In a post-Sept. 11 America, inciting Islamophobia and attempting to marginalize Muslims is a lucrative business. Extremists like Steven Emerson seek to polarize our nation and world to continue profiting from the industry of fear.
Emerson uses methods of distortion, exaggeration and outright falsehood to demonize Muslims and urge fellow Americans to fear Islam.
He borrows terminology and tactics once employed by Nazi Germany to justify anti-Semitic hate to help create similar hatred of American Muslims in America.
In his talk, titled “The Islamic Threat,” Emerson is quoted by The Desert Sun as saying that “Islam's ‘leadership and organizational superstructure' threaten Western values” and that (radical) Muslims “want to conquer the United States. They want to conquer Europe.”
Try replacing the word “Islam” or “Muslims” with the word “Jews,” “Latinos,” “Catholics” or “blacks” in his quotes and note how repulsive and hateful those comments sound. So, why have we become desensitized to anti-Muslim bigotry?
Why are agenda-driven propagandists such as Emerson allowed to disregard the more than 1 billion peaceful Muslims who are hard-working, family-oriented people seeking a better life for their children? Why are the positive contributions of 6 million to 7 million American Muslims substituted with guilt by association and fear-mongering that places the local Muslim community at risk of discrimination and hate crimes?
A leading national media watch group, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, listed Emerson as one of the top 12 Islamophobes in America. These Islamophobes, together, “form a network that teaches Americans to see Islam in fearful terms and their Muslim neighbors as suspects,” (www.smearcasting.com).
It is no wonder Emerson attempts to marginalize American Muslims and their leading organizations and label them as terrorist-sympathizers. It is puzzling that Emerson gets to promote his bigotry, unchallenged, at the invitation of an esteemed institution such as the World Affairs Council or in the pages of The Desert Sun.
CAIR is one of the most respected Muslim advocacy organizations in America. We work closely with our nation's interfaith leaders, elected officials, media professionals and law enforcement agencies to provide them with the Muslim community's perspective on issues varying from national security to civil rights and to promote tolerance and mutual understanding.
CAIR and the Muslim community repeatedly and unequivocally condemn all forms of terrorism because Islam teaches us to value life - every life.
Emerson is entitled to free speech, including hate speech.
But residents of the desert cities deserved better than hate-mongering.
As our country and world face the challenges of polarization, extremism and terrorism, we need voices of understanding, peace and moderation from all faith communities.
[Hussam Ayloush is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area office.]