects did not have “normal-sounding” names.

If the San Bernardino shootings had been carried out by a white man named John Smith, he would be considered a lone nut even if he were a whacked-out evangelical Christian who thought he was doing the Lord’s work O'hehir said adding:. But if Syed Farook is a crazy Muslim dude who looked at crazy Muslim websites, then he winds up on the front page of the New York Post as a “MUSLIM KILLER” who represents the tip of a deadly iceberg of terror, and cannot possibly be a lone nut.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America