Is anti-Islam sentiment subsiding?
This is a corrected version of the original post; see the note below.
It may be too much to hope for, but the quiet opening of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan -- the so-called ground zero mosque -- may indicate a lull in Islam-bashing in political discourse.
Last year, Islamophobia seemed to be acquiring the status in right-wing circles that fear of communism achieved in the 1950s. Several states considered laws prohibiting the use of Sharia in their legal systems (a remote possibility, to put it mildly).There was talk of the danger of the United States being absorbed in a Caliphate stretching from the Middle East through Europe. Now the anti-Islamic rhetoric seems to be subsiding.
Still, we should never underestimate the political appeal of xenophobia, especially when it is rooted in religion. And even when Islam is not the obvious issue -- as in Republican criticisms of President Obama for supposedly tilting toward the Palestinians -- it remains a subtext. With Christian conservatives in the ascendancy in the Republican Party, Islam-bashing may still have a future.
-- Michael McGough
[Updated 6:15 p.m. Oct. 13: This post previously displayed a photo that showed members of the Sikh community attending the grand opening of the Park51 community center. We didn’t intend to suggest they were Muslim; we simply selected a photo from the event. However, we are sensitive to reader concerns and recognize that the placement of the photo was misleading. For further explanation, see the Readers' Representative Journal.]