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SPLC Intelligence Report: Jihad Against Islam


-By Robert Steinback

Rarely has the United States seen a more reckless and bare-knuckled campaign to vilify a distinct class of people and compromise their fundamental civil and human rights than the recent rhetoric against Muslims.

It would also be hard to imagine a more successful campaign. In the span of the two years since the start of Barack Obama's presidency in early 2009, an astonishing number of people have turned into a kind of political wolf pack, convinced that 0.6% of the U.S. population is on the verge of trampling the Constitution and imposing an Islamic, Shariah-guided caliphate in its place. Like the communists that an earlier generation believed to be hiding behind every rock, infiltrated "Islamist" operatives today are said to be diabolically preparing for a forcible takeover.

Ironically, the Constitution seems more threatened by certain Americans who, prodded into paranoia by clever activists, opportunistic politicians and guileful media players, seem downright eager to deny Muslims the guarantees of religious freedom and the presumption of innocence.

"As an American Muslim, what is of most concern to me is that it is no longer only a small cadre of dedicated Islamophobes who are expressing bigotry and even hatred towards the American Muslim community — but sadly, also many among our elected representatives and government officials," Sheila Musaji, moderator of the website The American Muslim, wrote in an E-mail to the Intelligence Report. "It provides a veneer of respectability and reasonableness to what would otherwise be more easily perceived to be outright bigotry."

And that bigotry has consequences. Recent news reports strongly suggest a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes. In May 2010, for example, a bomb exploded at an Islamic center in Jacksonville, Fla. In August, a man slashed the neck and face of a New York taxi driver after finding out he was a Muslim. Four days later, someone set fire to construction equipment at the future site of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This March, a radical Christian pastor burned a Koran in Gainesville, Fla., leading to deadly riots in Afghanistan that left at least 20 people dead. Hate crime statistics for 2010 won't be released by the FBI until the fall, but it appears certain they will show increasing violence against Muslims.

The American public psyche has undergone a subtle but profound metamorphosis since 2001, moving from initial rage at the 9/11 mass murder to fear of another devastating attack by Muslim extremists to, most recently, a more generalized fear of Islam itself. That evolution from specific concerns to general stereotyping is the customary track of racism and xenophobia — and in Muslims, those inclined to bigotry may have found their perfect bogeyman.

Muslims are predominantly non-white. They practice an unfamiliar religion with unusual rituals. They are a small population in this land with a largely inconspicuous history here. They are regarded by many as a military enemy of the United States. They are perceived as a threat to the American social and cultural fabric. They have few ideological allies outside their own number. Never before has an American minority group had all of these factors arrayed against them.

And Muslims have one uniquely debilitating additional characteristic: a sliver of global Muslim society willing to resort to terrorism. It's a small sliver, but it doesn't need to be large. If 99.9% of the world's Muslims were firmly dedicated to peace and nonviolence, that would still leave hundreds of thousands posing a legitimate and very significant public danger. It took only 19 jihadist terrorists, after all, to kill 2,977 innocent people on 9/11.

Ginning Up Anger
Earlier this year, on Feb. 13, scores of middle-class Americans who could easily populate any pastoral suburban America tableau turned out in Yorba Linda, Calif., to protest the scheduled appearance of two highly controversial Muslim speakers at a dinner to raise money for local charitable projects. The speakers were Imam Abdul Malik Ali, who has made a series of undeniably anti-Semitic comments, and Imam Siraj Wahhah, who was a character witness for a blind New York City sheikh convicted of seditious conspiracy in a 1993 terrorist plot.

Although there may have been a reasonable basis for the initial protest, things got out of hand quickly. As attendees arrived, many with small children in tow, a breakaway group of the protesters hurled scathing taunts, boos and hoots at them: "Go back home!" they chanted. Individuals yelled, "No shariah! Muhammad was a child molester! Muhammad was a pervert! You beat your women and you rape your children! Why don't you go have sex with a 9-year-old! Get out of here! Eat sand! Take your Shariah and go home, you terrorist lovers!"

It was an ugly scene, made all the uglier by comments offered earlier from the podium of the main rally by Villa Park, Calif., Councilwoman Deborah Pauly, who described the fundraiser as "pure, unadulterated evil" and said she knew "quite a few Marines who will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise."

While such insinuations of violence from public officials have not yet become commonplace, consider just a little of what has happened since 2009:

• U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) — who has said there are "too many mosques" in America and asserted, without providing any evidence, that 80-85% were controlled by fanatical extremists — on March 10 held the first round of hearings into the "radicalization" of American Muslims. To most Muslims, the hearings seemed to be little more than an exercise in demonizing their communities and religion. Even many non-Muslims wondered how the public would react if congressional hearings were held into the radicalization of fundamentalist Christians because it is, after all, mainly fundamentalists who have attacked women's clinics and doctors who provide abortions.

• Oklahoma voters last November passed a state constitutional amendment prohibiting judges from making rulings based on Shariah — the Islamic religious code of law and moral conduct — rather than U.S. law. The measure was legally pointless — no American judge can override U.S. law — but critics said it could hurt local companies doing business internationally. A federal judge indefinitely stayed implementation of the referendum, but at least 20 states have considered similar legislation recently to confront the feared Shariah takeover plot.

• Two Tennessee legislators in February introduced a bill that would establish certain Shariah practices as prima facie evidence of an intent to overthrow the Constitution. It would virtually criminalize Islam, theoretically subjecting Muslims who weren't careful in their prayer practices to prison terms of up to 15 years.

• Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, firing off an attack on Muslims during a controversy last summer over a planned Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City, said approving the center would be akin to allowing Nazis to erect a monument outside the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

• U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) took to the floor of Congress last August to warn of a plot to bring pregnant Muslim women to the Unites States to have babies — later lampooned as "terror babies" — who could then return here in 20 to 30 years as terrorists with American citizenship and passports. Challenged by the news media later, Gohmert could produce no evidence of any plot.

FULL STORY HERE:

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