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Is Islamophobia Rising or Falling?

April 4, 2012, 2:06 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli

Patrick Glennon reviews John Feffer’s new book Crusades 2.0 on the recent rise in Islamophobia over the last few years:

What makes right-wing alarmism difficult to grasp is its timing: The recent uptick of Islamophobia coincides with a steady decline in domestic terror plots connected to Muslims. A study by the Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security found that the number of Muslim Americans involved in terror plots fell for a third year in a row, from 49 in 2009 to 20 in 2011. Of the 14,000 murders that occurred in the United States last year, none were connected to Islamic extremism. In Crusade 2.0, Feffer argues that Islamophobia is “sustained by U.S. government [foreign] policy” as well as the “growing economic, political and global influence of modern Islam.” In other words, having grown accustomed to the Muslim character of America’s global enemies, Islamophobes instinctively view the ascendancy of Muslim nations and the prospect of Islam-inspired democracies with trepidation.

But RNS’s Omar Sacirbey points to the way that increasing pushback is helping to slow some of the spread of Islamophobia, at least when it comes to state-level “anti-shariah” legislation:

But even in states where the legislation is still alive, anti-Shariah advocates are facing increased criticism. For example, the Philadelphia City Council in February passed a resolution condemning an anti-Shariah proposal being considered in Pennsylvania’s state legislature. The Virginia legislature moved a vote on the issue to 2013, a move that some observers said showed wariness about the legislation.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie pounced on critics last year who said he was allowing Shariah into American courts after he appointed a Muslim judge to the state’s Superior Court.

“This Sharia law business is crap,” Christie said in his signature blunt style. “It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”

Sentiments are changing among the electorate, too. According to a February survey by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, 14 percent of Americans said they believed Muslims wanted to impose Shariah in America, down from 30 percent in September.

The power of prominent leaders and institutions like the Philadelphia City Council and Gov. Christie speaking out against this extremism shouldn’t be underestimated. These examples send a prominent signal to the public about what to think about an issue they have little information on and provide a stark contrast with the conspiracy-theory radicalism of the anti-Islam activists.

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