World

Connecting The Dots: The North Carolina Murders And Anti-Muslim Hysteria

CREDIT: AP

Namee Barakat hugs his wife Layla during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C., about the death of his son, daughter-in-law and her sister.

On Wednesday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released an interactive and a follow-up to its 2011 widely-noted report, “Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” While CAP’s first Islamophobia report chronicled the tightly knit group of funders, organizations, activists, politicians, and media commentators responsible for fanning anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, “Fear, Inc. 2.0, The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America,” details how members of this network are not only working to marginalize a community of 2.6 million Americans by promoting discriminatory policies but also how anti-Muslim hysteria has impacted the lives of ordinary American Muslims, whether in the forms of surveillance, and racial and religious profiling by law enforcement; hate crimes in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings; or violence similar to the recent Chapel Hill murders of 3 Muslim students.

While commentators on social media have criticized how the murders of these youths in North Carolina was covered in the national media, and why the narrative of the suspect’s motive was essentially framed by the suspect’s family rather than the victims’ families, there hasn’t been much discussion as to how this crime could potentially be connected to individuals in the Islamophobia network who make a rather good living off of promoting anti-Muslim hysteria.

We know that hate crimes against Muslims is still 5 times greater today than it was before 9/11. We also know that in the aftermath of any terror attack deemed to be perpetrated by those espousing a radical interpretation of Islam, anti-Muslim attacks skyrocket. We saw this in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings, and most recently in the aftermath of the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

But what is rarely discussed in the media is how Muslims are impacted by the increasingly pervasive climate of prejudice towards their faith or the consequences the rhetoric of Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, have had on public attitudes and perceptions of Muslim Americans. These misinformation experts and activists highlighted in our study deny that Islamophobia even exists, and in the aftermath of the Chapel Hill tragedy have even attempted to smear as “terrorism supporters” those seeking the Department of Justice to open a federal investigation into whether this heinous crime was in fact a hate crime.

The scare mongering perpetuated by the Islamophobia network also frequently dovetails with attempts to institutionalize discrimination against Muslims.

More than 100 anti-Sharia bills have been introduced in more than 30 state legislatures, including in North Carolina – which ultimately banned Sharia law two years ago after the nonsensical conspiracy theories about Muslims was heavily propagated in the state by activists in the Islamophobia network. Last month, anti-Muslim activists organized a protest to oppose “Texas Muslim Capitol Day,” an event intended to engage American Muslims in the political process. During the event, a protester snatched the mic and yelled “Islam will never dominate the United States,” as event participants were greeted by signs with phrases such as “Radical Islam is the New Nazi.” An Islamic school in Houston was also burnt last night prompting many to think it was related to the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric in Texas. It’s worth noting that the protester who disrupted the Texas event was the same woman who drove hundreds of miles from Tennessee to Washington to disrupt the first Muslim prayer that was held at the National Cathedral last November. The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Oklahoma Chapter is organizing a similar event later this month, and a protest is already planned to counter the civic engagement event CAIR-OK has planned. The organizer of the protest to the Muslim Day at the Oklahoma Capitol proclaimed, “Get Islam Out of America,” on the group’s Facebook page.

As our report shows, the main danger of Islamophobic messaging and sentiment is discrimination against American Muslims in the forms of racial profiling and occasionally even violence. In the report, we detail how government officials such as potential 2016 presidential contenders Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) have worked closely with the main architects of the $57 million network that is fanning anti-Muslim sentiment in America. The policies promoted by the Islamophobia industry will not only serve to trample the civil rights and liberties of American Muslims but will infringe on the rights of all Americans.

In Fear, Inc. 2.0, we also identify not only new sources of funding to a network spreading misinformation about Islam and Muslims, such as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s connections to this network, but we also detail how anti-Muslim hate promoted by this network has taken form in some government institutions. For instance, the FBI, in addition to local and state law enforcement, employed multiple counterterrorism trainers closely affiliated with the architects of the Islamophobia network and taught officers and agents decidedly anti-Islam and anti-Muslim talking points.

As noted in our report, “if collectively, American society fails to shun the Islamophobia network’s fear mongering, then inequality and injustice will continue in the form of violent attacks and hate crimes, negative public attitudes, and unjust policies.”

Yasmine Taeb is the Islamophobia project manager at the Center for American Progress and a co-author of the report, “Fear, Inc. 2.0.”