The straw man of the famous post 9/11 slogan, "Not every Muslim is a terrorist but every terrorist is a Muslim" was debunked by a 2005 FBI report.
It showed that only 6% of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1980 to 2005 were carried out by extremists calling themselves Muslims. But one group - the Republican Party - has sustained the Islamophobic rhetoric, nonetheless.
So I wonder if Muslims would rally outside the Republican convention this week carrying a banner stating, "Not all Republicans are Islamophobes but all Islamophobes are Republicans." Trust me. The data supports it.
A new poll conducted by the Arab American Institute asked the attitudes of voters, analyzed along party lines, towards different religious groups, including Arabs and Muslims. Overall, 57% of the Republican voters viewed all Muslims unfavorably in comparison to 29% Democrats who expressed a similar opinion. When it came to American Muslims, 47% of Republicans, in contrast with 23% Democrats, held an unfavorable view.
Ok, let's put it this way: Nearly all Islamophobes are Republicans. Happy now?
Islamophobia in America is not innate. Rather it's the fruit of a decade long hysteria against Muslims generated by a largely Republican machine. A machine comprising of Republican pundits, conservative funders, media conglomerates and fiery politicians.
By pundits, I mean the likes of Ann Coulter who boldly asked Muslims to "take a camel" instead of flying on a plane and Sean Hannity who compared Islam with Nazism. Others such as media personality Glenn Beck, Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes, televangelist Pat Robertson, Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer, and activist Pamela Geller also mesmerized millions with their imagery of the Muslim terrorist next door.
Then comes the funding component. Fear Inc., a 2011 report by the Center for American Progress, showed that seven conservative charitable groups provided $42.6 million to the Islamophobic think-tanks between 2001 and 2009.
This fear is then packed and loaded, not on camel backs, but on the blatantly Islamophobic media airwaves like The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Savage Nation, The Mark Levin Show, and the infamous O'Reilly Factor. A plethora of websites, blogs, forums, and chain emails then copy and paste the fearful images - ad nauseum.
Republican politicians like Allan West, Michelle Bachmann, Peter King, Sarah Palin, and almost every Republican Presidential candidate in the 2012 primaries save Ron Paul, are then given the megaphone to add trust to this fear mongering. But here is the rub: according to Gallup, 90% of Americans don't even trust these politicians.
You can't help but wonder: Why is it that nearly all Islamophobes are Republicans?
Probably some "data girl" - as Carl Rove calls one of his staff members - in a cubicle reckoned that the American Muslim vote bank is better bashed, than embraced. The theory is simple. Muslim youth? Tell them to take a camel. Muslim communities? Link them with creeping Shariah. Muslim Congressmen? Question their loyalty. Do it consistently and it will galvanize the conservative base.
In a tight race, such analysis is fractured and flawed. A 2010 Pew Report estimated that nearly 2.6 million Muslims live in the United States, with Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia among the top ten states with the largest Muslim population. An en bloc Muslim vote, therefore, could have a huge impact in these swing states. Just look at the 2012 Presidential elections in France where 93% of French Muslims voted for Hollande, enabling him to beat Sarkozy. By securing 96% of the Black votes, President Obama did the same in 2008.
My close friends are Republican and my favorite American President is Lincoln. And frankly, I like many of the Republican Party's core values; what I don't like lately is their Islamophobic posture. Just as the Latinos don't like their anti-immigration policies, and the Blacks don't like their racial stereotyping. Just as the LBGT communities don't like their stance on gay marriage, and the women don't like their idea of a legitimate rape.
So the 2012 Republican voices should stop telling me to "take a camel" and worry instead about the American Muslim vote - united against them. Who knows? It might prove to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
A version of this piece was originally published in the Washington Post.
Dr. Faheem Younus is a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland. He teaches courses about Islam at the University of Baltimore. He can be reached at Faheem.Younus@gmail.com
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