Islamophobia is a real and dangerous phenomenon, but not to the degree that American Muslim Brotherhood organizations claim, argues Muslim writer Stephen Schwartz for the site Islamicpluralism.org. False, racist images of Islam do not protect non-Muslims from extremists or even the appeal that Islam has to its converts, he adds, but only strengthens bigots on both sides.
"The foundation of Islamophobia is, then, the will of the Islam-hater to claim authority to define Islam for the Muslim," says Schwartz. Real Islamophobia may manifest itself in forms unique to the hatred of Islam, or may reassign racial or religious stereotypes about other minorities to Muslims.
Those who condemn all of Islam as extremist, characterize its existence as a problem for the world, and demand inauthentic theological changes, reassign hatred previously cast on Jews. Accusing all Muslims of having superior loyalty to a Muslim super state is merely a repetition of bigotry previously used against Catholics and their adherence to the Vatican.
Critically, non-Muslims cannot and should not deny hate against Muslims, which is seen as a real issue by practicing Muslims of many streams. So anti-radicalism narratives proposed by Muslims or non-Muslims cannot ignore the existence of stigma or hate directed at Islam. Moderate Muslims compete best against radicals by proving that they both more knowledgeable and more authentic to traditional sources, and by dealing with real social problems like hate and ignorance.
However, calling out Islamophobia does not mean bending to false and manipulative interpretations of the idea.
"The Wahhabi lobby, and especially CAIR, has been grossly irresponsible and, in traditional terms, un-Islamic, in loudly and prolifically comparing the current situation of American Muslims with those encountered in the past by indigenous Americans, Black slaves, or the ethnic Japanese relocated in camps during the second world war," Schwartz argues. He also laments that this lobby "still monopolizes the American Muslim voice in the halls of government and in the pages of media."
CAIR has traditionally used false images of hate to manipulate the relationship between moderate Muslims and law enforcement, harming counterterrorism efforts. The Associated Press recently cited CAIR officials instructing young Muslims "not to speak with police even if their parents, imams, or Muslim clerics urge them to cooperate."
Read Schwartz's full column here.