Combatting the Evil of Islamophobia

We don’t yet know a motive for the shootings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek but the perpetrator’s links to white supremacist groups are becoming clear.

A day later, a mosque in Joplin, MO burned to the ground. Authorities have labeled that fire “suspicious” and it had already been targeted by two arson attacks (most recently on July 4). Glenn Greenwald writes about islamophobia in the US providing a catalog of recent attacks on American Muslims. He adds:

All of this reveals a broader truth: Islamophobia in the United States is pervasive and intense, and worse, is as ignored and tolerated as it is destructive. The greatest harm from these incidents is not to the property they damage. It’s the climate of fear that is created for Muslims living in the United States. As I’ve written about before, it’s hard to put into words how palpable and paralyzing this fear is in American Muslim communities. It’s infuriating to behold: perfectly law-abiding citizens and legal residents feeling — rationally and accurately — that they are subjected to constant surveillance, monitoring, suspicion, denial of basic rights, hostility and worse solely because of their religion and ethnicity.

This happens because overt expression of Islamophobia is, far and away, the most accepted form of bigotry in mainstream American precincts. Now and then, certain expressions of it are so extreme as to embarrass mainstream circles — Peter King’s Congressional investigation into The Enemy Within or the Michele Bachmann attacks on Hillary Clinton’s Muslim aide — and are thus roundly condemend, but more often than not, they are perfectly acceptable.

On Salon (where Greenwald writes) there are also articles about anti-Muslim bigotry in the Republican Party (Rep Joe Walsh of Illinois claims “Muslims are trying to kill Americans”) and a piece about Muslim leaders urging Mitt Romney to denounce Michele Bachman’s witch hunt.

I’ve been following the story about the efforts of a group to open a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN. It’s dragged on for years with arson and local groups trying to stop it, and politicians fanning the flames of hate. In the end, only the Department of Justice and the courts ensured the right of freedom of religion would prevail. More here on the anti-Muslim efforts in Murfreesboro. The community will gather there for the first time today for Friday prayers.

In spite of the prevalence of Islamophobia, there are also those who take stands against it. Greenwald highlights online efforts to raise money to replace the mosque in Joplin. In just a couple of days, they reached the goal of $250,000. In Missouri, Ashley Carter, student at nearby Ozark Christian College, has organized a rally in support of the Muslim community for Saturday, August 25.

When the media and our political culture fail to challenge purveyors of hate whether they are in the fringe or elected officials, it’s up to us to take the kind of stand that Ashley Carter has taken.

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