A phobia is an irrational fear. In this respect “phobia” is a commonly used suffix attached to any one of a long list of words that make your fears seem more professional, or at the very least can make it appear to others that you have a good grasp on Latin. Add to the list a new phobia, Islamophobia. Congratulations to Bobby Ghosh for coining this one. I am not sure he is the originator, but I haven’t heard it as frequently used as I did on the Sunday morning news shows following the release of the 8/30/10 edition of TIME magazine, which simply reads on the cover, “Is America Islamophobic?”
The controversy over the building of an Islamic mosque at Park 51, near the site of Ground Zero, has resulted in anti-Islamic sentiment in the US of A getting press. During political seasons, where there is controversy there will be polls. 61% of Americans oppose the Park 51 mosque vs. 26% who are in favor and 13% who either don’t know or didn’t answer. The popular translation of this data is that most Americans are Islamophobes. Last week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for an investigation of the opposition. Ghosh’s article in TIME cites anti-Islamic rhetoric from small town city halls and bakeries to conservative religious and political leaders like Franklin Graham and Newt Gingrich. “The concern now is that the mosque protests and the attention they have drawn from politicians may have brought Islamophobia firmly into the mainstream.” The tone of Ghosh’s article seems to be that the protests of Park 51 are fueled by an irrational fear of the Muslim faith and that they raise, “larger questions: Does the U.S. have a problem with Islam? Have the terrorist attacks of 9/11 - and the other attempts since - permanently excluded Muslims from full assimilation into American life?”
Labeling one’s opponents as phobic is a page out of the political correctness playbook. If you can make a man who has strong convictions against homosexuality seem as silly as a big man who is afraid of spiders, you can easily ignore his arguments because after all, he is irrational. It is easier to call a man insanely scared and paint him a coward than it is to deal logically with his reasons. Most people who oppose proposition 8 are not irrationally afraid of gay people, they are morally against homosexuality. It is the same with Isalmophobia. Is it irrational to believe that most of the 61% of those who are against a mosque near Ground Zero have good reasons for their opposition? If we were going to find a term to accurately describe the protest it would not be “irrational fear.” I am sure there are some people who are afraid, but given what happened at Ground Zero, “irrational” is no longer a fitting term.
People have good reasons for being against Islam. What is irrational is the attempt by pop-media to convince America that 9/11 had nothing to do with Islam. It is also difficult to deny that Islam is not only a religious ideology, but a political one as well. Islamic states do not have a good international track record for human rights, freedom, or diplomacy. Ask Israel. Let’s not forget there is an Islamic holy site and a mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Why not build another one at Ground Zero? Why is America anti-Islam: Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Afganistan . . . look up the track record of almost any nation that is a part of the 57 member Organisation of the Islamic Conference and you will not find irrational fear, but good reasons why America does not want to be heavily influenced by Islam. In most of these states there is rampant and severe religious persecution. Now, who is the phobic? Take a field trip and find visit First Baptist Saudi Arabia. No one in New York or America is saying “you can’t build a mosque.” What they are saying is, “Build it, but don’t build it here.” Petition the Saudi government and ask them where you can build a church.
Another page out of political correctness propaganda is to immediately play the race card. Equating opposition to racism is another quick way to discredit someone’s argument and exile them from the public forum because they are insane, archaic, and irrational. Racism is irrational, sinful, and idiotic. Yet, the public outcry against a mosque at the WTC has nothing to do with race, but patriotism. I have not heard anyone angry because people in the mosque are Arabic, Indonesian, African, or Pakistani. My understanding is that it is the desire of Muslims for Islam to be very eclectic. How then can this possibly be a race issue? If Islam does not see itself as a “race thing” then why is it when you protest against it that it suddenly is? The opposition is over the tenants and ideology of Islam, one (even if it is an extremist minority) expression of which was largely responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans. As much of a misunderstanding of Islam as many claim this to be, it is hard to deny the context at Ground Zero.
If America is anything, it is not Islamophobic. It may be hypocritical, but it is not Islamophobic. If we are Islamophobic then we are even more so prayer-in-school-ophobic, God-ophobic, nativity-scene-at-the-courthouse-ophobic, and Merry-Christmas-ophobic. Why are we so suddenly passionate to publicly protect Islamic belief in God when we have all but dismissed Judeo-Christian ones from the public arena? Our hypocrisy further expresses itself in that we are suddenly constitutionally savvy toward Islam when we seemingly could not find a copy of the constitution during the health care debate, TARP, or banking regulation. Furthermore, Islamophobia is suddenly getting press because people do not want a mosque at Ground Zero. Are we also Greek-Orthodoxophobic? Apparently, St. Nicholas church, which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, has been trying to rebuild near Ground Zero for 9 years. What is the rationale behind ignoring that story? Does the constitution apply to the folks at St. Nicholas? Why doesn’t President Obama issue a statement of their constitutional rights? Apparently he has been asked to do so. Did you know that if you try to share the gospel peacefully outside of an Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan that you will be arrested? What’s the phobia there?
As much as we hate to admit it, America is not actually free. We can only drive so fast. We can build only when and where we have permission. There are good reasons for not allowing a strip club to build next to an elementary school. It has nothing to do with irrational fear. There are good reasons we don’t want poker halls next to churches, or candidates at voting precincts, or coal plants in nature preserves, or mosques at Ground Zero. It has nothing to do with phobia.