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October 2, 2012

11 lies the Right spreads about Muslims

Muslims are everywhere. They're hiding out in schools, churches, and Washington's halls of power (not to mention in our closets and beneath our beds), waiting for the next opportunity to jump out and wreak havoc on the Land of the Free.

At least that's the narrative being spun by the Islamophobia industry, a shadowy network of right-wing hucksters who, for the better part of the past 11 years, have drummed up such ludicrous fears and exploited sensible anxieties over terrorism by equating the detestable actions of a fraction with the larger non-violent majority.

Islamophobia is a dangerous and metastasizing social cancer. Mosque burnings, racist bus advertisements, Congressional witch-hunts, and a string of attacks (including recent acid bombs and shootings in Chicago) directed at followers of the Islamic faith are among the nasty effects of this discourse of hate that is ripping apart the pluralistic fabric of America.

These public paroxysms are unquestionably the stuff of the political right. Polls show that. A new survey conducted by the Arab American Institute reveals that 57% of Republican voters view Muslims unfavorably, compared to just 23 percent of Democrats.

Similarly, the Brookings Institute reported last year that two-thirds of Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Fox News viewers think Islam is incompatible with American values. And, in July of this year, Pew Research reported that 1 in 3 Republicans still believe that President Obama is a Muslim, an untruth that is endlessly bandied about as if being a Muslim was a bad thing.

It's no wonder, then, that GOP convention-goers adopted a plank to their platform supporting a ban on Sharia law, an Islamic legal code that sends many conservatives into fits of hyperventilation as they claim it's infiltrating the U.S. Nor is it a surprise either that opportunist politicians like Michele Bachmann would play to such obvious political fodder and fear monger about the Muslim Brotherhood and other boogeymen that spur boisterous reactions from the right.

The same people who brought us "terror babies," "death panels," the "Ground Zero Mosque," "Islamo-fascism," "the Axis of Evil" and other dime-a-dozen memes that turn viral overnight, are purposefully manufacturing fear of Muslims.

Nathan Lean is the author of The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims (Pluto Press, $17.00)

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