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The Fear of Islam

The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West

Todd H. Green
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    The Fear of Islam
    Book Description:

    American and European societies, particularly in the long wake of the events of 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and London, have struggled with the recurrent problem of Islamophobia, which continues to surface in waves of controversial legislative proposals, public anger over the construction of religious edifices, and outbreaks of violence. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine contributes fuel to the aggressive debate in Western societies and creates the need for measured discussion about religion, fear, prejudice, otherness, and residual colonialist attitudes. The Fear of Islam speaks into this context, offering an introduction to the historical roots and contemporary forms of religious anxiety regarding Islam within the Western world. Tracing the medieval legacy of religious polemics and violence, Green weaves together a narrative that orients the reader to the complex history and issues that originate from this legacy, continuing through to the early and late modern colonial enterprises, the theories of “Orientalism,” and the production of religious discourses of alterity and the clash of civilizations that proliferated in the era of 9/11 and the war on terror. The book contains analysis of interviews from figures such as Keith Ellison, John Esposito, Ingrid Mattson, Eboo Patel, Tariq Ramadan, and others.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-6990-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the fall of 2010, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at a university in the United States invited me to give a public lecture on the controversy surrounding a proposed Islamic center in New York City. The controversy attracted lots of media attention that summer, with many prominent politicians speaking out against the center because of its proximity to Ground Zero. Since my own research at the time focused on mosque and minaret conflicts in Europe, I eagerly accepted the invitation and looked forward to sharing my perspectives on how these conflicts in Europe might shed light on what was...

  2. 1 What Is Islamophobia?
    (pp. 9-34)

    The wordIslamophobiais not new, despite the fact that one would be hard pressed to find many instances of it prior to the 1990s. It first appeared in its French form,Islamophobie, in a book by the painter Etienne Dinet in 1918.¹ In the past few decades, however, the word has become an integral part of political and public discourse. This is due largely to a much-cited study conducted by a British think tank, the Runnymede Trust, in 1997. The study defines Islamophobia as “dread or hatred of Islam” and as “unfounded hostility towards Islam.”² It also defines Islamophobia...

  3. 2 The Historical Foundations of Islamophobia
    (pp. 35-66)

    What is the relationship between Islamophobia today and the anxieties toward Islam that have characterized much of Western history? How and why have hostilities toward Islam developed in Western history, and why does this matter for any contemporary study of Islamophobia? In this chapter, I survey European constructions of Islam from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment in order to get at these questions and to connect the dots between present-day Islamophobia and the historical forces that have helped give rise to it.

    If the following historical overview demonstrates anything, it is that both discontinuity and continuity characterize the link...

  4. 3 Colonialism, Orientalism, and the Clash of Civilizations
    (pp. 67-100)

    The failed siege at Vienna in 1683 marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Ottoman Empire. The empire, which for centuries achieved considerable success in its quest to expand further into Europe, began to decline. The decline was slow, and the full dissolution of the empire would not come about until the end of World War I, with the Republic of Turkey taking its place. During this same period, Western Europe entered a new phase in its history as several nation-states, including Britain, France, and the Netherlands, established colonies that covered much of the globe, from the Americas...

  5. 4 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Rise of Political Islamophobia
    (pp. 101-144)

    On September 11, 2001, at 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. News had barely broken of this tragedy when United Airlines Flight 175 pierced the South Tower just seventeen minutes later. In the course of the next hour, two more planes crashed: American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and United Airlines Flight 93 in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It soon became clear that these events were the result of coordinated hijackings by Muslim terrorists with the purpose of targeting major American...

  6. 5 The “Islamic Threat” in Modern Europe
    (pp. 153-204)

    The 9/11 attacks on the United States had a profound effect on the American political and cultural landscape, leading to worries about a powerful Muslim enemy that would stop at nothing to destroy Western values and freedoms. But the United States was not alone in succumbing to fears of an “Islamic threat.” Similar fears took hold of Europe, stemming in part from the new realities in global terrorism but also arising from a series of events on European soil that heightened concerns about the internal threat to security and Western values posed by the growing number of Muslim immigrants and...

  7. 6 Professional Islamophobia
    (pp. 205-232)

    As objects of suspicion if not overt hostility, Muslims often cannot speak for themselves to Western audiences or, perhaps more accurately, are not heard when they do speak. They lack the power to control the public narrative of Islam. We have already seen how prominent politicians drive negative views of Islam in the context of foreign political and military endeavors as well as domestic security. We have also encountered examples of the media dictating the narrative of Islam in light of key events such as the Danish cartoon controversy, though a more thorough analysis of the media’s portrayal of Muslims...

  8. 7 Muslims in the Media and at the Movies
    (pp. 233-266)

    Truth be told, Westerners know very little about Islam. A lack of direct interactions or relationships with Muslims, combined with little if any sustained study of Islamic texts and traditions, creates a vacuum of ignorance in the West concerning the world’s second-largest religion. And yet plenty of Europeans and Americans harbor strong and frequently negative opinions about Islam and Muslims. Why is that?

    What we know about Islam, or what we think we know, is filtered primarily through the media and the stories and images it provides to audiences and consumers. The media determines who tells the story of Islam,...

  9. 8 Islamophobia and Its Casualties
    (pp. 267-310)

    We recall from chapter 1 that the Runnymede Report defines Islamophobia as “an unfounded hostility toward Islam” or a “fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” that has practical implications, particularly discrimination and the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream social and political life.¹ Islamophobia, in other words, includes both what people feel toward Muslims (hostility, fear) and how those feelings are translated into concrete actions against Muslims (discrimination, exclusion).

    Much of the book has surveyed Western fears and anxieties toward Muslims. We have explored the historical, political, economic, social, and religious roots of anti-Muslim prejudice, focusing on how theologians,...

  10. 9 Combating Islamophobia
    (pp. 311-336)

    Islamophobia constitutes one of the most acceptable forms of bigotry in the West today. This book has surveyed both the origins and the contemporary manifestations of this bigotry. By now, the problem of Islamophobia is clear. But how do we address this problem? What are some effective strategies for reducing or eliminating Islamophobia?

    In this concluding chapter, I invite readers to think through these questions by engaging the viewpoints of eight prominent individuals I interviewed on the topic of combating Islamophobia.¹ These eight do not constitute a representative sample of all public figures devoted to fighting Islamophobia. However, there are...

  11. Appendix: Interviewee Profiles
    (pp. 337-340)