Pluto author, Nathan Lean (The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, 2012) has been extremely proactive recently, with both an extract of his latest book (see above) featured in Salon on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 and a new editorial penned by Lean appearing in the Washington Post this week as well.
You can read the Salon extract, titled ‘Fox News’ War on Muslims’, by clicking here.
In his Washington Post editorial, also published on the 11th September, Lean argues that as a result of rampant Islamophobia, eleven years on from the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims are victims. He leads in by acknowledging the heightened solemnity, anger and division that the anniversary brings:
While it is normal to still feel the pain inflicted by the merciless and misguided terrorists that, more than a decade ago, carried out their unthinkable deed, the wounds of that time have not healed. They have worsened. Instead of emerging from the darkness as a nation just as united in its determination to combat terrorism as in its commitment to unify a hurting population, the passing years have only witnessed more fracture as suspicion, anger and prejudice directed at American Muslims has grown and manifested itself in ugly and un-American ways.
Lean goes on to cite quantitative evidence for the worrying trend he identifies amongst the American population – an ever-growing, metastasising (to use Lean’s own language) Islamophobia.
Last year, in one of the most recent studies to date, the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution found that nearly half of all Americans believe that the values of Islam are incompatible with American values. The same percentage also reported that they would be uncomfortable with a mosque being built in their neighborhood and forty-one percent admitted they would be uncomfortable if a teacher at the elementary school in their community were Muslim.
Growing anti-Muslim sentiment has real consequences. In 2010, the FBI reported a 50 percent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes, the last year for which data of that type is available. This year has undoubtedly witnessed a bump as well. During Ramadan, the sacred month of fasting for Muslims, eight attacks on mosques were carried out in a period of just eleven days. One cemetery was destroyed, a homemade bomb was detonated, and pig parts — an animal considered by Muslims to be unclean — were strewn about their houses of worship. Instead of celebrating their religious holiday in peace, a cloud of panic and fear hovered above their festivities.
The author then analyses what he sees to be at the root cause of the phenomenon – a wilfully malicious media driven by a pervasive political and ideological agenda at odds with the values of American pluralism. He writes:
The problem is that we’ve been listening to the wrong voices for too long — voices that agitate and exacerbate anxieties and prey on heightened emotions brought about by national tragedies. An overabundance of pseudo-scholars, professed terrorism experts, and ideologically driven activists and religious leaders have long monopolized the national discourse about Islam and turned Muslim-bashing into a lucrative cottage industry.
American blogger Robert Spencer, who the Southern Poverty Law Center labels a hate group leader, is among the most prominent voices opposing an improved relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. His popular website presents an off balanced view of Islam, offering dozens of sensational and violent headlines about violence carried out by Muslims each day. His books regularly appear atop bestseller lists and until just recently were used by the FBI and other law enforcement institutions to train new recruits.
Spencer’s colleague, Pamela Geller, is also a rising star in the Islamophobia industry. In 2010, she single-handedly ignited a firestorm over the Park 51 Islamic Community Center by injecting the “Ground Zero Mosque” meme into an otherwise balanced conversation. In addition to waging a culture war against such cartoonish threats as “stealth jihad,” “creeping Sharia,” and “high-school prom jihad,” her latest metropolitan bus advertisements in New York and San Francisco equate the Palestinian cause with holy war.
Geller and Spencer’s legal counsel, Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan official who heads the Center for Security Policy, was behind Michele Bachman’s recent accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating Congress. Gaffney once served as an advisor to Bachman and regularly travels the country proclaiming, with the same loose evidence used by the Minnesota Congresswoman, that Islamic law will soon usurp the Constitution.
He concludes by examining global creep of the Islamophobia Industry, and its bloody consequences. Anders Breivik and his murderous rampage in Norway last year elicits perhaps the most chilling manifestation of this new form of racism. (See our previous post about Lean’s article in the LA Times…) A Guardian article, ‘10 myths of the UK’s far right‘ published this week also touches upon Islamophobia in British society.
To read the full article, visit the Washington Post. If you want to read more of Nathan Lean’s brilliant and timely exposition, then see the details below on how to purchase it from the Pluto website.
How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims
Nathan Lean. Foreword by John L. Esposito
Disturbing account of the rising tide of Islamophobia sweeping through the United States and Europe.
“This concise, accessible and illuminating book meets one of the most urgent needs of our time. Lean has provided a compelling counter-narrative that reveals the vested interests and highly organized networks of those who preach the virulent Islamophobia that is not only endangering world peace but is also corroding the tolerance and egalitarian ethos that should characterize Western society. This book should be required reading.” – Karen Armstrong
“Islamophobia is not only about ignorance and fear. Some people purposefully nurture it and use it as a political strategy. Nathan Lean’s The Islamophobia Industry shows what is happening behind the scenes. It is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand the rationale and objectives behind those who foster this new racism against Muslims.” – Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University and author of The Quest for Meaning