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“Wade Michael Page: Islamophobia Unleashed” by Wajahat Ali

Wajahat Ali discusses why questions about whether Page “mistook Sikhs for Muslims” are largely irrelevant at the moment.

Ali puts the Islamophobic atmosphere in the USA in perspective:

Wade Michael Page: Islamophobia unleashed

How much longer will we tolerate politicians who stoke bigotry like that which drove Wade Michael Page to kill?


Here are some of the things we know about Wade Michael Page: He led a “racist white power trio” called End Apathy; he had a tattoo commemorating 9/11; he shaved his head; and, on Sunday, he killed six individuals and wounded a police officer at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

We have yet to determine if Page mistook Sikhs for Muslims, but such questions are irrelevant. In today’s Islamophobic atmosphere, there has been increased marginalization of all AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian) communities. In particular, Sikh Americans have faced the brunt of post 9/11 hate crimes and backlash, with Sikh men often being mistaken for Muslims. The first, post 9/11 hate crime murder was of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Arizona, whom the murderer chose because he was“dark-skinned, bearded and wore a turban.”

This extremist violence and fear-mongering does not exist in a vacuum. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported the highest number of hate groups ever recorded in U.S. history, with nearly 1,018 active groups. Furthermore, anti-Muslim hate groups have increased 300 percent in the last year, and the FBI reported a 50 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. The reasons for the record rise in hate groups are due to the faltering economy, changing racial dynamics in America leading to a minority-majority country, and the election of Barack Hussein Obama.

However, the reality according to the latest studies is that American Muslims help law enforcement, are more likely to reject violence than any other U.S. religious community, and nearly all American Muslims have no sympathy or loyalty for Al Qaeda.

Yet facts and evidence do not detract a paranoid fringe from indicting American Muslims or anyone who looks “Muslim-y,” including Arab American Christians, Iranian Jews and Sikh Americans.

On August 6, a second fire in less than five weeks burned down a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, most likely a result of a hate crime. Furthermore, a committed anti-Muslim contingency in Murfreesboro, Tennessee continues to impede the progress of a mosque construction belonging to an American Muslim community that has peacefully lived there for over three decades.

Despite President Obama publicly proclaiming Jesus Christ as his savior, attending Church, and celebrating Easter, nearly 17 percent of registered American voters still think our President worships Allah. Obama’s alleged “Muslimy-ness” continues to act as a smear, handcuffing “Muslim” to something deemed “foreign,” “hostile” and “anti-American.” Furthermore, Islam currently has its lowest favorability rating in America, even lower than the weeks following 9/11.

The cynical and deliberate baiting of ignorance, racism and Islamophobia by political players was exposed in an investigative report I worked on last year, “Fear Inc, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” produced by the Center for American Progress. My coauthors and I identified a lucrative cottage industry comprised of an interconnected, incestuous network of right-wing pseudo-scholars, policy experts, politicians and media pundits who have received nearly $43 million from seven funders to create and disseminate fear and misinformation against Muslims.

As an example, the exploitation of Sharia, or Islamic religious law, as being a fictional “threat to America” was used by nearly every major mainstream Republican candidate running for President, including Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty and the modern-day Islamophobic Nancy Drew, Michelle Bachmann.

Instead of using their position of influence to build bridges of understanding, Bachmann and four GOP colleagues recently decided to stoke the flames of fear-mongering by engaging in a witch huntagainst fellow Americans. Facts are not Bachmann’s strong suit. Instead, she continues the odious tradition of McCarthyism and relies on paranoia, hunches, and the prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country to justify smearing respected American Muslim individuals as being connected to radical Muslim organizations. Bachmann’s Islamophobia was appreciated by her Tea Party-base who rewarded her “dangerous” and “downright vicious” conspiracy theories with July donations totaling $1 million. (For perspective, Bachmann previously raised $1 million over a period of three months, April through June.)

To liberally misquote Mel Brooks’ “The History of the World”: “It pays to be an Islamophobe.”

On the other hand, a target of her witch hunt, long-time Secretary of State Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, a recent mother no less, was forced to hire a security detail after receiving death threats.

In his perpetual, pathetic quest to remain relevant, Newt Gingrich continued to pander to the radical right of the Republican Party and slither towards ignominy by offering support for Bachmann’s McCartyhesque endeavor. To court his fringe base, Newt has likened Muslims to Nazis and vowed during his failed Presidential campaign to initiate loyalty oaths for American Muslims.

He heroically labeled Bachmann and her four accomplices as the “National Security Five,” which sounds like a radical rendition of Scooby Doo’s Mystery Inc.

Unlike the cartoon, however, these elected officials are not uncovering villains; rather, they are preying on innocent citizens scapegoated for their religious affiliation and ethnicity.

This is particularly shameful for Gingrich considering he helped set aside prayer space on Capitol Hill for Muslim congressional staffers in the late 1990s. Furthermore, he belongs to the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – featuring an all-star roster of Conservatives. Key Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, a “longtime friend”and consultant to Bachmann who feeds her anti-Muslim, conspiratorial evidence, asserts CPAC has been infiltrated by radical Islam.

This revelation should inspire Congressman Peter King, R-NY, who serves as the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee,to host yet another congressional hearing, this time, however, exposing the infiltration of the Republican Party by Mr. Gingrich, obviously the Muslim Brotherhood’s Manchurian Candidate.

King relies on key members of the Islamophobia network for his inaccurate information on American Muslim communities, including the discredited claim that over 85 percent of American mosques and its religious leaders are radicalized. In the past, King has also claimed there are “too many mosques” in America. King also falsely claimed that 90 percent of terrorist crimes are carried out by Muslims. In the U.S., 56 percent of terrorist attacks and plots have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, 30 percent by eco-terrorists and 12 percent by Islamic extremists.

Yet, King is still allowed to chair congressional hearings on American Muslims. That’s like asking Dan Cathy, the homophobic president of Chick-fil-A, to host a hearing on LGBT issues, or asking Mel Gibson to chair a hearing on Jewish American communities.

In a perfect world, we would readily dismiss these cynical politicians as amusing cartoon characters who say nutty things cueing a laugh track that prompts us to mock them. Sadly, they are elected officials and political players with a sizeable constituency deliberately misinforming their base, keeping them ignorant and afraid, and inciting paranoia and radical sentiment for sake of short term political gain and publicity.

Unfortunately, a tremendous negative externality emerges from such ill-gained profit. As we have seen time and time again, extremist rhetoric inspires extremist violence.

Anders Breivik, the anti-Muslim, Norwegian murderer who killed 77 people last year, left behind a 1,500 page manifesto frequently citing the writings and ideology of the American Islamophobia network. Upon reviewing the manifesto, counter-terrorism expert Marc Sagemen said the Islamophobes’ “writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

“This rhetoric,” he added, “is not cost free.”

The senseless murder of six Sikh Americans was the tragic cost of hate-monger’s perverse ideology rationalizing violence against innocent civilians.

Perhaps it is time we turn the tables and expose the enablers and disseminators of divisive, fear-mongering rhetoric that has no place in today’s fragile and racially sensitive environment. Let Bachmann and company enjoy their short term profit in the dustbins of history, seated next to ideological allies like Joseph McCarthy, as the rest of us move forward as communities united against hate.

Wajahat Ali is a playwright, attorney, journalist and essayist. He is currently writing a pilot with Dave Eggers about an American Muslim cop from the Bay Area and working on his first movie screenplay with filmmaker Josh Seftel (“War Inc.”) He is co-editor of the anthology “All American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim”, which published in June 2012. His award-winning play“The Domestic Crusaders,” was published by McSweeney’s in 2011. He is the lead author of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.”MORE WAJAHAT ALI.

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  • Interestingly enough there is a recent New York times commentary that asks what might have been if Wade had attacked Muslims instead of Sikhs. We’ve been asking that question a lot here, and might be interesting to see someone else’s answer.

    My friend ‏@ChrisDStedman mentioned it on Twitter,

  • @Jai

    That Jihad Watch post doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m so glad there are websites devoted to refuting that man, and his ilk. Also his claim that those working against “jihad and Islamic supremacism never call for or justify any violence,” just too easy to debunk. All you have to do search the comments of anti Muslim blogs like his, or some even more extreme ones to find more than a few examples of that. I wonder how he would explain all the calls by his supporters, as comments on other “counter jihad” blogs calling for Nuking Mecca and killing Muslims unless they leave the west.

    By the way, I heard about what he and Geller did in Stockholm recently, but thanks for reminding us anyway. We should never forget the kind of person he is.

  • Jai


    “At this point, I really wouldn’t be surprised, and I don’t think many of us would be, if anti Muslim bigots started claiming that Wade was a secret Muslim and part of the stealth jihad and only attacked those people to make those opposed to Islam look bad.”

    It turns out that your remark about anti-Muslim bigots is actually very close to the truth. Robert Spencer’s opportunistic JihadWatch article about this tragedy includes the claim that “white supremacist neo-Nazis generally consider Islamic supremacists to be their allies”. See:

    Ironically, of course, last weekend Spencer himself personally hosted a demonstration in Stockholm in conjunction with Swedish organisers who are white supremacist neo-Nazis:

  • @Lover of Truth

    Actually, even if they were Muslims, most likely Islamophobes would be trying to distance themselves from Wade, at least the smarter ones would, regardless of whether they had a conscious or were secretly glad that “vile” Muslims were attacked. Most of them seem to understand that for their movement to succeed, Muslims have to be seen as the aggressors, and non Muslims need to be seen as their victims, at least the overwhelming majority of the time. The more people see the reverse who have not already fallen for their lies, the less likely they will be to gain their support. Also, if people who do support them see too many instances of Muslims as the victims and non Muslims as the aggressors it may actually get them to question what they’ve been told, especially if they see that the people who attacked them are supporters of people like Spencer and/or share their views on Islam and Muslims.

  • Lover of Truth

    The Islamophobes are distancing themselves ONLY because the victims were SIKHS, if they were Muslims the Islamophobes would CELEBRATE

    IT is hilarious that Europeans came HERE, wiped out THE AMERICANS (the “Native Indians”) and NOW claim to be THE AMERICANS!

  • @BuddhaShrink

    You’re probably correct. Its a lot like it was with Anders Brevik, If Islamopobes don’t just ignore this, they’re desperately going to try to distance themselves and their belief system from Wade, and what he did, much like they did with Brevik. It was one of the factors that eventually led me out of “counter jihad.” The smarter ones at least will understand that no good will come out of associating with Wade after what he did, even if his victims had been Muslims instead of Sikhs. At this point, I really wouldn’t be surprised, and I don’t think many of us would be, if anti Muslim bigots started claiming that Wade was a secret Muslim and part of the stealth jihad and only attacked those people to make those opposed to Islam look bad.

  • @Garibaldi

    You are right about the trolls coming out. It makes sense.

    On just this past Sunday, August 6, 2012, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a 40 year old white male with white supremacist and neo-Nazi connections, associations, sympathies and known hatred for Jews, blacks and Muslims, killed innocent Sikhs in their house of worship.
    The trolls, who are of course Loons, are out and busy with their unsolicited denials that their websites, Facebook pages, radio and TV shows had anything to do with what the FBI is describing as a domestice act of terrorism.
    In Gestalt therapy I remember therapists asking the question, “You know what they say about unsolicited denials?”

  • @Garibaldi

    You’re welcome. I’ll really like it when you do make stuff easier to find here. Loon Watch is an excellent resource for refuting anti Muslim bigots and their conspiracy theories.

  • Jack Cope wrote,

    Stoned Gremlin, for years I worked from a single cut and paste document when refuting fools, you are right they seldom bring up anything new. You see the same stuff day in day out, some just re-package their stuff in slightly different ways… it get’s rather dull.

    I find this very interesting, I do believe many are like you Jack and also work from such documents that they create to combat the “fools.”

    What I think is that these trolls, or phobes in general also work from their own cut and paste documents. A difference I see is that these trollish activists are in greater number and more prolific than their counterparts. Now this may be an indicator of one type of success on the part of the Islamophobia Movement, in that they were able to gather a mass of very active internet Crusaders, but I also believe many of these individuals are probably paid operatives of one kind or another.

  • Critical wrote,

    I’m beginning to wonder the same, especially when they keep linking to websites and authors Loon Watch has already refuted. Apparently none of them have even bothered checking Loon Watch to see if you guys have even took that source on before. I don’t know about the second, but Loon Watch has taken on David Horrowitz, and Front Page Mag and Danial Greenfield multiple times. Perhaps these guys actually do think they’ll be able to convince us. Its possible many of them are so ignorant that they don’t even realize their arguments have been refuted multiple times, and when do respond they usually don’t reply, so maybe they just leave a comment, and assume they have defeated Loon Watch.

    Soon we plan on making the site a little more accessible, where you can easily find our refutations and exposes a little more easily. This will make it harder for the trolls to deny ever having read or encountered any of these articles. I think it is mostly a symptom of our age, where you go read the news mostly at sites and places that agree with your worldview.

    I also accept many of the reasons you state as very plausible! Thanks.

  • @Mira,

    Is Daniel Greenfield really his real name? I have a feeling it is a pen name. Sultan Knish who says his real nameis Daniel Greenfield, and lives in New York, is on the SPLC hate watch list.

    Does anybody know his real name? He is a fellow at the David Horowitz centre. He needs to be under FBI surveillance

    I’m not sure Mira, but I have reason to believe it is. I saw a tax form that showed the money he received from Horowitz’s Foundation and it said “Daniel Greenfield,” unless they are defrauding the IRS.

  • corey

    bryan fischer actually thinks the shooter is a liberal and on jihadwatch spencer gave his sympathy towards the sikh temple shooting victims and rambles on about how this shooting will be exploited not even metioning the fact that sikhs have been attacked for being mistaken for muslims, and the comments there are as fun to read as ever the favorite being that one guy wants to grab every muslim on earth by the throat and paint swastikas on there forheads a comment really examplifies the “peacefulness” of the so called “anti jihad movement” dont you think?

  • Fred

    P.S. I thought Spencer was representing U.S.A in the Olympics in the hurdle championships?

  • Fred

    Wajahat and his team are great for exposing the dirty pile of money being used to fund these Islamophobic fascists who are giving birth to extremists and terrorists in their own stealthy ways (Robert Spencer seems to be doing ‘Stealth Jihad’ himself).

    These fascists have their own sick personal and political agendas, and will continue to work as long as there’s food on the table with the fund money. Spencer however… seems to have been funded lots, just imagine what he has for dinner.

  • Nassir H.

    I like the comments on other news sites in which some loonies anticipated that the murderer was a “liberal.” Obviously reality means little to them. Hence, all the links to crappy YouTube videos and articles written by proponents of genocide that are about as convincing as Geller claiming she loves Muslims.

  • JD

    History of Hate: Crimes Against Sikhs Since 9/11

    The mass shooting of a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Wisconsin on Sunday is merely the latest chapter in a history of violence. In the months following the attacks of 9/11, more than 300 incidences of hate crimes against Sikhs were reported, according to the Sikh Coalition (PDF).

    Though their numbers make up the world’s fifth-largest religion, Sikhs are still misunderstood (No, they are not Muslims or Hindus). Below is a round up of notable hate crimes and bias incidents against Sikhs since 9/11. (H/t Buzz Feed.)

    Sept. 15, 2001 — Mesa, Ariz.: Four days after the infamous attacks of 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 49-year-old Sikh, is shot and killed outside the gas station he owned by Frank Silva Roque. When police approached to arrest him, Roque says, “I’m a patriot and an American. I’m American. I’m a damn American.” [More from HuffPost.]

    Nov. 18, 2001 — Palermo, N.Y.: Three teens burn down Gobind Sadan, a gurdwara (Sikh temple) in New York, because they thought it was named for Osama bin Laden. [More from BeliefNet and Tribune of India.]

    Dec. 12, 2001 — Los Angeles, Calif.: Surinder Singh Sidhi, a liquor store owner in Los Angeles who took to wearing an American flag turban after 9/11 out of fear of being attacked, is beaten in his store by two men who accuse of him of being Osama bin Laden. [More from Real Sikhism.]

    Aug. 6, 2002 — Daly City, Calif.: Sukhpal Singh, brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was the first Sikh murdered following 9/11, is shot while driving his cab. [More from HuffPost, Real Sikhism and Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.]

    May 20, 2003 — Phoenix, Ariz.: Fifty-two-year-old Sikh immigrant and truck driver Avtar Singh is shot in his 18-wheeler while waiting for his son to pick him up. As he is being shot, he hears someone say: “Go back to where you belong.” [More from Real Sikhism.]

    Aug. 5, 2003 — Queens, N.Y.: Members of a Sikh family are beaten outside of their home by drunk individuals yelling, “Go back to your country, Bin Laden.” [More from NY Daily News.]

    Sept. 25, 2003 — Tempe, Ariz.: Sukhvir Singh, a 33-year-old convenience store owner, is stabbed to death by Bruce Phillip Reed. It is not labeled as a hate crime. Representatives of the Phoenix Sikh community issue a statement that says, in part, “Together we can help others to evolve past hate and fear by continuing to organize to reach out to others with increased understanding, respect, and support. May our collective prayer be that God preserve and protect the honor of all people, our nation, and our world.” [More from the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and SikhNet.]

    March 13, 2004 — Fresno, Calif.: Gurdwara Sahib, a local Sikh temple, is vandalized with graffiti messages: “Rags Go Home” and “It’s Not Your Country. [More from SALDEF and Real Sikhism.]

    July 12, 2004 — New York, N.Y.: Rajinder Singh Khalsa and Gurcharan Singh, cousins on their way to dinner at a restaurant, are beaten by two drunk white twentysomething men. The attackers describe Gurcharan’s turban as a “curtain.” When Rajinder tries to intervene, saying that Sikhs are peaceful, he is beaten unconscious and suffers a fractured eye socket, among other injuries. [More from Real Sikhism.]

    May 24, 2007 — Queens, N.Y.: A 15-year-old student has his hair forcibly cut by an older student at his high school. The scissor-wielding 17-year-old showed the Sikh a ring inscribed with Arabic, saying, “This ring is Allah. If you don’t let me cut your hair, I will punch you with this ring.” Afterward, he cuts the younger boy’s hair. A main pillar of the Sikh faith compels followers to keep their hair uncut. [More from Real Sikhism and United Sikhs.]

    May 30, 2007 — Joliet, Ill.: A decorated U.S. Navy veteran of the Gulf War, Kuldip Singh Nag is approached by a police officer outside of his home for an expired vehicle registration tag. The officer reportedly assaults Nag with pepper spray while hurling expletive-laced anti-immigrant statements. [More from SALDEF and ABC7 News. ]

    Jan. 14, 2008 — New Hyde Park, N.Y.: A 63-year-old Sikh, Baljeet Singh, has his jaw and nose broken when attacked outside his temple by a man who lived next-door. David Wood, the attacker, had apparently disturbed members of the gurdwara in the past. [More from United Sikhs.]

    Feb. 28, 2008 — Bryan, Texas: A Sikh man is assaulted in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Though the assailant called him a terrorist, punched him in the face and head and knocked his turban off, the Sikh man does not suffer major injuries. [More from SALDEF.]

    June 5, 2008 — Queens, N.Y.: A ninth grade Sikh is attacked by another student, who tried to remove his patka, or under-turban, and had a history of bullying the boy. [More from Real Sikhism and United Sikhs.]

    June 5, 2008 — Albuquerque, N.M.: A vehicle belonging to a Sikh family is defaced with the message “F*** Allah!” and a picture of male genitalia. [More from SALDEF.]

    Aug. 4, 2008 — Phoenix, Ariz.: Inderjit Singh Jassal is shot and killed while working at a 7-Eleven. No clear motive is found. [More from SALDEF and The Arizona Republic.]

    Oct. 29, 2008 — Carteret, N.J.: A Sikh man, Ajit Singh Chima, goes for a walk in his neighborhood. He is attacked by a man who casually leaves the scene afterward. Nothing is stolen. [More from SALDEF.]

    Jan. 30, 2009 — Queens, N.Y.: Three men attack Jasmir Singh outside of a grocery store. Racial slurs are heard. A broken glass bottle is used. Singh loses vision in his left eye. [More from NY Daily News and United Sikhs.]

    Nov. 29, 2010 — Sacramento, Calif.: Harbhajan Singh, a cab driver, is a attacked by passangers, who call him Osama bin Laden. Singh believes the attackers, who were later convicted, would have killed him. [More from SALDEF.]

    March 6, 2011 — Elk Grove, Calif.: Two elderly Sikh men in traditional garb, out for a daily afternoon walk, are shot and killed. The perpetrator is not found. [More from Southern Poverty Law Center, SALDEF and The Sacramento Bee.]

    May 30, 2011 — New York, N.Y.: Jiwan Singh, an MTA worker and the father of Jasmir Singh, who was assaulted in early 2009 in Queens, is attacked on the A train and accused of being related to Osama bin Laden. [More from the NY Daily News.]

    Feb. 6, 2012 — Sterling Heights, Mich.: A gurdwara (Sikh temple) is defaced with graffiti that includes a gun and references to 9/11. [More from SALDEF.]

    Aug. 5, 2012 — Oak Creek, Wis.: A gunman is shot dead by police after he opened fire in a gurdwara during Sikh prayer services, killing six. [More from HuffPost.]

    If you look at them most of these are anti Muslim in nature the idiots just got confused over if this person wearing turban is a muslim or Sikh.. Tell you alot

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