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Agents of intolerance: the Tea Party and Rising Anti-Muslim Hysteria

Mar 3, 2011

In the last six months the paranoid campaign against Muslim Americans has taken an ugly turn. And it’s only going to get worse.

Ground Zero mosque opponents3 Agents of intolerance: the Tea Party and Rising Anti Muslim Hysteria

The video from California we posted earlier showing right-wingers screaming “Go Home!” to Muslim American families (including small children) entering a charity fundraiser is the crudest manifestation of this campaign, but it’s not the one that should scare you the most.

Across America conservatives are using courts and legislatures to enshrine anti-Muslim discrimination into law and public policy—in much the same way they did in the 90s with gay Americans and the Defense of Marriage Act. They failed to stop Park51 a.k.a. Cordoba House a.k.a. the Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up.

The Republican electoral victory in November and the rise of Tea Party Senators and Representatives that are so right-wing they make Newt Gingrich seem like Howard Dean, has only emboldened anti-Muslim crusaders and tempted them with what any paranoid demagogue covets most: political power. Now they’re using the tools of the state to suppress Muslim American life.

Here’s a handful of anti-Muslim examples that are only the tip of the iceberg:

  • Next week, Representative Peter King (R-NY) will begin sanctioned hearings in Congress to investigate the loyalty of certain American Muslims.

  • In Tennessee, a bill is under consideration which would effectively ban the practice of Islam, under the guise of stopping Sharia law.

  • Just this week a 20-year-old San Jose college student launched a lawsuit against the FBI after they secretly placed a GPS tracking device on his car, without cause, simply because he’s Muslim.

  • Last year there were multiple efforts throughout the country to stop the construction of Mosques under the guise of the war on terror.

  • Conservatives have even turned on their own. The annual right-wing CPAC conference was riven with tension and name-calling when Pamela Geller, Frank Gaffney and their anti-Muslim allies attacked the conference for including Suhail Khan, a former member of the Bush Administration because, in their eyes, he’s in league with the Muslim Brotherhood. (Anderson Cooper did an excellent job of debunking those claims pretty thoroughly)

  • And when legal methods don’t work. There’s always the threat of violence. Last year saw an alarming rise in anti-Muslim attacks, whether it was arson against mosques or random attacks on cab drivers.
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    The crusade against Muslims historically recalls the Red Scare hysteria of the early 20th Century in which the citizenship and loyalty of political dissidents and leftists was challenged. But it was often nothing more than an exercise in thinly veiled anti-Semitism.

    The problem isn’t that a majority of Americans agree with the anti-Muslim hysteria. Surveys show, that while they have serious racial hang-ups about Muslims, they aren’t in favor of constitutional discrimination. The problem is that mainstream politicians aren’t forcefully confronting these agents of intolerance. Because of that leadership vacuum, the anti-Muslim crowd is able to gain a foothold in the mainstream media and get closer to implementing its discriminatory agenda.

    The reason why Park51 is no longer an issue isn’t because Geller and her anti-Muslim minions (recently labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) simply went away. It’s because the Mayor of this great city decided that he wasn’t going to let one group of New Yorkers be treated as second-class citizens and he gave one of the most eloquent defenses of religious freedom ever uttered in America.

    It’s high time that other prominent politicians give more than tepid support to the idea of religious freedom that this country was founded upon. And let’s hope they do soon because only that will stop the whole country from sliding into the kind of paranoia that gripped American in the 1950s and, unfortunately, still grips the members of Glenn Beck’s graying audience.

    “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

    - President George Washington’s letter to the the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)

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