In my recent Tablet piece, I noted the ways that the conspiracy theories about Muslim-Americans propagated by self-proclaimed “anti-jihadis” like Andy McCarthy, Robert Spencer, and Pamela Geller — which have subsequently been taken up by mainstream politicians like Newt Gingrich — have created an ugly political atmosphere that makes violence against Muslims far more likely. For an example of this, see this video of a recent rally against the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. An African-American man — according to the person who made the video, a union carpenter who was working at Ground Zero — tries to walk through the crowd. The rally participants apparently surmise from the man’s race and kufi-style hat that he is a Muslim, and immediately start harassing and yelling at him. One participant (wearing the hard hat) gets in the man’s face and seemingly tries to fight him before others intervene and the man makes it out of the crowd unscathed.
Fortunately, this particular incident did not end in violence. One has to wonder what would have happened, however, if the man — rather than explaining that he was not a Muslim — had described himself as a Muslim and a proud one at that. The way that the crowd rapidly turns on a random passerby, presumably egged on by descriptions of sharia-promoting Muslims out to erect a “victory monument” at Ground Zero, is a sign of the ugly mood that those of us disturbed about the mosque controversy have been warning about. Let’s hope that it does not take an actual tragedy for those responsible for the most unhinged Islamophobic rhetoric to see where it is leading and get control of themselves.