August 30, 2010
From TIME Magazine Cover Story (“Is America Islamophobic?”)
“Islamophobia has become the accepted form of racism in America,” says Muslim-American writer and commentator Arsalan Iftikhar. “You can always take a potshot at Muslims or Arabs and get away with it.”
Why has Islamophobia suddenly intensified? Some Muslim Americans argue it hasn’t: these sentiments have existed for years. Others say there have been peaks and troughs since 9/11. Muslim-American commentator Iftikhar recalls the “first wave” of anti-Muslim outbursts after the terrorist attacks, when leading Christian figures like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell openly questioned whether Islam was a religion at all and labeled the Prophet Muhammad a robber, brigand and terrorist. Political leaders were hardly more circumspect. Saxby Chambliss, then a Representative from Georgia (now a Senator), said his state should “arrest every Muslim that comes across the state line,” though he later apologized for the remark.
The concern now is that the mosque protests and the attention they have drawn from politicians may have brought Islamophobia firmly into the mainstream. “It may have become a permanent political wedge issue,” says Iftikhar.
For Iftikhar, the community’s best chance now is to appeal to Americans’ sense of justice and fair play.”