Anti-Muslim Bigotry Intensifies in U.S.
Posted: August 27, 2010
Updated: March 8, 2011
Over the past few months, an intensified level of anti-Muslim bigotry has surfaced in a variety of public forums. While some of the anti-Muslim sentiment has fed on growing community concerns about Islamic extremism, much of it has focused on various plans to relocate or expand mosques around the country.
Several groups with extreme anti-Muslim agendas have launched public campaigns that have both sheltered and fueled this bigotry. Some of the more troubling public campaigns have been initiated by Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), the The Dove World Outreach Center, Operation Save America (OSA) and Act for America! (ACT).
SIOA, which has organized inflammatory demonstrations against the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero, has run bus ads juxtaposing an image of an airplane headed toward the burning World Trade Center with another building labeled "WTC Mega Mosque" and the words "Why There?"; The Dove World Outreach Center called for an "International Burn a Koran Day" on the anniversary of September 11 attacks; OSA has demonstrated in front of mosques and issued flyers that read: "Islam is another murderous cover-up for the devil;" and ACT is calling for an end to "Muslim immigration."
The intolerance advocated by these and other groups has been exacerbated by occasional calls for violence. In May, for example, Michael Berry, a Houston talk show host, said "I hope the mosque [near Ground Zero] isn't built, and if it is, I hope it's blown up, and I mean that."
Incidents of violence have also marked the current atmosphere. For example, on February 4, 2011, a Muslim man was stabbed in the neck with a pocket knife at a bar in St. Petersburg, Florida. During a verbal altercation preceding the incident, the attacker allegedly told the victim, "Muslims are the root of the problems," according to the arrest report. In August 2010, a man stabbed a New York City taxi driver in an apparent hate crime. The attacker allegedly asked the driver if he was Muslim, referenced military checkpoints and uttered an Arabic phrase before attacking the taxi driver with a knife.
Some opponents seem to be taking their cues from public figures. In June, Pat Robertson made the following statement on the 700 Club: "We have to recognize that Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant on domination of the world..." Robertson's statement later appeared in an event announcement for a demonstration against the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley in California that was posted to a local Tea Party Web site. Then, at the July 30 demonstration in front of Temecula mosque - to which some protestors had brought their dogs to offend worshippers - some participants held signs that read, "Muslims Danced for Joy on 9/11" and "Mosques are Monuments to Terrorism."
There are other indications that some Tea Party activists are increasingly involved in anti-Muslim campaigns and bigotry. Tea Party meetings in Tennessee, Texas and California have reportedly featured speakers warning of the "Islamization of America." On May 14, 2010, Mark Williams, then-chairman of the Tea Party Express, one of the nation's largest Tea Party organizations, wrote on his blog that the proposed the Islamic center near Ground Zero in Manhattan was a monument "for the worship of the terrorists monkey-god."
Not surprisingly, numerous online forums have featured anti-Muslim bigotry as well. For example, an online post against "Muslim Family Day" at Six Flags, which is scheduled for September 12, reads: "STOP THE MUSLIM DAY - THEY ARE NOT AMERICANS. THEY DO NOT ABIDE BY OUR CONSTITUTION - THEY ARE NOT ONE OF US." Similarly, the Jewish Task Force (JTF), an extremist Jewish group based in New York City, describes Islam in its online materials as a religion "whose fanatical hatred seeks the destruction of all non-Muslims."
Other concerns about Islam are being raised as well. For example, during an August 19 interview with CNN, Rev. Franklin Graham said, "I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name."
In addition, a number of state lawmakers and/or voters have considered proposals that would restrict the application of religious law, or specifically shari'a law [Islamic law], in their courts. Additionally, a number of lawmakers have proposed bills that outlaw application of foreign law that violates or likely violates state or federal constitutions. In many of these cases, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill indicated that an intention of the bill is to prohibit the application of shari'a law. These measures against foreign law are at best redundant and at worst have the potential to violate not only the constitutional rights of those in the Muslim community, but of those in the Jewish and other religious communities, as well.