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Christian Policies Saturate the U.S.--What Can We do About It?

"Living in the Shadow of the Cross" explains how to understand and resist the power and privilege of Christian hegemony.

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The Muslim community in the United States has been living in a virtual internment camp ever since 9/11. Since then, more than 700,000 Muslims have been interviewed by the FBI. Practically all mosques have been ‘checked for nuclear bombs’ or other fear-provoking reasons.

What popular culture in the US doesn't reflect is that most Muslims in the world are neither Arab nor Middle Eastern. Mainstream media portray Islam as a monolithic, militaristic religion, unchanged since the seventh century, hostile to Christianity and inimical to all things modern and Western. Extremist clerics such as Osama Bin Laden are assumed to be typical representatives.

There are estimated to be between three and seven million Muslim Americans. In contrast to the stereotypes, vicious hate speech and the violence directed against them, a Pew Research Survey reported, most Muslims in the US are well-educated and middle class. The report concludes that Muslim Americans are "... largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world."

Anti-Muslim oppression targets present-day Muslims not as they are, but as they have been demonized for centuries in the Western imagination. They are the dark, menacing, non-Christian Other, intent on destroying Western civilization. This imagined danger justifies public policy targeting individual Muslims and Islamic organizations for continual vilification; these policies encourage discrimination and hate crimes.

A well-funded anti-Muslim network of Christian individuals and organizations stirs up these issues and taps into mistaken but widespread beliefs. A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted in July, 2006 found 39% of respondents felt at least some prejudice against Muslims. The same percentage favored requiring Muslims, including US citizens, to carry a special ID "as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States." About 1/3 said US Muslims were sympathetic to al-Qaeda, and over 1/5 said they wouldn't want Muslims as neighbors. Those numbers are likely to be much higher today (2013) as conservative leaders crank up their anti-Muslim messages.

Islamophobia serves the same purpose in the war on terror that McCarthy's anti-communism played in the Cold War, and the Inquisition played in wars against heresy. An ideology stirs up fear and hatred against a group of Others which is then used to justify continual war abroad and surveillance and control at home. McCarthy and current leaders in the Islamophobia movement may be extreme individuals, but they “emerge from within the political establishment, the security apparatus, the academy, the think tank milieus, and the mainstream media.” Muslims, one of dominant Christianity’s oldest groups of Others, has been put in the spotlight once again to justify new crusades. 

Just as with racial profiling and discrimination directed against other groups, anti-Muslim oppression threatens our collective safety when resources are selectively and inappropriately directed at specific communities. It threatens our civil and religious liberties when one group is singled out as not entitled to constitutionally guaranteed rights. When Christians and others speak out and stand strong as allies to the Muslim community they challenge violence and injustice, increase their own safety and freedom and challenge age-old Christian stereotypes and myths.

Published with permission from New Society Publishers.