The Moderate Muslim’s Fate

Faisal Devji in Current Intelligence:

ScreenHunter_10 Sep. 05 12.52 The fear that marked public reaction to the 9/11 attacks has vanished, together with the remarkable tolerance then displayed towards American Muslims, who might have been profiled and more readily picked up by agencies of the state, but didn’t suffer large scale violence against their persons or property. Indeed if anything the Bush administration was far more outspoken about the evils of “Islamophobia” and encouraging of “moderate” Muslims including Rauf than its Democratic successor, something that indicates more than disingenuous politicking either then or now. For the popular outcry against American Muslims cannot be attributed to the calculations of party politics without falling into the realm of conspiracy theory. Instead it might be more productive to recognize that Muslims can be reviled today precisely because they are no longer feared as a global threat, having become domesticated into a minority like many others who faced discrimination in the past: ethnic Germans, Italians and Japanese during one or both World Wars, Catholics and Jews among religious communities, and today the Latin populations targeted as “illegal immigrants” alongside those old favourites for criminal profiling, African-Americans.

However novel the circumstances, anti-Muslim feeling in the US, whether justified or not, falls into a received pattern of domestic prejudice against minorities. This marks Islam’s baptism by fire as an American religion, which is exactly what Rauf and his backers say they want, after all. Ten years from now there are likely to be books written and television programs made about the shameful history of anti-Muslim sentiment in the US, by which time Islam will have become naturalised within it precisely because of today’s debate. The truly interesting thing about the controversy, in other words, is neither Islam nor even “Islamophobia” but the transformation of right wing politics in the United States.

More here. [Thanks to William Dalrymple.]