On the Outlandish Claim That “There is No Islamophobia”

The FBI released hate crime statistics for the year of 2010, which showed that anti-Semitic crimes topped the list of religiously motivated hate crimes.  Islamophobes have latched on to this fact to claim that “there is no Islamophobia.”  For example, Robert Spencer of JihadWatch asked: ”What do you have to say about the fact that FBI statistics show that there is no ‘Islamophobia’?”

The American Muslim’s Sheila Musaji published a response to this argument, pointing out that it’s a non-sequitur: it does not follow that “there is no Islamophobia” just because there were more anti-Semitic hate crimes reported than anti-Muslim ones.  This would be like arguing that “there is no anti-Semitism” because there were more anti-black hate crimes reported than anti-Semitic ones.

In fact, Musaji points out that there was a 50% increase in the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes.  Any reasonable person would think this trend to be concerning and ask: what is causing this steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes?

There is another issue here: it’s a well-known fact that ethnic minorities are less likely to report hate crimes.  One of the common reasons cited for this is that such minority groups tend to distrust police and authorities–which is certainly the case for Arabs and Muslims, who have every reason to feel this way.

Islamophobia penetrates law enforcement and government on all levels, starting from the police: the Washington Monthly had a very eyeopening article on the subject: How We Train Our Cops to Fear Islam.

The FBI, the governmental institution responsible for monitoring hate crimes, is itself brimming with Islamophobia (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).  Many Muslims in America don’t trust the FBI, and wouldn’t report hate crimes to them, for fear of being accused of something themselves.

This is exactly what happened to a female Muslim student at the University of Bridgeport who reported to authorities that a man was sexually harassing her; not only was the man not investigated, but the female Muslim student herself ended up being investigated by the FBI after the accused molester called her a terrorist.  That’s how vulnerable Muslims are in this country: accuse them of being a terrorist and the FBI will come knocking at their door.

The chain of anti-Muslim bigotry goes even higher to the Department of Homeland Security.  The House Committee on Homeland Security is led by the fervently anti-Muslim Congressman Peter King.  It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are subjected to such hearings.  If King had suggested holding anti-Jewish hearings, the comparisons to Nazi Germany would be quickly invoked (rightfully so) and the Congressman’s career would come to a swift end (again, rightfully so).  Yet, when this bigotry is leveled against Muslims, the reaction is far more mild.

This brings me to my second (and main) point: it is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other faith, who are the number one victims of institutionalized bigotry in America.  This is something more pernicious than lone-wolf hate crimes, because the effects of it are more far-reaching.

It is Muslims, not people of any other religious faith, that were (and continue to be) detained by the hundreds–without trial or charge–and holed away in the hell-hole known as Guantanamo Bay detention camp.  This, even though it was known by the government that “the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo were innocent.”  Most Americans fail to realize the gravity of this injustice, and continue to believe–like mindless sheep–that the Gitmo prisoners are “the worst of the worst” and are evil Magneto-style villains.  People of the future will be horrified that any sane person would think that this is necessary:

Who but the sickest and most deranged person could think this is OK?

Can you imagine the outcry had it been a Jewish person who had been imprisoned like so by our government?  Even the idea is considered ludicrous.

Gitmo is just the tip of the iceberg.  Thousands of Muslims have been imprisoned in Bagram (“the Other Guantanamo”) and there are probably tens of thousands Muslims that have been detained by the United States, without trial or charge, around the world.  They are subjected to typical American forms of torture:  solitary confinement (considered by human rights experts to be one of the worst forms of torture) and sexual harassment (including sodomy, rape, and having their testicles electrocuted).  Mentally deranged guards routinely used dogs to torture the inmates.

Yes, it is Muslims who are the victims of these horrific crimes.

These abuses are carried out because the institution that is supposed to protect American citizens (including American Muslims)–the U.S. Armed Forces–has instead been, in the words of the hawkish Jeffrey Goldberg, ”waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”  Quite predictably, the U.S. Armed Forces as an institution is rife with Islamophobia.

It is Muslim civilians who are being incinerated by our bombs, missiles, and drones.  Over the course of the last two decades, the United States has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of over a million Muslims.  America is dropping bombs on multiple Muslim countries (the list just keeps getting longer and longer); Americans feel comfortable dropping bombs on countries they can’t even locate on a map.  These are Islamophobic wars that kill way more people than hate crimes do.

It is Muslims, not Jews or people of any other religion, who are the victims of civil liberty assaults and Endless War.  Glenn Greenwald writes:

[W]ho are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals).  And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War…

To see how central a role this sort of selfish provincialism plays in shaping political priorities, just compare (a) the general indifference to Endless War and the massive civil liberties assaults… (ones largely confined to Muslims) to (b) the intense outrage and media orgy generated when a much milder form of invasiveness — TSA searches — affected Americans of all backgrounds. The success of Endless War and civil liberties attacks depends on ensuring that the prime victims, at least in the first instance, are marginalized and easily demonizable minorities.

It is Muslims who are the victims of such governmental abuses:

Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

It is absolutely crass to argue that there is more anti-Semitism in America than Islamophobia. There would be nothing less acceptable in our country than anti-Jewish Congressional hearings.  One could simply not imagine imprisoning hundreds of Jews–without trial or charge–in Guantanamo Bay.  If the United States caused the death of over a million Jews, people would be calling this the next Holocaust.  Such things are simply unthinkable, except when Muslims are the intended victims.

Certainly, lone-wolf hate crimes are worrisome, and Jews are one of the most targeted groups in this regard.  This is a serious concern that needs to be addressed–as does the fact that there has been such a steep rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.  But, we shouldn’t ignore institutionalized bigotry in America, which is even more worrisome.  Muslims are the most vulnerable minority in this regard: they are the absolute lowest on the totem pole and get the dubious distinction of being the number one victims in this regard.

Lastly, it is very morbid the way the anti-Muslim cyber-world is pitting the Jewish community against the Muslim one.  This is not a competition or game.  Hate crimes are not points or goals.  Jews, Muslims, and people of all faiths (or no faith at all) should unite together to fight bigotry and intolerance.  After all, Jews are well aware of the tactics that were once primarily used against them but are now used against Muslims: it may be a different minority, but it’s the same message.

*  *  *  *  *

I encourage everyone to read Sheila Musaji’s take on the subject.  It was her article that prompted me to weigh in on this issue.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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