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N.Y. Rabbi and sons accused of sexually abusing girls; what if they were Muslim?

Two ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jewish men, a 58-year-old father and his 21-year-old son, fled to Israel a few days ago amongst an investigation regarding allegations of rape and abuse coming from a number of their female relatives. Those of us who take seriously the academic study of religions – which includes rigorous scholarly training in research methods, language, history, and culture – know better than to think that an aberrant incident like this represents the Jewish norm. It can’t seriously be cited as evidence of “Judaism’s treacherous conspiracy against the West” or as a unique “Jewish problem.” Anyone who made such claims would be considered an anti-Semite.

But what if they were Muslim?

This is just more evidence of the Islam’s 1400-year war against women! Yet another snide blogpost for the fake scholar Robert Spencer and his raging anti-Muslim readership. Yet another fresh gust of wind in the sails of professional, career Islamophobes like Ayan Hirsi Aliand nuclear trigger-happy Wafa Stalin (I mean Sultan) who specialize in using women’s issues to demonize the entire religion of Islam and bash all its followers. And yet again Fox news commentators continue to get it so wrong on Islam.

Uncovering the double standards behind the pulsating Islamophobic blogo-discourse is important. Anti-Semites and Islamophobes operate using the same police blotter tactics. That is, they construct a fantastically evil caricature of the “Jew/Muslim” and then selectively cite aberrant behavior (in news reports) as evidence of the “Jew’s/Muslim’s” normatively wicked nature, which leads to the creation of ideologically supported stereotypes.

Most Americans are reasonable and understand the simplistic, dehumanizing role of stereotypes. But if it is completely absurd to argue in all seriousness on national television “Should Americans fear Jews?” then why it is not equally absurd that we argue in all seriousness on national television “Should Americans fear Islam”?

Representative Keith Ellison asks; what if they were black?

Do some Americans fear black people? For sure. But we don’t validate those fears by allowing them to be expressed with fake innocence on respected news shows. Why are fears of Muslims validated by television airings?

Are there criminals in America who are African-American? Yes, again. But they’re not presented as representative figures of the community by reputable news programs. Why do such shows go out of their way to find the scariest, most cartoonish Muslims possible and present them as spokespeople for Muslims?

No serious journalist would ask a random black guy with a briefcase on the street to explain the pathology of an African American criminal because of the coincidence of shared skin color. But serious journalists called on ordinary Muslim Americans to explain the behavior of homicidal maniacs and extremists, thereby making the link between the crazies and the mainstream community.

Are there people willing to offer all sorts of racist theories about black crime, from problems in black genes to deficiencies in black culture? Plenty. But the only time they show up on mainstream news shows are as examples of racism, not as experts on race.

When we observe the Islamophobic blogo-sphere, if you just replace the word “Muslim” with “Jew” or “Black” then the dynamic of stereotyping and bigotry should be made clear to reasonable people. So when will Islamophobic myth, like its anti-Semitic and anti-Black predecessors, be swept into the dustbin of American history?

Note: This article is part of our “What if they were Muslim?” series. In this series, we examine the double standards used by anti-Muslim activists when discussing religious extremism in Islam as compared to other religions. We reject using extremists of any religion to justify prejudice, stereotypes, and hostility towards all members of that religion. Period.

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