Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 46 percent of Americans hold negative perceptions of Islam, 7 percentage points higher than after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The poll also discovered that a third of the respondents have recently heard prejudiced comments against Muslims. Even more depressing is that one in four openly acknowledges harboring prejudice toward Muslims.

Is this surprising? Unfortunately, it’s not. The vilification of Islam and Muslims has been relentless among segments of the media and political classes for the last five years.

The dangerously popular right-wing columnist Ann Coulter, for example, routinely drums up racist diatribes against Muslims. She questioned the “personal hygiene and grooming” of Muslims in a recent column. What other group can be so openly and maliciously maligned in American mainstream discourse today?

During the whole Dubai ports deal debacle, even Democratic leaders engaged in unfounded scare mongering to score political points.

And it continues. Colorado Rep. Jim Welker, a Republican, was recently discovered to have sent an e-mail to his constituents titled: ”Beware of Islam in America.” The text of his e-mail read, in part, “Can a devout Muslim be an American patriot and loyal citizen? Politically, no. Because he must submit to the mullah, who teaches annihilation of Israel and destruction of America, the great Satan.”

This is rubbish, of course, but such bigoted ideas continue to thrive, leaving many American Muslims politically fatigued. (MORE)

[Moustafa Bayoumi is a professor in the English Department at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and co-editor of “The Edward Said Reader.”]


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