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The Far-Right's Anti-Mosque Mania Spreads from Ground Zero to Across the U.S., Pointing to Dark Politics Ahead

The phony 'debate' over the construction of an Islamic cultural center near the former World Trade Center portends darker things to come.

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On its website, the Tea Party curtsies to the U.S. Constitution and then quickly cuts to the chase: “But this question must be asked based on repeated violence committed by Islamists in the name of religion: Is Islam nothing more than a front for terrorism?”  Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, a Republican candidate for governor, went out of his way last month to characterize Islam as a “cult” which may not warrant First Amendment protection: “You can even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life, or a cult -- whatever you want to call it...”

The proliferation of, and acceptance of, such talk, particularly from major political candidates, may be preparing the American ground for the emergence of a leader who can synthesize the demonizing and scapegoating of Muslims, fears augmented by severe economic anxiety, the maturing of extreme rightwing activism, and a widespread and growing contempt for official Washington. If that happens, the nation -- and American Muslims -- could face something far worse than McCarthy, who held sway in a golden era of rising expectations and general economic growth.

Mosque controversies will be the least of it then.

[Note on further reading:  The CAIR 2005 report on civil rights abuses with some comparative statistics can be found in .pdf format here.  The CAIR 2009 report and statistics, also in .pdf format, can be found here.]

Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer . His most recent book is Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland (Nation Books).

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