Islamophobia and Racism in America

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By: Erik Love

New York, NY: New York University Press, 2017. 272pp. $89.00, ISBN: 978-1479804924 (hc); $28.00, ISBN: 978-1-4798-3807-3 (pbk).

Volume: 5 Issue: 9

September 2017

Review by:

Mohammed M. Aman, Ph.D.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Milwaukee, WI

The term Islamophobia gained frequency in the literature after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent rising tidal wave of hate directed against Islam and Muslims, followed by the equally violent actions directed against Muslims in general and certain Muslim countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. 

As a consequence of 9/11, Arab-American communities faced a hostile environment of “counter terrorism” activities directed against them by Western powers that view the war on terror as “us against them.” Through the 1990, FBI agents fanned out across the country in search of Arab or Middle East terrorist or sympathizers. The FBI “Watch List”, “No Fly List”, National Security Entry-Exist Registration System and other measures targeted Arabs and Muslims entering the United States until 2011 when it was expanded into a biometric security measure standard for all visitors. Political and bigoted opportunists used the tragedy of 9/11 and its aftermath to aggressively advocate for law enforcement to target Muslims for surveillance under the spurious and bigoted reasoning that Muslims are more likely to commit terrorist attacks. 

Mutual hostilities and distrust are nothing new to mankind. History is replete with religious as well as ethnic hostilities, some bloodier than others. Colonial forces committed countless acts of hostilities against natives, and ignited ethnic and sectarian wars within and without the nations and regions they occupied. Acts of terrorism committed by Islamic groups against their fellow Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims are equally repugnant and deserve the condemnation of all peace-loving people. The cowardly acts of the criminals of 9/11 and those that supported them will always be condemned by those who believe in the messages of civilized and peace-loving people regardless of religious beliefs. 

It is unfortunate that with the recent administration in the White House, and the recently failed elections of some of the ultra-conservative nationalist candidates in the USA and Europe, has empowered hate and Islamophobic groups in the UA and Europe. As a consequence, derogatory terms are shamelessly used to negatively label the “other” fellow Americans. Islamophobia, just as religious bigotry, racism, and all other forms of “ism” along with hateful language should be eradicated, and replaced with more positive, compassionate, and civil attitude. 

In his book’s six chapters Erik Love describes the various acts of incrimination and discrimination against Muslims in the USA in particular and attributes such discrimination to the fact that Muslims come mostly from the dark and yellow (Africa and Asia) continents, and thus being stereotyped by the white Anglo-Saxon population. Chapter 1 discusses The Racial Dilemma; Chapter 2 “The Racial Paradox”; Chapter 3 “Islamophobia in America;” Chapter 4 “Confronting Islamophobia”; Chapter 5 “Civil Rights Coalition;” Chapter 6 “Towards a New  Civil Rights Era.” The author’s objective is to point out the tragic actions and events of 9/11 which he describes as unfortunate,   misguided, un-Christian, and how such actions and reactions contributed to the rising Islamophobia in the United States, as well as in Europe.  

Eric Love devotes the first two chapters to address the questions of racial dilemma, of ethnicity, nationality, and religiosity, and the racial and ethnic dilemma when addressing the questions of who is Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, or South Asian, and who among them is white and who is non-white. In Chapter 3 titled Islamophobia in America, the author traces the fundamental tactics of early surveillance and disruption programs that the US government employed to target Middle Eastern Americans as early as in the 1950s and 60s. He mentions among such programs the Counterintelligence Program, or COUNTELPRO that “actively undermine the work of all sorts of advocacy organizations.” (p. 98).  Follow-up spawned surveillance programs included “Operation Boulder” that began in summer of 1972 to target Arab Arab-American advocacy organizations, and Arab American individuals nation-wide. The books remaining chapters come under title such as Confronting Islamophobia (Chapter 4); Civil Rights Coalitions (Chapter 5); Toward a New Civil Rights Era (Chapter 6). Pages 209 to 265 include Methodological Appendix, References, and Index.   

Love managed to apply ethnographic method of research to investigate the rise and impact of Islamophobia on policies and programs by focusing on the hateful rhetoric in political speeches and electoral campaigns that political opportunists used to win elections. He conducts interviews, called and/or interviewed organizations Millions of dollars were provided by wealthy individuals and conservative political action groups and lobbyists with certain Islam-bashing agenda to self-proclaimed “Islamic experts’ to trump up Islamophobic ideas, and calls for banning Shari‘a law, even when such is not practiced under any present or proposed American legislation.  Unfortunately, the latest American presidential election in 2017, added fuel to this fire of Muslim bashing, and divisive “us versus them” rhetoric, and acts of aggression against Muslims. 

According to Love, the Islamophopic rhetoric became a prominent feature of all levels of mainstream American politics (p. 92), and enabler to hate groups that crawled out of the halls of shame and into American town halls, state capitals and the US Congress. As the author points out “…well-funded industry of political professionals has helped to promote Islamophobic ideas in the American political sphere.” (p. 92). He describes not just the heated and bigoted rhetoric directed against Islam and Muslims, but also the secret monitoring of mosques and private homes belonging to Muslim Americans. Also monitored were American charities, a matter that had a chilling effect on philanthropic and political donations to Islamic civic and charitable organizations (p. 102).  

According to the author, legislative acts such as the FISA Act, NASA and other measures have targeted Arabs, Muslims, and others who look Arab or Muslim, and that included Hindus, Sikhs, and others individuals who looked Semitic or Middle Easterners. Such groups also suffer hateful attacks their lives, properties, and places of worship.

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