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By Maha Elgenaidi, Executive Director.
This opinion originally appeared at the Huffington Post.
Some people ask the question, is there really such a thing as “Islamophobia,” or are Muslims merely indulging in a culture of victimhood? While most Muslims may feel that even to ask the question is an impertinence, there really are people out there asking it. So let’s look at some facts. Islamophobia, defined as an irrational fear of Muslims and Islam, does not arise out of a vacuum. Before, but particularly after 9/11 the media focus on terrorism by Muslims—even though a recent New York Times article has shown that terror by right-wing extremists is a greater threat—is a potent source of that fear. Contributing to and building on that media focus, a whole industry of anti-Muslim bigotry, detailed in the Center for American Progress report Fear, Inc., constantly works to fan the flames of bigotry and fear with ongoing campaigns and attacks on Muslims and Islam, painting all Muslims with a broad brush as real or at least potential threats to America’s security and way of life. Islamophobia is the fruit of all this. Polls from last summer leave no room for doubt that anti-Muslim bigotry and resultant Islamophobia are very much alive and have grown increasingly worse. According to polls by Zogby Associates, the percentage of Americans viewing Islam favorably dropped from 35% in 2010 to 27% in 2014. This goes along with findings that 42% approve of law enforcement profiling Muslims and Arabs (whom most Americans incorrectly assume are all Muslims), while only 34% are confident that an American Muslim could be trusted to work in an important government post. A Pew Research poll found that Americans view Muslims more “coldly” than any other religious group, including atheists.