Fighting Islamophobia Across the Western World

The valiant struggle goes on.

A specter is haunting the Western world – the specter of Islamophobia.

Just ask the folks at the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding (ISPU). What is the ISPU, you ask? Why, it's an organization that is, in its own words, dedicated to creating “a vibrant and truly pluralistic America, where Muslims are strong and equal participants.” To this end, the ISPU “conducts objective, solution-seeking research that empowers American Muslims to develop their community and fully contribute to democracy and pluralism in the United States.” Founded in 2002 – note the date – it has become “a trusted source for information for and about American Muslims.” When I glanced through the names of its directors and advisors, the name that jumped out at me was that of the not-exactly-trustworthy John Esposito, perhaps America's most infamous apologist for Islam. In his 1999 book The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? – again, note the date – he assured readers that they had nothing to fear from the Religion of Peace. Since 9/11, he has continued to whitewash everybody's favorite faith in such books as What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam (2002) and The Future of Islam (2010).

Just out from the ISPU is its American Muslim Poll 2018: From Pride to Prejudice, which seeks to gauge American's “attitude toward Islam and Muslims in the era of Donald Trump,” and which is a product of a collaboration with the Bridge Initiative, a “multi-year research project that connects the academic study of Islamophobia with the public square” and thus spread awareness of Islamophobia “as an obstacle to strong pluralistic societies and therefore a threat to human dignity and civil liberties.” The Bridge Initiative, as it happens, is based at Georgetown University's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and its director is none other than the aforementioned John Esposito, who is the founder of that Center, which is funded by a member of the Saudi royal family – you know, the one who was arrested last November on charges of money-laundering, bribery, and extortion and detained (and reportedly tortured) in room 628 of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton until he agreed, in March, to cough up $6 billion.

Anyway, the American Muslim Poll 2018 produced some worrying results: in the era of Donald Trump, American Muslims experience “xenophobia” and “great prejudice” on a daily basis and are increasingly the victims of “Islamophobic hate crimes.” It doesn't help that “right-wing politicians” are constantly “defaming their religion” or that “media networks” are “perpetuating negative stereotypes about them.” Among Americans' most outrageous stereotypes about Muslims is this: “over one-fourth of the American public (26%) believed that Muslims discriminate against women.” Of course, what's really outrageous here is the possibility that only 26% of Americans are aware of Islam's comprehensive bias against women – the fact that a man can have four wives but a woman can have only one husband; that a Muslim man can marry an infidel and a Muslim woman can't; that a man can divorce instantaneously while a woman must endure a time-consuming process (and may get rejected); that a woman's testimony is worth half a man's; that inheritance laws favor men; that females, from birth to death, are under the authority of the men in their families, subject to beating and even honor killing as retribution for acts of disobedience or dishonor (such as being raped). That all of this basic stuff, 17 years after 9/11, remains a mystery to three-quarters of Americans is a brutal indictment of the American media and educational establishment.

Esposito and company profess shock at “the degree to which Muslims have themselves internalized negative stereotypes about their own community.” They found it “astonishing,” for example, “that nearly one-third of Muslims (30%) actually agreed with the statement: 'I believe my faith community is more prone to negative behavior than other faith communities.'” For those of us whose eyes are open when it comes to these matters, it is actually cheering to learn that there are so many decent, principled, and honest Muslims – or, more likely, nominal Muslims (open apostasy, of course, is punishable by death) – in the U.S. But for Esposito and his cohorts, this statistic is a reflection of nothing more or less than “internalized racism (or self-hatred) within some American Muslims” – and a product of “the disproportionate negative media coverage of Islam and anti-Muslim policies undertaken by the Trump administration.”

But Islamophobia isn't on the rise only in Trumpland. It's infected Sweden, too. But before we get around to Swedish-style Islamophobia, a story or two. Over the years I've written about scores of jaw-dropping Islam-releted events in Sweden; here are a couple of the latest:

  • On May 8, Expressen reported that six-year-old Swedes are being bullied at school because they eat pork and wear shorts – or, in the case of girls, don't wear veils.
  • On May 9, Expressen reported that native Swedish retirees who have worked all their lives and paid high taxes in the expectation of receiving decent pensions are being gypped. Why? Because the money they were supposed to receive in government pensions is being spent to subsidize newly arrived foreigners who haven't spent so much as a day in the Swedish workforce.
  • On May 11, Friatidar reported that in the Swedish town of Växjö, where a Catholic church has been denied the right to ring its bells on Sundays, a local mosque was recently given permission to issue the call to prayer from its minaret on Fridays.

Such tidings are daily fare in Sweden. The good news is that mainstream media such as Expressen are more open about these inequities (and worse) than they used to be. The bad news is that the situation in Sweden is so perilous that even the UN has now expressed concern. Concern about what? Why, about Islamophobia, naturally. A May 11 report from the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) urged the Swedish government to take action against “racist hate speech” and “prosecute and sanction those responsible.” CERD nodding in passing at bias against Jews (the real problem), Roma (gypsies), and Sami folk (Laplanders), but was mainly exercised over what it absurdly (but unsurprisingly) called “anti-Muslim racism.” It singled out the abuse of Muslim women (which might have made sense if CERD were talking about abuse by Muslim men, but such was not the case). CERD's litany of worries made for some classic Alice-through-the-looking-glass reading: Swedish Muslims, the UN group warned, require amped-up protection against violence, and their property needs to be more fully secured against damage. Also, Sweden's Terrorism Act “disproportionately targets Muslims.”

In closing, let's return to the U.S. for a quick glance at one of the most staggering accusations of Islamophobia I've ever encountered – staggering, because it manages to fit so many bald-faced lies into a single article. Inspired by the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Adviser, Heidi Przybyla of NBC News discovered that Bolton, until recently, was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, which she proceeded to smear as “a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news.” As examples of this “misleading and false” news, Przybyla cited stories about Germany confiscating flats to house migrants, Sweden becoming the “Rape Capital of the West,” and France having “no-go” zones. Among her sources: the “fact-checking website Snopes.com,” notorious for its far-left tilt, and CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood-linked group that poses as a civil-rights group. Alas, the reports about German flats, Swedish rapes, and French “no-go” zones are entirely true. Here's an example of Przybyla's spin: “Gatestone has also fanned the notion of a German 'migrant rape crisis,' pointing to real incidents, including an assault on women by several immigrants at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Cologne, Germany, in 2015.” An assault! Several immigrants! Try over 600 sexual assaults on about 500 women by upwards of 2000 assailants in a number of German cities on a single night. 

I don't need to debunk Przybyla's article at length; Gatestone has already done that job itself, and done it thoroughly and professionally. Indeed, Gatestone's comprehensive reply to Przybyla is an example of just the kind of honest, meticulous journalism that the mainstream media have largely abandoned – especially when it comes to the topic of Islam – and that sites like Gatestone (and Front Page) have been established in order to provide. Indeed, I would urge readers to read Przybyla's piece with the utmost care and to then peruse Gatestone's reply. To examine the two texts side by side is to learn a highly instructive lesson about the dark, mendacious reality of today's old media – and the urgent necessity of the new.

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