American culture’s view of American Muslims and Islam is steadily deteriorating under an onslaught of “bigotry” on cable news shows, newspaper op-ed pages and in the blogosphere, an Arab-American activist told an audience at Tulane University Tuesday.

That’s a significant shift, said Hussein Ibish, founder of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership in Washington.

For decades before 9/11, it was Hollywood that handed Americans the perceived wisdom on Arabs as passionate, hyper-sexed, irrational and cruel — from movies such as Rudolph Valentino’s 1921 silent classic “The Sheik” to turn-of-the-century thrillers such as “The Rules of Engagement” that portrayed Arabs only as terrorists, Ibish said.

Since the attacks on the World Trade Center, however, Hollywood has backed off. Meantime, Ibish said, commentators and politicians on the right — and a few on the left — have replaced film stereotypes with hours of talking-head air time that misrepresents Islam and fuels suspicion about American Muslims as secret sympathizers with terrorists.

Ibish, although formally trained as a literature scholar at the University of Massachusetts, works in public policy now. He described his foundation as one that trains Arab-American leaders to describe their values to the broader culture in easily understood American terms. He appeared as part of a university symposium on relations between the United States and the Islamic world. . .

Since 9/11, he said, commentators such as Malkin, Ann Coulter, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Pipes and David Horowitz have transferred old anti-Arab stereotypes to Islam, in a stream of “incredibly bigoted commentary” that would not have been tolerated before then. (MORE)


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