Fears of Islamophobia are overblown
STEVE HUNTLEY firstname.lastname@example.org April 29, 2013 4:56PM
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during the Anti Defamation League (ADL) Centennial Summit at the Grand Hyatt Hotel April 29, 2013 in Washington, DC. Attornery General Holder spoke about civil rights and talked briefly about the Boston Marathon bo
Updated: June 1, 2013 6:17AM
As sure as night follows day, every Islamist terror attack is followed by warnings for Americans to be on guard against “Islamophobia.” On cue, two weeks after the Boston Marathon terrorism, Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday declared that “I also want to make clear that — just as we will pursue relentlessly anyone who would target our people or attempt to terrorize our cities — the Justice Department is firmly committed to protecting innocent people against misguided acts of retaliation.”
It’s an article of faith among elements of U.S. liberalism that beneath the surface America is a seething cauldron of hate waiting to erupt at any pretext. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack killing nearly 3,000 Americans, we’ve heard warnings against Islamophobia time and again.
And what prompted Holder to issue his warning against retaliation aimed at Muslims? In a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, Holder cited the murders of six Sikhs in Wisconsin last August. Sikhs aren’t Muslims. But Holder drew that horrific incident into his indictment by saying since 9/11 the Justice Department had investigated “more than 800 incidents involving threats, assaults, and acts of vandalism and violence targeting Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, South Asians, and others who are perceived to be members of these groups.” He also mentioned a Justice suit last year against a Tennessee community trying to block the opening of a mosque. This too happened before the April 15 Boston terrorism.
Ever ready to fire off a mass email alleging Islamophobia, the Council on Islamic-American relations cited as possible backlash from Boston a few incidents: A backpack with “USA Bomb” on it left at the home of a Rhode Island Muslim family, the spray-painting of an Oklahoma City mosque, a California congressman saying Islam “will motivate people to kill children,” a woman wearing a head scarf in Boston being verbally abused and hit on the shoulder. The AP did a story with a couple of allegations of anti-Muslim incidents, but in speculating about a backlash had to acknowledge “the worst didn’t happen.” In a nation of 300 million, these few incidents are thin gruel to allege widespread Islamophobia.
And what do FBI hate crime statistics have to say about the alleged wave of hatred of Muslims? The 2011 figures (the latest available) found 1,318 crimes motivated by religious bias. More than 62 percent were directed at Jews, while 13.3 percent were deemed anti-Islamic. The 2010 numbers show 67 percent of such crimes were aimed at Jews, and 12.7 percent anti-Islamic. Other years show similar trends.
Could recurring Islamist terrorism — 9/11, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square attempt, Fort Hood, Boston, London, Madrid, Mumbai — influence attitudes toward Islam? Has the pedophilia scandal affected the Bing Crosby “Going My Way” image of priests and views of the Catholic Church? Of course. That may be unfair to the overwhelming majority of priests, but the cover-up of pedophilia has consequences.
Yes, there are other extremists in U.S. society. And, yes, the vast majority of U.S. Muslims are true-blue Americans. But there’s a problem emanating from their community, however small the number of radicals may be.
None of this is to say that racism doesn’t exist. Maybe as I write these words, a bigot is plotting a horrific crime against our fellow citizens who are Muslim. But the facts so far suggest that an American — of any race, ethnicity, religion — is more likely to be killed and maimed by Islamist terror than an American Muslim is to be by Islamophobia.