How fringe attacks on American Muslims became mainstream

Christopher Bail writes: Donald Trump recently claimed that he saw Muslims celebrating in New Jersey after the September 11 attacks. He later reaffirmed this account despite a lack of evidence, adding that suspected terrorists should be tortured during counterterrorism investigations even if it “doesn’t work” because they “deserve it anyway.”

Though such brazen criticisms of minority groups are characteristic of Trump, his comments also illustrate the degree to which fringe ideas about Islam have become mainstream. Public figures of all political stripes have proposed that Muslims are secretly a fifth column quietly plotting to implement shariah law under the guise of political correctness. Over the past decade, 32 states proposed shariah law bans, controversies about the construction of mosques have increased by more than 800 percent, and the number of Americans with negative opinions of Islam has more than doubled, as my research shows.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State delights in these developments. The group’s propaganda cites anti-Muslim sentiments as evidence for its claim that the United States is at war with Islam. The Islamic State has repeatedly stated that its goal is to make the West so hostile to Muslims that they have no choice but to side with the Islamic State.

The battle against the Islamic State therefore requires careful analysis of how fringe ideas about Muslims become mainstream and what might be done to stem the tide. [Continue reading…]

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