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America’s growing culture of hate

by : Linda S. Heard
Thursday July 15, 2004 - 01:47

By Linda S. Heard

Islamophobia is alive and well in the US, starting with the authorities down to individuals such as radio talk show host Jay Severin who, according to the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR,) claimed that Muslims want to take over America even if it takes centuries, adding "I’ve got an idea. Let’s all kill Muslims." Amazingly Severin is still in his job, although he has been forced to apologize on air.

CAIR has also filed complaints over an offensive skit on the March 10 Bill Handel show on KFI AM 640 entitled "the New Iraqi Constitution-Handelized." In it, a voice purporting to be that of a Muslim says: "Kill all Jews" and complains of "the infidel custom of bathing on a regular basis."

The council has additionally demanded an apology from syndicated radio commentator Paul Harvey, who when talking about cockfighting in Iraq, said, "Add to the thirst for blood a religion which encourages killing, and it is entirely understandable if Americans come to this bloody party unprepared."

Last November, syndicated talk show host Dr. Laura, heard by 12 million listeners, is said by CAIR to have "crossed the line from legitimate commentary on terrorism to Islamophobic bigotry." Her rant began when she was asked by a mother whether her 16-year-old daughter should be allowed to attend a local mosque to learn how "Muslims are treated" in America.

Answered the wizened physiologist: " . . . You’re joking of course. How many Americans have tortured and murdered Muslims . . . I think you ought to stand up against this class and this teacher. This is despicable. You tell him you are willing to go to the mosque only if it is one that has done its best to root out terrorists in its midst . . ."

But such ignorance and hatred isn’t confined to radio hosts. CAIR campaigned to have US General William G. Boykin, the undersecretary for Defense on Intelligence, removed from office last year, after he referred to Islam as an idolatrous, sacrilegious religion against which "we are waging a holy war." While discussing his efforts to capture a Muslim Somali warlord, Boykin said, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

CAIR earlier fought against George W. Bush’s nomination of "pro-Israel commentator Daniel Pipes-who many American Muslims regard as the nation’s leading Islamophobe-to join the board of the United States Institute of Peace, a federal institution created by Congress."

On Oct. 21, 2001, Pipes stated before a convention of the American Jewish Congress: "I worry very much, from the Jewish point of view, that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims . . . will present true dangers to American Jews."

Indeed, Pipes calls for increased surveillance of American Muslims in an article, which appeared in the Jerusalem Post. "There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military, and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism," he wrote.

Pipes has also been quoted as saying: "Palestinians are miserable people . . . and they deserve to be," while his website, "Campus Watch," which kept dossiers on professors thought to be critical of Israel, has attracted controversy.

The above all share a single trait and that is astonishing ignorance. Severin, for example, complains Muslims plan on taking over America, when it is Americans, who have, in the past three years invaded and occupied two Muslim countries, while supporting the Israeli occupation of another.

Handel gives the impression that Muslims are shy of bathing, when due to the fact Muslims have to perform ablutions five times a day before prayer, they are probably among the cleanest people on earth. It is doubtful that Handel knows about the Eastern custom of washing themselves and their dishes in running water and using the right hand for eating, with the left reserved for toilet functions. Harvey obviously has no idea of the peaceful nature of Islam or that the word itself means "submission" with the most popular greeting being "peace."

And as for Dr. Laura, who asks how many Americans have tortured and murdered Muslims, the fact that the US is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans, up to 15,000 Iraqi civilians, and the torture and abuse of detainees in Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo must have entirely escaped her notice.

It is surely ironic that Boykin refers to Islam as an idolatrous religion when just the opposite is the case. Islam does not allow representations of either human or animal form whether depicted in paintings or sculpture. This is why the interiors of mosques are simple, decorated only with geometric patterns and calligraphic designs.

When it comes to Pipes, he is so bathed in discrimination, bias and paranoia that he doesn’t merit a response.

But it isn’t only influential individuals such as these who have an ax to grind against Muslims. In New Jersey and Texas, mosques have been targeted by vandals, who dumped dead fish outside the entrance to one, and liquor bottles inside an Islamic Educational Center. Inside a Muslim community center in Florida, was written "Kill all Muslims" while in Missouri, a Nazi swastika and "die" were painted on an extension to the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis.

A message received by CAIR read: it may be time to "take Muslims hostage here in America, adding: "I believe the time is coming when Muslims will not be safe inside the US borders."

Responding to this growing and deeply disturbing trend, CAIR has published a "Muslim Community Safety Kit" containing information "designed to equip local Islamic leaders and activists with the knowledge necessary to protect against anti-Muslim bigotry or attacks."

However what is really required is a sea change in education and attitudes in the US, where a mere 14 percent of the population possesses a passport and relatively few have even met a Muslim, let alone befriended one.

Whoever said: "Fear plus ignorance equals evil" was right on the mark. It’s ignorance, more than anything else, which must be combated if tolerance and respect for other faiths can ever reign on our planet.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at heardonthegrapevine@yahoo.co.uk.

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