I have recently been spending hours in long debate with a friend over Islam and Muslims in specific. My friend is not some unintelligent person from the backwoods of the South. He was a marine who served in the first Gulf War and had his life altered by that conflict, he is a father and a husband and a good person in many ways, yet he is staunchly anti-Muslim. I will freely admit to being baffled by his vitriolic hatred of Islam and Muslims in general. At first, I attributed it to his experience in the war but according to him the change occurred when he had his daughter and couldn’t imagine seeing her suffer under the yoke of Islam and the treacherous ways of the Muslims. Of course, I am paraphrasing. However, I could still not understand how someone so intelligent and so giving a person could downright despise and loathe Muslims.
The Key is Fear
After taking some time to sit back and think on the subject and do some research, I see that he is not alone. The fear of what might or could happen to his child drives his hatred of Muslims. It was right there before my eyes. He basically told me that he was afraid for his daughter. Lets be honest, what good father wouldn’t be afraid for his daughter? Every time the news is on, there is more and more scenes of violence against non Muslims, the ongoing conflict with Israel, the activity in Egypt and of course the never ending mantra of right wing complaints that Obama is a Muslim. So it isn’t like this fear was created in a vacuum. It doesn’t help that the left keeps pushing tolerance down everyone’s throat and then situations such as this. ( http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/12/20/school-islamic-vocabulary-lesson-part-common-core-standards/?intcmp=latestnews) When people are bombarded with these images and these situations, it only serves to enhance their fear, not calm it.
The Cycle of Fear
At some point, what starts out as a concern or question gets stoked by the images and situations and a cycle of self feeding fear results. From a psychological standpoint, fear reinforces fear. This means that a fear causing issue will cause a person to seek out more information in order to address that fear but will often be lead to others who have the same fear and in turn only serve to increase the said fear. It becomes cyclic in nature. To be honest, it happens to all of us on some level, legitimately or otherwise. Still, it is this fear that becomes the overiding motivation that makes us begin to hate and then despise. Once this hate and loathing reaches a boiling point it spills over, and in the case of Islam, it becomes Islamophobia.
Islamophobia was originally coined in 1991 by the Runnymede Trust, a independent think tank in the U.K. Islamophobia is defined by the University of California at Berkely as “Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve “civilizational rehab” of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise). Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.” It is based on 5 precepts. See this http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/islamophobia/defining-islamophobia for the 5 precepts. For more information, there is a link to Gallup to help understand Islamophobia in the West, http://www.gallup.com/poll/157082/islamophobia-understanding-anti-muslim-sentiment-west.aspx and the ongoing demonization of Muslims in the United States according to a report at the Southern Poverty Law Center. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2011/summer/jihad-against-islam.
As I previously mentioned, the key is fear but part of that key is the seed of legitimacy of concern that exists. What father would want his daughter exposed to violent extremism? The fact there are Muslim extremists who call for the demise of America and the West in general, the beheadings, the constant violence, this is all very real and can be overwhelming. It becomes difficult to separate the good Muslim from the bad Muslim and the undeniable fact that anyone can go from zero to zealot very fast. Friends and families of attackers in the U.S. usually say the same thing; “I never would have expected this from X.” or “He always was nice and respectful, I can’t see what drove him to this.” All of this weighs on the mind and perpetuates the fear that an unseen, unsuspecting, enemy is right around the corner to blow you up. There are the attacks at the Boston marathon and Fort Hood, all of which serve to make the fear that at any moment an attack can happen, that much more real. In a very real sense, making the fear worse and worse and since it has some legitimate concern built in, it is very hard to combat.
The Very Real Threat From Islamophobia
Certainly there exists the possibility that another terrorist attack could occur and I don’t think anyone disputes that. However, what really erodes the American concepts of freedom and liberty is when we push for limits on Muslims that are against our core values. A person does not have to go far, the PATRIOT ACT is but one example. The provisions of the NDAA, National Defense Authorization Act and many others. In the links above, there are other examples of Muslims being unjustly vilified. We have, as a country, allowed fear and contempt, to determine the rights and liberties of not only Muslims in this country but other citizens as well. While people might be focused on preventing Muslims from doing harm, these same laws can be turned against other religions such as Judaism. Christianity, Hindus, Buddists and others. The supposed purpose behind these laws and those actions propagated by the Islamophobes is to stop the onslaught of the Islamification of our way of life. However, they are more than willing to let other religions such as Christianity continue the onslaught against the basic freedoms. At which point their fear has become hypocrisy.
Islamophobia and Patriotism
Part of the problem with dealing with Islamophobia is this fear is cloaked in the flag. The very real outcome of George Bush Jr. saying “If you are not with us, you are against us.” When anyone attempts to combat this fear or curtail Islamophobia it becomes an accusation of UnAmericanism or Anti- American motivations. None of which is remotely true but it doesn’t keep people who despise Muslims from using it as a weapon. They attempt to discredit the facts by saying they are Un American. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. The Constitution of the United States starts with the Preamble, “We the People”. This means all people. When we start trying to limit the rights of one group over the rights of another, we run the risk of trashing the very document that is the supreme law of the land. The same one that guarantees the religious freedom that the people hold dear. Limiting rights and liberties is exactly the path, terrorism wants us to take. Extremists want us to be forced into extreme measures as it justifies their existence and their willingness to act against us in a horrific manner. Therefore, by using patriotism to justify our attempts at limiting rights we become the extremists ourselves.
Terrorism, by its very purpose, it to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy. So far since 9/11, the extremists on both sides have been winning. We are letting fear overrule common sense and letting this same fear perpetuate itself. So far to the tune of billions of dollars in wasted spending, the erosion of the rights of a free people and the trampling on the very values that this country was founded upon. While he was originally talking about money and taxes, the words still ring true in this case. Benjamin Franklin said; ” Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” It is not liberal to refuse to condemn an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. It is a realistic view that not everyone is a terrorist or an extremist.