Why being Islamophobic is un-American

Published November 25th, 2015 - 09:15 GMT

There seems to be no bottom to the cesspool of Islamophobic rhetoric coming from Republican candidates.

The tone of anti-Muslim musings post-Paris attack has become so poisonous that it cannot portend anything positive.

In the latest, the Republican frontrunner said the United States would have “absolutely no choice” but to close some mosques. And, when asked by a reporter, he seemed to suggest he wouldn’t have a problem registering Muslims, which many have condemned, comparing it to the way Jews were once treated. (After heavy bipartisan criticism, he tried to walk back his remarks about the registry.)

And then Dr Ben Carson drew a tortured parallel between Syrian refugees, who are mostly Muslim, and “a rabid dog running around your neighbourhood”.

Robert McCaw, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Al Jazeera that Carson’s remarks were “unthinkable”, saying, “There is only one thing you do with a rabid dog — and that’s put it down.”

Indeed, this is the problem with reckless, racist rhetoric: Each utterance tosses one more log onto the bonfire that can burn out a space for the unimaginable.

The Rev Martin Luther King Jr. warned in his 1967 “The Other America” speech: “Racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide.” As King put it: “If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him; if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.”

Whereas these candidates may not be conscious of this “ultimate logic” or in any way approve of it, it doesn’t make their language any less dangerous when it lands on the ears of the minorities on the margins, or those looking for a reason to gussy up their wrongheadedness with righteousness.

A 2013 Carnegie Mellon University study “found that in the most Republican states in the country, employers may be less likely to interview job candidates whose social networking profiles indicate that the applicants are Muslim,” according to Pew.

As Pew explained: “In the 10 states with the highest proportion of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney voters in the 2012 election, 17 per cent of Christian applicants received interview calls, compared with 2 per cent of the Muslim job candidates. There were no differences in callbacks received by the Christian and Muslim candidates in the 10 states with the lowest proportion of Romney voters.”

Late last month, Lawrence Downes reported on a poll in a red state with this caveat:

“It’s just one poll in one Southern state, North Carolina, by one polling outfit (Public Policy Polling, or PPP) with Democratic Party ties, asking questions of a few hundred Republican primary voters.”

“But still,” Downes continued, these were the results: 72 per cent believed a Muslim should not be allowed to be president of the United States, and 40 per cent believed that Islam should be illegal in this country.

It is no wonder, then, that a 2011 Pew Research Centre Muslim American survey found that just 11 percent of Muslims identify with or lean toward Republicans, while 70 per cent do likewise for Democrats.

Furthermore, a 2013 paper co-published by the Centre for American Progress and the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Centre for Justice found:

“A troubling trend is quickly developing in state legislatures across the country: In a thinly concealed attempt to inflame anti-Muslim attitudes, lawmakers in 32 states have moved to ban foreign or international law. The bans are based on model legislation designed by anti-Muslim activist David Yerushalmi and promoted by activists who have stirred up fears that Islamic laws and customs — Sharia — are taking over American courts. Although proponents of these bans have failed to cite a single instance where a US court has relied on Sharia to resolve a dispute, foreign law bans have been enacted in Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arizona, while a related ban on religious law has been enacted in South Dakota.”

As the ACLU has written of these laws: “Efforts to single out Muslims and to advance the ugly idea that anything Islamic is un-American are unjust and discriminatory and should be rejected. Laws that single out Sharia violate the First Amendment by treating one belief system as suspect.”

This demonising a single religious faith is a slippery slope. It feeds something that is at odds with the most noble ambition of this country’s better angels: equality.

The 2011 Pew survey found that among Muslim Americans: “Significant numbers report being looked at with suspicion (28 per cent), and being called offensive names (22 per cent). And while 21 per cent report being singled out by airport security, 13 per cent say they have been singled out by other law enforcement. Overall, a 52 per cent majority says that government anti-terrorism policies single out Muslims in the US for increased surveillance and monitoring.”

We must put a lid on this corrosive language. Simply put, being specifically anti-Muslim is, in a way, anti-American.

By Charles Blow


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