“The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends,” President George W. Bush declared soon after the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Bush’s statement set the tone for the tumultuous decade to come, one in which the nation prosecuted a war on terrorism in two Muslim lands while taking great pains to protect the rights of Muslim Americans.
Yet if the author Nathan Lean is to be believed, Americans today are caught in the grip of an irrational fear of Islam and its adherents. In his short book on the subject, Mr. Lean, a journalist and editor at the website Aslan Media, identifies this condition using the vaguely medical sounding term “Islamophobia.” It is by now a familiar diagnosis, and an ever widening range of symptoms—from daring to criticize theocratic tyrannies in the Middle East to drawing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad—are attributed to it.
In reality, Islamophobia is simply a pejorative neologism designed to warn people away from criticizing any aspect of Islam. Those who deploy it see no difference between Islamism—political Islam and its extremist offshoots—and the religion encompassing some 1.6 billion believers world-wide. Thanks to this feat of conflation, Islamophobia transforms religious doctrines and political ideologies into something akin to race; to be an “Islamophobe” is in some circles today tantamount to being a racist.
American Islamophobia, Mr. Lean claims, is fomented by a “small cabal of xenophobes.” “The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims” is less a book than a series of vignettes about some of these antagonists, who are “bent on scaring the public about Islam.” His Islamophobic figures and institutions range from political leaders like Mr. Bush, Sen. John McCain and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who, Mr. Lean says, have “harnessed Muslims and Islam to terrorism”; to the pro-Israel community, which is alleged to be animated by a “violent faith narrative” and funded by magnates who inject “eye-popping cash flows into the accounts of various fear campaigns”; to pretty much everyone who campaigned in 2010 against the construction of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in lower Manhattan.
Mr. Lean tars with the same brush the likes of the scholar Daniel Pipes and the Muslim activist, physician and U.S. Navy veteran Zuhdi Jasser. Mr. Pipes, the author writes, is “deeply entrenched in the business of selling fear.” He
portrays Dr. Jasser as a puppetlike figure, “a ‘good Muslim,’ one that openly and forcefully denounced various tenets of his faith.”
These are crude and uncharitable caricatures of these men. Mr. Pipes was one of the first Western commentators to raise the alarm about the subterranean spread of extremist attitudes in both the Middle East and among some Muslim communities in the West. Dr. Jasser, a devout Muslim, is the founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, an organization that advances the notion that “the purest practice of Islam is one in which Muslims have complete freedom to accept or reject any of the tenants or laws of the faith no different than we enjoy as Americans in this Constitutional republic.” Both men argue that the real contest is the serious war of ideas raging within Islam itself, between the forces of liberalism and pluralism and those of obscurantism.
To Mr. Lean, though, any such distinction is simply a false perception manufactured by Islamophobes. Thus the author fails to grapple with the fact that, unlike average Muslims, Islamist terror groups like al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah do commit unspeakable acts of violence in the name of Islam—actions that surely help account for why many Americans (49%, according to a 2010 poll) hold an unfavorable view of Islam, even when they view favorably Muslims that they personally know.
Read more at WSJ
Also see: The Monstrous Moral Inversion of the “Islamophobia” Industry
by Robert Spencer