Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

U.S. Islamophobia

The furor over the supposed "Ground Zero Mosque" — which is neither at Ground Zero nor truly a mosque — tapped into an alarmingly widespread moment of anti-Muslim feeling in the country. A few weeks before the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a 43-year-old New York cab driver was stabbed by an assailant who had first checked to see whether the cabbie was Muslim. The 21-year-old attacker allegedly yelled: "Consider this a checkpoint." A few mosques across the country were reportedly vandalized. In polls, a majority of Americans opposed the construction of Park51, the proposed Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan (this despite the fact that there had been Muslim prayer halls in the area since before the construction of the Twin Towers). Suspicion of Islam also underlay some of the far-right's criticisms of President Obama — a Pew Research Center poll in September found that only 34% of Americans believed the President was a Christian (he is). New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, dismissed opposition to Park51, saying the anti-mosque advocates "would compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom." His paean for calm and tolerance wasn't heard by all — or at least by some voters in the state of Oklahoma, where a law that would ban Shari'a law, even though there's no risk of it ever being legally forced on anyone in the U.S., was recently voted in.