The number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. tripled in 2011 according to a new report released last week by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The dramatic increase in anti-Muslim groups, according to SPLC Senior Fellow Mark Potok, occured as part of a rapid growth in “radical right” groups, “fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial makeup of America, and the prospect of four more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.”
Anti-Muslim groups, which jumped from 10 groups in 2010 to 30 in 2011, resulted from an growing political space for Islamophobia as politicians and anti-Muslim activists stirred up controversy over a planned Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan.
While the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy pushed fringe anti-Muslim activists like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer into the spotlight, the nationwide anti-Muslim movement gained more momentum with the “anti-Shariah” campaigns in various state legislatures. Anti-Shariah bills, which would forbid the use of Islamic Shariah law in state courts — “a completely unnecessary change, given that the U.S. constitution already rules that out,” writes Potok — have now been introduced in over twenty states.
Indeed, the SPLC is correct to point out the growth of anti-Muslim groups across the country. But, as discussed in the Center for American Progress’ report Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, many of the anti-Shariah initiatives are styled on model legislation drafted by anti-Muslim attorney and right-wing activist David Yerushalmi.
Potok also credits Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) March 2011 hearings on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims and a “swelling of truly vicious propaganda” as demonizing American Muslims.