August 23, 2010

Conservatives Try to Smear Islam the Way they Smear Judaism, but Voters don’t Care

I’ve been pretty quiet about the matter of the community center near ground zero that everyone is calling a “mosque,” when in reality it’s nothing of the sort. I’ve also been quiet because logically it doesn’t make sense to care so much about a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, because if people cared so much about such things they would have shut down the other community centers nearby, the strip club nearby, and just about everything else the conservative right could work themselves into a lather over that’s just as close or closer than the community center that’s being planned for the region.

Sadly, it’s just another example of first – how there’s a small group of very vocal people who are still trying to use a tragic event in American history that occured almost 10 years ago to benefit themselves both monetarily and to their own political gain, with no respect for the events of the day or the people who died, and how there’s a small group of people who are still trying to use that same event to steer political policy in a way that retains their power and privilege, making sure that Americans live in the same state of fear we experienced that day – only now backed with a strong dose of hatred against a minority group that, the way the Germans did with the Jewish people after World War I, are easily blamed for all of society’s ills and dangers without demand of evidence.

Over at Tablet Magazine, Daniel Luban explains why this is exactly the issue at hand, and why this isn’t about one community center, this isn’t about a mosque, this is about the rampant Islamaphobia that’s spread out from the ignorance and bigotry of Americans far from New York City and is sweeping the nation thanks to the fervent push from the conservative right to actively deny and smother education to the contrary:

After Abraham Foxman waded into the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy,opposing plans to construct an Islamic community center a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, the Anti-Defamation League chief was assailed by critics who charged that the ADL was giving license to bigotry and betraying its historic mission “to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike.” A week after initially coming out against the mosque, Foxman announced that the ADL was bowing out of the controversy, but the damage to the group’s reputation had been done.

The problem for the ADL is that there simply isn’t much anti-Semitism of consequence in the United States these days. While anti-Semitism continues to thrive elsewhere in the world and to molder on the fringes of American society, Jews have by now been fully assimilated into the American ruling class and into the mainstream of American life.

At the same time, many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified.

While the political operatives behind the anti-mosque campaign speak the language of nativism and American exceptionalism, their ideology is itself something of a European import. Most of the tropes of the American “anti-jihadists,” as they call themselves, are taken from European models: a “creeping” imposition of sharia, Muslim allegiance to the ummah rather than to the nation-state, the coming demographic crisis as Muslims outbreed their Judeo-Christian counterparts.

Heard this story before? Of course you have – it’s what led to the Germans locking up Jewish families and barricading Jewish communities during the early years of World War II. Now I normally hate to Godwin’s Law up any discussion like this, but the parallels are too close to ignore – and the frothing hatred is starting to get to that eerie fever pitch where an entire group of people are to be subjugated to culling and retribution by the masses because of the actions of a few. The last time I saw behavior like this was in the 1970s and 1980s when the conservative right, largely White Americans, were outraged at the so-called epidemic of “Black on White crime,” while killings among and between other minority groups went largely ignored. I fear we’ll see the same apathy until the drug war simmering in Mexico spills over enough to take White American lives; then Latinos may find themselves bundled up with Muslims.

Here’s the clincher though – voters really don’t care. Over at The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel points out some interesting statistics about recent polls:

Pundits and politicians are working themselves into hysteria over a mosque near Ground Zero. But this election won’t be about mosques in Manhattan. It won’t even be about the deficit, really. It will be about manufacturing on Main Street, and which party can talk effectively about the progressive solutions Americans desire.

Not surprisingly, polls from Gallup to the Wall Street Journal show Americans are worried most about the economy and jobs. And a just-released poll—from progressive outfits Campaign for America’s Future and Democracy Corps with sponsorship from Political Action and two labor unions—gives a more detailed look at what voters are looking for. Respondents, in particular the “rising American electorate” —youth, single women and minorities that constitute a majority of voters and are President Obama’s most supportive base—support bold steps for renewing the economy.

The poll tested a range of messages, with the greatest support for one calling for “rebuilding infrastructure” and another calling for constructing “an economy on a new foundation”—that is, investing in education and a 21st century infrastructure, leading in the green industrial revolution and balancing our trade.

But what about that deficit? Americans worry about the deficit, but less for reasons usually given by deficit hawks than because they think it may get in the way of creating jobs and of protecting Social Security. The poll shows equal support for a five-year plan to revive America’s industry and a five-year plan to cut deficits—and in equal intensity. The two are linked. Put people to work and revive manufacturing, and you will bring the deficit down. Bring the deficit down, and you’ll help put people to work.

And by large margins, Americans don’t think deficit-cutting should include cuts in the federal benefits workers have already fought to get. It is widely rumored, for example, that President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission is considering raising the retirement age on Social Security as part of a deficit-reduction plan. It better think again. Poll respondents want Social Security and Medicare protected. Over 60 percent of Republicans, of independents and of Democrats oppose raising the retirement age on Social Security—or Medicare, for that matter. Similarly, when AARP asked if Social Security should be cut as a “way to help reduce the federal deficit,” 72 percent of respondents were strongly opposed.

Proof of the matter is that right now, the American people care more about the economy and jobs, and care enough in an intelligent way, that it’s safer to say “It’s the economy, stupid,” and that the President is doing the right thing by dismissing the entire controversy about the community center in Lower Manhattan as exactly what it is – an arbitrary attempt by a few bigoted people who are more interested in carrying the American flag for their own benefit and trampling the graves of those who died on 9/11 in a rush for their own personal and political gain than it is any substantive controversy or matter of concern. He points instead at the first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States as a shining example of exactly why such a community center should be built, over all opposition.

He’s right – but the conservative right in America has never listened to reason over the voices of hatred in their own heads – it’s up to the rest of us to make sure they listen to us and our voices at the polls instead.

[ Rage Against Islam: The New Anti-Semitism ]
Source: Tablet Magazine (courtesy of AlterNet)

[ It’s About Main Street, Not the Mosque ]
Source: The Nation

1 Comment »

  1. […] This post was originally published at Not So Humble. Click here to read the post in its original habitat! […]

    Pingback by Conservatives Try to Smear Islam the Way they Smear Judaism, but Voters don’t Care « Not So Humble @ AlterNet — August 23, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

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