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Margot PattersonJune 25, 2018

America’s anti-Islam problem didn’t end with the cancellation of ‘Roseanne’

Rally against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

The TV show “Roseanne” is gone, torpedoed by a tweet. Roseanne Barr’s racist remarks about former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett drew swift retribution from ABC; the anti-Muslim charge in her tweet drew less notice. Many must have found the statement that Ms. Jarrett was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood so clearly false it seemed less offensive than simply absurd.

But absurd, unfounded charges can stick, and the animus Ms. Barr revealed in her tweet is symptomatic of increasing anti-Muslim prejudice in the United States. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes has roughly doubled since 2014. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, 2017 was the worst year for anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents of bias since it began collecting data on them in the mid 1990s, with more incidents reported in 2017 than in the period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Cato Institute conducted a recent poll that found 47 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Americans would favor a ban on building mosques in their community.

Why so much anti-Muslim sentiment now? The 2016 presidential election is one factor, with Donald Trump and other candidates exploiting anti-Muslim feeling for political advantage. President Trump’s virtual ban on refugees from several majority-Muslim nations is another. And with people in political authority demonizing Muslims, the hostile political rhetoric is being amplified by the media, said Zainab Arain, research and advocacy coordinator at CAIR.

Why so much anti-Muslim sentiment now? The 2016 presidential election is one factor.

“It’s become an echo chamber where you have people with power and influence using their platform to promulgate anti-Muslim hate and hate towards other groups as well,” Ms. Arain told me.

The surge in anti-Muslim hostility is not simply a marker of today’s charged politics. Much of it is fomented by so-called experts seeking to spread misinformation and fear. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports the number of anti-Muslim hate groups has tripled since 2015. Mr. Arain said the current wave of anti-Muslim hostility began in 2010, when plans to build an Islamic center in lower Manhattan near 9/11’s “Ground Zero” was met with intense opposition. Fostered by anti-Islam bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, a national controversy ensued, with opponents of the center attributing bizarre and sinister motives to those supporting it. Since then, efforts to stigmatize Muslims as violent, intolerant and un-American have accelerated, promulgated by a variety of anti-Muslim groups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and CAIR list numerous such groups on their websites. So does the Bridge Initiative, a research project started by Georgetown University’s Prince Alaweed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. One of its stated aims is to “uncover the operational mechanisms of engineered Islamophobia.” Noting that a “well-funded organized Islamophobic network has spawned websites and false narratives on the Internet,” the Bridge Initiative warns that Americans are being buffeted by “pseudo scholarship that fosters prejudice and fear.”

Two of the most influential anti-Muslim organizations have direct ties to the Trump administration.

Two of the most influential anti-Muslim organizations have direct ties to the Trump administration. The largest is ACT for America, founded in 2007 by Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian known for making disparaging, wildly inaccurate statements about Muslims. ACT for America promotes anti-Muslim legislation, targets individuals for character assassination and has worked to keep Syrian refugees from immigrating here.

A supporter of President Trump, Ms. Gabriel visited the White House to meet with aides after his election. Former Trump advisor Michael Flynn was an advisor to ACT’s board of directors; Secretary of State Michael Pompeo was the keynote speaker at ACT’s national conventions in 2013 and 2015.

“Despite its hateful rhetoric toward Muslims, ACT’s efforts to build relationships with elected officials have been effective—both on a federal and state level,” reports the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Another anti-Muslim organization with ties to the Trump administration is the Center for Security Policy, a neo-conservative think tank founded in 1988 by Frank Gaffney Jr., a member of the Reagan administration. Before becoming National Security Advisor, John Bolton’s new chief of staff at the National Security Council, Fred Fleitz was senior vice-president at the C.S.P., which claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has invaded all branches of the U.S. government and that sharia law is threatening our democracy. Mr. Bolton has his own ties to the Islamophobia network. Prior to joining the Trump administration, he was chairman of Gatestone Institute, another anti-Muslim think tank.

A 2016 report from CAIR found that more than $205 million from foundations and private capital funds have gone to support anti-Muslim groups. No single motive or goal unites them. Many are strongly pro-Zionist, yet some have ties to white supremacist groups with anti-Semitic views. Some are nativist; some are Christian; some present themselves as focused on defense and national security. Negative views of Muslims help justify the war on terror, and the anti-Muslim organizations that bill themselves as defending Americans’ national security are often tied to war hawking and the war machine. Many of them demonize any Muslim-majority country.

The growing army of misinformation experts on Islam raises obvious questions: What agendas do they serve? Who funds them and to what end?

Roseanne Barr’s tweet merited the response it got from ABC. Her offensive comments commingling racism and anti-Muslim bias may yet serve some public purpose if they trigger greater scrutiny of how and why the anti-Islam lobby is fostering prejudice and fear.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Nora Bolcon
5 years 11 months ago

Does any of this really surprise anyone? I wish it surprised me.

Again though, who put Mr. Monster in the White House with all his team of super haters? White Catholic Americans with the blessings of their mostly White Conservative Bishops. There is a lesson to be learned here folks. Any Catholics awake enough to notice it? That is my question.

JR Cosgrove
5 years 11 months ago

Are you aware of what is in the Quran and the Hadith, which are the basis for what a Muslim believes and uses as a guide for how to lead their life.

Danny Collins
5 years 11 months ago

If one wants to convince people of anti-Muslim prejudice, it doesn't help to extensively quote the Southern Poverty Law Center and CAIR, both of which have labeled moderate Muslim reformers Ayan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz as anti-Muslim extremists. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently settled a libel lawsuit with Maajid for $3.5 million dollars for their hate speech against him.

Becoming a mouthpiece for pro-Muslim extremists does not make for good long-term ecumenical relations.

Joan Sheridan
5 years 11 months ago


Vince Killoran
5 years 11 months ago

Agreed. The SPLC is a dodgy organization that tends to whip up alarm for fundraising purposes. Better to use the Pew Research Center data.

Andrew Wolfe
5 years 11 months ago

I don’t hate Muslims but Islam is not the one True Faith of Jesus Christ. While Vatican II teached us God honors the sincere quest for truth among every people and creed, Jesus taught us His Name is the Way He wants us to bring Muslims into Heaven. And why should we hold back from Muslims the God Who is not only True, but Who is Love. We don’t need to dwell on the phenomenon of jihadism or the jihadist bloodshed in San Bernardino or Orlando or 9/11. These must spur us to reach out with Gospel to the Muslims we meet.

John Walton
5 years 11 months ago

Hasn’t the SPLC been ordered to pay damages of many $millions to groups it has maliciously slandered, this just within the past few several weeks?

And Mrs Margot, please to do more research on CAIR and their funding.

One is left wondering if America’s Editorial Board looks at these articles before ink hits paper.

JR Cosgrove
5 years 11 months ago

There is s differences between anti Muslim and anti Islam. Ms Patterson's comments equates the two. But based on what is in the article she knows very little about Islam but accuses others of spreading misinformation. She seems to be guilty of the same thing. If one wants an expert on Islam read 111 Questions on Islam .by Samir Khalil Samir S.J. An Egyptian Jesuit.

Joan Sheridan
5 years 11 months ago

Don't quote Southern Poverty Law Center. In the past during the Civil Rights mov't it was great but no longer. Look them up

Phillip Stone
5 years 11 months ago

Think of all the lovely Christian German people chaffing under the yoke of opprobrium for starting the First World War and the punitive economic sanctions imposed on their nation who voted for the Nazi regime and celebrated their achievements in returning Germany to international power and significance who fought in the army of conquest, conspired and supported the aims and methods or remained silently acquiescent.

Now, think of the peoples in the USA who belong to a totalitarian religion candidly, openly and unashamedly adhere to the teachings that they are the best of peoples, are under orders to convert everybody on earth to their religion by any means or kill those who refuse their invitation to conversion. They are the same sort of people, fellow human beings with families and gifts and domestic concerns and all the rest that life as a human being consists of.

Whether we acknowledge them as brothers and sisters or as our enemies, Our Lord bids us to love them.

The same is not true for us and their creeds.

Islam is a real and present danger to the entire world and both resistance to their world domination by violence and their aim to convert anyone they can deceive is worthy of severe negative judgement.

Their canon consists of three sources - the Koran, the Hadith and the Sira.
Modern scholarship is abundant with evidence that the tales told to us about Islam are substantially false as to origins but the record of the faithful living out of sharia is horrendous.
They are not people of the same book as we Christians and Jews.
The man Isa is not Christ Our Lord, the quotes in the Koran superficially indicating unity with us have been sources from heretical and apocryphal books not acknowledged as revealed scripture to us and some were not written until long after the claimed life and death of their false prophet.

The Catholic readers deserve articles from experts in Islam and sharia, to shallow sentimental political diatribes from neo-Marxists.

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years 11 months ago

Ms Patterson
You can not possible be so naive or uninformed as to not have discovered that C. A.I.R. Is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case involving the financing of terrorists by US based entities!
Citing that organization or for that matter the once fine/now discredited Southern Poverty Law Center as the basis for your exegesis on Muslim prejudice is simply ridiculous .......if not intellectually dishonest. Try Google before you publish.

Kevin Murphy
5 years 11 months ago

I stopped reading when she cited the Southern Poverty Law Center.

arthur mccaffrey
5 years 11 months ago

this article is so badly written it is difficult to know where to begin a criticism. There are so many unspoken assumptions, the author must think she is writing to a bunch of people like herself who share her beliefs.
Let's begin with Islamophobia, the usual name calling by so called enlightened people. The greek word phobia means fear, but when used as a slur it is supposed to mean irrational fears i.e., you have no reason to fear Islam because it is a religion of benevolence and tolerance, which practices very advanced human rights. Well, excuse me, but I think there are many reasons to have a real, rational fear of Islam, and unless you have been living in a cave for the last 10 years, there is plenty of evidence around the world that Islam is the source of many crimes including terrorism, subjugation and beating of women, disrespect for the separation of church and state...the list is endless. So ms Patterson, Muslims are not all innocent angels, and it is insulting to me to that you would brand me as Islamophobic just because I am very skeptical of your ingenuous, unconditional assessment of muslim faith. Why are you so prejudiced against people who don't share your beliefs? Your smug self-righteousness is appalling.

Randal Agostini
5 years 11 months ago

Why do I have a suspicion that this is another anti Trump article? When will 'America' take note of yesterday's gospel - Matthew 7:1-5?
I have read little in 'America' about the difficulties that the Trump administration has faced in trying to provide aid to the displaced Christians in Iraq, or the reasons we should be withholding aid from the Palestinians in Gaza.
To ascribe Republicans or Trump voters as Moslem Haters is itself hateful, especially towards those Catholics that are very grateful for the support we have received in the restoration of hope for freedom of religion in America.

Vincent Gaglione
5 years 11 months ago

Reading the comments here gave me pause, enough to read about the SPLC on Wikipedia. I found the discussion of controversies about the organization in Wikipedia fascinating, many of them fomented by the organizations which the SPLC designated as hate groups. That would be expected. The case in which they apologized to two individuals proved to be an example where the SPLC went off the rails, so to speak, and they paid for it.

That so many of the commenters here are so familiar with these controversies does make me wonder from what sources they get their information. I would presume from the very groups which SPLC designate as hate groups, or perhaps from splinter offshoots or fellow travelers? I imagine that some of the commenters here might very well agree with Trump that there were decent people on both sides of the Charleston protests.

There was a time in the United States when Catholics and Catholicism were subjected to the same lines of thinking and commentary as are Muslims and Islam today. Which always brings me back to my complaints about Catholic education. What indeed do our Catholic schools teach that produces people so ignorant of our history and our morality? Probably my only memories of anything about Muslims and Islam that I can recall from my grade school and high school Catholic education are the Crusades and that famous quote, “Deus vult!”, uttered by the saintly Bernard. “Deus vult” sounds an awful lot like what some of the commenters here believe as well!

Stuart Meisenzahl
5 years 11 months ago

Keep looking for SPLC recent history and you will find SPLC President Richard Cohen's testimony November 2017 before the the House Committee overseeing Homeland Security. In his testimony Cohen asserts why Antifa is not a SPLC designated Hate Group ....he admits that Antifa uses extreme violence but asserts they do not promulgate hate speech.
I believe the Supreme Court in flag burning cases etc has determined that "actions =speech" protected by the first amendment. Certainly an organization with the words "Law Center" in its title is aware of this fact.

JR Cosgrove
5 years 11 months ago

Mr. Gaglione.
From your comment you admit that you know little about Islam. I suggest you read about what the Quran and the Hadith say. Read Fr. Samir SJ's book on Islam, 111 Questions on Islam. It also appears you know little on the Crusades. I suggest you read Thomas Madden of St Louis University. Two good Jesuit sources. Your comment could only change after reading these sources.

Vince Killoran
5 years 11 months ago

I take your point but I come at this from the Left and still find the SCLC to be an unreliable source. (Alexander Cockburn blew the whistle on them years ago.)

As I note in an earlier comment, best to rely on the Pew Research Center. Their data actually supports the author's claim.

E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 11 months ago

Ms.Patterson obviously did little ot no research into the SPLC and CAIR as if she had she should would have found hundreds of organizations, including many Catholic/Christian/Jewish organizations that are identified or branded "Hate groups"
by the SPLC and CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land case. Had she researched Islam from its beginning she would have found that the Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called 'hypocrites' and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.
The internecine warfare between Islamic sects only adds to the violence against all Catholics and non-Muslims in the Middle East today.
For over a thousand years the Catholic Popes and Catholic leaders led victorious battles against the Muslim efforts to conquer Europe. The mantra that "Islam is peaceful" defies the facts. "Mohammed is recorded as dying, on or about, 632 AD. And what followed was not an "under siege" mentality. Wars for enrichment followed. Islam had its own agenda long before the Crusades. If peaceful -- what were Muslim armies doing in Europe 300 years before the Crusades? And hundred of years thereafter? Seventy-seven years after Mohammed's death, in 711 AD -- some 300 years prior to the first Crusade -- it was Muslim military forces who crossed the Straits of Gibraltar from North Africa into Spain and in less than a decade crossed the Pyrenees. In 732 AD , the Muslim forces under the command of Abd-er- rahman, were decisively defeated by Charles Martel and the Franks at the Battle of Poitiers [Tours]. 800 years later in 1571 the fleet of the Ottoman Empire was defeated at the Battle of Lepanto by the fleet of the Holy League, a combined naval force of Catholic countries led by Don John of Austria and contained vessels from Venice, Spain, the Papal States, Genoa, Savoy, and Malta. Nine hundred years later, in September 1683 AD -- Ottoman Empire Muslim armies led by the Turkish commander Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha were at the gates of Vienna. They were defeated by a combination of Austrian, German, and Polish armies. If peace was Mohammed's message -- a subtle proposition at best -- his adherents missed the point then and miss it now."

JR Cosgrove
5 years 11 months ago

The word "Sunni" means conduct or behavior or specifically the conduct (actions and sayings) of Muhammed and his original followers. What they actually did and how they behaved/said are the basis for understanding just what Islam is about for Sunnis. A good Muslim will try to emulate Muhammed and his early followers. The Quran does not tell one how to be a Muslim. For that they go to the Hadith.

E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 11 months ago

What differentiates between a "good Muslim", ie. Sunni (Wahhabi?)and the Shia and other Islamic sects? Osama bin Laden was a Saudi Sunni as were most, if not all, of the 9/11 terrorists.
"Allah Akbar" is the terrorists' battle cry and provides no indication of the terrorist's Islamic sect.

JR Cosgrove
5 years 11 months ago

People whose background flows from Europe and Christianity are often misled by religions and philosophies that developed in other parts of the world. They instinctively assume that the religion/philosophy is as friendly to non members as is Christianity. Especially Catholics who are told to accept others and treat them as they would their own. But the attitude may not be mutual so one has to evaluate individual religions on what they believe not on what the Christian believes they should be based on their own religion. It is why attitudes towards Muslims is not the same thing as attitudes toward Islam. The Good Samaritan is a Christian message but is not universal.

Michael Basile
5 years 10 months ago

Some years ago I had the good fortune to work for extended periods in Turkey and Iran, followed by shorter periods in Egypt, Turkey again for UNESCO and a USAID contractor, and on my own more recently in Iraqi Kurdistan. In an age where we as Americans have become more subject to media influence, more isolated from direct interaction with one another, and increasingly limited in direct contact with those who differ from our preferred contacts, our judgment of others has become harsh, dismissive, condescending, if not filled with fear and wrath, fueled by our specially preferred media sources, as if they educate rather than infuriate. Gone are the days of Edward R. Murrow and his ilk, who saw journalism as a way to inform and probe beyond surface banalities that played to base instincts. We are called in this age to get out of the house and interact with those whose backgrounds differ. The media's penchant to supercharge our fears and prejudices can be countered when we get to know others in the flesh, and not judge them by our private and uninformed absorption-by-commercial broadcast pundit. We need to get out and about.

Musa Rus
5 years 10 months ago

It feels like another couch potato that's ready to birth more couch potatoes, and that's not a revival worth watching. Heck, that's not revival at all. Watched it on Streams R Us Android app. You can also get it on your phone.

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