Americans are quickly disgusted by racism, anti-Semitism and other unacceptable expressions of hatred. Islamophobia is a bitter fruit from the same tree, but few Americans can identify this increasingly prevalent form of bigotry against Islam and Muslims.
Like others who traffic in hatred, Islamophobes are fueled by fear and ignorance. They deliberately create environments of fear to capitalize on the ignorance of others.
In the mid-1930s, a bigoted radio priest, Father Charles Coughlin, spewed hatred against Jews across the national radio waves from Royal Oak. Similarly today, the nationally syndicated “Michael Savage Show,” (heard locally on WDTK-AM, 1400), openly calls for forced conversion of Muslims to Christianity and the deportation of Muslims, and recommends that construction of mosques be made illegal in America. This is the sound of professional bigots wanting to demonize Muslim-Americans, portraying them as a fifth column, disloyal, violent and anti-American.
Why should non-Muslim Americans care? For one, any form of racism, bigotry or hatred toward any minority threatens the very fabric of what this country stands for. Freedom of religion, equal rights and equal opportunity are concepts on which this great nation was founded. In U.S. history, we have seen how irrational fear of entire groups of people has prompted us into wrong, regrettable actions.
It is America’s minorities, its diversity and the coming together of many ideas and talents that have enabled our nation to flourish. It is America’s Catholics, Jews and Asians that make this nation beautiful. Hispanics, Italians, Poles are an integral part of the richly diverse mosaic that is America. And where would this country be today without our African Americans?
But each of these minorities, and others, was demonized and stereotyped at one time. Some still are.
While many Americans now understand that bias against Catholics, Jews and others is clearly immoral and unacceptable, most do not recognize the evils of Islamophobia. While our history has taught us otherwise, many, including some of our elected officials, are allowing a growing segment of our community to be targeted by agents of hate. (MORE)
Victor Ghalib Begg chairs the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan.