July 24, 2011

Whether as cause or effect, Islamophobia kills.

A few years ago, a prominent philanthropist and right-wing Republican objected to my work reaching out to Muslim leaders at home and abroad: "The Muslims are our enemy," he stated with complete certitude. Within a few months, after witnessing some of our actual results, he became an avid supporter.

Various observers and experts -- and even some of my favorite bloggers -- were quick to accept the notion that Muslim extremists were behind the shocking, well-coordinated attacks on downtown Oslo and the Utoya youth camp. In fact, as we now know, the carnage was conducted as a protest AGAINST Muslims and Marxists (though no word if any victims were of either persuasion). 

Islamophobia is proving to be a fatal disease, not only to innocent Muslims but to anyone and everyone. That the killer masqueraded as a police officer in order to lure more victims out of hiding is all the more compelling, since such vigilantes often see themselves as the true enforcers and protectors. As long as the real police are allowed to do their jobs without prejudice, the rest of us should be able to move along without prejudice, too.

Of course, like any form of racism, Islamophobia is not by itself the same as murder. But in too many of its forms, it frames a rationale for pre-emptive violence. It can be a gateway drug, or perhaps in this case it simply provided a catalyst for a demented right-wing agenda.

Either way, it is past time for the reckless vilification of Muslims to cease, but sadly that is unlikely. The rush to judgment reflects the sheer convenience of it. 

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