“Same-sex marriage bans” and “anti-sharia/anti-‘foreign law’” bills seek “to disenfranchise historically marginalized groups,” according to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU)’s latest “Islamophobia” study, “Islamophobia: A Threat to All.” An audience of around fifty at a recent panel discussion on the study at Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) witnessed an unconvincing attempt to integrate combatting “Islamophobia” into a broad leftist coalition.
The study’s “manufacturing bigotry” section analyzes correlations between “restrictive legislative agendas” in American state legislatures across six areas: “voter identification,” “immigration laws,” “right-to-work,” “laws restricting abortion rights and access,” and the aforementioned topics. Assessing the study, panel moderator Dalia Mogahed—ISPU research director and longstanding anti-Israel apologist for radical Islam—proclaimed that an “injustice to one is really a threat to all.” ISPU, she added, is however “focused on the Muslim-American community.”
Lead study researcher Saeed Khan dismissed American alarm over sharia law encroachments as prejudice. This lecturer in the department of classical and modern languages, literatures, and cultures at Wayne State University, Detroit is a regular speaker at the University of California, Berkeley’s annual Islamophobia conferences. In light of Obama’s successful elections, Khan strained credulity by predicting that the future replacement of the country’s historic white protestant majority with a “majority-minority country” would cause a “moral panic that America is irreversibly changing.” “Islamophobia within this broader demographic shift,” he argued, “is not really an isolated or unique phenomenon.” Accordingly, one of his PowerPoint presentations recommended that Muslims, “explore potential intersections with other issues,” however unrelated to Islam.
Georgetown labor historian Joseph McCartin—Jesuit employer and Catholic undergraduate education notwithstanding—portrayed anti-sharia efforts as “connected to other regressive policies,” such as opposition to abortion and homosexuality. According to McCartin, homosexuals, feminists, and others allegedly targeted by “regressive policies . . . have to stand together” with sharia’s defenders. Laughably, in his imagination, the “things that unite us are more important than the things that divide us.” Drag queens, burka-clad Muslims, and union workers of the world unite!
In leftist jargon, McCartin described the “othering” of Islam within a “carefully orchestrated attack” on workers and voting rights, while assuming that enforced unionization and a lack of identification safeguards, respectively, best protect these interests. Referencing past animosity towards Irish-Catholic immigrants, while seemingly oblivious to modern American diversity, McCartin reiterated the worn out trope that Americans are only comfortable with minorities “as long as they don’t have power and voice.”
National Black Caucus of State Legislators policy director Ajenai Clemmons, meanwhile, was “incredibly grateful” for a study that is “deeply reaffirming to our experience” of “structural racism.” A “large part of the electorate,” Clemmons claimed, advocates “policies that are especially destructive to people who don’t look like them,” such as racially neutral right-to-work laws. She dismissed voter identification laws, or “legislation ostensibly combatting voter fraud,” as merely “intensifying efforts to suppress the vote.”
While decrying “ultra-conservative messages,” Clemmons praised Democratic congressman Keith Ellison as a “great” example of a Muslim politician. She seconded McCartin’s superficial unity appeal, emphasizing “how important it is for all our communities to collaborate” by “seeing your fate and stakes as one” in “transformational coalition building.” Fortunately, no rousing “kumbaya” rendition followed.
Madihha Ahussein, an attorney with Muslim Advocates (MA), praised the study’s findings that Muslims like her—or those supposedly suffering from “Islamophobia”—are “not alone.” According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, MA “reflexively criticizes counter-terrorism investigations.” Ahussein claimed there had been a “noted increase” in FBI-recorded anti-Muslim hate crimes since 2010, although 2012 figures show the majority of America’s religiously motivated hate crimes targeting Jews—a longstanding trend. Lamenting that the “industry of hate . . . particularly the anti-Muslim hate network, is very large” and “extremely vocal and active,” she warned that a “huge population on the Internet . . . can mobilize very quickly . . . within seconds.” Rather than the term “Islamophobia,” Ahassein pointed out that MA prefers “anti-Muslim hate or bigotry,” for Islam’s critics “are not afraid of Muslims” and are “very deliberate.”
Jonathan Brown, ACMCU Chair of Islamic Civilization, boasted that co-host ACMCU is a “huge supporter” of research on “civil liberties, Islamophobia,” and “bigotry.” He argued that “to deprive a group of Americans of rights” via “Islamophobia” calls into question American exceptionalism, or Americans’ belief “that there is something special about their country.” Apparently for Brown, victimhood promotion looms larger than America’s considerable human rights legacy.
Although IPSU’s study seeks to foment the type of leftist-Muslim alliance seen throughout the world, most recently in Ferguson, Missouri’s racial unrest, reception attendees indirectly demonstrated the unwieldiness of this coalition. Deepa Iyer, for example, formerly led South Asian Americans Leading Together, a group that has collaborated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a radical faux civil rights group. Yet, demonstrating that not all South Asian “people of color” think alike, Harsh Voruganti’s Hindu-American Foundation has focused on Muslim repression of Hindus.
Such disparate and, at times, mutually contradictory ethnic and political interests cannot effectively coalesce with some Muslims’ concerns, genuine or not, over “Islamophobia.” Muslims, in turn, risk alienating conservative Americans with ill-considered leftist political alignments. Yet anti-Western Islamic groups have no choice for support and legitimacy other than the political left, given the unifying hatred of Judeo-Christian, bourgeois society in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere. Observers of Islamist groups should carefully consider these political tactics.
Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project; follow him on twitter at @AEHarrod. He wrote this essay for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.