The analyses of Professors Quinley and Glock are particularly applicable to the Islamophobia that has emerged in contemporary Western politics, including the recent American election campaign.
They explain: "Prejudice seldom enters into the political process as an isolated phenomenon. Americans who support a politics of prejudice generally hold other intolerant and unenlightened beliefs as well. They are distrustful of foreigners, have little patience for dissent or deviance, are extreme patriots, and see their political opponents as sinister and evil … Where political prejudice is found, so too is evidence of cognitive unenlightenment generally … The existence of prejudicial politics, then, is to be explained in terms of more general patterns of intolerance found in political extremism. To understand the politics of prejudice, therefore, requires a prior accounting of the conditions making for extremist politics."
They continue: "Political extremism emerges when the norms and procedures of democracy are violated through the suppression of dissent and the insistence that there is only one ‘truth’. Political extremism opposes the ideals of diversity, pluralism and tolerance in an open and accessible society. It is, in fact ‘antipluralistic’ or ‘monistic’ and thus encourages the viewpoint that differences among peoples are illegitimate. Extremist parties and movements assert that theirs is the only ‘right’ way; all other groups are ‘wrong’ and are to be suppressed."
Islamophobia may not have been on the radar screen when Quinley and Glock published their insightful "Anti-Semitism in America" back in 1979, but the battle against anti-Semitism itself has come a long way since then.
Today, three decades after Quinley and Glock’s study, you’ll rarely find any of the anti-Semitic examples identified and exposed in their well-documented research. Now, the slightest suspicion of anti-Semitism will be met with strong condemnation from the media and nearly all quarters of civil society; and that’s as it should be.
Imagine, for example, if any Muslim or Christian religious leader were to state in today’s North American media that "Moses was a terrorist," "Moses was a criminal and thief," "Judaism is a monumental scam," or "Judaism is an evil and wicked religion." The reaction from millions of viewers, readers and listeners would be overwhelming. Numerous Canadian and American newspapers would run outraged editorials. TV and radio talk shows in both countries would thoroughly discuss the reasons and remedies needed. Politicians would almost certainly issue strong counter-statements, saying that anti-Semitism is uncivilized and goes against core national and societal values. The American President would probably address his country from the Oval Office to denounce the outrage of anti-Semitism. In short, North America would be swept by a tidal-wave of social opprobrium.
But we’re talking here about anti-Semitism as applied to the Jewish world. It has not been that way for the significant Muslim population, even though Islam was originally founded in the Arab world. People persistently forget (or choose to ignore) that Arabs are also Semites!
Consider the effect on all Muslims then, when outrageous and insulting public statements are made about our Prophet Muhammad and about the 1,400-year-old faith of Islam. In the first two sample quotes above, try substituting "Muhammad" for "Moses" and "Islam" for "Judaism" and you will read what was actually said, in that order, by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham — all high-profile leaders of the American "Christian right."
Falwell made his inflammatory hate-statements on the widely viewed CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes," and Graham (son of veteran evangelist, presidential spiritual confidant and media personality, Billy Graham), delivered President Bush’s inaugural prayer. All three have made it a basic premise of their theological platform to regularly denounce Islam.
But did you hear or read any overwhelming reactions against their slanderous statements from national media, Canadian and American politicians, or other leaders in civil society? There was none at all –” no massive outrage, no official denunciation.
In fact, when the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) contacted the Canadian Council of Churches asking them to issue a statement distancing themselves from Falwell’s comments, the request was declined. And there were no public statements from any of Canada’s race-relations organizations, any Canadian non-Christian faith groups, ethnic groups, or any major body that could have made an effective and aware response to this "other" form of anti-Semitism.
All Muslims heard were a few very careful, politically correct, and mostly unofficial statements telling them that Falwell, Robertson and Graham do not speak for all Christians — something any rational person of faith would already know! The North American Muslim community was not looking for such fatuous self-assurance; only a strong, unequivocal public denunciation of pre-meditated hate-speech will carry any moral weight.
In fact, the swollen hate-language of anti-Islam voice messages received all too frequently by the CIC reads as if the callers were trying to outdo Falwell and his colleagues: "Muhammad was a pedophile, a mass murderer, a demon-possessed maniac, a false prophet," said one. "Islam is a false religion. The Qur’an and the Hadith are both books of lies and deception," said another. And so on; it is offensive even to repeat such words (and others too obscene even to be printed) in making a case against them. There was no doubt that those who left these and similar messages could be charged with hate-speech crimes.
But with no strong or effective condemnation against utterances like Jerry Falwell’s, or the many Falwell wannabes, every angry or uninformed person who has chosen to blame Islam for the problems we all share on this planet will now feel safe to spread anti-Islam hate-speech at will.
Muslims have been told time and time again since 9/11 that America’s "war on terrorism" is not a war against Islam. But the measured "correct" tone of most media and publicity responses to the growing tide of anti-Islam attacks in North America leaves a huge credibility gap. The average Muslim is not convinced by statements that are merely rendered socially acceptable, or politically "sanitized."
Please, read Part One of this article.