‘Islamophobia’ emerging in debate

The debate over the community center/mosque in New York has often overshadowed the real issue for many people opposed to it — are Muslims a threat to America?

National Public Radio this afternoon is looking at a different mosque, and finding the more naked sentiment.

“We’re Christians and this religion represents people that are against Christians. That’s something we need to look at, you know, because you’re going to have a lot of trouble down the line,” Fletcher says.

He says he does not know exactly what trouble looks like, but he and others worry about terrorist links and Muslims wanting to impose Sharia law.

Saleh Sbenaty, an engineering professor from Syria and a leader of the growing Muslim congregation, has lived in Tennessee for three decades, but he says he’s never seen this level of Islamaphobia.

“All of the sudden now…there is a movement against Islam and Muslims,” Sbenaty says. “We did not see that immediately after 9/11. And all of the sudden now it is part of politics and it is like…’I can get more votes if I can bash Islam more, Muslim[s] more.'”

Clearly, for many people there’s more involved here than “sensitivity” to the victims of 9/11. A new poll from The Economist makes it difficult to reach any other conclusion.


In the same poll, only 50.2% of those surveyed believe there is a Constitutional right for a Muslim organization to build a mosque/community center two blocks from the World Trade Center. Not surprisingly, the less education the respondent had, the more likely they were to hold that opinion. The Midwest and South was also more likely to have the opinion than the rest of the nation. And only 50.2% of Democrats held the view that there is a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. (topline data)

Coincidentally — or perhaps not — forty-three percent of those surveyed said they know “little” or “nothing at all” about Islam.

  • This is nothing more than a diversion. We talk about this nonsense because we are scared to death of the real issues like our Depression, debt, and job creation.

    I fear that, like any democratic-republic, this election will see us wind up with exactly the government we deserve.

  • Heather

    You may be right, Erik, but I bet it doesn’t FEEL like a diversion to the people being targeted. Ugh.

  • Bob Collins

    I think it’s exceedingly important for the media to confront the element of the issue that betrays assertions that mask what’s in people’s hearts.

    I think we’ve completely forgotten that keeping a democracy functioning is hard work. That it can’t be done by singing country music songs and wearing shirts that look like the American flag.

    I’m really looking forward to the moment American journalism recalls Edward R. Murrow calling out Joe McCarthy and stops covering this story merely because it gets people cranked up.

    This is one of the best mirrors that’s ever been held up to us and it’s important we take a good long look.

  • bsimon

    That 48% say the rules should be different for one particular group is shocking. Strange yet not shocking is that this group correlates strongly with the people who claim to hold the constitution more near & dear their hearts than the rest of us.

  • John O.

    I wonder what the folks in Belfast, Northern Ireland would think of this?

    After all, their years of hate, suspicion, and acts of terrorism were based on the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

  • Matt

    Has anyone stopped to notice that Freedom Tower is going to have a 55,000 square foot shopping mall built into the soil where the World Trade towers came down? Literally, below grade, right in the middle of this hallowed, sacred ground.

    This has nothing to do with sacred ground. It’s not even Islamophobia, because they don’t even know what Islam is. It’s bald-faced hate. They don’t even know who they are hating, what they are hating, just that the fact that they hate them for existing. And the talk radio waves are full of it. It takes all of my might not to drive my car into a tree every time I listen to it.

    @bsimon This Onion article might be of interest to you.

  • Al

    If the reason we study history is to avoid mistakes of the past then this poll and the NPR report is a better indictment of the education system in this country than any standardized test.

    These comments were frightful in that they point out how close our nation is to committing truly despicable acts that rival others in our history. I certainly hope journalists continue to highlight this issue. We must all challenge the hatred with the facts whenever we see it.

  • Tyler

    I disagree, Eric. I deserve a BETTER government than what we have. Speak for yourself.