Opinion: Politicians Have No Interest In Checking Islamophobia

By S. Amjad Hussain

March/April 2022

Anti-Semitism and racism is rampant in America and so is Islamophobia. However, while politicians refrain from uttering anti-Jewish diatribes or racial slurs, no such restraint is exercised when it comes to Islam and Muslims.

Last November Congressman Lauren Boebert (R., Colo.) called Congressman Ilhan Omar (D. Minn.), a terrorist, and the congressional Republican leadership looked the other way.

Like the mascot of Motorola’s “His Master’s Voice”, they are enthralled by the voice of their master sitting in Florida pulling the strings.

When some Democratic members of the House proposed a bill to curb Islamophobia, there was fierce opposition along party lines. Should we infer that while the majority of Democrats are against Islamophobia, the other party condones it?

The bill, Combating International Islamophobia Act (H.R. 5665), passed the House along party lines with one Republican joining the majority. The bill envisions the creation of an office in the State Department that would monitor Islamophobia not only in the United States, but across the world. When prejudice and racism become institutionalized, they must be opposed at the national level by enacting pertinent laws. If the Senate passes the bill, President Biden has said he will sign it.

Islamophobia is rampant because Muslims in America lack organizations such as Anti-Defamation League or NAACP, two effective organizations battling anti-Semitism and racism.

The only significant Muslim organization is the Council of American-Muslim Relations. Sometimes CAIR is the only voice pointing out bigotry against Muslims in America.

Some people might say that Islamophobia is not a big problem in this country. Those people have not been at the receiving end of hatred and are perhaps unaware of the coordinated efforts by many groups that are actively promoting hatred against Muslims.

There are 41 organizations around the world, as mentioned by Wikipedia, that propagate hate against Muslims. This list includes The Alt-Right, American Freedom Defense Initiative, ACT! For America, Christian Action Network, Jewish Defense League, Ku Klux Klan, New Independent Baptist Church, Stop Islamization of America (with chapters in Denmark, Europe, and Norway), and the Hindu Mahasabha.

These organizations are funded by a number of tax-exempt organizations. CAIR published a document titled American Philanthropy and the Islamophobia Network that named many well-known organizations. There are 1096 entities — foundations, family funds, and individuals — that spend $1.5 billion a year to demean and minimize Muslims in this country and spread falsehood about their religion.

Among the top donors, as documented by CAIR, are Vanguard Charitable, Fidelity Charitable, Schwab Charitable, Jewish Communal Fund, National Christian Foundation, Adelson Family Foundation, Mirowski Family Foundation Inc., and Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism Inc.

Ms. Boebert is not the only one hurling insults at Muslims and their religion. In the past decade, as the country has leaned more to the right, Islamophobia has been on the rise. Leading the pack was none other than former President Donald Trump.

On banning some Muslims from entering the United States, he said, “That’s right, we need a travel ban for certain dangerous countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people.”

His Attorney General Jeff Sessions had said, “Once again we face a totalitarian threat to the free world. This time it is from ideological and apocalyptic Islam.” He did not weigh in on the insurrection of Jan. 6 last year when a different kind of totalitarian takeover of the government was attempted. Steve Bannon, a one-time Trump adviser, had said that Islam is something much darker than Hitler and the Nazis.

And Michael Flynn the National Security Adviser to President Trump, had compared Islam to malignant cancer that had already metastasized. Flynn had the shortest tenure as National Security Adviser, was convicted of lying to the FBI, and later pardoned by President Trump.

Since then, he is supporting and promoting pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory.

All these individuals had served in the previous government.

In November 2017, the Republican National Committee posted an online survey that contained the following questions: 1. Are you concerned by the potential spread of Sharia Law? 2. Do you want to see more done to stop radicle Islamic terrorists from coming to our shores?

It is a glaring example of a major political party sowing seeds of Islamophobia.

Many states have passed laws against Shariah. Had it not been a serious effort to discredit Muslims and Islam, it would be laughable. It was reminiscent of the movie The Russians are Coming or Chicken Little screaming that the sky was falling.

It is interesting that in America there are religious courts that administer Catholic canon law and Jewish Halacha law with the consent of litigants.

Islamophobia should be condemned the same way we condemn anti-Semitism and racism.

S. Amjad Hussain is an emeritus professor of surgery and humanities at the University of Toledo. His column runs every other week in The Ohio Blade.  

[Republished with the author’s permission. Originally published in The Ohio Blade, Jan. 19, 2022]