Attitudes in the United States toward Islam have come unhinged, with Islamophobia stoked lately by the campaign rhetoric of practically all Republican presidential hopefuls.
This is leading America and the world in a wrong and dangerous direction. Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate, who last September declared “I love Muslims,” has made a full pivot after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, by militants.
He is now calling for a database for tracking the 3 million plus Muslims in America. He would not rule out making them carry a special ID showing their faith and feels that “there is absolutely no choice but to close some mosque.”
More recently, he called for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the “country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Other Republican candidates generally went along or outbid him with Islamophobic statements of their own. Marco Rubio, for example, announced that he would not only close mosques but also Muslim cafes and diners.
Ben Carson declared that he is opposed to a Muslim becoming president of the United States because Islam is “inconsistent” with the US Constitution. Ted Cruz claimed that Shariah law “is an enormous problem” in the United States. Mike Huckabee called Islam “a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet.”
These attitudes toward Islam are not, unfortunately, out of line with the opinions of many American voters, especially Republicans. When Trump made his proposal on the temporary ban on Muslims entering the US, his public support was falling, but immediately after, his rating among likely Republican voters rose significantly.
A Rasmussen poll last December showed that 66 percent of likely Republican voters favored such a ban. Among all voters, the poll showed that 46 percent favored the ban while 40 percent were opposed (14 percent undecided).
A YouGov poll taken toward the end of last December showed that 83 percent of Republicans agreed with Carson that a Muslim should not be president. The most disturbing poll, however, remains that taken by Pew Research Center in July of last year, in which respondents were asked to rate from zero to 100 (from least positive to most positive) their feelings toward different religious groups in the country. The highest ranking was received by Jews (63 over 100) and the lowest by Arabs and atheists (40 over 100).
Concomitantly, there have been an increasing number of extremist organizations known for using violence in the pursuit of their stated goals, spreading anti-Muslim propaganda. More than 20 of these are classified by the reputable Southern Poverty Law Center as “white supremacist,” “neo-Nazi” or “racist skinheads” or “anti-immigration.” An increasing number of them now target Muslims in addition to Jews, African Americans, Latinos and almost everyone not of West European origin.
There are, in addition, scores of other organizations that are Islamophobic but are not classified as extremist who are denouncing Islam. One of those, DefendChristians.org, has an article on its website suggesting three solutions to the Muslim problem: conversion, deportation or violence, but concludes that the only practical one is the latter.
This crescendo in Islamophobic statements by politicians, organizations and other individuals is reflected in a skyrocketing increase in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in America. According to the FBI, the hate crimes against Muslims before 9/11 averaged around two a month, but rose to slightly less than 13 a month after 2001. During that year they reached around 40 a month.
However, according to a study undertaken by a California State University research group reported in the Washington Post, the number of hate crimes against Muslims rose three-fold after the attacks in Paris last Nov. 13, reaching 38 during the subsequent 30 days, almost equaling the monthly rate of 2001.
Furthermore, according to the FBI, while the attacks against Muslims did not include murder until the end of 2013, but only assault, arson, vandalism of mosques and death threats, the latest attacks did.
This kind of hysteria has even reached the school system. Last September a young high school boy, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested, handcuffed and detained in Dallas, Texas, for bringing to school a homemade clock that he made for a tech class. When this reaction provoked criticism, he was invited to the White House. Two months later, a 12-year-old, Armaan Singh Sarai (a Sikh who apparently looked like a Muslim) was arrested, also in Dallas, and detained for three days for carrying a school bag that had a built-in charger for his telephone.
In a public debate with Bernie Sanders in December, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton warned that Daesh (ISIL) is “going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical terrorists.
Earlier this month, a recruiting video by the Al-Shabaab group in Somalia, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, surfaced. It included a clip of Trump announcing his proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Clinton had said that Trump is becoming the best Daesh recruiter. He is apparently also being used as an Al-Qaeda recruiter as well.
Until elections next November and probably beyond, we will undoubtedly witness an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States and a surge in recruitment to Daesh and Al-Qaeda. The damage that this will do to the relations between Muslims and Christians globally will be unprecedented and durable and will translate into more violence worldwide.
It is time for reasonable Americans to openly and forcefully denounce this bigotry and act decisively to stop it. After all, this is what they are demanding from reasonable Muslims to do with regard to extremism.