Fallout of Hate Is Spreading Across America from 9/11 Site

The hysteria over a planned Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan is only the tip of the iceberg.

By Joshua Holland

Scientists building the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos referred to the coordinates where a test device was detonated as “point zero.” When the horror of nuclear warfare was unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the term “Ground Zero” entered our lexicon. The expression has come to mean the epicenter of a catastrophic event, be it a nuclear detonation, a disease epidemic or an earthquake. It is the point from which damage spreads, whether it’s radioactive fallout or a deadly contagion.

That the site of the World Trade Center has come to be known as Ground Zero illustrates how the American public has come to fetishize the attacks of 9/11. It’s not an apt analog for the physical destruction that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center. But it is an appropriate metaphor for the virulent and socially acceptable bigotry against Muslim Americans that has radiated out from Ground Zero and spread across the United States.

One thing is clear: the feverish discourse about Muslims’ role in American society is not about the proposal to build an Islamic community center a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center site. Park 51, as it’s being called, merely let an ugly genie out of the bottle. The dark stain of Islamophobia had spread far and wide long before the controversy erupted.

In May, a man walked into the Jacksonville Islamic Center in Northeast Florida during evening prayers and detonated a pipebomb. Fortunately, there were no injuries. (If the man had been Muslim and the House of worship a Christian church, the incident would have garnered wall-to-wall coverage, but while the story got plenty of local press it was ignored by CBS News, Fox, CNN and MSNBC.)

It was the most serious of a series of incidents in which mosques far from the supposedly hallowed earth of Ground Zero have been targeted. A mosque inMiami, Florida, was sprayed with gunfire last year. Mosques have been vandalized or set aflame in Brownstown, Michigan; Nashville, Tennessee;Arlington, Texas (where the mosque was first vandalized and then later targeted by arsonists); Taylor, South Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Eugene, Oregon;Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Tempe, Arizona; and in both Northern and Southern California. A mosque in a suburb of Chicago has been vandalized four times in recent years.

In May, an Arab man wasbrutally beaten in broad daylight in New York by four young men. According to the victim’s nephew, “They used the bad word. ‘The mother bleeping Muslim, go back to your country.’ They started beating him and after that he don’t know what happened.” A Muslim woman in Chicago was assaulted by another woman who took offense at her headscarf. A Muslim teacher in Florida was sent a white powdery substance in the mail. In San Diego, a man in his 50s became so incensed by the sight of an American of Afghan descent praying that he assaulted him after screaming, “You idiot, you mother f**ker, go back to where you came from.”

The perpetrators of these hate crimes are clearly unhinged, but they’re not operating in a vacuum. They’re being whipped into a frenzy by cynical fearmongers on the Right. Writing for Tablet magazine, Daniel Luban astutelycalls the dark spread of Islamophobia, “the new Anti-Semitism.”

Many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified.

In Tennessee, an elected official, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, suggestedthat Muslims shouldn’t be accorded the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. “Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it,” he said. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, the House’s second-ranking Republican, said of the Ground Zero controversy, “America’s built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on.” (Reporter Eric Kleefeld wrote that Cantor was invoking the “’come on’ exception to America’s freedom of religion.”)

An Oklahoma lawmaker is pushing a ballot measure “that would prohibit courts from considering international or sharia law when deciding cases.” He said it was a “preemptive strike” against “liberal judges” who want to “undermine those founding principles” of America. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrichcompared the organizers of the Park 51 project in downtown Manhattan (including the imam who was sent by none other than George W. Bush to represent the United States in its outreach to the Muslim world) with the Nazis. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, a prominent figure within the religious Right,argued that “permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America” because “each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.” Just weeks after the mosque bombing in Florida, right-wing talk-radio host Michael Berry told his audience, “If you do build a mosque, I hope somebody blows it up. … I hope the mosque isn’t built, and if it is, I hope it’s blown up. And I mean that.” He added: “It’s right-wing radicals like me that are going to keep this country safe for you and everyone else.”

The results of these incessant smears are predictable. According to a pollcommissioned by Time magazine, one in three Americans believes that Muslims should be barred from running for president; a similar number said they’d oppose the construction of a mosque in their own neighborhood, and almost three in 10 said Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court.

According to the New York Times, “Opposition to new mosques has become almost commonplace.” During a public hearing with Muslim leaders to discuss a proposed mosque on Staten Island, miles from Manhattan, “the tenor of the inquiry became so fraught that the meeting eventually collapsed in shouting around 11pm, prompting the police and security guards to ask everyone to leave.” The Times’ account of what happened before the cops broke up the fracas is telling. “The meeting’s single moment of hushed silence” came when a Marine who had served two tours in Afghanistan working as a mediator with local tribes took the microphone.

After the sustained standing ovation that followed his introduction, he turned to the Muslims on the panel: “My question to you is, will you work to form a cohesive bond with the people of this community?” The men said yes.

Then he turned to the crowd. “And will you work to form a cohesive bond with these people — your new neighbors?”

The crowd erupted in boos. “No!” someone shouted.

It’s ugly, and it can only get worse as Republicans seek to “nationalize” the issue in time for the midterm elections. (According to The Hill, John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee “believes the mosque set to be built near Ground Zero in New York City will be a campaign issue this fall.”) Right-wingers have started referring to the Park 51 project as “the Obamosque.” They see fear and loathing of Islam as a potent social issue in an era when overtly racist messages invite a political backlash and gay-bashing is gaining less traction among voters. And with prominent Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada caving in to the hateful rhetoric, bigotry against American Muslims is becoming an acceptable and bipartisan affair.

It’s an extraordinarily dangerous game, not only for the American Muslim community but for U.S. national security as well. Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who has interrogated several dangerous terrorists, wrote this week that “when demagogues appear to be equating Islam with terrorism” it reinforces “the message that radicalizers are selling: That the war is against Islam, and Muslims are not welcome in America.” He added: “from a national security perspective, our leaders need to understand that no one is likely to be happier with the opposition to building a mosque than Osama Bin Laden. His next video script has just written itself.”

Fortunately, the hysteria over the Islamic center in downtown Manhattan has produced no fatal attacks to date. But as the rhetoric continues to get hotter, good people — those who embrace American values of pluralism and religious liberty — need to stand up to the hate and confront these views before we have a body count on our hands, not after.

NOTE:THIS IS A CROSS POST FROM ALTERNET.COM

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Comments

  • Arif Khan  On August 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    This article is Absolutely Right..But put yourself in the Shoes of Americans that they are at War with two Muslim Countries, who they have been fighting since 1991 and 2001, and they are Killing like Crazy mostly their own Muslim brothers in Suicide attacks on a DAILY basis… They certainly are NOT going to Love Muslims (No matter if they are right or wrong). Muslims although a Maujor part of the Abrahamic Faith want to project themselves as being “Completely different ” than Judeo/Christian Co Religionists by dressing like they did 2000 yrs ago and growing an un kempt beard and that TOPI… and trying to convince everyone that we are so different??? thus it creates hatred and contempt for Muslims in most Non Muslim World, and unfortunately will get WORSE with the Passage of time…. This is a VERY Sad Scenario!!!!!!! Arif

    • pakpotpourri2  On August 22, 2010 at 3:28 am

      The question is Arif, why did they attack the countries? AND when you DO attack what will happen in return?

  • Syed Ataur Rahman  On August 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    It seems that white USA is losing its mind. And who is to blame? Certainly it is not the Muslim population of USA. The American leadership has been wanting in its moral standing and does not have the guts to say what is right. And for now most Americans actually think the 9/11 was the work of Al-Qaeda or radical Muslims or any other group, but the blame is on the Muslims/Arabs. Unfortunately Americans are so naive. They cannot see beyond their nose. The US media or rather the complete Jewish controlled media in USA tells the Americans what to think. During the Second World War it was hate campaign against the Japanese and a terror campaign was unleashed against them. So why should the American public be any different now? They have to get their ‘revenge’, and who better to face the brunt than the easily reachable American Muslims? And that is exactly what is happening.
    The Muslims of USA must join hands and protect their interest vigorously and emphatically. There is no other way for them. Sensible Americans must stand up to the all powerful neo cons and Jewish lobbies who have made USA a nation bereft of reason and they have are continuing to lose their financial, political and moral standing that they harp about so much. Such nations decay and burn. From the ashes might raise a more rationale America. But in the meanwhile American Muslims, you must prepare yourselves to face the angry onslaught of the crazy American people.
    Syed Ataur Rahman

  • Inam Khan  On August 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    It is Muslims’fault that they are giving up their countries of origin and settling in USA.

    • Omar Ahmad  On August 27, 2010 at 5:17 am

      Dear Inam sahib,

      Well said, the Quran clearly states not to take the jew and christians as our friends. They will never be satisfied until we adopt their watered down and totally transformed religion they like to call christianity, but should be called Paulinity . Jesus peace be upon him was a muslim preaching Islam.

  • Hamid Hasan  On August 22, 2010 at 8:33 am

    It is natural for Muslims to be outraged and disgusted by the irrational behaviour of right wing Americans and their hate campaigne agaist the Muslims and all things Islamic. But, while American Government is yet to present any credible evidence about the involvement of Muslims in the heinous crime of 9/11 they, in cahuts with the virulent American media, have already convinced the mainstream America that all Muslims are crazy fanatics and deserve to be shunned and hated. And this irrational and prejudiced attitude finds strong justification from the mad acts of the lunatic fringe amongst the Muslims who are resorting to mindless bombing and killing, mostly of their own co-religionists but also targeting Western cities and citizens at times, as a reaction to American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is therefore becoming a vicious cycle of hate begeting hate, each side blaming the other for the provocation. As a result while the Muslim world is physically ravaged and psychologically angry and confused, America should also not think that it will escape the fall out of hate and bigotry which are eating into its social fabric. It is fast losing the high moral values of freedom, democracy, tolerance and justice written into its Constitution by its founding fathers. But it is not a perfect world and ideals are often pushed back by considerations of realpolitik. Therefore American Muslims and Muslims around the world have to think hard how to meet this situation rather than lamenting the loss of reason by the leaders of the American Right , the American Media and the average American. The hate crime against Muslims is real and cannot be stopped just by recounting the incidents of violence and vandalism and condemning the attitude of the perpetrators, the biased Media or the apologetic politicians too concerned their electoral prospects. The American Muslims must put their minds together and come up with a plan to check this fast spreading contagion. They must assert their Americanism and their rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They must take up the matter with their reps in the American Congress. They must write to the Media, both friendly as well as unfriendly, to rebut the false reasoning of Muslim-bashers. And leaders of Muslim countries must also raise the issue of this anti-Muslim epidemic with American leaders to bring it at par with so called anti-semetism. The life, liberty and reputation of American Muslims should be no less sacred than those of American Jews or other minorities.

  • Hamid Hasan  On August 22, 2010 at 8:46 am

    It is natural for Muslims to be outraged and disgusted by the irrational behaviour of right wing Americans and their hate campaigne agaist the Muslims and all things Islamic. But, while American Government is yet to present any credible evidence about the involvement of Muslims in the heinous crime of 9/11 they, in cahuts with the virulent American media, have already convinced the mainstream America that all Muslims are crazy fanatics and deserve to be shunned and hated. And this irrational and prejudiced attitude finds strong justification from the mad acts of the lunatic fringe amongst the Muslims who are resorting to mindless bombing and killing, mostly of their own co-religionists but also targeting Western cities and citizens at times, as a reaction to American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is therefore becoming a vicious cycle of hate begeting hate, each side blaming the other for the provocation. As a result while the Muslim world is physically ravaged and psychologically angry and confused, America should also not think that it will escape the fall out of hate and bigotry which are eating into its social fabric. It is fast losing the high moral values of freedom, democracy, tolerance and justice written into its Constitution by its founding fathers. But it is not a perfect world and ideals are often pushed back by considerations of realpolitik. Therefore American Muslims and Muslims around the world have to think hard how to meet this situation rather than lamenting the loss of reason by the leaders of the American Right , the American Media and the average American. The hate crime against Muslims is real and cannot be stopped just by recounting the incidents of violence and vandalism and condemning the attitude of the perpetrators, the biased Media or the apologetic politicians too concerned about their electoral prospects. The American Muslims must put their minds together and come up with a plan to check this fast spreading contagion. They must assert their Americanism and their rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They must take up the matter with their reps in the American Congress. They must write to the Media, both friendly as well as unfriendly, to rebut the false reasoning of Muslim-bashers. And leaders of Muslim countries must also raise the issue of this anti-Muslim epidemic with American leaders to bring it at par with so called anti-semetism. The life, liberty and reputation of American Muslims should be no less sacred than those of American Jews or other minorities.

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