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Nathan Lean: Wall Street Journal Denies Existence of Islamophobia

Nathan Lean

Nathan Lean

How can Wall Street deny the existence of Islamophobia? (h/t: Tanveer K.)

Nathan Lean: Wall Street Journal Denies Existence of Islamophobia

(Huffington Post)

Unless you’ve been asleep for the past 10 years (or write book reviews for the Wall Street Journal), you may have noticed that anti-Muslim sentiment in the past decade has recently spilled out into some of this country’s nastiest displays of hate.

In August, a Sikh temple was shot up in Oak Creek, Wis.; the gunman couldn’t distinguish between Sikhs and Muslims, and so, frightened just the same by the presence of brown-skinned Americans with foreign names and beards, killed seven people.

That same month, as Muslims prayed inside a mosque in Hayward, Calif., four teens drove by the house of worship, hurling lemons and firing shots from a BB gun. In Panama City, Fla., a Mason jar filled with gasoline was thrown at the home of a Muslim family.

Two months later, in Ohio, Randolph Linn, a white, middle-aged Muslim hater, upped the ante on the lemon and Mason jar throwers, entering a Toledo mosque, pouring gasoline on the prayer area, and torching the building. Later, he said that all he knew about Muslims came from Fox News(surprise, surprise!).

More recently, commuters on buses and metros in some of the nation’s major metropolitan cities have comes across advertisements by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Muslim hate group. The ad campaigns equate Muslims with “savages” and cherry-pick violent verses from the Quran, plopping them alongside some predictable gory imagery of 9/11.

No wonder, then, in late December, Sunando Sen, a Hindu man living in New York, was pushed onto the tracks on of oncoming subway train and killed by a woman who later admitted that shehated Muslims and Hindus.

The FBI has reported that hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, which include vandalism, intimidation, assault, rape and murder, have continually risen in the past few years. In 2011, 157 cases were reported — an insignificant drop from the some 160 cases reported in 2010.

Any reasonable person would look at this growing phenomenon and conclude that we’ve reached an ugly new level of prejudice against religious minorities in this country. But not Jonathan Schanzer, a hawkish Bush-era terrorism analyst whose predictable (and unethical — I’ll get to that later) review of my book, “The Islamophobia Industry,” in the Wall Street Journal last week denied the existence of Islamophobia entirely. These episodes of violence against Muslims are, for him, apparently unimportant and easily justified by the continued political ferocity of Islamist groups acting overseas.

Schanzer apes the extremist voices on the right (including hate group leader Robert Spencer) and calls Islamophobia a “vaguely medical sounding term” that is “simply a pejorative neologism.” Strikingly, he doesn’t suggest that we should be concerned about increased anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., and seems to indicate that because some people may abuse the term “Islamophobia,” we should simply dismiss it altogether. That’s a dangerous deficiency in logic. Some people also abuse the terms “anti-Semite” and “racist,” but imagine his outrage if those terms were swiped from usage.

As I point out explicitly in my book, Islamophobia is a complicated term and one that has been parsed thoroughly throughout history. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have and is the only real word that exists in public discourse to describe an irrational fear of an entire religious faith, Islam, based on the actions of a fraction of zealots. There’s not a person in this world — myself included — who would conclude that every critique of Islam or the violent actions of some Muslims constitutes Islamophobia (of course, that point didn’t configure in Schanzer’s review because it obviously undermined the attack that he hoped to level).

But what the Wall Street Journal doesn’t seem to get is that at the core of Islamophobia is the belief that there is something about the religion of Islam itself that is evil and dirty and bad — that groups like al Qaeda and Hezbollah and others are motivated only by the tenets of their faith and not by their political grievances or ambitions. That unbalanced view places the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims under the magnifying glass, and that’s not OK.

It is also that belief — that Muslims possess, as a result of their religious faith, some inherently violent characteristic — that links discussions of racism and Islamophobia. Schanzer scoffs at the possibility that Islamophobia may be a distant cousin of racism.

But what does he say about Ahmed Sharif, the New York City cab driver who was slashed in 2010 because of his brown skin? How does Schanzer explain Sunando Sen, the brown-skinned Hindu who was pushed to his death in New York City subway station? Or how about the brown-skinned man from Queens, who in November of last year, was beaten to a bloody pulp by two attackers who asked if he was Muslim or Hindu? There was also a trio of shootings in Brooklyn that same month that killed an Egyptian Jew, an Iranian Jew and an Egyptian Muslim. According to law enforcement authorities, the victims, all shot by the same .22 caliber gun, were targeted as a result of theirMiddle Eastern descent.

Schanzer is silent on these issues. And his inability to grapple with these serious questions is just as unsurprising as the fact that his review does not even address the central thesis of my book to begin with: that there exists within this country an active and well-funded cottage industry of anti-Muslim fear mongers. Schanzer does not critique that uncontestable point; he does not deny the money lines, the relationships, nor does he reject my contention that Islamophobia is largely a fixture of the political right. (Consider, for instance that in 2011 and 2012, 78 Congressional bills or amendments aimed at interfering with Muslim religious practices were considered in 31 states; Of them, a whopping 73 were introduced by Republicans, four were bi-partisan, and only one by a Democrat.)

That’s because Schanzer is a part of that right-wing industry — a product of the grandfather of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, Daniel Pipes. It’s a relationship he doesn’t mention (one must believe, intentionally) in his review. In the spirit of fair journalism, the WSJ could have at least added that line of disclosure, especially since I attack Pipes in my book. But given that Fox News tycoon Rupert Murdoch owns the paper, such an expectation is merely a pipe dream.

Speaking of pipes, Daniel Pipes once employed Schanzer as a researcher at the Middle East Forum (he is still listed on the site as “staff”), his neoconservative think tank, and he wrote the foreword for Schanzer’s 2008 book. The two have authored numerous articles and appeared in public together.

Ironically, while Schanzer throws a public temper tantrum about the linkage between Islamophobia and racism, his former boss, Pipes, is the author of what is, perhaps, the most blatantly racist sentence ever uttered by someone claiming to be a serious scholar of these issues:

“West European societies,” he once wrote, “are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene.”

(Since that time, Pipes has tried to wriggle his way out of that statement, practically begging his audience to just see things his way — he’s not really a racist, just someone who misplaced a quotation mark or two!)

The great irony in all of this is that Schanzer, by the very nature of his career as a neoconservative terrorism analyst and vice president of a hawkish pro-Israel think tank in Washington, actually depends on these types of “all Muslims are suspicious” narratives. It’s what prevents his paycheck from bouncing each month. The more he, and others like him, can dismiss Islamophobia as some imagined mental state and continue to conflate the actions of a few violent Muslims with all adherents of the global faith, the more he can legitimize his presence within a neoconservative clique that thrives on such discrimination.

If there ever was proof of the existence of the “Islamophobia Industry,” Jonathan Schanzer is it.

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  • Reynardine

    At the time, the killer was reported to be black (incorrect), and was conflated with another, who had been a fairly routine robber of solo shopkeepers. It was a kind of self-created red herring, not without its own racial bias. When the truth came out, as I recall, this site was having difficulties.

  • Kirook

    Does anyone know if Pamela Geller supported the killer of Sunando Sen? She seemed to be apathetic at worst (best?) toward Anders Breivik.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    The only reason the recent subway murderer in New York City was accused of being motivated by hatred towards this perceived group, is due entirely to the fact that she actually SHOUTED IT OUT to journalists while being arrested! Short of that, if she had kept her mouth shut, the issue would have been quickly buried. That I am certain.

    Totally agree with this.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch


  • mindy1

    Only a fool would deny it exists

  • Kirook

    I think the accepted term for this is “astroturfing” (hiring people to create fake grassroots organizations, hence the AstroTurf reference).

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Didn’t know that, but I’m not surprised. That would explain why a lot of them don’t hang out at places like this, where they know they would hopelessly out numbered. They probably aren’t paying them enough for it.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    One thing I want to note for everyone as well is that there is evidence to point out that many of these so-called “counter Jihad” commenters are HIRED shills.

    I have to locate the story but some advocacy orgs hire individuals to troll the net.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    You’re welcome!

  • Talking_fish_head

    thanks for the advice :) I saved your comment as a future reference , but about the part you said “Might be a good idea for some of us to head down to sites like the Huffington post and Think Progress, in order to counter them.”

    that’s good and i hope more people would do this but the problem is they have strength in numbers and not a lot of people are willing to sit through mountains of stupidity to counter them, but i will try to do what ever I can to dispel the rumors and hate about Muslims

  • CriticalDragon1177

    One problem is sometimes they don’t just link to “counter jihad” blogs, sometimes they link to legitimate news sources that seem to back them at first glance. That means that on at least some occasions, some otherwise smart, well educated people, could end up taking some of nonsense seriously. Might be a good idea for some of us to head down to sites like the Huffington post and Think Progress, in order to counter them. One why to get around the “taqqiya” ( your lying accusation ) is to basically ask them what would convince you that I’m not lying and back them into a corner. Another is to point out just how ridiculous the whole notion is, given how many Muslims would have to be lying world wide, and just how difficult it would actually be. You can even point out that not only are Muslims often saying Islamophobes are full of crap, you can even find ex Muslims who will say that “Taqiyya” is not lying for Islam, and they were never taught to lie when they were Muslims.

  • Tanveer Khan

    Islamophobic mass jeehad? :O I gotta sit down

  • Talking_fish_head

    it looks like a group effort on part of the islamophobes, they’ll hijack news articles and post bullshit “Facts” by linking to their masters websites so they can recruit more brain dead followers.
    its like a virus, and it needs to be stopped
    and everytime you try to debate them, they’ll accuse you of practicing Taqqya or some other nonsense like that

  • Reynardine

    They actually do have boiler rooms of reactionary trolls. Over at Politicususa, we had an attack from NRA types whose donkeys would soon be in jail if they said it in most countries.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    So have I.

  • Kirook

    Come to think of it, I’ve seen that kind of thing even on more neutral websites like Yahoo, although that’s more the “wretched hive of scum and Tea Party” type.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Anti Muslim bigots seem to like to hang out at a lot of liberal websites that oppose their bigotry, for one reason or another. Maybe they think they can get more people to join the “counter Jihad” by doing so.

  • Kirook

    I looked at the ThinkProgress article linked to here and was surprised by the amount of Islamophobic comments. Does anyone know if this is endemic on the site or limited to that article alone?

  • CriticalDragon1177


    You might want to give Tanveer Khan a hat tip for this. He alerted us to this story before you posted it here, and even through I told him I though you guys had already posted this, I was wrong.

    “…T_T” — Tanveer Khan

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    No, I don’t think we published anything (have to double check) and probably should have. I think the site was experiencing technical difficulties at the time.

    Reports were also vague at the time though we certainly have been following the story and plan to post something when relevant.

  • Yossarian

    I am glad that the author notes the three serial murders in New York City a few months back, that of two Egyptian Americans and and Iranian-American, was a clear example of a hate crime against Middle Eastern Americans. They were targeted because they were/looked Middle Eastern, and that does fall under and directly relates to Islamophobia in the modern world we live in. The fact that two of the victims were Jewish and only one was a Muslim is irrelevant.

    I had wished this website would have followed that story, but I don’t remember Loonwatch covering it at the time. It deserves further spotlight. Islamophobia literally has become hatred towards people of Middle Eastern and South Asian backgrounds, regardless of the victims religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc. It is hatred towards a perceived “other,” painted with a very broad brush.

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