More than $200m was spent towards promoting “fear and hatred” of Muslims in the United States by various organisations between 2008 and 2013, according to a fresh joint report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California, Berkeley.
Released on Monday, the report identifies 74 groups, including feminist, Christian, Zionist and prominent news organisations, which either funded or fostered Islamophobia.
“It is an entire industry of itself. There are people making millions of dollars per year from promoting Islamophobia. They often present themselves as experts on Islamic affairs when they are not,” Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, a spokesman for CAIR, told Al Jazeera.
“They have fuelled an environment of distrust among the American public by claiming that Muslims do not belong to the American community and that they could never be loyal citizens.”
Ruiz said that Islamophobia has posed two main dangers: a rise in hate crimes and anti-Islamic legislation.
“For example, in the last year alone in Florida, there has been a 500 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims. Mosques have been vandalised and there have been a number of bomb threats towards Islamic groups.
“And Florida’s government is even trying to ban school books from making any references to Islam in history.”
Since 2013, the country has seen a rise in the number of bills or amendments – about 81 – designed to “vilify Islamic religious practices”, 80 of which were introduced to state legislatures by Republicans, the report notes.
READ MORE: US anti-Islamic bills create ‘environment of fear’
It cited Florida Senator Alan Hayes as once distributing literature that said: “Our religious, political, and peaceful way of life is under attack by Islam and Sharia Law. Save my generation from this ideology that is invading our country and masquerading as a ‘religion’. It’s sedition: They are determined to overthrow our State and our Country.”
Meira Neggaz, the executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) – a US-based think-tank, told Al Jazeera a poll published in March showed that one out of every five American Muslims had experienced discrimination on a regular basis, while more than half of them had faced some discrimination.
‘Confronting Fear’ offers four-point strategy to counter Islamophobia in the United States
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/20/2016) – According to a report released today by theCouncil on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley, 33 Islamophobic groups had access to at least $205 million in total revenue between 2008-2013.
The report, titled “Confronting Fear,” also presents a four-point strategy designed to achieve a shared American understanding of Islam in which being Muslim carries a positive connotation, and in which Islam has an equal place among the many faiths that together constitute America’s pluralistic society.
Confronting Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the U.S. 2013-2015http://www.islamophobia.org/15-reports/179-confronting-fear-islamophobia-and-its-impact-in-the-u-s-2013-2015.html
Video: CAIR ‘Confronting Fear’ Report Reveals Funding of Islamophobic Groups in America
The report also documents the negative impact of Islamophobia in America, including:
Anti-Islam bills became law in 10 states. At least two states, Florida and Tennessee, have passed laws revising the way they approve textbooks for classroom use as a direct result of anti-Islam campaigns. In 2015, there were 78 recorded incidents in which mosques were targeted. In both November and December of 2015, there were 17 mosque incidents reported during each of these months, numbers almost equivalent to an entire year’s worth of reports from the previous two years. Two recent phenomenon – “Muslim-free” businesses and armed anti-Islam demonstrations – raise deep concerns.
Finally, the report notes that progress has been observed in the reduced frequency and acceptability of anti-Islam law-enforcement trainings.
“The 2016 presidential election has mainstreamed Islamophobia and resulted in a number of un-constitutional proposals targeting Muslims,” said Corey Saylor, director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia. “’Confronting Fear’ offers a plan for moving anti-Muslim bias back to the fringes of society where it belongs.”
“The work of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at UC Berkeley is enriched and inspired by the partnership and the hard work undertaken jointly with CAIR to produce another annual report that exposes the bigotry-producing industry in America while providing opportunities and strategies on how best to reclaim an open, democratic and religiously-inclusive society,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley.
Bazian added: “The hope is that this report and others like it will provide the needed grounding for communities across the country to use for effective engagement with policy makers, educators, civil society leaders, and media outlets. Education and applied research is the best avenue to uplift and bring about a social justice transformation in society and this report is a step in that direction.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
The Center for Race and Gender (CRG) is an interdisciplinary research center at the University of California, Berkeley that fosters explorations of race and gender, and their intersections. CRG cultivates critical and engaged research and exchange among faculty and students throughout the university, between the university and nearby communities of color, and among scholars in the Bay Area, in the U.S., and around the globe.
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CONTACT: CAIR Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857,firstname.lastname@example.org; Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley Director Dr. Hatem Bazian, 510-914-6722, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Nabeelah Naeem, 202-341-4171, email@example.com
US anti-Islamic bills create ‘environment of fear
A state politician’s bill to bar foreign laws, including Islamic law, from South Carolina’s courts is an unnecessary move that fuels anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, rights groups say.
Introduced by State Representative Harry “Chip” Limehouse, a member of the right-wing Republican party, the bill proposes to bar Islamic jurisprudence and other forms of international defences in state courts.
Limehouse’s bill was passed by a vote of 68-42 in the House branch of South Carolina’s legislature. In order to become law, it still needs to be passed by the state Senate.
Robert McCaw, a spokesperson for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), explained that South Carolina’s bill is part of “a state and federal trend for support for legislation, which seeks to make the religious principles of Islam illegal”.
There were at least six anti-foreign law bills introduced in state legislatures across the country in 2015, while a similar bill barring Islamic law from federal courts was reintroduced in Congress last July.
“These bills overall are designed to stigmatise Muslim communities by seeking to ban state courts from using foreign laws, including Sharia [Islamic] law,” McCaw told Al Jazeera.
“The supporters of these laws fail to mention that American courts are already constitutionally obliged to follow American law.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera by telephone, state legislator Limehouse defended the bill. “We welcome everyone to the US: Christian, Muslim, Jew,” he said. “But they are going to operate and live under our laws when they get here – and hopefully prosper.”
Limehouse argued that people who immigrate to the US, including Muslims, should “take up the American culture. This includes the law of the land … by which we run our courts and businesses and everything else”.
He added: “Sharia is not an accepted form of justice in the United States.”
With anti-Muslim sentiment already high, CAIR’s McCaw explained that elected officials and candidates have created an “environment of fear” in order to push for discriminatory programmes and bills.
“It’s obvious that this is an incredibly toxic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim environment, and that it has impacted our state and federal legislatures,” McCaw said.
“We have politicians playing off public fears of terrorism to get votes. I want real legislation that keeps us safe and not phony legislation that gives us a false sense of security.”
US leaders, among them influential presidential candidates, have been accused of stoking anti-Muslim and anti-refugee fears.
|Trump controversy: Call for US ‘Muslim ban’ condemned|
In December, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called for Muslims to be banned from travelling to the US after 14 people were killedin San Bernardino, California, during an attack carried out by Muslim suspects.
Less than a month earlier, the presidential candidate said mosques should be put under surveillance and that he supported implementing a database to track American Muslims.
Those comments came in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks – carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group – that killed 131 people, after which several mosques and Islamic religious centres were vandalised in the US.
Wade McMullen, an international human rights lawyer at the Robert F Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, said that legislation banning foreign laws could cause legal complications for people who are party to business, marriage or adoption contracts drawn up in courts abroad, for instance.
“Any piece of legislation that targets Muslims is anti-democratic, unconstitutional and goes against US values,” McMullen told Al Jazeera.
“Political scapegoating of minority groups is nothing new in this country,” he said. “Unfortunately, American Muslims are among the prime targets of this political posturing today.”