Is Islamophobia restricted to the United States

Qantara.de - Dialogue with the Islamic World

In the current race for the nomination for presidential candidacy, some recruiters are consciously trying to distinguish themselves at the expense of the Islamic religion and are using the negative labeling of Islam to increase their popularity among the population groups who are viewed as critical of Islam. Herman Cain, who has since retired from the candidate race, promised not to accept a Muslim into his cabinet.

This reflects the current trend in the USA. As early as 2010, some Republican candidates for the election of Congress used the planned Muslim community center "Park 51" to mobilize their voters by branding the center as a "Ground Zero Mosque" and stirring up fear of the Sharia, based on the principles of which the Islamic one is based Right based. And elected leaders of Congress, such as Republican Peter King from New York, used their nominations to point out that Muslims are "extremely radicalized," which has since been refuted by various investigations and reports.

And yet there are other politicians within the Republican Party who do not follow this line of argument, such as the current applicants Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, or the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who, against much resistance, the Indian-born Muslim Sohail Mohammed Appointed Judge in the State Supreme Court.

Prejudice and resentment widespread

However, individual tolerance or fear of certain radical groups is not limited to the political elites. A study carried out last September by two think tanks from the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute found that more than 47 percent of Americans believe that the values ​​of Islam are incompatible with those of the United States. A similar number of respondents expressed general discomfort with Islam in the United States.

Many events came together to create an aversion to Muslims and Islam in the minds of some Americans: the attacks of September 11, 2001, the subsequent decade-long "war on terror" with American military actions in Iraq and in Afghanistan, some Islamist assassination attempts in the USA and the negative reporting on politics and the social situation in the Islamic world. The current signs of Islamophobia are therefore the consequence of a complex sequence of events, but also of public debates as a result of these events.

The political elites in the USA should stop denouncing Muslims immediately and instead prove their leadership by dedicating themselves to the difficult task of fighting intolerance in the country. Eventually this country was founded on the ideals of religious tolerance, pluralism and democratic freedom.

Successful integration of Muslims in the USA

It is not difficult to argue that American Muslims are well integrated and make valuable contributions to the country's prosperity. An extensive study by the polling institute "Gallup" from August 2011 shows that US Muslims are not only well integrated, but also loyal citizens. It can also be seen that hostility towards Islam does not affect the economic prosperity of US Muslims.

It is understandable why some of the presidential candidates succumb to the temptation to instrumentalise intolerance, since the negative attitudes towards Islam are above average among Republicans, as the "Brookings" poll of September 2011 shows. But if it were to prove their ability to really fill the presidency with life, the Republican candidates would actually understand the spirit of the US Constitution and try to defend it against their respective campaign leaders.

Find the lowest common denominator

Presidential candidates don't always have to look for the lowest common denominator. Many non-Muslim leaders from the political and religious spheres, both lay and clergy, have engaged in interreligious dialogue in recent years. Many of them presented themselves to their Muslim friends and to American Muslims as a whole when there were anti-Islamic incidents, mostly on the occasion of the building of new mosques or false accusations against Muslim leaders.

There are enough moderate figures in the conservative establishment, such as Governor Christie or the evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who were able to successfully bridge the gap to American Muslims. Warren, who heads a large church in Southern California, spoke at the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America in July 2011 - despite the great criticism he had to take from within his own ranks. At the meeting he called on Christians and Muslims to work together.

Republican candidates should follow these men and their experiences as an example. Ultimately, if they were to prove their eligibility for president, it would not only be good for their campaigns, but also for the interfaith climate in the United States as a whole.

Muqtedar Khan

© Common Ground News Service 2012

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is a professor at the University of Delaware and research fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Translation from English by Daniel Kiecol

Editor: Arian Fariborz / Qantara.de