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Book Review: The Islamophobia Industry

Book Review: The Islamophobia Industry

by Nicole (MuslimahMediaWatch)

Nathan Lean’s book The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims is a look at the pernicious ways in which anti-Muslim sentiment is fostered, both in the US and to a smaller extent in Europe.

Although MMW is primarily focused on Muslim women in the media and their issues, I chose to review this book anyway because it lends context to the issues that affect us. In recent months, I have been told that Islamophobia doesn’t exist (and is just a fabrication of the victim mentality Muslims have fed the liberal media) that “a Muslim woman told me not wearing a veil is ok so the veil isn’t ok” (when the truth is much more nuanced than that) and that teh Islamz is inherently responsible for domestic violence by definition (because only Muslim men hit women, of course). I also think that Muslim women are on the front lines when it comes to bearing the brunt of Islamophobia (headscarf wars, anyone), and in that this book, while not looking at women per se, sets the stage for the issues that affect us. In this vein, if I could critique what is otherwise an excellent book, it would have been nice to see women’s issues treated in a more balanced way, given women are affected by Islamophobia in lopsided ways (see: France’s niqab ban).

Much like the work of John Esposito and Edward Said back in the day, in a sea of the Bernard Lewises and Thomas Friedmans of this world, Nathan Lean’s book is a welcome addition to Muslim cultural criticism when the only stuff getting airtime these days seems to be the recent Pamela Gellar New York subway ads.  Lean takes us through the history of fear in America, drawing parallels among the anti-Catholicism of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Red Scare of the mid-20th century, and the discourse surrounding Muslims today. As he mentions in the introduction, it is a propos that parts of the evangelical Christian community root their faith narratives precisely in a “religious showdown” with Muslims.

The Islamophobia Industry reads well as a continuum, but it is also an easy read chapter by chapter – I could see how either the entire book or parts of it could be assigned in a classroom context. As a tech blogger based in Europe, the two highlights of Lean’s book for me were Chapter 2 (“A Web of Deception: Fomenting Hate Online”), covering the role of the internet in creating hate; and Chapter 7 (“Across the Pond: The Deadly Effects of Hate in Europe”) which provided an accurate analysis of the situation “over here.”  In Chapter 2, I couldn’t help but chuckle when Pamela Geller’s name showed up on only the second line and set the stage for a takedown on Atlas Shrugsand Jihad Watch (I don’t hyperlink and send traffic  to bigotry, sorry). This chapter also provides an extremely detailed analysis of the Park 51 shenanigans. I enjoyed Chapter 7 because one of my ongoing complaints about America-based activists is that some people, while well-intentioned, fail to realize that Islamophobia isn’t the same game “over here,” something that Lean catches onto right away in the way he writes the chapter. This chapter starts out with a play-by-play of Anders Breivik’s acts of violence (and some ironic giggle-worthy quotes about how his gushed over Robert Spencer). Lean goes over some of the context in France, Belgium and Switzerland, and notes that the extreme right, where necessary, is “creating fears about Islam and Muslims rather than exploiting existing ones,” as shown by campaigns by people like Geert Wilders, or the anti-Minaret vote in Switzerland.

Read the rest…

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  • sam muhammad

    fear…fear sells…after the ussr collapsed and the cold war along with it there was no real reason not to cut our military budget…but bush/cheney had other ideas..PNAC project for a new american century…concluded that a new pearl harbor was necesary….thus reversing the clinton base closings and with it clinton’s surplus budgets….the dupes would be 19 beer drinking..topless bar hopping…cocaine sniffing ‘muslim fundamentalists’….more and more americans aren’t buying it….9/11 truthers

  • mjasghar

    Well the Dutch church was more confrontational with the Islamic religion due to shared monotheism and Muslims having knowledge of Chrisitian doctrine making them less likely to become rice Christians. One could also argue they were dividing to conquer so they could create a loyal group within the indies who could do the admin etc
    Also there was a history of excessive aggression – which the British who were initially in charge didn’t do as I read about in Nathaniels nutmeg which describes the English working with the natives then the Dutch came in with cannons and oppression
    As for India remember the Brits started of as serving the Muslim Mughals and then taking over from them – they were vastly outnumbered so had to create a culture of relative tolerance
    Compare that with Belgium and Germany in west Africa – disastrous
    Btw the French used textbooks that told the Algerians they were descended from white Europeans and you didn’t acknowledge the fact that they didn’t give up their empire they had to be kicked out

  • George Carty


    Is it not a coincidence that when the Dutch ruled Indonesia, their rule over Hindu Bali was relatively benign, while their rule over Aceh (the most devoutly Islamic part of Indonesia) was extremely brutal?

    Another aspect was that British colonialism (for example) was driven almost entirely by economic exploitation and didn’t really seek to interfere with native cultures, while the French were more intrusive thanks to their mission civilatrice.

    The French actually offered privileges to Algerian Muslims who agreed to live under French civil law rather than Shari’ah — almost none accepted though as they considered it tantamount to apostasy. Algerian Jews on the other hand were given full legal equality — this may be why independent Algeria expelled them (as they could be vilified as “collaborators”).

  • @Emperor

    I think I’ve heard about this book. I’ve been wanting to read it for some time now, although I remember seeing it with a different cover. Maybe this is a later edition.

  • mjasghar

    Btw sir dave
    Unfort the beeb did fall for it
    Rageh Omar did a documentary on the Prophet and I went into shock when I saw bob
    I think it was a misguided attempt to have a balanced opinion ( there was an anti muslin Jewish commentator as well who said that the 2 Jewish tribes if medina where justified on selling weapons to Mecca because buisness is buisness!)

  • mjasghar

    The basis of Islamophobia in Europe and to an extent the uk ( there are differences between countries with colonial links to Muslim countries) is twofold
    In the axis area where there is no real colonial history there has been a cultural war aspect – one endorsed by the Catholic Church and politicians aligned to it. This can be seen in Austria and Germany in particular. As a result that dialogue has gone mainstream qv Angela merkel
    Those countries that had Muslim colonies have had to accommodate Islam in that era so the argument is more racist there. As a result we see more public demos and overt violence
    Of course each country has its own seperate issues : sort of like race issues in the US are different in the north and south and west coast
    That’s why a country like holland, whose colonial history was much more confrontation based and whose colonial expats didn’t impact as much on holland has gone more on the culture issue and France (again confrontational and actually had to be kicked out) is more the other side and then the uk ( British ruled India etc on the sufferance of the natives so had to allow religious freedom) is at the race end

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32)

    Motivate people to do what to Robert Spencer ?
    Custard pie would be my favourite. 😉

    Or are we talking about what motivates him ? He already gets paid too much although I am sure he would like some academic credibility unfortunetly I stand a better chance of winning the £145million eurolottery than he does of getting any academic credibility .
    Or is he after fame ? he has already been on Fox news ,what more could he want? The BBC are unlikely to fall to his charms.

    Sir David

  • Garibaldi

    @MP11, email it to us,

  • mp11

    Sorry to hijack this thread but I don’t know where else would be appropriate. I’ve been playing around with Robert Spencer motivational posters and would like to post one. Is it possible to do this here?

    Thanks in advance,


  • Xithurrel

    Sounds absolutely fascinating and quite worth a read.

  • mindy1

    Seems interesting-I might just seek it out 🙂

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