Islamophobia on the rise in US, says report

The report also highlighted apparent inconsistencies between how violence committed by Muslims is perceived compared to violence committed by Christians.Reuters

A prominent Muslim advocacy group says Islamophobia is on the rise in the US, citing an increase in attacks on mosques and the creation of 'Muslim-free' businesses, as well as the inflammatory rhetoric of some senior politicians.

There are parallels to the situation in the UK, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told Christian Today this morning. Miqdaad Versi, the assistant secretary general of the MCB, said the UK is often a "beacon of hope" but that there are "worrying indicators" of Islamophobia that society needs to be aware of.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released the report yesterday alongside the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, entitled: "Confronting Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States". It highlighted that mosques in the US have experienced a spike in incidents of violence or intimidation, with 78 occurring in 2015, compared to 20 the year before.

Interestingly they correlated similar 'spikes' with times when Islam had become an election issue in the US, rather than as a response to terrorist attacks or similar. The proposals from presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims entering the US were one obvious expression of prejudice. "Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim propaganda, has unfortunately moved from the fringes of American society to the mainstream," Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director, told the Religion News Service. "It reminds me of what happened to the Jews in Europe and Germany," he said.

Islam has also become a political issue in the UK more recently, and the MCB says it is worried about the tone of some debate. "In recent elections, Islamophobia has been used to achieve political ends," said Versi, citing the EU referendum and the London Mayoral elections without specifying specific politicians. "That demonstrates a serious problem within many parts of society, that is being exploited by the politicians concerned."

The Metropolitan Police reported an increase in Islamophobic incidents in London last year.

A variety of types of Islamophobia were discussed in the report. Some businesses in the US have declared themselves "Muslim-free." For example, the American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a lawsuit against a shooting range in Oklahoma for refusing to allow a Muslim to use its services.

The report accused 74 groups of doing work that "regularly demonstrates Islamophobic themes." They include the Christian Broadcasting Network, Jihad Watch, and Fox News Channel. The report specifically identified CBN's Pat Robertson's statements regarding Islam, including that "it's almost like it's demonic" and "it's a religion of chaos." CAIR said its strategy is for Islam to have an "equal place" among the religions of the USA.

The report said 10 states had enacted "anti-Islam legislation". Various US States have passed bills that restrict the use of foreign law, including sharia law, in USA state courts, according to Al-Jazeera.

The report also highlighted apparent inconsistencies between how violence committed by Muslims is perceived compared to violence committed by Christians: "Acts of violence committed in the name of Islam have undoubtedly contributed to negative public perceptions of Islam and Muslims in the United States, and have certainly fuelled Islamophobic reactions.

"However, Islam and Muslims are more likely to be held collectively responsible for the actions of an aberrant few. Atrocities committed in the name of Christianity, by Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army or the more recent ethnic cleansing of Muslims by Christian militias in the Central African Republic, have done nothing to darken the reputation of Christianity in the U.S."