Sunday, May 5, 2013


Islamophobia is defined as “prejudice against, hatred towards, or irrational fear of Muslims.” Especially since 9/11/01 there has been a sizeable percentage of U.S. citizens who have displayed varying levels of such fear. And the tragic bombings in Boston last month intensified Islamophobia in some people and perhaps provoked it in others.
Just three days after the Boston bombings, I heard a discussion between Michael Savage and his guest Walid Shoebat. Savage (b. 1942) has been the conservative talk radio host for “The Savage Nation” since 1999. He has also authored a number of books, including “Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder” (2005).
Savage has been charged with being an Islamophobe for years, and since 2009 he has been barred from entering the United Kingdom for allegedly “seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred.” So it was not surprising he would have such a cordial interview with Shoebat.
Walid Shoebat (b. 1960) is a Palestinian American Christian who converted from Islam. He lectures on the dangers of Islamic radicalism and strongly supports the state of Israel. His new book is titled “The Case FOR Islamophobia: Jihad by the Word; America’s Final Warning” (2013). But he is just one of many vocal Islamophobes widely heard on the public media.
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) is a progressive media criticism organization founded in 1986 and based in New York City. Back in 2008 they published "Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Bigotry, Fear and Misinformation." Part of that paper included a listing of “the dirty dozen,” America’s leading Islamophobes. Savage is on that list, of course, as are fellow talk radio hosts Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, as well as Pat Robertson.
And then there is Brigitte Gabriel. I mention her because of recently receiving a YouTube video of her lecturing, sent to me by a boyhood friend (not that he particularly agreed with the video). Gabriel (b. 1964) is a Lebanese-American journalist, author, and activist who founded the American Congress For Truth—and a very persuasive speaker.
Back in 1997 the Runnymede Commission in Great Britain produced a consultation paper entitled “Islamophobia: Its Features and Dangers.” One main purpose of the publication of that report was to counter Islamophobic assumptions that Islam is a single monolithic system. That is the main problem with Islamophobia: it sees all Muslims as being the same, mainly as terrorists bent upon destroying the U.S.
We who know well the great diversity within Christianity should be able to understand there is the same sort of diversity among people who are Muslims or who have a Muslim background. Would all of us Christians want to be judged by the likes of Timothy McViegh, the Oklahoma bomber who was a confirmed Catholic Christian and who was deeply influenced by the Christian Identity movement? Or would we want to be identified with Rev. Fred Phelps and his hateful activities done as a “Christian” (Baptist) pastor?

Terrorism and hatred must be strongly opposed and denounced regardless of the religion or the ideology of those who perpetrate them. So groups of people, made up mostly of peaceful, law-abiding citizens should not be condemned because of the evil acts and attitudes of some within those larger groups.
Islamophobia should be opposed by all people of good will, for it fosters discrimination, exclusion, prejudice and violence toward many decent people. Rather than harboring fear and hatred toward a group of people, let’s embrace a worldview based on love, one that fosters understanding and acceptance of people with different religious and/or cultural viewpoints and one that engenders acts of kindness.


  1. Thanks, Leroy, for these important reflections. I'd also recommend the writings of Tariq Ramadan who writes for Muslims. He's at Notre Dame now, I think. WHAT I BELIEVE is a particularly statement by a brilliant Muslim. I heard him speak once at the American Academy of Religion meetings.

    1. Thanks, as always, for your comments, Anton.

      I don't know much about him, but I mention Ramadan in a footnote in my book "The Limits of Liberalism." I need to learn more about him.

  2. I meant to say, "particularly accessible statement"

  3. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson send the following comment by email:

    "Amen! Thank you, Leroy. We must do everything we can to help people understand Islam and its people."

  4. Name calling is a particularly popular game to play these days. We have lively debates about such topics on an international Facebook group of high school friends. Thankfully, we remain friends despite our variances. Depending on who is calling names, I have probably been called them all by the various sides - including an "Islamaphobe". Just the same, I think I will keep my Muslim friends, and enjoy their company (together with all the other various types of "-phobes"). Al Salaam.

  5. Thinking Friend Kevin Payne sent an email with these comments:

    "I agree that we must be careful not to dismiss all those who practice Islam as terrorists.

    "Your comments regarding our own 'dirty linen' are needed, too.

    "I do wish, however, that Muslim leaders that represent a more peaceful approach would more publicly distance themselves from the Jihadists. If they do, the press doesn’t carry it well.

    "If prominent leaders would make it very clear that they are against the radical actions and beliefs, I think it would help the general public to understand that Islam is not a monolithic system; the same could be said, too, of Christian leaders when our own crazies act in a violent matter.

    "Perhaps we have a larger problem with an ignorant press, or maybe even a press that just wants to generate controversey rather than understanding."

  6. I suspect that the press is the problem here. But it needs empirical testing.

  7. Kevin, thanks for your comments, which are certainly pertinent.

    I have seen a few statements of American Muslims decrying the Boston bombings, but perhaps there was not much in the so-called mainstream media.

    A few days after the bombings, "USA Today" carried an article which, among other things, pointed out that "the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement condemning terrorism 'in all its forms.'

    "CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said, 'We must remain united as a nation as we face those who would carry out such heinous and inexcusable crimes.'"

    I'm sure there are a number of similar statements by various Muslim groups. But such statements don't get the kind of press coverage that acts of violence get.

    As you know, in the media "if it bleeds, it leads." But so many important stories that don't bleed get pushed to the back pages if they are reported at all.