Essay For our TimEs
Why is islamophobiaacceptable in the U.s?
By arsalan iftikhar
homas JEFFErson oncEsaid:
“The most sacred of theduties of a government is todo equal and impartial justiceto all of its citizens.” Contrastthese words with last year’smedia firestorms revolvingaround a proposed Islamic communitycentre located (fairly) near Ground Zeroand
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. These events have prompteddebates about the rising tide of Islamophobia inThe Land of the Free.To highlight the current absurdity withinAmerica today, the debate over the proposedPark 51 Islamic centre in New York City becameso absurd that a paid advertisement objectingto the mosque – depicting a plane flying towardthe burning WTC towers on the left, with arendering of the Islamic centre on the right– was set to run on New York city buses forpeople to see during their daily commutes.Moving on to Florida’s Quran-burning pastor,when a lone crackpot threatens to commita publicity stunt that will needlessly enragemillions of other innocent people, our basiccommon sense usually tells us we should notgive that person the time of day. Sadly, TerryJones of the Dove World Outreach Center
receive worldwide media attention for his sillyproposal for an “International Burn a QuranDay”. Thankfully the idea was shelved, but wehave seen other copycat Quran burnings atmosques in Tennessee and Michiganin the last few months – all becauseof the over-exposure of this oneshameless stunt.And don’t think this is just media hotair.
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warnedthat burning copies of the Quranwould endanger the lives of Americansoldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.The problem is this: too manypeople are promoting anti-Muslimrhetoric without being challenged by the majority of good-heartedAmericans. WhenChristian televangelistsPat Robertson and JerryFalwell openly questionedwhether Islam was a“religion of peace” andlabelled the ProphetMuhammad [PBUH] a“robber, brigand andterrorist”, we did not seemuch condemnation from other prominentleaders. Elected politicians have hardly beenmore circumspect. Saxby Chambliss, theRepublican Senator from Georgia, said that hisstate should “arrest every Muslim that comesacross the state line” not long after September 11.With these sorts of anti-Muslim tropesconstantly being reinforced in the media, isit any wonder that Islamaphobia is on therise? A 2009
- ABC poll foundthat almost 48 percent of Americans hadunfavourable attitudes towards Muslims – upfrom 24 percent in 2002. And a
surveylast summer found that over 28 percent of American voters do not believe Muslims shouldeven be eligible to sit on the Supreme Court.Furthermore, nearly one-third of thecountry thinks followers of Islamshould be barred from running forPresident — a slightly higher figurethan the 24 percent of Americans who believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim.Professor John Esposito,founding director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding (ACMCU) atGeorgetown University, has beendescribed as the “most influentialIslamic scholar in the United States” by the
International Herald Tribune