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Politics is to Blame for Islamophobia Rise in US, says UCB/ CAIR Report

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The University of California Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender (CRG)  along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has released a report outlining the exponential growth of Islamaphobia in the United States. The report argues that politics is to blame for much of the problem.

This investigative report is a key step in exposing and examining the powerful force of Islamophobia in the U.S., according to Prof. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Director, Center for Race & Gender.  

The UCB/CAIR Berkeley report - called Same Hate, New Target - says Muslim-bashing factored into the 2010 midterm elections and is already front and center in the upcoming presidential campaign. It says that Islamophobia has actually increased since the election of President Barack Obama, with right-wing Republicans feeding on anti-Muslim sentiments and fears over the so-called Sharia law.

According to those interviewed for this study, on a scale from 1(best situation for Muslims) to 10 (worst possible situation for Muslims) Islamophobia in America stands at a 6.4. Interviews were conducted in September and October of 2010.

The UCB/CAIR report, based on available data and interviews with experts, provides a definition of Islamophobia. "Islamophobia is close-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims. An Islamophobe is an individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against or hatred of Muslims. It is not appropriate to label all, or even the majority of those, who question Islam and Muslims as Islamophobes," the report says.

The report gives an overview of Islamophobia's growing negative impact in the United State, and lists people and institutions known for promoting Islamaphobia. Those listed as actively promoting Islamophobia included Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, co-founders of the anti-Muslim hate group Stop the Islamization of America(SIOA); Act! for America leader Brigitte Gabriel; and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

The report also details the best of those pushing back against growing anti-Muslim sentiment. Those commended for pushing back against Islamophobia include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg;; CongressionalTri-Caucus; Rep. Keith Ellison(D-MN); Jon Stewart, Aasif Man-dvi and The Daily Show; KeithOlbermann and Countdown with Keith Olbermann; Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report; Media Matters for America; interfaith leaders; and Rachel Maddow and The Rachel Maddow Show.

Quoting three surveys, the report stressed that America is not an Islamophobic nation, but it has Islamophobic elements:

The public's favorable rating of Islam sank from 40 percent in November 2001 to 30 percent in August 2010 according to the Pew Research Center.

In late November 2010, the Public Research Institute found that 45 percent of Americans agree that Islam is at odds with American values.

A Time magazine poll released in August 2010 found, "Twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly one-third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President"." Interviewees for this report often cited their observation that there is a general societal acceptance of derogatory commentary about Islam.

Evolving toward ever-greater cultural pluralism

The UCB/CAIR report emphasized that American Muslim reflections on Islamophobia in the United States occur in full recognition that virtually every minority in our nation has faced and in most cases continues to face discrimination.

In its chapter - Evolving toward ever-greater cultural pluralism -- the report recalled:

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era,1 James McPherson reports on English Protestant Americans' suspicion of German and Irish Catholic immigrants to the U.S. in the nineteenth century:

 More dangerous was the specter of ethnic conflict. Except for a sprinkling of German farmers in Pennsylvania and in the valleys of the Appalachian Piedmont, the American white population before 1830 was overwhelmingly British and Protestant in heritage.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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