By Hansook Oh
In the midst of an economic crisis that voters have urged their elected officials to fix, lawmakers and citizens are wasting valuable time trying to expunge Islam from American life.
Citizens are abusing their freedoms of speech to publicly display their Islamophobia and ignorance of the difference between Islam and terrorism.
Islamophobia today is in some ways similar to the anti-Japanese hysteria during World War II and red-baiting that went on during the McCarthy era. It is a peculiar mix of racism and Orientalism, which is the idea that “marks certain peoples or nations as inferior and as posing a constant threat to the well-being of empire,” according to feminist writer Andrea Smith in her essay Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy.
However, unlike the McCarthy era, Islamophobia in the digital age can have a transnational impact.
Twelve people were killed in Afghanistan on April 1 when angry protesters attacked a United Nations compound in the city of Mazar-I-Sharif. The New York Times reported Taliban members are likely responsible for the killings, but a video of an American pastor burning a Quran triggered their fury.
Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Fla., a conservative Christian fundamentalist church, and author of the book, Islam is of the Devil, supervised a mock trial of the Quran on March 20. Jones was previously in the headlines late last year when he threatened to burn a Quran on Sept. 11, the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Jones said the book was guilty of “crimes against humanity, training and promoting of terrorist activities around the world, death, rape and torture of people worldwide, crimes against women, minorities, Christians and with the promoting of prejudice and racism against anyone who is not a Muslim.” The trial ended with the slow burning of one copy of the Islamic holy book.
Politicians and citizens all over America echo his anti-Islamic views and rhetoric in an increasing trend of Islamaphobic behavior. Legislators in states like Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Utah have introduced bills banning Shariah law be practiced in the courts. But the most severe anti-Islamic law was proposed in Tennessee this year.
In February, state representatives introduced a bill that would make it a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison to practice Shariah law in Tennessee. The bill states, “Shariah requires all its adherents to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic, including the representative government of this state, with a political system based upon Shariah.”
According to Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman, the idea that Shariah law is any kind of threat to the American Constitution or system of law is “not in the bounds of possibility.” In an interview with CNN, Feldman said, “it literally cannot happen, and won’t happen unless 60 or 70 percent of Americans suddenly become fundamentalist Muslims.”
But in February, a few hundred people, including tea party members and elected government officials, protested a charity event in Orange County because it was sponsored by a Muslim organization. They screamed at the Muslim attendees, including children, to “Go back home” and “Muhammad was a pervert” among other insults.
One of the protestors was Villa Park councilwoman Deborah Pauly who described the relief event as “pure, unadulterated evil.”
Pauly said, “As a matter of fact, I know quite a few Marines who will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.”
Islam is just as much a part of America as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Atheism, and is not an evil trying to undermine the Constitution. Individuals can be found guilty for criminal activity, but to criminalize an entire religion, which has existed for more than a thousand years, is down right idiotic.