Does a negative opinion of Islam amount to conclusive evidence of bigotry?
Those who warn of a raging frenzy of American “Islamophobia” base their case on the assumption that anything less than enthusiastic approval of The Religion of Peace automatically qualifies as hate-mongering and ignorance. On ABC News, Christiane Amanpour pointed to recent survey figures on public uneasiness with Islam to prove that Muslim Americans faced an unprecedented tsunami of hostility and discrimination. Actually, the Washington Post/ABC poll she repeatedly cited hardly indicated seething, volcanic anti-Muslim sentiment: less than half the public (49%) held generally “unfavorable” views of Islam, while fully 37% felt favorably disposed toward Koranic values.
Far from reflecting an alarming new surge of groundless hatred, these figures remain virtually unchanged from results of an identical Washington Post/ABC survey from four-and-a-half years ago (March, 2006), which showed 46% unfavorably inclined toward the Muslim faith.
The real question raised by all such expressions of public opinion should confront the nearly 40% of Americans who say they feel positively impressed by Islam and its influence.
What aspect of Muslim teaching and achievement most inspires such respondents? The daily reports of suicidal violence from every corner of the globe, with fellow-Muslims (invariably) as the primary victims? Or the well-known association of Islamic piety with open-hearted respect for the rights of women, homosexuals and infidels? Or is it the sterling record of economic progress, cutting age technology and social justice achieved by precisely those societies (like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan) that take Shariah law most seriously? Or would Islam’s American admirers cite the record of Muslim charities in the U.S., the most prominent of which (remember the Holy Land Foundation?) have been shut down by the government for their lavish support of murderous terrorist groups like Hamas?
Quite naturally, the people who look favorably on Islam feel unconcerned over its ancient teachings or loathsome perversions in benighted corners of the globe, and focus instead on the law-abiding, patriotic, family-loving Muslims who have established benign communities throughout the United States. But even the decent people who reside in those communities rightly worry that their impressionable off-spring may become too religious, too zealous in their fervent commitment to The Prophet and his teachings.