On November 1, 2023, the Biden administration announced a new national strategy to “counter the scourge of Islamophobia and hate in all its forms.” This move, which came amid a storm of antisemitic demonstrations, was most likely political: the Arab American Institute just reported plummeting support for him among Arab Americans due to his support for Israel in the war against Hamas. Still, it is curious that increased Islamophobia appears to coincide with surging antisemitism. The concept of antisemitism inspired the concept of Islamophobia. It effectively advances the Islamist agenda – not the interests of many Muslims.
So, what exactly is Islamophobia? It has been defined as a fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or Muslims. It exists as a vague term suggesting an irrational bigotry, and, as is the case with charges of racism, the accusation itself usually has the desired effect of discrediting and silencing the speaker.
The strong suggestion is that Americans are biased against Muslims, and violence against them is always just a heartbeat away. Indeed, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood organization linked to Hamas: “Islamophobia is fear or hatred of Islam or Muslims…[that] promotes and perpetuates anti-Muslim stereotyping, discrimination, harassment, and even violence.”
Sounds like antisemitism, doesn’t it? Muslims, like Jews, are an endangered minority that needs special protection from the general population – special protection that the government should provide. However, there are several flaws in this picture.
Although Biden press spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre asserted that “[f]or too long, Muslims in America, and those perceived to be Muslim, such as Arabs and Sikhs, have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks and other discriminatory incidents,” the data contradict her. In 2022, the FBI reported 205 anti-Muslim offenses, as compared with 1,305 anti-Jewish ones. Even after correcting for population size (perhaps 4.5 million Muslims vs 5.8 million Jews), these figures in no way suggest that anti-Muslim hate is significant.
And there is a further wrinkle. Researcher Raymond Ibrahim points to data from a 2022 poll by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a Muslim think tank headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan. (Its pro-Muslim activist credentials are impeccable: one of its authors is former Obama staffer Dalia Mogahed, who has consistently defended Muslim Brotherhood organizations.) The poll found that the group most likely to consider Muslims violent is, in fact, other Muslims.
Ibrahim notes: “These findings are eye-opening. Remember, the entire premise of Islamophobia is that, in their ignorance of ‘true Islam,’ xenophobic Americans are prone to stereotyping Muslims as violent, hostile, and uncivilized. Yet behold the truth: no one segment of the American population sees Muslims as violent, hostile, and uncivilized as much as those who are best acquainted with everything to do with being Muslim — that is, Muslims themselves.”
If at least some Muslims are violent, hostile, and uncivilized, what should be done? Perhaps we should return to our roots and take the position set out by President George Washington in his 1790 letter to the Jewish congregation in Rhode Island:
“All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed exercising their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, only requiring that those who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
Nowhere in his letter does Washington refer to Jews or Judaism. Instead, he sets out a general principle that is still applicable today. We should judge people by their behavior: do they behave as good citizens, giving the legitimate U.S. government their effectual support? Not whether they belong to some category of potentially victimized minority – and that includes Muslims as well as adherents of other religions. As to the recent surge of antisemitism, well, to quote Washington, we should “give to bigotry no sanction.”