The Potential Causes of Islamophobia

Learn about Islamophobia and why the Western world is experiencing a resurgence of anti-Islamic sentiment.

| August 2012

  • Crusade 20
    In “Crusade 2.0,” author John Feffer presents a timely, concise and provocative look at current events in the context of historical trends and goes beyond a “clash of civilizations” critique to offer concrete ways to defuse the ticking bomb of Islamophobia.
    Cover Courtesy City Lights Books

  • Crusade 20

Though the events of 9/11 are almost a decade in the past, anti-Islamic sentiment burns strong in the United States and Europe. The summer of 2010 became the Summer of Hate as threats to burn the Qur’an, mosque protests and proposed anti-Islamic legislation blazed throughout the West. What could explain this spike in Islamophobia? In Crusade 2.0, author John Feffer examines the resurgence of anti-Islamic sentiment in the West and its global implications. The following excerpt from the book’s introduction, “Target: Islam,” defines Islamophobia, discusses the potential sources of its reappearance and outlines the three wars that continue to shape Western attitudes toward Islam: The Crusades, the Cold War and the Global War on Terrorism. 

It was the Summer of Hate, and the target was Islam.

The television news coverage in the United States during the summer of 2010 was full of images of angry Americans waving signs that denounced the world’s second largest religion. The fury seemed to come out of nowhere. Unfavorable attitudes toward Islam had been steadily dropping among people in the U.S. In 2009, looking back at a two-year decline in hate crimes against Muslims, a prominent monitoring organization expressed “its cautious optimism that America may be witnessing a leveling-off of the post-9/11 backlash against Americans of the Islamic faith.”

The optimism was premature.

In June 2010, picketers began to protest the construction of Park51, a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan, and the media was aflame with the controversy. By the end of August, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, very real flames licked at the construction site of another Islamic center, courtesy of unknown vandals. It was only the latest in a series of attacks that included an attempted firebombing of an Islamic center in Florida in May and vandalism against mosques in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Texas. Also over the summer, Florida pastor Terry Jones and his tiny fundamentalist flock decided to play with fire by vowing to burn copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of 9/11. Concerned that this act of desecration would provoke attacks against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Barack Obama put pressure on the pastor to cancel the event.

The fearmongers employed other tactics that summer. Protesters brought in dogs because “Muslims hate dogs”—to demonstrate their opposition to a new mosque in Temecula, California. A group called Stop Islamization of America bought anti-Islamic ads on busses in San Francisco, Miami, and New York. Even in Oklahoma, where less than 1 percent of the population is Muslim, a movement coalesced around an improbable referendum to ban sharia (Islamic law) that passed decisively in the November mid-term elections.

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