Neocon Blogger Cherry Picks Pew Report Data To Dismiss Islamophobia

Posted by arrangement with Think Progress

Neoconservative blogger Ed Lasky takes issue with the Center For American Progress’s new report — “Fear, Inc.” — documenting the Islamophobia industry in America. He cites a Reuters write-up of a Pew poll surveying American Muslims that says, among other things, “that most Muslims felt ordinary Americans were friendly or neutral toward them.” This prompts Lasky to ask:

If Muslim Americans felt discrimination were rampant, would they express contentment and happiness with living in America? Would they be confident about the future of America and their own personal futures? Would they feel that most Americans are friendly or neutral towards them. [sic.]

Where is the Islamophobia that supposedly is proliferating across America? The charge is merely meant to line the pockets of activist groups and chill any criticism of Muslim actions, however insensitive (the 9/11 Mosque) or questionable (the adoption of aspects of Sharia law) they may be perceived to be by some Americans.

But the same Reuters article Lasky cited says that Muslims in America are content with their lives in the U.S. despite fairly widespread feelings of discrimination related to their faith, not because such feelings do not exist. Reuters writes:

Since 2007, there has been little change in how Muslim Americans see how they are viewed by the rest of America, with 28 percent saying other Americans viewed them suspiciously and 22 percent saying they had been called offensive names. Only 6 percent said they had been threatened or attacked, while 38 percent were bothered by their sense that they were singled out for increased government surveillance.

In response to questions about being a Muslim in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks, 55 percent said it is more difficult while 37 percent saw no change.

Almost two in five American Muslims, then, are distressed that their government may be spying on them. Perhaps Lasky should check out the moving recollection of Hamed Aleaziz, who writes about his unsuccessful experience trying to glean information from members of the congregation he grew up in after the mosque was targeted in an FBI sting operation:

After my unsuccessful experience trying to shed light on the impact of this FBI sting on my former home, I wonder if anyone will ever be able to understand what life’s like after the FBI targets your community.

Furthermore, the Pew report itself sheds more light on those statistics Lasky conveniently ignored. More than half of Muslim Americans think “government anti-terrorism policies single out Muslims in the U.S. for increased surveillance and monitoring.” The report goes on:

A quarter of Muslim Americans (25%) report that mosques or Islamic centers in their communities have been the target of controversy or outright hostility. While 14% report that there has been opposition to the building of a mosque or Islamic center in their community in the past few years, 15% say that a mosque or Islamic center in their community has been the target of vandalism or other hostile acts in the past 12 months.

Lasky, who rose to prominence by spreading smears about Barack Obama while he ran for president, ought to consider the breadth of the study he’s citing, or at the very least the article about it he selectively quoted from. If Lasky wants to distance the effect of Islamophobic rhetoric from the feelings of American Muslims, that’s one thing. But to simply pretend that American Muslims, despite their overwhelming satisfaction with life in the U.S., are not sometimes discriminated against or perceive discrimination is patently dishonest.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Don’t mean to defend this fellow Lasky, but the poll results would seem to indicate that Islamophobia is not a really big problem in America. Twenty-eight per cent of Muslims say other Americans view them suspiciously? That’s unfortunate, I suppose, but it really tells us nothing except that a little over a quarter of American Muslims feel that way. Given recent history, I’d say that such a low percentage reflects an effort by most Americans not to view Muslims generally in a bad light.

    If you want to gauge the real extent of Islamophobia in America, then tell us how many “hate” crimes have been committed against Muslims, how many mosques have been attacked, how many Muslim burial sites desecrated. The only statistic of the sort you supply states that 15% of Muslims “say” that a mosque or Islamic center in their community has been vandalized. This in fact tells us nothing. How many such places have actually been attacked?

    Granted, you are writing about this poll’s results, and not the actual facts about Islamophobia in America, But the implication running through the piece is that Islamophobia is indeed rampant here. Yet the poll can tell us nothing about the real extent of American Islamophobia.

    Obviously, after 9/11 some Muslims were bound to feel that some Americans disliked them or were suspicious of them. Given that the last two (abortive) terrorist attacks on U.S. soil were carried out by American Muslims, the level of suspicion probably ought to be higher than the poll seems to indicate.

    More than half of American Muslims think that “government anti-terrorism policies single out Muslims in the U.S. for increased surveillance and monitoring.” Only a little more than half think this? Who tried to blow up Times Sqaure? Who tried to blow up the airliner in Detroit? Get real, please. If Mormon individuals started launching terrorist attacks, then surveillance of the Mormon community would increase. Given the history of the past ten years, the Feds are obviously going to devote more resources to surveillance in the Muslim community. Duh.

    Almost two in five Muslim Americans are “distressed” that their government “may” be spying on them. Oh God, we better establish a government program to counsel these distressed citizens. Are you really serious, presenting this stuff with the implication that something is badly wrong here?

    You are taking a poll about attitudes and beliefs held by Muslims, and using it to imply that the level of Islamophobia in America is high, while criticizing Lasky for looking at the same poll and concluding the opposite. Both of you are making quantum leaps, although given the figures, Lasky’s view seems the more reasonable. The poll only tells us something about American Muslims’ attitudes; it tells us nothing about the extent of Islamophobia in America. It’s a logical fallacy to equate American Muslims’ feelings about the extent of Islamophobia with non-Muslim Americans’ actual attitude toward Muslims.

    This is hurried journalism; a piece that an editor should have demanded be reworked. It recalls to my mind the piece that accepted without question that 600,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq — a statistic that at the time had been completely and comprehensively refuted. Following the party line is not the road to truth.

  2. Muslims need to speak out and agitate. But, sadly, far too many would rather keep their heads down and make no waves. The gov’t spying might be troubling, but it is feckless. If more would speak out it would become even more fruitless, as they’d no doubt have more to digest.

    What is more troubling is the discrimination that private firms hold against many Muslims. This is exacerbated by FBI/CIA inquiries with their employers. In this country of good Germans, of the oft repeated shibboleths, even questioning our intentions in Libya, or the ME is too controversial for most ignorant, cowed Americans.

    Perhaps there are some lawsuits here. Perhaps we will all begin to challenge these “terrorism” experts to actually consider the CIA’s list of incitements to terror. Guess what, our foreign policy is the whole list. But, we’d rather keep mopping up puddles while ignoring the overhead leak that’s creating the problem.

    The gov’t is powerless to do much in their spying. Hell, the record every electronic transmission sent, yet, they don’t ever learn a thing. We need to go back to FISA courts to help them pick and choose their targets. For when drinking from a firehose, one misses the nuance and patina of the water.

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