Waiting for the Dreaded Anti-Muslim Backlash

Paul wrote earlier today about Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s speech to a Muslim group last night in which she vowed to crack down on free speech, if necessary, in order to forestall any anti-Muslim backlash, which she described as her “greatest fear.” The idea that American citizens yahoos will be so enraged by Islamic terrorism that they will attack innocent Muslims is deeply ingrained in the liberal psyche, even though it hardly ever seems to happen.

Another instance of backlash anxiety is this story by three Washington Post reporters, headlined “After Paris and California attacks, U.S. Muslims feel intense backlash.” Wow. They must really be coming under attack!

The story begins:

Rabia Chaudry kept her 7-year-old daughter home from her private Islamic school in Maryland on Thursday, fearing anti-Muslim backlash from Wednesday’s massacre nearly 3,000 miles away in San Bernardino, Calif.

“I think we are all feeling exhausted and very vulnerable,” said Chaudry, a lawyer and national security fellow at the New America Foundation. “I’m angry at those people who did this attack. And I’m angry at how this is being politicized. Everything boils down to, ‘We should fear Muslims. And they shouldn’t be here.’”

But wait! The Post tells us there is an “intense backlash.” But the opening paragraphs don’t describe a backlash, they describe the fear of one by an activist. Where is the actual backlash?

The Post never gets around to documenting one. The article continues:

The motivations of the California killers are still unclear, although authorities are investigating it as a potential act of terrorism. Muslims said they are bracing for an even more toxic climate in which Americans are increasingly suspicious of Muslims.

Even more toxic than what? The FBI’s latest statistics, for 2014, show a total of 1,140 religion-based hate crimes in the U.S. Only 16% (182) were directed against Muslims, about one for every 44,000 Muslims living in the U.S.

Actually, Muslims are more likely to perpetrate hate crimes than to be victimized by them. In 2014, more than half of the religion-based hate crimes–58%–were directed against Jews, and in many instances were perpetrated by Muslims. Does the United States currently have a “toxic climate” for Jews? Apparently so.

Thursday’s New York Post reported the San Bernardino massacre story with the headline “MUSLIM KILLERS.”

Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer who is working on a book on Islamophobia in the United States, said that headline was evidence of how people jump to conclusions about a suspect in a crime who is Muslim.

“When a Muslim American commits a murder, their [sic] religion is brought front and center,” he said. “With anyone else, [it’s] a crazy, kooky loner.”

There’s a reason for that: there is no such thing as Presbyterian jihad. Actually, though, what Iftikhar says isn’t true. If a Muslim commits a garden-variety murder, it won’t get much publicity and his religion probably won’t enter into it (unless, of course, it is an honor killing–also rare among Presbyterians). But if a jihadist shrieks “Allahu akbar!” while carrying out a mass murder on behalf of the Islamic State, then, yes, his religion might be brought up. Although not, to be fair, by President Obama or his Attorney General.

The Post blames Republicans for the country’s current “toxic climate” toward Muslims:

Many Muslims said fear of Islam is being fueled by the heated rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates, particularly businessman Donald Trump, who has called for surveillance of some mosques and requiring Muslims to register with the government.

News flash for the Post: some mosques have been under surveillance since September 2001, if not before. And I am not sure Trump has “called for” Muslim registration; that idea came from a reporter.

That may be smart electoral politics: A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 82 percent of Republicans said they were “very concerned” about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world, compared with 51 percent of Democrats.

But wait! The Post keeps telling us that the vast majority of American Muslims have nothing to do with violent extremism–which is true, actually. So why should this Pew finding be evidence of a backlash? Especially since you would have to be something of a moron not to be concerned about “the rise of Islamic extremism in the world.”

Muslims interviewed by the Post complained that videos of beheadings by the Islamic State have created a negative image of Islam:

Research by Pew and CAIR shows that apprehension about Islam has increased sharply with the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in the past two years, especially since the group’s highly publicized beheadings of foreign journalists and aid workers began in August 2014.

“After 2010, we had a few years where things seemed to be getting better,” said Corey Saylor, national legislative director at CAIR. But he said the beheadings “set us back down a darker path. . . . “

Large numbers of beheadings will do that, I suppose. Still, the Post hasn’t given us much evidence of an actual anti-Muslim backlash, as opposed to the apprehension of one. Maybe one of the Post’s editors told his reporters they had to come up with something. So we get this:

Anti-Muslim violence in the United States has jumped since the Paris attacks, including gunfire and vandalism targeting mosques and assaults against individual Muslims.

It has? How do we know? What are the numbers? If anti-Muslim violence has “jumped,” there must be some data. What is it? The Post doesn’t tell us, which suggests that they don’t actually have any data.

The Post wraps up with accounts of moderate Muslims who are trying to promote a more positive image of their faith. One of them acknowledges that “[t]here is an extremism problem,” which is a step in the right direction. My own view is that almost all of 320 million Americans have shown restraint and good judgment in not attributing the acts of violent extremists to all Muslims. Of course there are a few exceptions, but their number strikes me as extraordinarily small. Far more numerous are those like the neighbor of Syed Farook who saw what he thought was suspicious activity at Farook’s house, but didn’t report it because he feared being branded as a racial profiler.

I think it was Mark Steyn Tom Wolfe who once wrote that the dark night of fascism is always descending on the United States, but somehow it keeps landing in Europe. It appears that the long-awaited, but never-arriving, backlash against American Muslims is in the same category.