How Widespread Is Islamophobia?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 14 2015 @ 11:55am

Brendan O’Neill calls it a “myth”:

Sure, some folks in Europe and elsewhere no doubt dislike Muslims, just as other losers hate the Irish or blacks or women. But the idea that there is a climate of Islamophobia, a culture of hot-headed, violent-minded hatred for Muslims that could be awoken and unleashed by the next terror attack, is an invention. Islamophobia is a code word for mainstream European elites’ fear of their own populations, of their native hordes, whom they imagine to be unenlightened, prejudiced, easily led by the tabloid media, and given to outbursts of spite and violence.

The thing that keeps the Islamophobia panic alive is not actual violence against Muslims but the right-on politicos’ ill-founded yet deeply held view of ordinary Europeans, especially those of a working-class variety, as racist and stupid. This is the terrible irony of the Islamophobia panic: The fearers of anti-Muslim violence claim to be challenging prejudice but actually they reveal their own prejudices, their distrust of and disdain for those who come from the other side of the tracks, read different newspapers, hold different beliefs, live different lives. They accuse stupid white communities of viewing Muslims as an indistinguishable mob who threaten the fabric of European society, which is exactly what they think of stupid white communities.

Dreher is on the same page:

Are there people who hate Muslims simply for being Muslim? Sure. Are there people who respond to Islamic terrorism through acts of bigotry, even violence, against mosques and Islamic institutions? Yes. And shame on them all. Hunt them down, arrest them, throw them in jail.

But there are no anti-Muslim mobs massing in the streets. The mob that massed in the streets of Paris and other European cities on Sunday to protest jihad did not disperse and burn down mosques on their way home (unlike mobs in Muslim countries that torched embassies to protest Muhammad cartoons a few years back).We are not them. We once were, and are capable of becoming them again, as the history of the West shows, but we are not them now.

Friedersdorf counters:

My notion that Islamophobia, or irrational fear of mainstream Muslims, is a recognizable feature of post-9/11 America is informed by the several cities that have attempted to stop the construction of mosques, state attempts to ban sharia law as if we’re on the cusp of being ruled by it, fears that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, profiling of Muslim college students for no reason other than their religion, the anti-Muslim training materials that the FBI somehow adopted and used after 9/11, and dozens of Muslims I’ve interviewed who say that other Americans are more fearful of them than was the case prior to the September 11 attacks.  …

There has not, of course, been a mass violent uprising against Muslim Americans, or British Muslims, or Australian Muslims, or French Muslims. The implication that it’s therefore irrational to worry about anti-Muslim bigotry or backlash is bizarre. A spike in hate crimes is enough to justify concern and attempts to preempt—surely it’s better to nip the impulse to exact group revenge on Muslims in the bud rather than to act only if a catastrophic backlash has already taken shape!