Hussein Ibish is communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
The idea that Islam, and by extension Muslims, are inherently violent and irrational has become commonplace in our culture.
This misperception, with deep origins in the historical rivalry between Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East, was intensified by the Arab-Israeli conflict and a slew of bigoted Hollywood movies, and gained a solid foothold in the minds of many Americans after 9/11.
Since 9/11, right-wing evangelical preachers such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and commentators such as Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes, have spared no effort to spread fear and hatred of Islam and the growing American Muslim community.
This defamation probably has its greatest parallel in the anti-Semitic ideas that took hold in American culture between the First and Second World Wars.
The charges directed against the American Jewish community - now eerily echoed by anti-Muslim rhetoric - smeared a religious minority as dangerous and subversive aliens. The Father Coughlins and Henry Fords of that era, and ours, found the political space to promote prejudice yet remain "respectable."
Certainly the 19 hijackers responsible for the carnage of 9/11 saw themselves as Muslims. But so, of course, did about 300 of their victims...