Without question, Americans' feelings about Arabs and Muslims have taken a nose-dive over the past several years. Many of us are bombarded on a daily basis with emails that warn, frighten and induce extreme hypertension without offering a cure . . . let alone a palliative. They warn us that the Obama administration is filled with Muslims serving in sensitive positions; they frighten us with stories about atrocities and sleeper cells; they induce extreme hypertension in a thousand-and-one ways. Is it any wonder that Islamophobia is on the rise?
According to a recent poll by the Arab American Institute, "Favorable attitudes have continued to decline - from 43% in 2010 to 32% in 2014 for Arabs; and from 35% in 2010 to 27% in 2014 for Muslims." Upon reading these poll figures, I was amazed to find that even a quarter of the population still had a favorable attitude towards Muslims. I mean, if the number of those scathing, screaming emails decrying the imminent threat and danger that radical bloodthirsty Muslims pose to American -- and European -- society is any indication, Islamophobia has indeed reached epic proportions.
Of late, we have all been receiving dozens of forwarded emails carrying subject titles like "Wake Up America!" and "Islamic Terrorist Network in America!" I have traced the emails back to several sites, the most obnoxious of which belongs to former 1-term Representative Alan West (R-FL). In responding to one fellow who had forwarded me this email (reproduced here) I asked him how he -- an otherwise sober-sided moderate -- felt about following Alan West -- a member of the Conspiricist's Hall of Fame -- out into the nether frontier of Islamophobia. The chap took me to task, arguing in a return email that "Islamophobia is an oxymoron . . . . A phobia is an irrational fear . . . there is nothing irrational about fearing islam [sic]."
Many of these "warning shot emails" come from such infamous, professional Islamophobes as Pam Geller ("Islam . . . the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth . . ."), Debbie Schlussel ("[T]he majority of Muslims support terrorism. The vast majority. Not just a few hijackers and a few suicide bombers. But the MAJORITY."), Brigitte Gabriel ("Tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America, operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government. They are here — today. Many have been here for years. Waiting. Preparing."), and Dutch legislator Geert Wilders, ("I don't hate Muslims, I hate Islam") whose May 2009 speech "America, the Last Man Standing" still winds up in my inbox on an almost daily basis.
By the time their anti-Islamic philippics arrive in our inboxes, they are mostly anonymous. And what is more, they've generally been shorn of their most alarming trappings -- the bloody photos, the over-the-top "proofs," the links to dozens of other like-minded websites. It is instructive -- and indeed horrifying -- to discover what other "truths" these professional Islamophobes hold to be self-evident. I find myself wondering just how far people would follow the originators of these cyber screeds if only they knew the totality of their worldview. For these are people who warn us that Islamic terrorists are everywhere; they are in the White House, the campus quad and the court room. They are seeking to take over America and make it part of a resurrected Caliphate. They are on the verge of replacing our Constitution with Sharia law. To date, six states have actually passed anti-Sharia bills; nine more states (including Florida) have them on their legislative dockets. The bills are intended to combat this perceived threat that Muslims are undermining the United States Constitution and imposing Sharia law.
OK. I get it. There are a lot of insane, sociopathic, homicidal Islamic terrorists in the world. And they do go into battle against "infidels" armed with early 9th-century jeremiads ringing in their ears and late 20th-century weapons stockpiled in their arsenals. They are dangerous; their murders, kidnaps, beheadings and suicide missions are appalling. I sometimes wonder, however, if this gross fear of Islamic world domination hasn't made of us something we revile in others: abject haters of "the other."
Believe it or not, there are just as many -- if not more -- websites devoted to the Jewish takeover of America and the world as there are those devoted to the threat of Islamic hegemony. Such sites as Real Jew News, Veterans Today, and Reality Blog to cite merely three of more than three thousand, warn that Jews are nearing the completion of their age-old, Satanically-ordained mission: the New World Order. Jews, these sites argue -- and offer "photographic proof" -- already control the banks, the media, medicine and the governments of most Western countries. They make no distinction whatsoever between the most fervently secular and most unbendingly orthodox; all Jews, so these hate-filled sites argue, know and communicate with one another. All Jews, these anti-Semites contend, are equal partners in the plot to dominate the world.
Yes, I know, these people are crazy. But they don't know it; and this is what they and their followers really, truly believe. And like it or not, many more are in tacit agreement.
Now don't get me wrong: I am in no way comparing those who hold fast to a Protocols of the Elders of Zion-inspired delusion of Jewish world domination with those who have become -- or are in the process of becoming -- increasingly Islamophobic. The former is a fatuous phobia which has existed since the dawn of time; the latter, a very real fear and revulsion based upon what we see happening on a daily basis. The one thing I would urge though, is that we keep the former in mind even as we try and figure out how to most successfully deal with the latter.
What do I mean by this?
Simply stated, that we not go off on some pyschopathic, paranoiac tangent, seeing Muslim terrorists hiding under every bed or behind every door. No sane person believes that all Jewish people are part of an international conspiracy to take over the world. So too, no sane person should believe that all Muslims are bloodthirsty terrorists. But people do, partly because of what we see and read, and partly because of what prize-winning author Nathan Lean refers to as "The Islamophobia Industry." Lean sees this industry as " . . . a multi-million dollar network with deep pockets and extensive political connections. It consists of right-wing bloggers, politicians, academics and terrorism 'experts,' all of whom are committed to telling us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Islam."
By all means, let us be weary, vigilant and fearless where it comes to combating Islamic terrorists. But please, may we avoid the stultifying trap of seeing Islamic conspirators and sleeper cells under every bed and behind every door. For if we do, we will have, to paraphrase Pogo, ". . . met the enemy, only to find that he is us."'
©2014 Kurt F. Stone