By Umar Lee
It is no secret Islamophobia is on the rise. Hate for Muslims is manifested every day on social media, FOX News, talk-radio and other formats. Most often this hate is relegated to only words. However, on occasion Islamophobia will manifest itself through violence or acts of physical intimidation.
Behind the random Twitter accounts and talk-radio hosts an Islamophobia industry exists. There are those who see Islam as a threat for religious, political and nationalistic reasons. These groups form a coalition of institutional and grassroots support for Islamophobia. Other writers have looked at the financing of the Islamophobia industry. I want to look at who is supporting Islamophobia from the grassroots.
The Christian-Right in America is the group perhaps most associated with anti-Muslim bigotry. This is the result of numerous articles and sermons by Evangelicals attacking Islam and Islamophobia becoming a staple of the Christian-right media along with issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
In years past there have been positive relations at times between the two groups. During the pre-9/11 years a significant portion of the American-Muslim community viewed the Christian-Right and the Republican Party as a natural ally as the two often shared conservative views on social issues and favored lower taxation.
Post-9/11 the Christian-Right has positioned itself not only as the defenders of America against a Muslim onslaught; but has aggressively attacked Islam theologically.
While the Christian-Right may share some concerns with other groups in the coalition what distinguishes them is theology. With the proliferation of mosques in the United States and conversions to Islam the Muslim community is viewed as theological and spiritual competition. Therefore, the more influence the Muslim community has in America, the less influence the Christian-Right has.
A cottage-industry has emerged within the Christian-Right for proselytizing to Muslims similar to what developed in previous eras when Jews, Mormons, and Catholics were viewed (and still are) as theological competition.
Ignored by many Muslim writers is the increased calls for unity between Christians, Jews and Hindus against the “global jihad”. This is an idea promoted by the Hindu-nationalist RSS in India and the BJP political party. As organizations affiliated with the RSS control a large portion of Hindu temples, summer camps, cultural institutions, and are politically active in America they’re using this influence often to promote Islamophobia. Their Islamophobic position is rooted in political opposition to Pakistan and the search for allies on that front. In the racial context of America Islamophobia can also help “scrub the brown away” as writer Arsalan Iftikhar said referring to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (a raised Hindu converted to Christianity).
I don’t generally like to write about Zionism or Jews because I know this will open the doors in the comments section to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Illuminati, the Rothschild family controls the world and a variety of other Jew-centric hair-brained conspiracy many, (including Muslims) seem to go for.
However, there is no denial that there is a large, vocal and well-financed group(s) dedicated to Islamophobia within the Jewish community in America.
These Jewish Islamophobic groups range from right-wing Republican Likud supporters such as Sheldon Adelson to Orthodox Jewish groups associated with Israeli settler movements. For these groups on the right of the political spectrum engaging in the promotion of Islamophobia in America and militarism abroad directed at Muslims is not ideologically problematic.
On the Jewish-left there is a more problematic ideological problem. Having traditionally been at the frontlines of promoting civil-rights and equality in America, it is hard for many American-Jews on the left to take an outright hostile position towards Islam and Muslims.
Thus, a nuanced approach has emerged within the liberal-Jewish establishment to combating the emergence of a strong American-Muslim community in America. Dissatisfied with the leadership of the American-Muslim community and the religious, political and social norms within the community there has been an attempt to prop up an artificial leadership in a colonial-like fashion. The greatest manifestation of this is the Shalom Hartmann Institute which has managed to cultivate a group of C, D, and F list Muslim writers, chaplains and others and try to establish them as the new Muslim thought leaders of America (with very little success).
From left to right the rationale for Islamophobia is clear within elements of the American-Jewish community; support for Israel. A growing American-Muslim community is a community that brings a different perspective to the Arab-Israeli conflict, works to increase support for the Palestinian cause, and erodes media bias on the topic. For those not attached to Jewish groups that are either anti-Zionist or promoting peaceful co-existence, there is a great need to counter what they see as the Muslim threat in America.
The presidential campaign of Donald Trump isn’t about Christian Conservatism it’s about White Nationalism. Trump and his supporters have identified two groups which threaten the racial-dominance of the white race in America; Latino immigrants and Muslim immigrants.
This support for Islamophobia is rooted in both race and Civilization with roots as far back as the Crusades and as recent as the Minuteman standing guard at the border.
White Secular Left
The white secular-left at this time for the most part is seen as an ally for Muslims in America and for the most part it is. Look at the stances Democratic governors and presidential candidates have taken towards Syrian refugees as opposed to Republicans. Look who is standing against Islamophobia on the ground and supporting refugees and it is most often the left, secular or religious, black or white. In Europe this isn’t the case. There are deep roots of Islamophobia within the European left based on cultural nationalism, belief in the supremacy of Western thought and values, and an extreme secularism. This strand of Islamophobia on the left isn’t absent in America (see The New Republic); but is certainly on the fringes at this time.