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27 Jul, 2010 21:21

Islamophobia growing in America

Even as plans to build a mosque and Ground Zero in New York City move forward, fear of Islam and misunderstand of its major tenets is growing in America.

"Osama bin Laden became a poster boy for all Muslims. There are billions of Muslims in the world, this one guy symbolizes all Muslims for most Americans because Americans are so politically uneducated. Our TV doesn’t report it, our schools don’t teach about it,” said filmmaker Danny Schechter.

A recent estimate from the Council of American-Islamic Relations says there are seven million Muslims currently living in the US. There are no exact numbers available, however, since the US Census Bureau does not collect data on religious identification, and in some ways, the lack of accurate information is contributing to the spread of Islamophobia.

“Racism is alive, well and kicking, with its main focus now on Muslims. 9/11 was largely about demonizing Muslims, and the recurring images that we get every couple of months are of a new car bomber, or underwear bomber, or shoe bomber. The impression is that Muslims are crazy,” said journalist Jerry Mazza.

More than half of American Muslims reportedly believe that the US government’s anti-terrorism policies have been singling them out.

“When you go to work, look for a job, they check your name, your name is Mohammed, they would rather skip you and hire the next person. In an airport and all that, you get double checked because of the name and all that,” said Mohammed Nekrouf, 25.

A wave of protests has taken place in New York because the Muslim community wants two of their religious holidays to be days off in public schools.

“It’s only two days. If Christmas holidays get a 10 day break, why can we not have two days,” asked teacher Batina Abdul-Mumia

“I want the school system, Michael Bloomberg, to close the schools on Eid Al-Fahr and Eid Al-Fatr. They have the abilities, they have the power, they can do it, if they wish to. The Muslim kids are as much a part of this community as everyone else,” said Bahr Mustafa of the Muslim Holiday Coalition.

To many, this lack of inclusion in the education system is just the tip of the iceberg. Projects to build a number of mosques around the US have also shown the intolerance of the wider society.

A planned Islamic Center and Mosque just steps from Ground Zero is the biggest such project fueling resistance right now.

“Nobody in their right mind would ever have a problem with that, but of course the Islamophobes, including the people who have been brainwashed by the 9/11 inside job, the people who orchestrated it, will make sure there is a lot of controversy about it,” said radio host and Muslim Kevin Barrett.

The belief is growing that when Islam does turn radical, it is because US foreign policies create a vicious circle.

“Eighty percent of the soldiers in Iraq were asked, 'why are you here?' They said, ‘payback for 9/11,’ even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11,” said Schecheter.

“A person is radicalized not by the ideology of Islam, but by American foreign policies. And this is actually the objective of the 'terrorists:' To get the West to show its true face on the international arena, to show itself as an imperialist power, to show itself as an ideological power that is false. The more they suppress domestic rights, the more Muslims will take the view that we are at war with the West and so this is the number-one factor contributing to terrorism on the international arena,” said Younus Abdullah Muhammad, author of the website RevolutionMuslim.com

Gordon James Klingenschmitt of the Pray In Jesus Name Project argued that it is not merely Islamophobia, he believes in religious liberty but explained that there is a violent sect in Islam that should not be rewarded, for example with the building of a large mosque in New York City near ground zero.

There is certainly a concern when they strap bombs to their chest or airplanes to their chest and they fly into the World Trade Center and they destroy and slaughter 2996 innocent American civilians, that we don’t want to now reward that kind of violence by building a 13 story mosque just two blocks away from ground zero where they murdered Americans in the name of a violent brand of Islam,” said Klingenschmitt.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) argued however that no one was being rewarded with a large mosque; in fact, he contended that the project in New York was a community center for all faiths.

We’re seeing opposition to mosques nationwide. You’re seeing oppositions not only to the Manhattan mosque, there’s opposition to a Staten Island, New York mosque, a Brooklyn mosque. We’re seeing opposition to mosques in Tennessee, Illinois and California,” said Hooper.

Hooper contends it is much bigger than the ‘ground zero mosque’ and that the fear of Islam is much greater, especially since the recent failed December bombing in Detroit.

Gordon argued that there are already “a hundred mosques in New York City” and that the ground zero mosque is a tower being built by foreign money. He likened it to Muslims building a mosque in Jerusalem and further argued that Muslims build mosques in cities they have conquered, using the historical examples of Constantinople and Jerusalem. Gordon also contended that the mosque will create an unsafe environment for New Yorkers.

Hooper called Gordon’s arguments nonsense and pandering. A poll of Manhattan residents showed that the city favors the mosque, argued Hooper. He further stated that there was no evidence of a threat or risk New Yorkers because of the mosque.