Anti-Islamic sentiment has recently crossed the line from being confined to a largely apolitical and conservative Christian subculture to gaining a more active place in Republican politics and the conservative media, according to the libertarian magazine Reason (August/September).
The magazine reports that the recent spate of campaigns against the building of mosques and efforts to enact legislation against the establishment of Islamic Sharia law reveal a marked change in the conservative political climate. Taking a cue from President George Bush, after 9/11 anti-Islamic views were generally muted in conservative political circles, with the exception of many evangelical and charismatic Christians who focused on theological concerns. Cathy Young writes that at first, the controversy over plans to open a mosque near the World Trade Center did not ignite a strong response from conservatives; it was only after conservative blogger/activist Pamela Geller launched the “Stop the 911 Mosque” campaign last year that these views were circulated and popularized through such media as Fox News.
While opposition to building the mosque was found among a wide spectrum of New Yorkers and Americans, similar campaigns against mosques have grown throughout the U.S. In campaigns against the establishment of mosques, there is often the claim that the mosque in question is receiving foreign funds from terrorists or is different from other congregations, since “Islam is a political movement,” according to California Tea Party activist Diana Serafin. The opposition to Islam’s alleged political designs is more clearly seen in the drive to pass bills banning the use of Islamic religious laws in state courts.
Efforts to pass these bills have taken place in 20 states, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Alaska and other states with small Muslim populations. Young writes that such activism is often based on “a lot of skewed and garbled facts—and issues by no means unique to Muslims or Islam.” She adds that other religious groups have been accommodated by the government; Sharia courts are “analogous to existing Jewish religious courts or within-community conflict resolutions among Mormons or the Amish.” Anti-Islamic activ-ists respond that such accommodation is different for Muslims, since they say “radicals” want to Islamize the U.S.The Jewish online newspaper Forward.com (July 12) reports that David Yerushalmi, a Brooklyn lawyer affiliated with Lubavitch Hasidic Judaism, has been the architect behind the anti-Sharia bills.
He offers legislators a template that claims to sidestep constitutional objections to singling out Islam by avoiding explicit mention of it (although some bills have still mentioned religious terms). In Yerushalmi’s writings, he portrays Islam as an inherent threat to the West because of its goal of world rule via a caliphate that will impose Sharia law on all its subjects. Yerushalmi’s new project is a study of some 100 mosques in the U.S. that attempts to show a correlation between adherence to Sharia law and support for “violent jihad.” The study, which is published in the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly, has been strongly criticized by liberal organizations, but seized upon by conservative publications.
(An equally bitter conflict is taking shape between conservatives and liberals over the influence of these anti-Islamist activists from the U.S. in the recent Norway attacks; the accused killer had cited some of these writings in his manifesto; see the previous article.)(Reason, 3415 Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 400, Los Ang