The recent controversies involving teetotaler Muslim cabbies and the Target cashier who wouldn’t ring-up pork products touched off a barrage of comments on newspaper Web sites and blogs. The overtone of some of these comments is frightening to local Muslims.
“Too bad our troops can’t kill them fast enough,” said one of the more than 900 comments posted on Buzz.mn, which first reported the Target incident. Muslim leaders said comments like this are on the rise, and they are calling it: “Islamophopia.”
“Islamphopia is a distrust or fear of anything that has to do with Islam,” explained Haris Tarin, director of community development at the California-based Muslim Public Affairs Council or MPAC. Speaking at a seminar in Minneapolis Thursday, Tarin said the anti-Muslim rhetoric is driven by a “group of people who want to see the voice of Muslims marginalized in America.”
The vehicle used by these groups, Tarin said, is a new controversial documentary called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” Under a backdrop of 9/11 scenes, the Madrid bombings and the London bombings, the film intersperses Muslim prayers with Nazi rallies.
“The idea is to instill a fear among Americans about Islam,” said Tarin.
The film was recently screened near the University of Minnesota campus, according to Tarin and other sources. A group called Minnesotans Against Terrorism, which also helped produce the film, has led the efforts to promote it in the state.
The producer of the film is Raphael Shore, president of Honestreporting.com, a pro-Israel Web site. But Gary Kenzer, the national USA executive director says his group no longer endorses the film, “because it doesn’t fit our mission,” said Kenzer in a telephone interview from his office in Chicago.
Kenzer says the film, which was shown on Fox News and CNN Headlines, “pushes the buttons too far.”
He’s not alone. Concordia University in St. Paul has recently canceled a plan to screen the film on campus. Calls seeking comment from the school administration were not returned by Saturday morning.
Several Muslims said that recent workplace issues have intensified antagonism against them. Sahra Ahmed, a school teacher in Minneapolis said a man in a city bus recently leaned over and whispered: “Pork jihadist!”
On Thursday’s seminar, MPAC taught ways to combat Islamophopia. Ironically, one suggestion was to watch the film with non-Muslim friends and neighbors. “We need to discuss with fellow Americans about the flaws of this film,” said Safia Ghori, a program director with MPAC.
Others feel the remedy hinges on a bigger approach. Zafar Siddiqui of the Minnesota chapter of the Islamic Resource Group said: “Islamophobia must be challenged on the level as Antisemitism.”