Notes on the Politics of Fear and Loathing
I observed elsewhere a couple of days ago that Bryan Fischer of The American Family Association had posted a screed on the AFA site, bellowing, "No more mosques, period." As in, anywhere in the US. He also insists that "Muslims cannot claim religious freedom protections under the First Amendment." I came across this via Lauri Apple, who noted some other examples of similar such bed-wetting, too.
Now, here's another, more detailed and comprehensive look from Stephan Salisbury, which begins as follows.
The Far-Right's Anti-Mosque Mania Spreads from Ground Zero to Across the U.S., Pointing to Dark Politics Ahead
The phony 'debate' over the construction of an Islamic cultural center near the former World Trade Center portends darker things to come.
August 11, 2010 | There is a distinct creepiness to the controversy now raging around a proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan. The angry “debate” over whether the building should exist has a kind of glitch-in-the-Matrix feel to it, leaving in its wake an aura of something-very-bad-about-to-happen.
It’s not just that opposition to the building has coalesced around a phony “Mosque at Ground Zero” shorthand (with its echoes of dust, death, and evildoers). Many have pointed out -- futilely -- that the complex will be more than two blocks from the former World Trade Center, around a corner on Park Place, and will feature an auditorium, spa, basketball court, swimming pool, classrooms, exhibition space, community meeting space, 9/11 memorial, and, yes, a prayer space for Muslims. The shorthand still sticks.
Nor is it just that this is only the most visible of a growing number of nasty controversies over proposed mosques in Tennessee, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Illinois as well as Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and Midland Beach, Staten Island, in New York City. Such protests are emerging with alarming frequency. Nor is it simply that political leaders -- from Republican presidential wannabes to New York gubernatorial hopefuls -- have sought to exploit the Lower Manhattan controversy. (Sarah Palin demanded that “peaceful Muslims” step up and “refudiate” the plan; Newt Gingrich denounced the building of such a “mosque” as long as Saudi Arabia bars construction of churches and synagogues; Rick Lazio, a Republican campaigning for the governorship of New York state, asserted that the plan somehow subverted the right of New Yorkers “to feel safe and be safe.”)
No, it’s the déjà-vu-ness of the controversy that kindles special unease, the sense that we’ve been here before as a country, and the realization that, for a decade, a significant number of our nation’s political leaders have been honing an anti-Muslim narrative which fertilizes anti-Muslim sentiment to the point where it is now spreading like a toxic plume, uncapped and uncontrollable.
The mosque controversy is not really about a mosque at all; it’s about the presence of Muslims in America, and the free-floating anxiety and fear that now dominate the nation’s psyche. The mere presence of Muslims at prayer is now enough to trigger angry protests, as Bridgeport, Connecticut, police discovered last week. Those opposing the construction of the center in New York City are drawing on what amounts to a decade of government-stoked xenophobia about Muslims, now gathering strength and visibility in a nation full of deep economic anxieties and increasingly aggressive far-right grassroots groups. Lower Manhattan and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Temecula, California, are all in this together. And it is not going to go away simply because the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission gave its unanimous blessing to the Islamic center plan. Since that is the case, it’s worth pausing to consider what has happened here over the past 10 years.