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The role of information in American “Islamophobia”

One theme in the recent MSM hand-wringing about America’s alleged “Islamophobia” is the notion that Americans are giving Muslims a more difficult time now than they did in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The Washington Post conceded that public opinion surveys don’t show a meaningful change, but it quoted unnamed “religious scholars and other experts” who find the change in tone “striking.” And it quoted a Muslim in Tennessee who recalled nothing but good will from the “locals” back in 2001, but who now sees palpable hostility following the decision to build a sprawling new mosque complex in the area.
Although the Post doesn’t quite make the case, it’s possible that, especially with the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, America’s view of American Muslims has changed since 9/11. The attacks of that day were launched from a far away place, and seemed to come from the hands of an enemy with no relationship to American Muslims.
Since then, we have learned that the radical ideology behind 9/11 is not quite as alien as we thought. Some portion of the American Muslim community – presumably small, but we don’t know how small – is drawn to it.
Moreover, what looks like a considerable portion of those who hold themselves out (and are held out by the MSM) as leaders of American Muslims refuse to disassociate themselves from terrorist groups. They don’t countenance al Qaeda, though they do blame America for that outfit’s terrorist acts. But they won’t repudiate other bloody terrorists, notably Hamas.
Thus, while only the most highly informed Americans probably could have imagined terrorist plotting or even pro-terrorist rhetoric in an American place of worship back in 2001, many can imagine it now, and with reason.
Judea Pearl, a professor at UCLA and the father of Daniel Pearl, sees the matter this way:

The American Muslim leadership has had nine years to build up trust by taking proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies, here and abroad.
Evidently, however, a sizable segment of the American public is not convinced that this leadership is doing an effective job of confidence building.
In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims.
Affirmation of these conspiratorial theories sends mixed messages to young Muslims, engendering anger and helplessness: America and Israel are the first to be blamed for Muslim failings, sufferings and violence.

The Ground Zero Mosque controversy – including what has come to light about Faisal Abdul Rauf – has partially removed the public mask Pearl refers to.
So, yes, the American tone may have changed since 9/11. But it’s unlikely that the American character has. Rather, any change in tone is probably the result of new information. A decision by Muslims not to build a mosque at or near Ground Zero would constitute an important piece of new information that would likely help change the tone back.

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