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Nihad Awad: Al Jazeera Documentary is an Invaluable Exposé of Multi-Million-Dollar Islamophobia Network
By Nihad Awad
[Nihad Awad is national executive director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties group. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
“I almost died. Just because I was Muslim.”
Freedom of religion is a fundamental American ideal, and yet, after a game of basketball, Abdirahman Hassan was violently attacked and shot at because of his faith while walking to a car to go home in Minnesota. He was with several of his friends when a man said to them “f*** Muslims.” A couple minutes later, after they got in their car and were about to drive away, the man repeated his insult and fired shots at their car, injuring two of the young men. This is just one of many horrifying instances of anti-Muslim hate experienced by American Muslims.
“Islamophobia Inc.,” an Al Jazeera documentary released today, provides an invaluable look into the multi-million-dollar Islamophobia Network and traces the sources and effects of the hateful and fearmongering movement that seeks to cast Islam and Muslims as a malevolent existential threat, and instigates prejudice, discrimination, and oppression towards the faith and its practitioners.
The Islamophobia Network has promoted fringe, false, and conspiratorial ideas about Muslims and Islam, and used the internet to make them mainstream. This demonization of an entire religious community has made it easier to commit violence against American Muslims.
This is evidenced in the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) one-of-its-kind 2018 civil rights report, Targeted, which documented a 15 percent increase in hate crimes targeting American Muslim communities in 2017 over 2016, and a 17 percent rise in anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide in the same time period.
The anti-Muslim industry, including hate groups like ACT for America and the Center for Security Policy (CSP) and individuals like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, paints a facade of Islam as a threat and uses it to maliciously misguide Americans into fearing Muslims. The Islamophobia Network works to silence and bully American Muslim communities in an effort to prevent them from exercising their fundamental constitutional right of active political engagement in the United States.
Additionally, the Islamophobia Network has close ties with the Trump administration. The administration’s blatant peddling of dangerous and dehumanizing anti-Muslim rhetoric and its advancement of discriminatory and unconstitutional anti-Muslim policies have been directly informed by the Network.
One example of this close relationship is evidenced in the unconstitutional Muslim Ban. In his original dictate for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” President Trump cited a defective and inaccurate poll by the extremist anti-Muslim hate group CSP, which was founded by Frank Gaffney, an influential Islamophobe on Capitol Hill and a core node of the Islamophobia Network. CAIR's 2018 civil rights report, Targeted, finds that 464 anti-Muslim incidents documented last year related to the unconstitutional "Muslim Ban" executive orders.
Overall, the report found that federal government agencies instigated more than a third of all anti-Muslim bias incidents in 2017. That is unprecedented.
It is important to remember, however, that those that seek to spread hate and fear are not unchallenged. Every day, Americans like you and I are fighting to ensure that our constitutional rights – to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to politically engage – are protected, and that we all not only live, but thrive in an America that is true to its ideals of equality and fairness.
In light of this, tomorrow, Tuesday, May 15, CAIR will hold a Congressional briefing co-hosted by Congresswoman Judy Chu to highlight the troubling findings of the 2018 report, Targeted, which offers data on the impact of and legal pushback against anti-Muslim bias across the United States in the past year.
It is important that we hold our elected officials and our civic and religious leaders accountable and encourage them to use their platforms to make statements reminding fellow Americans of our shared values. Our elected officials and our religious and civic leaders should not provide platforms to anti-Muslim hate groups that promote Islamophobia and spread words of hate.
Rather, let us work together to shape a society in which all Americans enjoy their fundamental right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.