The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims

In his soon-to-be-released book, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, Nathan Lean writes: As is the case with any industry, advertising is paramount to the success of a product. One need look no further than the Super Bowl to understand the advertising industry’s sheer obsession with reaching a massive number of people; each year, the highest bidders are offered short slots to disseminate catchy clips of their goods, be they Coca-Cola, Nike shoes, or other high-rolling, multi-million-dollar enterprises.

The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of MuslimsThe Islamophobia industry also goes to great lengths to sell its message to the public. The difference, though, is that in many cases the very networks that spread their product are themselves participants in the ruse to whip up public fear of Muslims. This is not a relationship of buyer and seller, where various characters that peddle panic purchase slots on major television networks to plug their merchandise. Rather, it is a relationship of mutual benefit, where ideologies and political proclivities converge to advance the same agenda.

Fox News, the American television station that brands itself as “fair and balanced,” is the epitome of this relationship. It has been, for the better part of the last decade, at the heart of the public scare-mongering about Islam, and has become the home for a slew of right-wing activists who regularly inhabit its airwaves to distort the truth to push stereotypes about Muslims. It was little surprise, then, that a Brookings Institution poll on American values conducted in September 2011 found that approximately two-thirds of Republicans, Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement, and Americans who most trusted Fox agreed that the values of Islam are at odds with the values of the United States. Additionally, nearly six in 10 Republicans who say they trust Fox also say that they believe that American Muslims are trying to establish Islamic law in America. In contrast, the attitudes of Republicans who view other news networks fall in line with the general population.

In December 2009, Fox News host Laura Ingraham interviewed Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who was leading the initial push for the Park51 Islamic community center. At that time, there was little controversy over plans for the proposed building to be located near the ground zero site — so little that Ingraham even admitted that she liked what Khan and her husband were doing. “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it,” she admitted on air. “I know your group takes a moderate approach to Americanizing people, assimilating people, which I applaud. I think that’s fantastic.”

Soon, though, it would not be fantastic. At least not to Laura Ingraham who, in an about-face move, suddenly latched onto the anger and rage being ginned up by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. “I say the terrorists have won with the way this has gone down,” she sneered during an interview with ABC News in August 2010. “Six hundred feet from where thousands of our fellow Americans were incinerated in the name of political Islam, and we’re supposed to be — we’re supposed to be considered intolerant if we’re not cheering this?”

Little more than eight months had passed. That summer, though, had been dominated by the rise of a radical bunch of bloggers who had fashioned a controversy where one did not exist. Pamela Geller’s snarling write-up about the “Ground Zero Mosque” in early May 2010 was picked up by Andrea Peyser of the New York Post, a conservative newspaper owned by the man at the top of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch. Peyser’s regurgitation of Geller’s outrage reached hundreds of thousands of people, turning what was once a conspiracy theory of some unknown right-wing Internet prowlers into a major new story.

Fox News’ Sean Hannity had read Peyser’s piece. He was familiar with Pamela Geller too, and on May 13, 2010, just days after the story made national news, he invited Geller on his show to talk about it. “There is a giant mosque being planned to be built in an area right adjacent to ground zero,” he said. Of course, the Park51 community center’s 13 stories were relatively small compared to the towering skyscrapers that hovered over the streets in midtown Manhattan. But the word “giant” had a certain frightening ring that Hannity and Geller sought to sell. “Andrea Peyser wrote about it in the New York Post today,” he said. “Atlas Shrugs’s Pamela Geller, a blogger and columnist, is hosting a ‘No 9/11 Mosque’ rally at Ground Zero on June 6 to protest the construction and she now joins us on our newsmaker line.”

Media Matters reports that from May 13, 2010, until August 12, 2010 — a period of 91 days — Fox News shows hosted at least 47 different guests to discuss the project, 75 percent of whom opposed it. Nexis transcripts of Fox newscasts during that 13-week period were reviewed showing that just nine out of the 47 guests who appeared during that time favored the center. In some cases, guests expressed their personal opposition to the center but rejected the idea that it could be somehow prevented. Juan Williams, a former reporter for National Public Radio, was one of them. Appearing on Hannity’s show, he said, “I happen to agree with you about the idea that they shouldn’t build the mosque,” he told the Fox host. “But that doesn’t mean that we, as Americans, can say to him [Rauf] ‘No, you can’t build here.’ That’s wrong.” Williams stated his opinion plainly. It was something he did regularly — and something that two months later would cost him his job.

* * *

On Oct. 18, 2010, Williams was a guest at Fox News again. This time, instead of appearing on Sean Hannity’s show, he chatted with Bill O’Reilly. The conversation settled on Park51. As an analyst for NPR, it was familiar turf for Williams. He had navigated the prickliness of political issues before, careful not to reveal his personal opinions. But Fox News and Bill O’Reilly clearly had an agenda and after having ignited a small blaze of controversy earlier in the year by saying “Muslims attacked us on 9/11,” it was clear that O’Reilly was looking for someone to back him up.

“Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality,” Williams said. “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

The remark did not seem to faze O’Reilly. In fact, it fit precisely into the narrative he was spinning: Muslims are people to be feared, especially Muslims in airplanes. Over at NPR, however, news of the comments was unsettling. As a political analyst, it was not Williams’ responsibility to offer his opinions on such issues. In fact, he was not being paid to offer his opinions at all. And to blatantly level a broad-brush blow at the Muslim community because he felt suspicious of them was not within the keeping of NPR’s journalistic standards. Williams was terminated from his position soon thereafter. Despite his initial shock over his firing, there was some good news for him. The stereotypical remarks were worth a cool $2 million — the amount of money that Fox News offered Williams for an extended three-year contract with its network. “In one arrogant move the NPR exposed itself for the leftist thought police they really are,” read one user’s comment on the radio network’s website. Maybe that was so — but Fox News had, by offering Williams an expanded role, encouraged and even financed Islamophobia. [Continue reading…]

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  1. Looks as though America will be seeing a lot of this Islamophobic bigotry from now until the election, if not beyond. What will be the price paid, it’s certainly no concern of the people who support Israel. Free speech should be just that, not the exclusive right of one faction over another. I wonder, just how many Muslims vs Jews reside in the American population today? Do they harbor ill will toward each other? Food for thought.

  2. “Islamophobia” is a term often used to cast aspersions on the person offering a reasonable criticism of Islam and any other facet of the religion or its believers. The term would be rightly defined as a fear of Islam. This is not the same thing as hating all Muslims…..Criticizing Islam is not racism.Islam has nothing at all to do with genetics. It is an ideology – a set of beliefs about individual behavior and the rules of society.Neither are Muslims a race of people. In fact, there are Muslims of all races. So, if Muslims are a race, Islam would not only be a racist ideology, but arguably the most hateful and destructive in history. Islam is an ideology that should be open to critical examination.While it’s clearly stated that Islam is not a race, anyone that questions Islam or anything else the Left promotes is called a racist. This is used to silence discussion on important issues. Nobody wants to be considered racist. The Jihadis use this fact as a weapon.So we need to carefully and effectively explain to everyone why criticism of Islam is quite different from hate speech, Islamophobia, or racism. Make this distinction clearly and persuasively. People need to hear about Islam, but as long as they have this barrier to their listening, you can’t get through.Islamophobes include: Hindus, Christians, and Jews who don’t want to be forced into a political system that treats them as third-class citizens.Homosexuals who don’t want to be beaten to death.Intellectuals who value freedom of conscience and public dissent.Females who want to keep their clitoris. Muslims who would like the freedom to leave Islam. ….Wilders, a notorious anti-Muslim activist who once called Islam “the ideology of a retarded culture. Is it not true that jihad terrorists around the world point to passages from the Qur’an and Hadith to justify their terrorism? A fear of terrorism is reasonable in today’s world. The fear of an ideology does not make one a racist. If this were so, anyone who feared Republicans or liberals would be a racist.The term “Islamophobia” is being used to suppress all criticism of Islam whether the criticism is right or wrong.You can say Christians are war mongers, racists, hypocrites, thieves, and a danger to our country. You can say these things and no one will call you a racist or “Christianophobe.” Our leaders have failed to answer the question, “What does a civilization do when a minority culture is not satisfied with simply being accepted, but demands that their culture legally dominate the civilization even while they remain radical separatists?”We are living in the middle of a global jihad.All human beings have equal value, but all cultures are not equal.The purpose of the word “Islamophobia” is to place restrictions on free speech. It is being used to blackmail our culture.

  3. Racism is not the only form of bigotry. Therefore there are no doubt many people who fear/hate Islam who are not racists — but they are still bigots.

    The bigotry that has come to be known as Islamophobia promotes the fears that you express about Islamic world domination. While minarets of rather modest size in modest numbers rise up in Switzerland, the Netherlands and elsewhere, missiles have rained down across many parts of the Middle East over the last decade (and longer). What constitutes the more obvious expression of world domination? The commission of wars and construction of military bases in Muslim countries, or the wearing of the hijab by Muslim women in predominantly secular societies?

    The irony is that those in the West who have appointed themselves the defenders of our culture often strike me as the least cultured among us.