Wade Michael Page: Islamophobia unleashed

How much longer will we tolerate politicians who stoke bigotry like that which drove Wade Michael Page to kill?

Topics: oak creek shooting, Wade Michael Page, Islamophobia, Islam, Michele Bachmann, Huma Abedin,

Wade Michael Page: Islamophobia unleashedWade Michael Page

Here are some of the things we know about Wade Michael Page: He led a “racist white power trio” called End Apathy; he had a tattoo commemorating 9/11; he shaved his head; and, on Sunday, he killed six individuals and wounded a police officer at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

We have yet to determine if Page mistook Sikhs for Muslims, but such questions are irrelevant. In today’s Islamophobic atmosphere, there has been increased marginalization of all AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian) communities. In particular, Sikh Americans have faced the brunt of post-9/11 hate crimes and backlash, with Sikh men often being mistaken for Muslims. The first post-9/11 hate crime murder was of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Arizona, whom the murderer chose because he was “dark-skinned, bearded and wore a turban.”

This extremist violence and fear-mongering does not exist in a vacuum. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported the highest number of hate groups ever recorded in U.S. history, with nearly 1,018 active groups. Furthermore, anti-Muslim hate groups have increased 300 percent in the last year, and the FBI reported a 50 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. The reasons for the record rise in hate groups are due to the faltering economy, changing racial dynamics in America leading to a minority-majority country, and the election of Barack Hussein Obama.

However, the reality according to the latest studies is that American Muslims help law enforcement and are more likely to reject violence than any other U.S. religious community, and nearly all American Muslims have no sympathy or loyalty for al-Qaida.



Yet facts and evidence do not detract a paranoid fringe from indicting American Muslims or anyone who looks “Muslim-y,” including Arab American Christians, Iranian Jews and Sikh Americans.

On Aug. 6, a second fire in less than five weeks burned down a mosque in Joplin, Mo., most likely a result of a hate crime. Furthermore, a committed anti-Muslim contingency in Murfreesboro, Tenn., continues to impede the progress of a mosque construction belonging to an American Muslim community that has peacefully lived there for over three decades.

Despite President Obama publicly proclaiming Jesus Christ as his savior, attending church, and celebrating Easter, nearly 17 percent of registered American voters still think our president worships Allah. Obama’s alleged “Muslimy-ness” continues to act as a smear, handcuffing “Muslim” to something deemed “foreign,” “hostile” and “anti-American.” Furthermore, Islam currently has its lowest favorability rating in America, even lower than the weeks following 9/11.

The cynical and deliberate baiting of ignorance, racism and Islamophobia by political players was exposed in an investigative report I worked on last year, “Fear Inc, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” produced by the Center for American Progress. My co-authors and I identified a lucrative cottage industry composed of an interconnected, incestuous network of right-wing pseudo-scholars, policy experts, politicians and media pundits who have received nearly $43 million from seven funders to create and disseminate fear and misinformation against Muslims.

As an example, the exploitation of Shariah, or Islamic religious law, as being a fictional “threat to America” was used by nearly every major mainstream Republican candidate running for president, including Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty and the modern-day Islamophobic Nancy Drew, Michele Bachmann.

Instead of using their position of influence to build bridges of understanding, Bachmann and four GOP colleagues recently decided to stoke the flames of fear-mongering by engaging in a witch hunt against fellow Americans. Facts are not Bachmann’s strong suit. Instead, she continues the odious tradition of McCarthyism and relies on paranoia, hunches and the prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country to justify smearing respected American Muslim individuals as being connected to radical Muslim organizations. Bachmann’s Islamophobia was appreciated by her Tea Party base who rewarded her “dangerous” and “downright vicious” conspiracy theories with July donations totaling $1 million. (For perspective, Bachmann previously raised $1 million over a period of three months, April through June.)

To liberally misquote Mel Brooks’ “The History of the World”: “It pays to be an Islamophobe.”

On the other hand, a target of her witch hunt, longtime Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, a recent mother, no less, was forced to hire a security detail after receiving death threats.

In his perpetual, pathetic quest to remain relevant, Newt Gingrich continued to pander to the radical right of the Republican Party and slither toward ignominy by offering support for Bachmann’s McCarthy-esque endeavor. To court his fringe base, Newt has likened Muslims to Nazis and vowed during his failed presidential campaign to initiate loyalty oaths for American Muslims.

He heroically labeled Bachmann and her four accomplices as the “National Security Five,” which sounds like a radical rendition of Scooby Doo’s Mystery Inc.

Unlike the cartoon, however, these elected officials are not uncovering villains; rather, they are preying on innocent citizens scapegoated for their religious affiliation and ethnicity.

This is particularly shameful for Gingrich considering he helped set aside prayer space on Capitol Hill for Muslim congressional staffers in the late 1990s. Furthermore, he belongs to the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference – featuring an all-star roster of conservatives. Key Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, a “longtime friend” and consultant to Bachmann who feeds her anti-Muslim, conspiratorial evidence, asserts CPAC has been infiltrated by radical Islam.

This revelation should inspire Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who serves as the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, to host yet another congressional hearing, this time, however, exposing the infiltration of the Republican Party by Mr. Gingrich, obviously the Muslim Brotherhood’s Manchurian Candidate.

King relies on key members of the Islamophobia network for his inaccurate information on American Muslim communities, including the discredited claim that over 85 percent of American mosques and their religious leaders are radicalized. In the past, King has also claimed there are “too many mosques” in America. King also falsely claimed that 90 percent of terrorist crimes are carried out by Muslims. In the U.S., 56 percent of terrorist attacks and plots have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, 30 percent by eco-terrorists and 12 percent by Islamic extremists.

Yet, King is still allowed to chair congressional hearings on American Muslims. That’s like asking Dan Cathy, the homophobic president of Chick-fil-A, to host a hearing on LGBT issues, or asking Mel Gibson to chair a hearing on Jewish American communities.

In a perfect world, we would readily dismiss these cynical politicians as amusing cartoon characters who say nutty things, cueing a laugh track that prompts us to mock them. Sadly, they are elected officials and political players with a sizable constituency deliberately misinforming their base, keeping them ignorant and afraid, and inciting paranoia and radical sentiment for the sake of short-term political gain and publicity.

Unfortunately, a tremendous negative externality emerges from such ill-gained profit. As we have seen time and time again, extremist rhetoric inspires extremist violence.

Anders Breivik, the anti-Muslim, Norwegian murderer who killed 77 people last year, left behind a 1,500-page manifesto frequently citing the writings and ideology of the American Islamophobia network. Upon reviewing the manifesto, counter-terrorism expert Marc Sagemen said the Islamophobes’ “writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

“This rhetoric,” he added, “is not cost free.”

The senseless murder of six Sikh Americans was the tragic cost of hate-mongers’ perverse ideology rationalizing violence against innocent civilians.

Perhaps it is time we turn the tables and expose the enablers and disseminators of divisive, fear-mongering rhetoric that has no place in today’s fragile and racially sensitive environment. Let Bachmann and company enjoy their short-term profit in the dustbins of history, seated next to ideological allies like Joseph McCarthy, as the rest of us move forward as communities united against hate.

Wajahat Ali is the award winning playwright of "The Domestic Crusaders," one of the first major plays about the American Muslim experience published by Mcsweeney's. He is the lead author of the investigative report "Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" produced by Center for American Progress. He is currently working on a TV pilot with author Dave Eggers about an American Muslim cop. He is writing his first movie screenplay with filmmaker Joshua Seftel ("War Inc.").  He blogs at GOATMILK.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>