How Reckless Islamophobia Undermines the Struggle Against Radical Islam

By / 1.5.2011

The brutal Egyptian suicide bombing at a church on New Year’s Day has rightly outraged the world. And yet, rather than focus on those specifically responsible for this brutal attack (most likely some splinter group of Al Qaeda), some – including many right wingers – are using the opportunity to stoke anti-Islamic sentiment. Islam-hater Robert Spencer laments that “Islamic jihadists and Sharia supremacists continue, with ever increasing confidence and brutality, to prey on the Christians in their midst, while those who should be working to protect them make excuses and look the other way.” “A disproportionate share of religious persecution happens in Muslim-majority countries,” writes Gary Bauer. Marty Peretz wrote that “already in the new year there is already news of Islamist terror.”

While there certainly is a problem with jihadist violence towards minorities in the Middle East, the right’s outrage would have a lot more credibility were it not part of a broader anti-Islamic campaign. The hysterical campaign against Park51 in New York City last year was a turning point in American conservatism’s relationship to Muslims, illustrating beyond a reasonable doubt the sheer Islamophobia on the right.

“Muslim life is cheap,” Peretz infamously wrote during the Park51 non-controversy. He apologized for another line in the same article, wherein he called for Muslims to be stripped of their First Amendment rights. But about Muslim life being cheap, well, it was “a statement of fact, not value,” he said later.

The astonishing thing about Park51 was that powerful figures in the conservative movement revealed themselves as concerned with Islam, suddenly and selectively. Sarah Palin called on “peaceful Muslims” to reject the planned Islamic center, as if erecting such a building were a statement of violence. John McCain said Park51 would “harm relations, rather help.”

Here’s an idea: avoiding sweeping statements about Islam’s supposed propensity towards violence would help relations. It’s something those who claim to be so concerned with Islamist violence might want to consider.