Why is ‘Islamophobia’ on the rise in America?

Published: February 23, 2015
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Anti-Muslim bigotry has been systematically nurtured in America for quite some time now.

This weekend, fliers threatening Muslims with mass murder were left at a bus station minutes from my home near Boston. The warning on the fliers: Muslims in America be ready to face death if ISIS did not surrender within the following three days, as if Muslim Americans command and control the actions of the terrorist group.

This unfortunate incident follows a series of anti-Muslim hate crimes in America in the last few days. Following the brutal Chapel Hill shootings in which three young Muslims were killed execution-style, an Islamic community centre in Houston, Texas, was burned down. A fireman posted on social media, asking his fellow firemen not to put out the fire. Another man was arrested for making a bomb threat at a Muslim community centre in Austin, Texas. A Hindu temple, mistaken for a Mosque, and a nearby school in Bothell, Washington, were spray painted with a swastika and the words “Muslims, Get Out”. Then, a Muslim day school in Rhode Island was vandalised with the words, “Now this is a hate crime” and “pigs,” along with expletives referring to the Islamic faith.

Why is there a sudden rise in Islamophobia? And who is responsible?

Anti-Muslim bigotry has been systematically nurtured in America for quite some time now. The Islamophobia network, which includes funders, organisations, media outlets, propagandists, activists and political players, has been busy creating a climate of fear, hate and suspicion of Muslims in America. Hatemongers like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller on the far right and leaders of the new atheist movement – prominently Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins – both play into this dynamic. Different as the two groups are, they have found a romantic connection in their common anti-Islam agenda.

For those unaware, new atheism is a movement that is vehemently anti-theist, seeking the destruction of religion, especially Islam. They are fittingly referred to as the ‘mullahs of the atheist world’. New atheist thought leaders like Harris are on record for claiming religion is worse than rape, that Muslims, and all who look like them (whatever that means), be profiled in the United States. Harris claims that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is truly Muslim, and the majority of peaceful Muslims in the world are “nominal”.

The Islamophobia network glorifies the actions of ISIS-type groups as truly Islamic, and flaunts their narrative as the only credible one on Islam. Every other narrative is considered deviant and against Islamic Scripture.

And it is this mass misinformation that has led to the recent rise of Islamophobia in America.

For if in fact a group like ISIS are the true face of Islam, and if the right-wing propaganda that Muslim Americans engage in “stealth jihad” to subjugate fellow Americans is true, why should my neighbour not look at me with suspicion and disgust? According to the family of the victims, radicalised new atheist Craig Hicks viewed his Muslim neighbours in Chapel Hill the same way. For such a hate-fed paranoid neighbour, a ‘parking dispute’ is all it would take to tip them over.

The Islamophobia network pretends to be fighting the terrorist ideology, when in fact all it is obsessed with is convincing the world that this evil is real Islam. It is quite telling that while people like Harris, Dawkins and Spencer readily retweet and quote Muslim extremists like Anjem Chowdry, they have blocked me on Twitter for presenting evidence –based narrative on Islam and for inviting them to discourse.

They are no fans of Muslims like me, and the majority of Muslims of all sects, who fight the ideology of the terrorists and are killed in places like Pakistan for standing up to them. A pluralistic, tolerant worldview from a Muslim is anathema to their anti-Islam agenda. It terrifies them. This is why instead of siding with the moderates and reformers in this fight, they chose to fight us instead.

In a recent exchange with Spencer, all he had to offer in response to my rebuttal of his propaganda was ad hominem attacks. When I asked another new atheist blogger to discuss Islam’s position on blasphemy laws, he refused to debate. I had debated him earlier on Huffington Post on the issue of apostasy laws in Islam. Just as the mullahs in the Muslim world run for cover when invited to intellectual discourse, so do the mullahs of the Islamophobia network. They make claims they cannot defend.

So how can Pakistanis help counter the rise of Islamophobia elsewhere? Simply by stopping the continuous supply of fodder to the Islamophobia network.

There is no denying the fact that religious extremism is a genuine problem in parts of the Muslim world. It is also true that certain extremist interpretations – on issues like jihad, apostasy laws, blasphemy laws and theocratic rule – are taken away from Islam’s message of peace and love. The biggest victims of such extremist narratives are the Muslims themselves. Hundreds of thousands have died at the hands of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.

Pakistan is a perfect example of a nation badly in need of reform. Bigotry and mullah-ism has taken over our land in the guise of religion. We must speak out loudly and reclaim our faith from those who have hijacked it for their own political ends. We must question the mullahs who preach hatred and division. We must stand up for universal freedom of conscience. We must speak up for the rights of minority communities – Ahmadis, Shias, Christians, Hindus, atheists etcetera – who are persecuted by religious zealots. We must press on our government to clamp down on hate speech in our mosques and madrassas. It is time to say enough, and reclaim our beautiful faith back from the extremists who have made it their livelihood to exploit it.

It is religious extremism that the Islamophobes disseminate as the true face of Islam. By fighting it, we leave the Islamophobes helpless.

kashif.chaudhry

Kashif Chaudhry

A graduate of King Edward Medical University, Lahore and Mt Sinai University Hospital in New York, Kashif is currently completing his Cardiology fellowship in Boston, USA. He writes for various American newspapers and Pakistani publications and blogs at the Huffington Post. His interests include medicine, human rights and interfaith dialogue. He tweets @KashifMD (twitter.com/KashifMD)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Np

    Ah new atheists like converted Muslims who contribue to hatred of kafirs in general and Hindus in particular?Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Sam harries and Dawkins are sane people. They speak straight and honest. I heard their discourses. sorry to prick your bubble.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    @ Kashif Chaudhry

    There are 4 million Hindus in USA. Almost equal to Muslim population and growing faster too. Why is nobody (dawkins, spenser, et etc) are not discussing Hinduism as a threat? Hindus are also hated because they are assumed that they take away their jobs. I never heard of a single american considering them to be a threat . No “Hinduphobia” anywhere to be seen.. Your arguments itself shows you are on the wrong side. If you feel Americans are Islamophobic- then go back to Pakistan.

    On the other hand, do you know how Hindus and christians and also other monorities treated in Pakistan? Nothing compared to what Mr.Spenser is doing.Recommend

  • Jor El

    Not everybody claims his logic is perfect … as far as i am concerned, his logic is laffable at places … regarding cured souls n uncured souls, i dont have time or desire to think about itRecommend

  • Jamor

    Prabhakaran was born a Hindu.Most of the LTTE are Hindu,though the LTTE also had Christian leaders like Charles Anthony and Anton Balasingham who were in the top LTTE hierarchy.Religion did not play a role in their fight for an independent stateRecommend

  • Jamor

    Sam Harris had stated that there only a minority of Muslims are truly moderate and coexist with other faiths peacefully.The vast majority of Muslims subscribe to the ideology of jihadis,but don’t commit violent acts.Finally there is a minority of Muslims who believe ISIS and jihadi ideology and are willing to adopt violent means to achieve their goal.In my opinion he is only stating the truth.No one in Pakistan take action against Imam burkha of Lal Masjid because of his support baseRecommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    “justifying that on the name of Buddhism.”

    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22356306

    This does not negate what extremist Muslims do but you are in denial if you believe that there is no such thing as other religion terrorism. This is the state of Burma and a government is more powerful than any organisation.

    Please do not make comments with limited knowledge of the situation around the worldRecommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    “human tendency which you and me cannot get rid of no matter how much we wish.”
    So when Whites and Westerners hate Islam its “human tendency” but when Muslims hate the West its the fault of the “conduct of the (Muslim) community”?

    “lecture your own who by your own admission”
    As said before we shall lecture bigots on both sides.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    “Religious extremism is a genuine problem in parts of the Muslim world.” I beg to differ. Religious extremism is not as big a problem in the Muslim world as the corrupt and ineffectual governance systems in place. If the leaders of the Muslim world had the political will and courage, and they if they were to provide the masses a corruption-free social welfare system, religious extremism would be eradicated from the face of the the Muslim world.Recommend

  • http://kashifmd.com/ Kashif Chaudhry

    Americans are great people. They are not Islamophobic. The Islamophia Network is. Feel free to read my piece again. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kashif-n-chaudhry/americas-islamophobia-pro_b_6740500.htmlRecommend

  • http://kashifmd.com/ Kashif Chaudhry

    I am also afraid of Killers and their sympathizers. That is why I fled Pakistan. Again, defining my faith by my killers is bigotry. Attack the acts of the killers, don’t define the victims by these acts. There is no justification for anti-Muslim bigotry. American Muslims are as loyal as any other American community. We suffered on 9/11 just as much as any other.Recommend

  • http://kashifmd.com/ Kashif Chaudhry

    A good example of Islam in practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OuZIxSDZ_sRecommend

  • laura r

    when was the last time christians blew up a plane? im phobic when they yell. arrest me for bigotry, i owe you nothing. Recommend

  • laura r

    blame it on the jews.Recommend

  • laura r

    im leaving the plane. you can stay. deal?Recommend

  • Prashant

    Whether it is a riot or organised killing, either way people die and both need to be addressed, my point is i do not see organised killing of other faiths being committed by non Muslims as much as I do by the Muslim organisations.Recommend

  • laura r

    you had plenty of airtime w/spencer since last week. you never emailed him as he suggested for a meeting, but continued to tweet.Recommend

  • LS

    Well, I would be glad if people kept religion to themselves and did not have a “Religious” agenda, but sadly section of people from all religion have that. Some are violent most non-violent, but bulk are definitely aggressive, oppressive and expansionist.Recommend

  • abhi

    Actually Islamophobe is not the correct word to describe them, they are more like “Muslimphobe”. They are not religious fundamentalists or evanglists who are interested in converting Muslims to other reigion. All they have is some true/false fear of fundamentalists muslims .Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    If you are talking about coverage in the US about the killing of three UNC students, you are off base. All the channels, including Fox, covered the story for days. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell even devoted several segments with various Muslims on the program expressing their views. The perpetrator actually turned himself in to the police. How many times do you see that happening? Don’t judge Western coverage with how things get covered in Pakistan. (By the way, the craft of journalism was invented and developed in England.)Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    I think the incessant bad news about Muslim extremists emanating from all over the world, including immigrant communities of the West, must cause some to latch on to and exaggerate incidents against Muslims to even the score, rhetorically. (Re: Charlie hebdo, Duke University prayer controversy, and UNC killings all elicited number of blogs on Express Tribune.) Yes, certain human beings are violent by nature, regardless of religion or national origin. But there is no equivalence today – in frequency and global scope – to what is happening with violence accompanying Islamic extremism. Hey, a blogger got hacked to death today in Bangladesh and his wife was seriously hurt in the name of Islam. In Bangladesh, imagine!Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Wow! Damning the entire community of “desi hindus” with such faint “praise”. And about your own “literal acumen” and “skills”, one is curious to know? Why are you wasting time reading “third rate neo fascist” publications in the US? Is it to plagiarize their rhetorical flourishes in your snide comments on ET blogs? I am sure you know that ad hominem attacks are not real arguments. Please, give it another shot. We’ll wait.Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    The word “Islamophobia” is not an accurate description of what non-Muslims feel. It is rarely a “fear of Islam” but often resentment, hatred, distrust, suspicion, disgust, confusion. indifference, bemusement, and all other emotions that really cannot be subsumed under the word “fear”. In fact, even many good Muslims (like this blogger and most of the commentators)probably feel those emotions when they hear of another incident involving jihadis and wannabe jihadis dragging them along in the extremist mud Why not coin another word, such as “Jihado” phobia? paranoia? philia? (Anyone with a good knowledge of classical Greek?)Recommend

  • Meshuga

    Hmmmmmm., you, Sir, are very perceptive about hatemongering. Now admit it, have you not been secretly honing that art yourself? Irony: The blog was about the subject of a specific hatemongering.Recommend

  • Meshuga

    No, it is fully baked! By the way, if you’ve seen that famous New Yorker cartoon of how New Yorkers view their city in relation to the rest of the USA, you’ll understand where this NFD fellow is coming from. (No, not New York.)Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Educating the masses in America? Kind of inflated self-importance. Masses in America don’t read newspapers, let alone Pakistani ones.Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    What does loyalty really mean? Will you enlist in the US Army to fight ISIS? Will you defend America against all enemies, including jihadis from Pakistan living in the US? Will you drop your hyphenation (Pakistani American or American Muslim) and just be an American? Will you recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Will you sing the Star Spangled Banner with gusto? How did you personally suffer during 9/11? It is the split loyalty that many non-Western immigrants have towards their adopted countries that worries me the most. You cannot have one foot in your home country and one in your adopted country.Recommend

  • LS

    Its fruitless talking to them. They will dance around the bush but never answer question because it defeats the argument.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “So when Whites and Westerners hate Islam its “human tendency” but when Muslims hate the West its the fault of the “conduct of the (Muslim) community”?”

    Can you name me the Osama of the blacks and Hispanics, if not, you have your answer. The blacks and Hispanics are probably treated( by not all Americans) the way the Pakistanis treat the Afghan refugees- with contempt, you may read the comments of the blogs which are about the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Prashant

    He makes people sick who want to understand thinks logically, he is one of those who takes advantage of liberal non Muslim societies and makes fun of the beliefs of the same non Muslims, ask him about Al Qaeda and see his response, he is not asking you to kill but he is asking you to convert and he has left the job of killing for some others in his community. I am not saying those who become Muslims will also become killers but his stand on Muslim terrorist groups including those which are fighting against India makes me believe so.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “…the fact that Islamophobes are intellectual dishonest and scared of debate.”

    Then debate those who are not scared to debate, there are scores of them around. Why do you want to debate those who in your opinion lack intellect?

    May I also know how would you debate the likes of Ayman Al Zawahiri, Al Bhagdadi and Hafiz Saeed?Recommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    Some blacks did advocate violence but America supported people like Martin Luther King and which led to harmony.

    “the way the Pakistanis treat the Afghan refugees”
    Or the way India treats Bangladeshi immigrants, why are you deflecting the topic and bringing this up?

    You need to support Muslim voices who condemn terrorism instead of criticizing them . Mr Kashif has also written against Amir Liaqat and in favour of Malala so you can’t say he is just preoccupied with IslamophobiaRecommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Mr. Chaudhry, you might as well first stop all the Islamic bigotry causing death and destruction around the world against other Muslims and infidels first: Islamophobia is merely a reaction to that. You fled Pakistan voluntarily because of Islamophobia (actually causing targeted violence) against your sect. Solve that Islamophobia first before trying to address the less violent form in the country you escaped to. People in the West have the freedom to hate (or love) anything or anyone they want to. Just deal with it.Recommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Mr. Chaudhry should have addressed Islamophobia and hatemongers in his native land – which he fled with his tail between his legs – before doing so in his adopted “land of the free and home of the brave”. People in free and open societies have the freedom of speech and expression, no matter how odious, as long as it does not result in physical harm, as happens frequently in the author’s native land. The author is fighting a losing a battle in the wrong place. The people he cited believe their views as strongly as the blogger does his. Name calling ain’t doin’ much good to the blogger’s confused cause.Recommend

  • Reeba

    Dear author,
    Let’s take an example, You are going to the market to buy some fruits. You see a barrel full of fresh juicy apples and wants to buy some. The shopkeeper says “These are the finest apples from Arabia. But one apple in the barrel is poisonous and if you eat it you will die instantly”. Will you dare to buy apples from that barrel? That’s what is happening in the west. Majority of muslims are decent peace loving citizens but there are a few with extremist ideologies. West cannot differentiate between the two and in fact it lead to the fear of the whole. Can you really blame them? Only muslims can identify these bad apples within their community and get rid of them and get a clean image for the community.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    In short, No, i was not talking about the the coverage of UNC students.Recommend

  • Rana Eddy

    Your article is a proof of the fact that why Muslims should not live in non-muslim dominated countries & non-Muslims cannot live in Muslim dominated countries.
    It is indeed conflict between Muslims on one hand & all the non-Msulims (including Atheists ) on the otherRecommend

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/2010/pictures/filthy-india-photos-chinese-netizen-reactions.html ɱαѵ∈ʀϊ¢ƙ

    Fact is Tamil, Hindus, used suicide bombing before Al-Qaeda. Similarly, Indians, Sikhs, blew up Air India Flight 182 in 1985 killing everyone on-board way before 9/11.Recommend

  • ab1990

    Fact is ltte is dead. There is no use typing comments about them. They were not religious hindus. They were only by name hindus. They loved their tamil culture more than hinduism.Recommend

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/2010/pictures/filthy-india-photos-chinese-netizen-reactions.html ɱαѵ∈ʀϊ¢ƙ

    Fact is LTTE were supported by India and you can’t minimize the fact that they were Hindus.Recommend

  • ab1990

    you also forgot the fact the indian prime ministersent IPKF forces to defeat ltte. He also died in this process.Recommend

  • Piyal

    Hi all

    As a Sri Lankan Sinhalese , I like to emphasize that LTTE is a bad example for Hindu terrorism . LTTE was terrorist group based on ethnicity and land , not religion , in fact the Prabakaran-leader of the LTTE was a christian not a Hindu . Religions has nothing to with Sri Lankan Civil war ,

    ThanksRecommend