Muhamad Al Olimat, Ph.D. Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
Thomas Smith, Ph.D. Director, Honors Program
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
I started this paper as a result of reading a Time Magazine article entitled Is America Islamophobic? (Ghosh, 2010). The article tried to answer whether America had a Muslim problem focusing on the current discourse regarding mosque building in the US, particularly the controversial Park 51 project in New York City. The Park 51 controversy illustrates .the many misconceptions (addressed later in the paper) about Islam and its adherents that is pervading in American society. It is important that misconceptions are addressed to find potential solutions to the growing Islamophobia in America. Park 51 is a project that plans to build a Muslim cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. In response to the plan, many Americans demonstrated at the site and many more protested the plan throughout the US. Protesters carrying signs like "All I Need to Know About Islam, I Learned on 9/11", "No Memorial to Terrorists", and" Building a Mosque at Ground Zero is Like Building a Memorial to Hitler at Auschwitz" is demonstrative of the American publics' growing intolerance of Islam and its adherents (Ghosh, 2010). From one controversy, one can see that many Americans believe that Islam is a violent creed, requiring believers to kill or convert all others, and that Muslims are savage and backwards (Ghosh, 2010). Moreover, this growing intolerance is farther exacerbated by mainstream religious and political leaders who, whether deliberately or not, equates Islam with terrorism and savagery (Ghosh, 2010). One example was a pastor in Florida who announced his plan to burn the Koran because, in his warped view, it is not holy; another, was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, according to Times, "seemed to equate Islam with Nazism" (Ghosh, p. 23, 2010). It comes as no surprise that l Cabili 2 . . --.. ~ Islamophobia in America is gro~ing, sjnce even political leaders that should know better are proclaiming the same Islamophobic tendencies as the American public. This type of reaction by the political leaders not only give substance to Islamophobia but drives forward the idea of Islam as something against the American idea. I think the real question is not whether America is afraid of Islam (and its adherents) but whether Muslims should be afraid of the US and Americans especially i~ this post-9 /11 world.
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Cabili, Diana Mae, "Islamophobia in America" (2011). USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate). 5.