On the American Peril of Islamophobiaphobia
March 26, 2011 5 Comments
Now a Senate subcommittee will hold hearings on “Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims.” Senator Durbin’s office denies that his March 29th hearing is in response to Congressman King’s hearings about Muslim radicalization, but let’s be real about Washington political theater.
Some Democrats protested mightily against Congressman King’s hearing because, they said, it focused on Muslims and should have included inquiry into other radicalized communities. “Islamophobia,” they called it, and some Muslim-Americans took up the call and protested the hearings.
What they were protesting, however, was a respectful discussion that included Muslim-Americans.
Now think about this. Congressman King holds a hearing on Muslim radicalization, which includes Muslim witnesses, and that is condemned as “Islamophobia” — and then a Democratic senator convenes a hearing on protecting the civil rights of American Muslims, so that the dialogue about Muslim-American communities is focused entirely on “Islamophobia.”
I’d say the theme of “Islamophobia” is getting abundant play. In fact, it appears that certain politicians wish foremost to focus entirely on what America is doing wrong regarding Muslims. That is not a bad conversation, just a misleading and much less compelling one.
There is no “crisis” of hatred against Muslims in America. “Hate crimes” in America are over eight times more likely to be directed at Jews (931) than Muslims. Muslims, at 107 hate crimes, come in just under “Other,” at 109 hate crimes. (“Other” means not Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, or Agnostic. Don’t ask. I don’t know.)
There is no surge of American antagonism that imperils Muslim-American communities. There is a political calculation: will we talk honestly, and with mutual respect, about Muslim radicalization, and partner in opposition to it, or will we perpetuate a narrative of “Islamophobia,” a loud insistence that any dialogue about Muslims that might possibly hint at any darkness in a fraction of Muslim-American communities, is categorically off-limits?
The latter is Islamophobiaphobia, the neurotic American insistence that we’re not allowed to question whether there is anything questionable about any aspect of any of the many Muslim-American communities. Islamophobiaphobia is a species of stereotyping, a working assumption that Muslim-American communities are a homogenous victim group. Nonsense. Muslim-American communities are as diverse as America.
In fact, Americans might be pleasantly surprised at how diverse and patriotic Muslim-American communities really are — but you wouldn’t glean that from relentless self-righteous focus on Islamophobiaphobic slamming of any American inquiry into Muslim radicalization.
If the national impulse is to demonize any inquiry about darkness in some Muslim communities, including inquiries that include Muslims, then who’s to blame ordinary Americans for retreating and accepting ignorance — and being a little less receptive? Thus does Islamophobiaphobia create borders rather than bridges. Islamophobiaphobia promotes an “us versus them” narrative, rather than the partnership that is urgently appropriate. Islamophobiaphobia makes it less likely that ordinary Americans will respect the manifest good will and patriotism of Muslim-American communities.
The vast majority of non-Muslim Americans and the vast majority of Muslim-Americans would join hands in a heartbeat. The vast majority of America is committed to this country and its security. We can build wonderful bridges on that basis.
But that easy and salutary union is compromised if the Islamophobiaphobia narrative prevails, and multiple well-intended and inquiring Americans are condemned as racists.