By Corey Saylor
Word count: 745
Thirty-seven groups dedicated to spreading anti-Islam prejudice in America enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011, according to a new report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
CAIR's report finds that Islamophobia in America has resulted in a certain willingness to undermine the Constitution.
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits any "religious test" for public office. However, in 2010 Time reported that "twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court" and that "nearly one-third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President." Herman Cain, at one point the frontrunner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, manifested a version of this sentiment when he said that to serve in his administration he would require loyalty oaths from Muslims.
In 2010 Oklahoma voters approved SQ 755, a state constitutional amendment banning judges in that state from considering Islamic religious principles in their rulings. In practice this would have prohibited a judge from probating an Islamic will. In the voting booth, Oklahomans were told that Islamic religious principles are "based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed." The First Amendment clearly prohibits any such government interference in the free exercise of a religion. For this reason a CAIR staff person in Oklahoma challenged the law in court. In 2013 a Federal judge struck the amendment down as un-Constitutional.
Oklahoma's bill was not unique. In 2011 and 2012, 78 bills or amendments designed to vilify Islamic religious practices were introduced in the legislatures of 29 states and the U.S. Congress. Seventy-three of the bills were introduced solely by Republicans.
Anti-Islam bills are now law in seven states.
There are other indicators that Islamophobia is a societal issue in America.
In September 2011, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) noted, "Forty seven percent of Americans agree that Islam is at odds with American values, and 48 percent disagree." PRRI later reported that the number of Americans who believe Muslims are working to subvert the Constitution rose from 23 percent in February 2012 to 30 percent in September 2012.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2011 cases filed on the basis of "Religion-Muslim" accounted for 21 percent of the total religion charges. In 2011, the most recent year for which the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has released statistics, there were 157 anti-Muslim hate crimes.
According to CAIR, there were 51 recorded anti-mosque acts in 2011 and 2012. Two notable spikes in anti-mosque acts occurred in 2011-2012: May 2011 (7 acts), likely related to the killing of Osama bin Laden and August 2012 (10 acts), probably all in reaction to the massacre of six Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Oak Creek, Wis.
Islamophobic rhetoric remains socially acceptable. Research released in 2011 found, "citizens are quite comfortable not only opposing [extending citizenship to legal Muslim immigrants], but also being public about that fact." A number of mainstream candidates for the Republican presidential nomination used Islamophobic rhetoric, as represented by the Herman Cain quote offered earlier.
All of this presents a sober picture, but one that is more realistic than simplistic talking points designed to deny Islamophobia exists in America.
All, however, is not bleak. Subject matter experts surveyed by CAIR perceive a small, but highly welcome, decline in Islamophobia in America during 2011 and 2012. This makes sense given that the last time CAIR conducted this survey was during the 2010 national controversy over Park 51, a proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan that was misleadingly dubbed the "ground zero mosque." That controversy's proximity to the mid-term election and international news surrounding a Florida pastor's planning 9/11 "International Burn a Koran Day" resulted in what is likely the U.S. Islamophobia network's biggest moment in the spotlight.
Islam is certainly subject to much suspicion in our nation. While often latent this suspicion does not appear to be solidified, certain incidents can, however, bring it to the forefront.
After the tragic bombings in Boston, Pew found that while Americans perceive Muslims as more discriminated against than other groups--gays, Hispanics and African Americans--young people do not believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence.
Like racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and other issues, Islamophobia exists. Based on the positive news above it need not be seen as a malignant issue, but rather one that can be resolved.
[Corey Saylor is director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. He may be contacted at 202-384-8857 or [email protected]]
ISLAM-OPED commentaries are offered free-of-charge to one media outlet in each market area. Permission for publication will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis. (CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, [email protected])