How Long Until Someone Gets Hurt?

With Islamophobia seemingly spreading, two questions come to mind: first, why now? And second, when do we worry that we, as a country, are suddenly in the process of stigmatizing an entire class of peaceful, integrated citizens?

Islam is by no means ancient to America, but nor is it particularly new. We’re nine years, and three election cycles, past 9/11. While the effects continue to ripple through society, we’ve finally distanced ourselves from the alarmism and all-consuming fear that typified our early response, and threatened to erode our civil liberties. Why have we, now, discovered an enemy in our Islamic fellow-citizens?

One thought: this instinct has always been here, but lurking below the surface. For all that he abused the powers of the police state, to the detriment of a relatively small (but non-trivial) set of clearly innocent Muslims (Arar, El-Masri, etc.), Bush, like Blair, successfully funneled unproductive anger away from the American Muslim population at large. Accordingly, nativist elements never acquired the legitimacy they need to move from the fringe to the mainstream.

What Bush denied the far-right, today’s Republican leaders have gladly delivered — unfocused anger, in spades — as an exclusive alternative to substantive discourse. The new political rhetoric first made it okay to hate; now, through Palin, Gingrich, and Lazio, it’s made it okay to hate Muslims.

Ideas have consequences. If we fail to stem this tide, someone will get hurt. And regardless, nine years later, we’ve handed Al-Qaeda what it didn’t win, to our great credit, on 9/11 — the beginnings of an all-out “clash of civilizations.”



  1. Of course religious persecution is wrong, but there’s nothing wrong with staying alert. We should not take away muslims’ rights, but neither should we be ignorant of what the Quran really says. Some moderates believe in a watered down version of Islam that is no threat, but fundamentalist Islam is dangerous. Again, we should not harm them or persecute them, but just stay alert.

    And as for people getting hurt… that’s been going on a long time. As you’ve said, 9/11 was three election cycles ago.

  2. Fundamentalists ANYTHING is dangerous. What the Quran “really says” is not, really, any more dangerous than what the Bible “really says.” Both condone extreme violence in the name of God and purity.

    And “staying alert” is rather different than “picketing peaceful Muslim congregations,” isn’t it?

  3. “Why have we, now, discovered an enemy in our Islamic fellow-citizens?”

    The idea has been brewing in the upper echelons for quite some time – it just had to materialize at the right moment. It was simply a long for for an opportunity and 9/11 provided that.

  4. The real problem here is that the ideal solution to anti-Muslim violence, for American Muslims to arm and defend themselves, would only give credibility to the accusations made against Muslims. Damned feedback loops.

    1. I wouldn’t really call that the ideal solution, but it’s definitely the solution the Islamophobes would want for themselves.

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