AUSTIN, Texas — Islamophobia is more profitable than ever in America, but a new report from a leading Muslim civil rights organization offers a new strategy to take the national conversation back from the proprietors of hate.
Thirty-three key organizations promoting anti-Muslim sentiment had access to a combined budget of $205,838,077 between 2008 and 2013, according to “Confronting Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the U.S. 2013-2015,” a report published on Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in collaboration with the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley.
In addition to these core organizations promoting hatred, the report identified 74 groups involved in the larger “U.S. Islamophobia network.” That’s an increase from the 69 groups identified in the previous report, “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States,” published in 2013.
Corey Saylor, the author of both reports and director of CAIR’s department to monitor and combat Islamophobia, told MintPress News that CAIR originally intended to issue a similar report every two years, but that “Confronting Fear” was delayed because “we decided that we wanted to talk a little bit more about a strategy to change Islamophobia in the United States.”
He said CAIR wanted to develop a plan that offered “a path forward” away from bigotry, “so it took us a little bit of extra time.”
Anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence tends to increase during election years, as Dalia Mogahed documented in a 2013 media analysis for The Islamic Monthly, and the 2016 election cycle is no exception. In fact, Islamophobia has risen to unprecedented levels this election cycle.
“Particularly in this election cycle you’re seeing Islamophobia become mainstream and quite a comfortable tool in the hands of certain campaigns,” Saylor said. “Donald Trump has certainly systematized it in a way like we’ve never seen before.”
“Confronting Fear” offers a four-point strategy for combatting Islamophobia. It encourages Muslims to be a more visible and active part of American civil society, based around the key Islamic principle that urges Muslims to “be a benefit to humanity, avert harm from humanity.”
Mosques were targeted for violence a record 78 times in 2015, according to the report. Faced with increasingly commonplace threats, Saylor said Muslims have understandably sought to maintain a low profile in recent years. “We’ve been in survival mode since 9/11 as a community,” he said.
Because Muslims represent only about 1 percent of the U.S. population, their collective voice is too easily drowned out by the right-wing media and politicians, Saylor suggested, citing recent events as an example.
“You saw just recently a very positive conversation in the United States about Islam in the wake of Muhammad Ali’s passing,” Saylor said, “and that entire conversation was erased because of one person in Florida.”
Non-Muslims can also get involved in combating Islamophobia by reaching out to Muslim organizations in their communities and identifying ways to work together. “Reach out to them and see how you can contribute to the efforts they’re making, because that’s how you build a movement, one person at a time, reaching out,” Saylor said.
He expressed hope that Muslims will become more involved not just in advocating for their rights, but in reaching out to other movements for social justice and civil rights. “[I]f you’re already [an activist], let the Muslim community know how we can be good allies to you and your cause.”
“Most research says if people know Muslims, they’re less likely to discriminate against them,” Saylor added.
Over time, Saylor hopes Islamophobia will become just as unacceptable as other forms of hate speech.
“[I]nstead of focusing so much on what the anti-Muslim groups are doing, how do you change the environment so that what those groups are doing is seen in the same light as the activities of anti-Semites and white supremacists?”
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