Lately there has been a spate of news stories attacking Americans as “Islamophobic,” largely on the basis of opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. Time, to cite just one example, did a cover story on this topic. Putting aside the merits of the term “Islamophobia,” it seems to me that while many Americans are indeed skeptical of Islam–understandably so, in my view–there is very little evidence that large numbers of Americans fear, hate or look down on Muslims as such. On the contrary, I think it is striking how little support exists for such a claim.
Since pretty much all of the evidence on this topic is anecdotal, here is an anecdote, if not from Red America then from a red outpost in Blue America, the Minnesota State Fair. In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, columnist Gail Rosenblum writes about her experience taking three teenaged foreign exchange students, including one from Turkey and one from Kuwait, to the Fair. The girl from Kuwait, Nada, wore a hijab:
Despite the fact that tensions are running high in this political season, they independently confirmed that Minnesota graciousness remains top-notch. At the Crutchee’s food stand, the smiling owner offered all three a free cheese-on-a-stick and lemonade (this before learning that a reporter was present). “I want you to like America,” she said.
“People here are so nice,” said Nada who, observing Ramadan, waited patiently to eat until sundown. “No one treats me different because I look different,” she said.
I’m pretty sure that sort of consideration is the rule in America, not just Minnesota, rather than the exception.
A postscript: remember when President Obama (who speaks no language other than English) ridiculed his fellow Americans for their alleged inability to speak foreign languages? The third exchange student, who is from Germany, recounted his experience in the presumed sea of Know-Nothingism that is the Minnesota State Fair:
Max agreed. “I like how the Americans talk to me, very open-minded,” and more than willing to make him really feel at home.
“I don’t know why,” he said, delighted, “but everyone’s talking to me in German.”