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2010: Another Hard Year For American Muslims

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

26 December, 2010
Countercurrents.org

- 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.

Islamophobia

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 observed the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy with “Stop the Mosque at Ground Zero.” Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands' anti-Islam Freedom Party came to New York for the sole purpose of showing at the rally that was largly ignored by the media.

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.

The feverish discourse and manufactured controversy over the Ground Zero mosque generated 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, the Quran, 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.

Anti-Muslim crusaders make millions spreading fear

Tellingly, spreading hate and fear about Islam is a lucrative business and anti-Islam crusaders are making millions. Muslim-basher Steven Emerson’s for-profit company — Washington-based SAE Productions — collected 3.39 million dollars in 2008 for researching alleged ties between American Muslims and overseas terrorism. The payment came from the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, a nonprofit charity Emerson also founded, which solicits money by telling donors they're in imminent danger from Muslims.

Emerson is a leading member of a multimillion-dollar industry of self-proclaimed experts who spread hate toward Muslims in books and movies, on websites and through speaking appearances. Leaders of the so-called "anti-jihad" movement portray themselves as patriots, defending America against radical Islam. And they've found an eager audience in ultra-conservative Christians and mosque opponents in Middle Tennessee. One national consultant testified in an ongoing lawsuit aimed at stopping a new Murfreesboro mosque.(8)

Surveillance of mosques and FBI sting operations against Muslim groups

The American Muslim community, under siege since the ghastly tragedy of 9/11, is alarmed at the FBI sting operations and provocative surveillance of their mosques. Many defense lawyers and civil rights advocates argue that the government’s tactics, particularly since the Sept. 11 attacks, have raised questions about the possible entrapment of people who pose no real danger but are enticed into pretend plots at the government’s urging.

However, US Attorney General Eric Holder, while addressing a Muslim Advocates gathering in San Francisco on December 10, rejected criticism of some counterterrorism techniques used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including sending informers into mosques and creating elaborate sting operations.

Wading into the most controversial recent case, Holder backed the FBI's investigation of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born Muslim in Oregon charged with trying to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device, leading many Muslims and civil libertarians to question whether agents went too far by training the man for terrorism.

President of Muslim Advocates, Farhana Khera, argues that the complex “entrapment operations” may be getting people involved in terrorism who otherwise would not have done anything while the operations divert investigators from “actual threats” and stoke “anti-Muslim sentiment.”

Law-abiding American Muslims have experienced increasing levels of discriminatory, invasive and abusive conduct by federal agents in the years since 9/11. FBI’s extraordinary tools to fight crime are being turned against millions of its own citizens, including American Muslims. Tools intended to protect the country--such as massive data collection and analysis--instead, give the FBI unprecedented and unchecked power to amass huge amounts of detailed information on innocent Americans and community groups.

The Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, in September 2009, seeking full public disclosure of FBI investigative guidelines for when and how agents can engage in surveillance. In July 2010, 29 state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union joined the Muslim Advocates in an ongoing legal effort to seek full disclosure of the unedited copy of investigative guidelines the FBI has issued to its agents.

Rep. Peter King plans to grill Muslims

American Muslims were hoping that the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry movements will be rolled back with time. However, no such end is coming in the near future, particularly, with the Republicans taking control of the House of Representative. Alarmingly, Rep. Peter King, incoming Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has announced a witch hunt targeting the Muslim community.

In an op-ed published in Newsday, Long Island Rep. Peter King, said that as part of his duties, he intends to hold hearings on topics including the "radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism." "As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I will do all I can to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization," he wrote. (9)

Interestingly, King, an Irish-American, was involved in the Northern Ireland peace process. His stand on terrorism itself is less than consistent. He was a prosecutor when four men, including Brooklynite George Harrison, were arrested for running 2,500 guns and a million rounds of ammunition to the IRA in Belfast. We didn't see him talking about the radicalization of Irish-Americans and calling for hearings, did we?

According to Joanna Molloy of New York Daily News, Rep. Pete King's proposal to hold hearings on the "radicalization" of American Muslims is something straight out of the Bad Ideas Department. Make that the Worst Ideas Department. Just substitute the word "movie" for "Muslim" and you've got McCarthyism. As in Sen. Joe, who called in actors from Lucille Ball to Judy Holliday simply because they had had naughty liberal thoughts. McCarthy found nothing on Holliday, but ruined her life and scores of others in Hollywood. (10)

Remember that King spent much of the summer leading the opposition to the so-called Ground Zero mosque. He also labeled the project's Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, a "radical" - even though Rauf was picked by the Bush administration to help the State Department promote American values and spread the gospel of democracy in the Middle East.

King has a long history of extremist rhetoric and baseless allegations against American Muslims, including claiming that most mosques nationwide are run by "radicals." In 2004, he claimed 80 to 85 percent of American mosques are controlled by the “Islamic fundamentalists."

Conclusion

As I was giving final touches to this article another serious incident of hate crime was reported in Idaho. In Twins Fall, Idaho, John C. Larsen, was arrested on Wednesday (12/23) for threatening a Muslim woman while she was shopping at a Walmart. Larsen approached the woman, who wore a headscarf and was with her two children, and asked if she was Muslim. When the woman said she was, Larsen told her he spent 2 1/2 years in Iraq and “my friends were killed by you, I was blown up by you,” according to court records. The assailant also shouted that the woman "didn't belong here in the U.S." and claimed he had killed Muslims and planned to kill more. He also told the Muslim woman that he had a concealed weapon. A loaded weapon was later found in his car. Her ordeal is part of a pattern of hatred across the nation toward Muslims living in American society. The 42-year-old man was arraigned Thursday (12/24) on a charge of felony malicious harassment. (11)

It will not be too much to say, in the words of Stephen Lendman, “it's the wrong time to be Muslim in America, Washington's target of choice to hype fear and enlist public support for imperial lawlessness, no matter the cost in reckless spending and loss of personal freedoms. Increasingly, everyone is now vulnerable for speaking out, voicing dissent, and supporting equity and justify for unpopular victims.” (12)

References

(1) Alabama restaurant sign says: No Muslims Inside

An Alabama electronics store put a sign reading "BBQ PORK RESTURANT IS SAFEST NO MUSLIMS INSIDE. Electronic Repair Company owner Chuck Biddinger, who put up the sign last week, told local television station ABC 33/40 that while it was meant as a lighthearted joke, it was true. "Muslims do not eat pork," he told the television station. "It's a known fact that Muslims have tried to commit crimes in this country." The Daily News quoted him as saying that he wasn't worried about people's feelings. "For the local area, if I offend a few Muslims, there will be a lot of people who support it," he said. (The Daily News – December 10, 2010)

(2) Nebrasca councilman places a sign on his property reading:
"Never Trust a Man Named Mohamed"

Dakota City (Nebrasca) councilman Bob Lane placed a sign on his property reading "Never Trust a Man Named Mohamed." The sign led several residents to lodge complaints at City Hall. Lane removed the Mohamed sign after it had been up for more than a week. "It is freedom of speech. Whenever we have a problem in the nation, the first name, the middle name or the last name is often Mohamed," said Lane, a multi-term councilman who was re-elected this year. (Sioux City Journal – December 21, 2010)

(3) Ohio: Muslim woman reports attack near mosque

In Columbus, Ohio, the FBI has begun a civil-rights investigation after 20-year-old Somali native, Saida J. Said reported that she was harassed and pepper-sprayed outside a West Side mosque on December 20. The attacker told her 'All you Muslims go back to where you came from.'" The incident was caught on the mosque's surveillance camera. (The Columbus Dispatch – December 22, 2010)

(4) Ohio mosque received anti-Muslim e-mail

The Clifton, Ohio Mosque on December 11 received the following email: "You should know that you are not wanted in Cincinnati. We don't want you here. Mohammad is a joke. Go back to your desert. Beware. We may just declare Jihad on you."

(5) New York Imam called 'camel jockey,' 'terrorist' during attack

On Dec 9, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today called on the Manhattan District Attorney's office to prosecute an alleged bias-motivated attack on an imam, or Muslim religious leader, as a hate crime. The incident began on the A-train early yesterday morning near Canal Street. One of two suspects arrested allegedly used racial and religious slurs, including calling the imam a "camel jockey" and shouting, "F*ck all you Muslims. All of you are terrorists," during the verbal and physical assault. (CAIR)

(6) Colorado Muslim Republican switches parties over GOP 'bigotry'

Muhammad Ali Hasan, a member of the wealthy and influential Colorado Republican Hasan family and a past state House and treasurer candidate, said he is switching parties. Speaking at the University of Colorado-Boulder event on Dec 9, Hasan said he is ending his affiliation with the party for the bigotry he believes has shaped Republican politics over the last year. (Colorado Independent)

(7) Islamophobia is on the rise in the USA by Dr. Habib Siddiqui (American Muslim Perspective)

(8) Anti-Muslim crusaders make millions spreading fear By Bob Smietana - The Tennessean – October 24, 2010

(9) What's radicalizing Muslim Americans? By Peter King - The Newsday December 20, 2010

(10) Pete King's plan to grill Muslims is flashback to Joe McCarthy's Hollywood witch hunt for Communists – The New York Daily News - December 21, 2010

(11) Twin Falls man arrested for allegedly harassing Muslim – Times News – December 24, 2010

(12) America's War on Islam By Stephen Lendman - OpEdNews - December 18, 2010

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: www.amperspective.com email: asghazali786@gmail.com