Monday, December 20, 2010

Why the myth of American 'Islamophobia'?

The op-ed piece below from the Boston Globe marshals the empirical evidence to refute the myth of American 'Islamophobia.' Though the numbers of Muslims and Jews in the U.S. are roughly the same, anti-semitic (as in anti-Jewish) hate crimes outnumber anti-Muslim crimes by 8 to 1, according the best data we have. And Muslims say they feel safer in the U.S. than in any other Western country.

The problem is that the evidence just does not support the secular-liberal elite narrative according to which the real enemy of liberal modernity, democracy, and tolerance is not militant Islam but Christians who will not stay in the closet and persist in exercising their First Amendment right to religious freedom in the public square. The real enemy of peace and democracy in the Middle East, in this view, is Israel. For progressive opinion, anti-Israeli sentiment shades easily into anti-semitism, which even the staunchest anti-racists of the left take little or no trouble to disown.

Anecdotally, I have seen this secular-liberal ideology even more strongly among Brits and Europeans, where deeply ingrained anti-Americanism mixes with hostility to Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, to make a potent and poisonous brew. That kind of strident anti-Catholic bigotry used to be associated there (and in the U.S.) with some kinds of Evangelical or fundamentalist protestantism (remember the Northern Ireland Protestant firebrand, the Rev. Ian Paisley?). Now that Paisley has mellowed with old age and a knighthood, enlightened secular opinion has taken up the flag of bigotry. The best-selling 'new atheists' like Dawkins and Hitchens may be the most prominent of the new anti-Catholics and may have made the most money at it, but almost the entire British mainstream media spewed forth anti-Catholic bigotry on a scale not seen since the mid-19th century in the months leading up to the first state visit ever by a pope to England and Scotland. True, the papal visit itself refuted all the dire (but gleeful) media predictions that it would be met with overwhelming indifference or hostility--by inconveniently turning out to be an unmitigated success.

Because the bigots see themselves as progressive, liberal, multicultural, and tolerant, they make a sharp distinction between hostility toward Christianity, Judaism, and European civilization in general on one hand, and Islam on the other. So, I find, the liberal English people I know deplored the sheer backwardness and bigotry (as they saw it) of those who expressed unease or opposition over plans to build a mosque close to what many see as sacred ground, the site of 911, where militant Muslims flew planes into buildings and killed thousands of unarmed civilians (an event that not a few of these 'progressive' secularists convinced themselves was some kind of government conspiracy--by the U.S.). They saw as "typical" the expressed plan of a Christian preacher in Florida with fewer than 50 followers to burn a Koran--a plan condemned by the leaders of Catholic Christianity, the mainstream of Protestantism, including its Evangelical wing, and political and military leaders of all political opinions on other matters. But the mass slaughter of Christians in Baghdad merits little or no condemnation--or, like everything else, is blamed on the Americans. The lack of public condemnation of such acts of intolerance, hatred, and murder are to be expected, in Pakistan or Iran, where an imam's plan to burn a Bible would hardly attract notice, but is also typical of the double standards and selective indignation among the secular-liberal cultural elites in the West.

There is even a belief in Europe, not on the part of serious internationalists and anti-racists, but amazingly pervasive nonetheless, that racism is a peculiarity of American society. There is no racism in Europe, I have been told more than once. Really.

So the actual data about hate crimes in the U.S. are very inconvenient for this whole narrative. The myth of American Islamophobia must be preserved and perpetuated, and the American MSM, like Time magazine, does its bit.

To be fair, however, it must be said that Christopher Hitchens (who popularized the actually accurate term "Islamofascism") and the British website Butterflies and Wheels, are consistently anti-religious, denouncing all religions, including Islam, with equal contempt.


The ‘Islamophobia’ myth
By Jeff Jacoby
Globe Columnist / December 8, 2010

‘IS AMERICA Islamophobic?’’
When that provocative question appeared on the cover of Time in August, the accompanying story strained to imply, on the basis of some anecdotal evidence, that the answer might be yes. The FBI’s latest compendium of US hate-crimes data suggests far more plausibly that the answer is no.

“Where ordinary Americans meet Islam, there is evidence that suspicion and hostility are growing,’’ the Time article said. “To be a Muslim in America now is to endure slings and arrows against your faith — not just in the schoolyard and the office but also outside your place of worship and in the public square, where some of the country’s most powerful mainstream religious and political leaders unthinkingly (or worse, deliberately) conflate Islam with terrorism and savagery.’’

Time published that article amid the tumult over plans to build a Muslim mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero in New York, and not long after a fringe pastor in Gainesville had announced that he intended to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The piece noted that a handful of other mosque projects nationwide have run into “bitter opposition,’’ and it cited a Duke University professor’s claim that such resistance is “part of a pattern of intolerance’’ against American Muslims. Yet the story conceded frankly that “there’s no sign that violence against Muslims is on the rise’’ and that “Islamophobia in the US doesn’t approach levels seen in other countries.’’

In fact, as Time pointed out, while there may be the occasional confrontation over a Muslim construction project, “there are now 1,900 mosques in the US, up from about 1,200 in 2001.’’ Even after 9/11, in other words, and even as radical Islamists continue to target Americans, places of worship for Muslims in the United States have proliferated. And whenever naked anti-Islamic bigotry has appeared, “it has been denounced by many Christian, Jewish, and secular groups.’’

America is many things, but “Islamophobic’’ plainly isn’t one of them. As Time itself acknowledged: “Polls have shown that most Muslims feel safer and freer in the US than anywhere else in the Western world.’’ That sentiment is powerfully buttressed by the FBI’s newly released statistics on hate crimes in the United States.

In 2009, according to data gathered from more than 14,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, there were 1,376 hate crimes motivated by religious bias. Of those, just 9.3 percent — fewer than 1 in 10 — were committed against Muslims. By contrast, 70.1 percent were committed against Jews, 6.9 percent were aimed at Catholics or Protestants, and 8.6 percent targeted other religions. Hate crimes driven by anti-Muslim bigotry were outnumbered nearly 8 to 1 by anti-Semitic crimes.

Year after year, American Jews are far more likely to be the victims of religious hate crime than members of any other group. That was true even in 2001, by far the worst year for anti-Muslim incidents, when 481 were reported — less than half of the 1,042 anti-Jewish crimes tabulated by the FBI the same year.

Does all this mean that America is in reality a hotbed of anti-Semitism? Would Time’s cover have been closer to the mark if it had asked: “Is America Judeophobic?’’

Of course not. Even one hate crime is one too many, but in a nation of 300 million, all of the religious-based hate crimes added together amount to less than a drop in the bucket. This is not to minimize the 964 hate crimes perpetrated against Jews last year, or those carried out against Muslims (128), Catholics (55), or Protestants (40). Some of those attacks were especially shocking or destructive; all of them should be punished. But surely the most obvious takeaway from the FBI’s statistics is not that anti-religious hate crimes are so frequent in America. It is that they are so rare.

In a column a few years back, I wrote that America has been for the Jews “a safe harbor virtually without parallel.’’ It has proved much the same for Muslims. Of course there is tension and hostility sometimes. How could there not be, when America is at war with violent jihadists who have done so much harm in the name of Islam? But for American Muslims as for American Jews, the tension and hostility are the exception. America’s exemplary tolerance is the rule.

Retrieved December 20, 2010 from

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