Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's September 12th, and Islamophobia is Still Alive and Un-Well in America

It's September 12th, and Islamophobia is Still Alive and Un-Well in America

The "Great Koran Burning" plotted by Rev. Terry Jones and his handful of hateful minions was a bust. Like insects fleeing from light, the Dove Church would-be incineration team has fled from the spotlight of world-wide media attention. A few Qur'ans were, in fact, burned or desecrated by copy-cats around the world. But the Dove Church would-be bonfire was a non-event.

There might be a tendency now to celebrate the triumph of love and reason over hatred, because virtually everyone who followed the issue either strongly condemned the Qur'an burning incident, or they directly appealed to Jones to relent. But the issue of Islamophobia and the broad attack on Muslims, and our communities, is far from over. As the push-back on the Cordoba Initiative lower Manhattan project intensifies, there have been numerous cases of the desecration of Qur'ans, the vandalism of mosques, and the continued pronouncements from leaders on the political right that Muslims are not welcome here in the United States. Tea Party anti-government rallies are frequently laced with rhetoric of opposition to, and naked hatred of, Muslims.

Most recently, we have heard some of these attacks conflated into attacks on the President of the United States by none other than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. President Obama is not a Muslim, of course, but since so many conservative Republicans believe that he is, the trashing takes on the character of "killing two birds with one (rhetorical) stone". Meanwhile, legitimate and lawful plans for Muslim community expansion and mosque-building continue to face stiff opposition in communities throughout America.

Reverend Terry Jones might be a nut case, and his crude display of disdain for Islam might have been extreme, but he did manage to galvanize a religious and social sentiment that continues to relentlessly claim that Muslims in America are part of a great anti-American conspiracy, or in collusion with forces that seek to attack and undermine American democracy. I personally witnessed this phenomenon when I was invited to do a segment on the Sean Hannity FOX television program, only to hear relentless character assassination directed against Imam Faisal Abdur-Raoof of the Cordoba Initiative, and a general attack on "political Islam" that completely ignored the reality of our organizational work in America. I was both interrupted and cut-off by Hannity when I attempted to set the record straight.

As the political rhetoric heats up before the November elections, look for more vitriolic attacks, mosque vandalism, Qur'an desecration, and anti-Muslim rhetoric in the political arena. It is good that a positive, interfaith coalition galvanized in defense of the Muslim community in Gainesville, Florida. But many more Gainesville-like incidents might lurk in the future. Clearly, this is a time for intensifying community outreach, social education about Islam, positive engagement with the mass media, and national political mobilization in defense of the legitimate concerns of the American Muslim community.

Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey