Rush Limbaugh (Credit: AP/Julie Smith)
"These are not the droids you're looking for." One reason that Obi Wan Kenobi quote is so well known and so often invoked with a wink is because it succinctly captures American politics' most favorite bait and switch: the tactic whereby partisans deny the existence of a phenomenon that's there for everyone to see, all so that the phenomenon can continue unabated. This "Star Wars"-ism, indeed, is a perfect way to understand the way Islamophobia works in America, and not because of Tatooine's Arabian aesthetic (it was filmed in Tunisia), but because the way so many seem intent on pretending anti-Muslim sentiment doesn't exist, all to make sure it continues to flourish.
The aftermath of 9/11 is, of course, the best example. In the years following the attack, conservatives from Rush Limbaugh to Commentary magazine's Jonathan Tobin have insisted with straight faces that there was never any evidence that many Americans blamed all Muslims for the act of a small group of terrorists. Willfully ignored in such analyses was the fact that after 9/11 violent anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 1,600 percent; Muslim communities have been subjected to mass surveillance in New York (even though, as CUNY's Diala Shamas notes, "the NYPD still cannot point to a single lead or prosecution that has resulted from this strategy"); mosques have been targeted for attack; polls documented a spike in open prejudice against Muslims (including one showing almost half of the country supportive of curtailing the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens); and Muslims now face disproportionately high rates of job discrimination. Meanwhile, after 9/11, conservative media outlets became megaphones for Islamophobic rhetoric.
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