By Roy Oksnevad
When I decided to write on this topic, what first came to mind were talks I have heard recently in mosques. A town hall meeting was convened by Muslim leaders in the Chicago area in response to several youth attempting to leave the USA to join ISIS. The only person on the panel addressing the topic was a Muslim academic who was asked by the family to intervene with their son, who was being radicalized through the Internet. The other panel members spoke about fear of the US government interviewing members of the Islamic community. They were encouraged not to talk with a law enforcement representative without a lawyer present for fear that Muslims would be implicated negatively or harassed. One panel member’s take was all this concern is really stemming from Islamophobia. (The purpose of the town hall meeting was to discuss the radicalization of Muslim youth through the Internet and how to respond, not talk about Islamophobia.)
Another Islamophobia incident was an alleged “hate crime” of vandalism at our local mosque, in which windows were broken. The police said they were investigating the incident but did not believe it was a hate crime. The imam of the mosque was not satisfied with this response and called the media to push his perspective that Muslims are being targeted by hate crimes. The newspaper later reported that this was not a hate crime, but was an incident involving three youth who originally tried to smash windows at the local high school but were scared off by the school night janitor. They then proceeded across the street to the mosque, and broke its windows. The imam was too quick to use the tool of Islamophobia without listening to local law enforcement.
In a recent trip I took a group of Christians to a mosque. The Muslim giving the presentation called all the negative press about Islam and terrorism Islamophobic. He went on to say that the press was fueling the Islamophobia hysteria in the nation.
Just last week, five Muslims came to Wheaton College to do a presentation on Islam at the campus Middle East Understanding Club. When addressing the topic of Islam and violence, they quoted verses about peace from the Qur’an, saying that terrorism was not commonly reported in the media until 2001. They also said, “The Twin Towers were never proved to have been destroyed by Muslims,” and proceeded to declare that these acts of violence by Muslims do not represent the religion of Islam. They concluded that Muslims are commanded to be peaceable people. Are they saying that to believe otherwise would be Islamophobic?
The working definition of Islamophobia, according to the CAIR report on Islamophobia, is:
A closed-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. An Islamophobe is an individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against or hatred of Muslims. It is not appropriate to label all, or even the majority of those, who question Islam and Muslims as Islamophobes.
To help us gain a broader perspective on this topic, we can look to the Center for American Progress (CAP) report on Islamophobia titled, “Fear, Inc.,” which exposes Islamophobia networks in North America. The 2011 CAP report goes on to expose a small group of seven charitable foundations that have spent $42.6 million between 2001-2009 to support anti-Muslim rhetoric. These funding agencies are:
- Donors Capital Fund
- Richard Mellon Scaife Foundations
- Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
- Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker Foundations and Charitable Trust
- Russell Berrie Foundation
- Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund
- Fairbrook Foundation.
The Leading Lights Of The Islamophobia Network
|The Scholars||The Validators||The Activists|
|Steven Emerson – The Investigative Project on Terrorism||Nonie Darwish – Former Muslims United and Arabs for Israel||Brigitte Gabriel – ACT! for America|
|Frank Gaffney – Center for Security Policy||Zuhdi Jasser – American Islamic Forum for Democracy||Pamela Geller – Stop Islamization of America|
|Daniel Pipes – Middle East Forum||Walid Phares – Future Terrorism Project||David Horowitz – David Horowitz Freedom Center|
|Robert Spencer – Jihad Watch & Stop Islamization of America||Walid Shoebat – Former purported Islamic terrorist turned apocalyptic Christian|
|David Yerushalmi – Society of Americans for National Existence|
At the outset of its second report in 2015, CAP clearly states that the Islamophobic sentiment “is not indicative of mainstream American views.” In their opinion, Islamophobia is relegated to a small group who are pushing this agenda.
To get a better understanding of how prevalent Islamophobia is in North America, I went to the FBI’s latest Hate Crimes report. Of the 5,928 hate crime incidents reported in 2013, 5,922 were single-bias offenses, as detailed in the Bias Breakdown chart.
The FBI 2014 Hate Crimes Statistics by bias motivation
An analysis of data for victims of data for victims of single-bias hate crime incidents showed that:
- 49.3 percent of the victims were targeted because of the offenders’ bias against race.
- 20.2 percent were targeted because of bias against sexual orientation.
- 16.9 percent were victimized because of bias against religion.
- 11.4 percent were victimized because of bias against ethnicity.
- 1.4 percent were targeted because of bias against disability.
- 0.5 percent (33 individuals) were victims of gender-identity bias.
- 0.4 percent (30 individuals) were victims of gender bias. (Based on Table 1.)
The FBI 2014 Hate Crimes Statistics by Religious bias
Of the 1,223 victims of anti-religious hate crimes:
- 60.3 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.
- 13.7 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.
- 6.1 percent were victims of anti-Catholic bias.
- 4.3 percent were victims of bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).
- 3.8 percent were victims of anti-Protestant bias.
- 0.6 percent were victims of anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
- 11.2 percent were victims of bias against other religions (anti-other religion). (Based on Table 1.)
In summary, hate crimes by categories places religious-bias hate crimes as number three behind race (mostly anti-Black) and bias over sexual orientation. These two categories make up 69.5 percent of the victims. Anti-religious hate crimes came in third at a meager 16.9 percent.
The FBI report further breaks down the anti-religious hate crimes, revealing that over 60 percent of hate crimes by religious bias is an anti-Jewish bias, with anti-Islamic coming in second at the much smaller 13.7 percent. So why is there so much rhetoric in the Muslim community about Islamophobia? Could it be that as a minority group it is seeking to push a political agenda? Are they trying to influence policy makers so Islam has a position of unquestioned advantage they had in their countries of origin?
But I think there is something missing from the discussion.
- Islam is Peace: Muslims, in reaction to the negative press of terrorist attacks by various Islamic groups, are highly selective in their source documentation, quoting only peace verses from the Qur’an. It is true that the protagonists against Islam are also guilty of the same selective source documentation, albeit in reaction to the absence of the violent verses of the Qur’an. However, as the public listens closely to conservative Muslims’ deeply religious justification for aggression, the Muslim peace response seems disingenuous, disavowing any legitimacy for their claims. This proverbial “ostrich with its head in the sand” retort only alienates the public from the Muslim community. This is not Islamophobia. This is “we have a problem Houston (Al-Azhar)”, so let’s acknowledge it.
- Original source documentation: The Muslim utopian hagiography of Muhammad, his times, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and Islamic history have colored how Muslims both privately and publicly understand their history. When non-Muslims point out from the Qur’an, Hadiths (traditions), and Sira of Muhammad (earliest official biography of Muhammad) that Islam has a sordid history of violence, and that these sources provide the example and theological backing for what some Muslims are following, it is met with a cry of Islamophobia or Orientalism (in a negative sense). This is not an attack on Islam nor is it Islamophobic. It is an honest look at history which all people need to understand and acknowledge.
- Denial of Muslim involvement: To disavow any genuine Islamic motivation in horrific acts of violence such as September 11 type bombings throughout the world is an insult to the intelligence of the non-Muslim community. Muslims are killing Muslims. Muslims are killing non-Muslims. Acknowledging this fact will not increase Islamophobia, but may do the opposite. It may garner sympathy as the Islamic community struggles with a crisis that has gushed beyond its community and become a problem the world must deal with.
- Using Islamophobia as a bullying tactic: The shame of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam is causing a major public relations catastrophe for the Muslim ummah (community). Though CAIR has warned against using bullying tactics of invoking Islamophobia to silence criticism of Islam, it seems that on a popular level this is exactly what is happening.
- Political correctness: Governments that play the political correctness card by referring to the perpetrators of violence from a Muslim background as “terrorists” are denying their serious and conservative interpretation of Islam. This denial only creates a false dichotomy. When the Catholic Church struggles with its priests’ sexual abuses, it is called a problem in the Catholic Church. Yet, when violence has exponentially exploded on the world scene from the Muslim community, it is identified as “terrorism” without any reference to its deeply religious orientation. Has the government become so sensitive of any hint of impropriety from the public or Islamic sector that it has created an Orwellian “Newspeak”? Has Islamophobia been used as a bullying tactic so the rest of the world cannot verbalize what everyone else recognizes?
In conclusion, yes, Islamophobia is a real phenomenon in which a person exemplifies a closed-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. The general non-Muslim public does not hold Islamophobic prejudice. There are some very specific groups that are spending millions of dollars in a campaign to de-legitimize Islam. Hate crimes against Muslims do occur, but they are relatively minor in light of the present Islamic fervor. However, the exponential growth of Islamic terrorism daily grabbing headlines on nightly news by groups such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Mujahedeen, Hamas, and the Taliban, coupled with the Muslim community’s disavowing of any Muslim who is not a “moderate,” will not engender sympathy from the discerning outside world. How should a Christian react? We have one mandate, to share the forgiveness and reconciliation we have experienced through Jesus Christ with our Muslim friends, no matter what their reaction might be.
 “Fear, Inc.: The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America,” by Matthew Duss, Yasmine Taeb, Ken Gude, and Ken Sofer, August 2011, https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2011/08/pdf/islamophobia.pdf (Accessed 3/9/15).
 Ibid, page 3.
 Ibid, page 7.
 Fear, Inc. 2.0: The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America, by Matthew Duss, Yasmine Taeb, Ken Gude, and Ken Sofer, February 2015, page 2. www.americanprogress.org (accessed 2/12/15).
 http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/december/latest-hate-crime-statistics-report-released/latest-hate-crime-statistics-report-released (Accessed 2/24/15).
 http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2013/topic-pages/victims/victims_final (Accessed 2/24/15).
 Al-Azhar University is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and is renowned as Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university.
 Orientalism is scholarship or learning in oriental subjects especially the Middle East. This term has taken a negative dimension through the writing of Edward W. Said’s book, Orientalism, New York: Vintage Books, 1979. I view his book as a classical deconstructionist’s argument. Said’s work has been seriously challenged by Ibn Warraq’s, Defending the West: A Critic of Edward Said’s Orientalism, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007; Robert Irwin’s Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and its Discontents, Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2006; and other eminent scholars such as Bernard Lewis and Bat Ye’or.