The new anti-Semitism

Joshua Holland lays out some of the evidence that a wave of Islamophobia is sweeping America.

In May, a man walked into the Jacksonville Islamic Center in Northeast Florida during evening prayers and detonated a pipebomb. Fortunately, there were no injuries. (If the man had been Muslim and the House of worship a Christian church, the incident would have garnered wall-to-wall coverage, but while the story got plenty of local press it was ignored by CBS News, Fox, CNN and MSNBC.)

It was the most serious of a series of incidents in which mosques far from the supposedly hallowed earth of Ground Zero have been targeted. A mosque in Miami, Florida, was sprayed with gunfire last year. Mosques have been vandalized or set aflame in Brownstown, Michigan; Nashville, Tennessee; Arlington, Texas (where the mosque was first vandalized and then later targeted by arsonists); Taylor, South Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Eugene, Oregon; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Tempe, Arizona; and in both Northern and Southern California. A mosque in a suburb of Chicago has been vandalized four times in recent years.

In May, an Arab man was brutally beaten in broad daylight in New York by four young men. According to the victim’s nephew, “They used the bad word. ‘The mother bleeping Muslim, go back to your country.’ They started beating him and after that he don’t know what happened.” A Muslim woman in Chicago was assaulted by another woman who took offense at her headscarf. A Muslim teacher in Florida was sent a white powdery substance in the mail. In San Diego, a man in his 50s became so incensed by the sight of an American of Afghan descent praying that he assaulted him after screaming, “You idiot, you mother f**ker, go back to where you came from.”

Just imagine if the targets described above were not mosques and Muslims but Jews and synagogues. Abraham Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League would be leading the charge demanding Congress, opinion-makers, public-policy makers, the media and all Americans of conscience to take a stand on what would be described as one of the most urgent moral issues of our time.

Daniel Lubin, writing in The Tablet, sees the up-swell in Islamophobia as a “new anti-Semitism” and notes that:

[M]any of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified.

While the political operatives behind the anti-mosque campaign speak the language of nativism and American exceptionalism, their ideology is itself something of a European import. Most of the tropes of the American “anti-jihadists,” as they call themselves, are taken from European models: a “creeping” imposition of sharia, Muslim allegiance to the ummah rather than to the nation-state, the coming demographic crisis as Muslims outbreed their Judeo-Christian counterparts. In recent years the call-to-arms about the impending Islamicization of Europe has become a well-worn genre, ranging from more sophisticated treatments like Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe to cruder polemics like Mark Steyn’s America Alone and Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia.

It would be a mistake to seek too precise a correspondence between the new Islamophobia and the old anti-Semitism, which differ in some key respects. Jews have never threatened to become a numerical majority, or even a sizable minority, in any European country, so anxiety about Jewish power naturally gravitated toward the myth of the shadowy elite manipulating the majority from behind the scenes. By contrast, anti-Muslim anxiety has focused on the supposed demographic threat posed by Muslims, in which the dusky hordes overwhelm the West by sheer weight of numbers. (“The sons of Allah breed like rats,” as the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci put it.) It may be that in many ways this Islamophobia shares more of the tropes of traditional anti-Catholicism than classic anti-Semitism.

But if the tropes do not always line up, there is some notable continuity in the players involved. One of the most striking stories of recent years has been the realignment of segments of the European far right behind a form of militant support for Israel.

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  1. The US is going down hill faster than light…


    Islamic Terror Attacks on American Soil
    We recently got taken to the mat by a polite, young Muslim living in the U.K. who took issue with our oft-repeated statement that no Muslim-American lost their life to vigilante violence following 9/11. She provided us a list of six or seven candidates and, after whittling out the ones where the killer was unknown or in cases with mitigating circumstances such as “victim was sleeping with killer’s ex-girlfriend” (and we’re not making that up), we reached a shocking conclusion:

    We were wrong.

    There is one seemingly unambiguous case that occurred in Dallas, Texas where Waqar Hasan, a Muslim convenience store owner, was gunned down by Mark Anthony Stroman four days after the 9/11 attacks. Stroman claimed to have been motivated by anger from watching the towers fall. He is not exactly your average American, however, even apart from the shooting. For one thing, he is a white supremacist who carried a felony criminal record at the time of the attack. He also went on to shoot two more people in the weeks that followed.

    Thankfully, an American jury sentenced Mark Stroman to death. The same cannot be said of many Muslim terrorists such as Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, who not only have sanctuary in Muslim countries, but are often treated as heroes by devout followers of Muhammad.

    Nevertheless, we acknowledge that our friend is correct and that there was at least one Muslim killed in an anti-Arab hate crime in the U.S. following the anti-American hate crime on 9/11. For anyone keeping score:

    People killed by radical Muslims on 9/11: 2,996
    Muslim-Americans killed “in revenge”: 1

    Of course, 9/11 was neither the first nor the last time that Muslims have killed Americans on U.S. soil in terror attacks. In fact, since that day, Muslims have killed at least 58 people in 33 separate acts of terrorism in the United States (by the standards that Muslim-American groups set for hate crimes). Perhaps more importantly, there have been quite a few planned mass murders of Americans by Islamic terrorists that were thwarted by the FBI, law enforcement and overseas intelligence operations both before and after 9/11.

  3. Colm O' Toole says

    Of course those 10 incidents of Mosques being vandalized/attacked by arsonists/and by a pipebomb and the three incidents of Muslims being assaulted by people telling them to “go back to where you came from” are just the tip of the iceberg in the US.

    Firstly it doesn’t even mention the fact that in Gainesville Florida a “Christian” group wants to light a bonfire of Quran’s on Sept 11th or the governor of Tennessee claiming that he will allow a mosque to be built only if the owners distance themselves from the Quran.

    Secondly of course any acts of violence or vandalism are just the most extreme form of a casual racism that infects the general public. Out of every Mosque that gets attacked by Arsonists there are probably 100 cases of Muslims being verbally abused that don’t make the news.

  4. This racism is no different than the bigotry I saw when I worked on American oil exploration crews in Libya in the 1960s. The southern rednecks merely extended their racist hatred of blacks to include the ‘ragheads’ who were already conveniently darker skinned than the ‘good old boys’.
    The bigotry already operating within the actual system of Christianity (rather than the largely ignored teachings) that has always looked down on the ‘blacks’ as heathens who must be converted is the foundation of all this phobia. If they want to send out missionaries, I’d suggest the small towns of the US are most in need of teachings of love and respect for their brothers.

  5. Chris Frazier says

    It seems, Mr. Hoare, that you have a beam in your eye. “Southern rednecks?” Does it make you feel superior to believe that bigotry in the U.S. is exclusively a Southern phenomenon? Or even a predominantly Southern phenomenon? How much longer are we going to trade in that myth? Are you aware that the first race riots in this country occurred in New York City after Lincoln instituted the military draft during the Civil War? Are you aware that Northern whites and Jews participated in the slave trade? That slaves were auctioned throughout the Northern coastal states? Do you recall all the discussion a few nights ago, right here, about the anti-Muslim hysteria directed against construction of the Cordoba House in Manhattan? Weren’t (aren’t) a lot of New Yorkers brandishing nooses and making foul threats about this project? Wasn’t Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that distinguished and enlightened Democrat from way out west, stirring the pot on this issue? Did you read the complete list of states where these racist actions occurred? Last I heard, Oregon isn’t a Southern state. Neither are Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, and California. Yeah, Mr. Hoare, that’s quite a beam in your own eye. Police your own prejudice before telling us Southerners what vile, ignorant, in-bred “rednecks” we are. I’ve always lived in the South, I have two university degrees, I’ve always worn shoes, I’ve never burned a cross, I’ve never painted a swastika on anything, I read five books each week, speak three languages (foah countin’ Suthin’), and I’ve never topped my sister, my cousins, or my late mother. Oh, and Mr. Hoare, the root word for “swastika” is Sanskrit. In many Eastern religions, the swastika is a holy symbol thousands of years old and not in any way associated with the Nazis and hatred. In other words, prejudice has a lot to do with the way you perceive it, and I strongly suggest that you evaluate yourself by first looking carefully into a mirror. If you want to know about the South, why don’t ya’ll come on down and see us some time? We’ll leave the welcome mat out, even if you ain’t from around here. Us’uns will near ’bout kill ya with kindness.

  6. Chris Frazier August 22, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    BRAVO…for setting that guy straight.

  7. globaluniquemike says

    “…far from the supposedly hallowed earth of Ground Zero…”
    Hmm. So I take it you don’t consider the ground on which nearly 3,000 innocent people were crushed to irretreivable fragments by 10 Islamic jihadists hallowed.
    What ground, one wonders, would you consider “hallowed,” if any?

    And how surprising that the “tropes do not always line up.” In fact, they never line up, as the writer concedes. The whole thing is a straw man, because if we can’t defend Islam on factual grounds, we’ll just make something up.

    But the most hilarious of all the bloviations masquerading as analysis is the delightful term “Islamophbic.”
    I am fearful of Islam in the same way I’m fearful of kids popping bubblewrap. Considering though the, uh, shall we say, less than encouraging record of Peaceful Behavior by Muslims as indicated for example in Barb’s post above, wouldn’t one suppose it prudent to have a certain attentiveness to the predisposition to violent behavior from avowedly religious motivation arising in that quarter?
    Or should we just be as dumb as a brick regarding Islam, like George W. Bush, and happily proclaim it hijacked by a “tiny minority of extremists” and go celebrate diversity? A tiny minority numbering at least 100,000,000 people worldwide, according to reliable polling.
    The only islamophobia I’ve ever felt was when I was leaving the mosque after the Ramadan dinner (I was present by invitation), whereupon I realized that my host had fulfilled his Quranic responsibility to present the faith and invite me to join, and my rejection meant that I was now fair game for violent jihad. Silly, I know, but then, ya know, there’s that pesky invite by Osama in 1998 that in his mind the US rejected and made us, oh well, guess we’ll have to teach the kuffar a thing or two about The Prophet, fair game for 9/11.
    You know, that mundane, unremarkable place where all those broken-to-bits bodies are.