It would be hard for anyone to ignore the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. (If you hadn’t noticed it, this horrifying video will bring you up to speed.) The transition seemed to begin during the 2008 presidential campaign, when a segment of the Republican party used Islam as a smear against Democratic candidate Barack Obama. In 2010, the “ground zero mosque” controversy went further, establishing Islamophobia as a force to be reckoned with in mainstream American politics. While this seemed inevitable to some people, it was not a natural development; this was the the triumph of a well-oiled PR campaign.
In the last couple of decades, a full-blown industry has developed before our eyes, driven by best-selling authors, prominent media personalities, influential nonprofit organizations and terrorism “experts” all bent on portraying Islam and Muslims as threats to the United States. These voices include non-Muslims, ex-Muslims, and even a few self-styled “devout Muslims”.
This industry churns out books, media reports, policy briefs, and even Congressional testimony on a daily basis, and it is heavily bankrolled. Knowing who its leaders and institutions are is the first step in defusing their message, but keeping track of them can be a dizzying task. Thankfully, a lot of hard work has been done to map this sprawling constellation of bigotry. Now, all Americans who value peace and tolerance can get a clear picture of what they are up against.
Sheila Musaji at The American Muslim (TAM) has taken the time to create a list examining almost every major anti-Muslim personality in the US. This is the most exhaustive tally I’ve seen, and it is being updated continuously: “A Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry“.
A second list, compiled by media watchdog FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), is also helpful. “Smearcasters: Islamophobia’s Dirty Dozen” profiles 12 of the most prominent figures in the anti-Muslim industry. If you don’t have time to pore over Musaji’s list, be sure to look at this one; it is much more brief.
Finally, there are four outstanding pieces of journalism that explore the ins and outs of this world, revealing its disturbing influence in law enforcement circles and murky connection to right-wing politics. Pour yourself a cup of tea, get comfortable, and read these essays. What you learn will surprise you.
- How the “ground zero mosque” fear-mongering began by Justin Elliott
- The Great Islamophobic Crusade by Max Blumenthal
- Welcome to the Shari’ah Conspiracy Theory Industry by Sarah Posner
- How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam by Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze
If you’ve been curious about the increasing demagoguery and fear-mongering being directed against Muslims in politics and the media, familiarize yourself with these links. While you’re at it – send them to a friend. The first step in fixing a problem is learning to recognize it.