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The Bogeyman Thesis: Islamophobia Examined

Islamophobia is a term meaning prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam and Muslims.  A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in 2010 found that 49 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of Islam, a 39 percent increase from 2002.

Some experts believe that the prejudice against Islam since the September 11, 2001 attacks is partly the result of fear-mongering from politicians and competition for viewers among news media.

“Fear can be utilized to inspire, motivate and influence,” said CSUN Political Science Professor Boris Ricks. “It is certainly a tactic, used to achieve political ends or outcomes.”

“With respect to the media, we cannot demand how they operate,” said CSUN Political Science Professor Kassem Nabulsi. “This is a capitalist society. They are after ratings. They are not anti- Muslims themselves, although some talk shows are absolutely, but [not] the general media. Accusing the general media with a broad brush is the same way they are accusing us as Muslims, with a broad brush.”

But Islamophobia may have real consequences on the public dialogue and on American Muslims.

“If you don’t know any Muslims personally, it’s no wonder you fear them, because when you turn on the TV, it’s nothing but frightening images,” said Edina Lekovik, the Director of Programming and Policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “But treating Muslims like an ‘other’, it’s unhealthy.”

Sixty percent of Muslim Americans say Americans show prejudice towards them, according to a recent Gallup report.

“Everybody accuses everybody,” Nabulsi said. “Terrorism for us, in America as Muslims, it’s our problem like every American…and we need to improve as much as possible our discourse, by first and foremost confronting this issue with our fear.”

The Gallup report also found Muslims are 48 percent more likely than Americans of other major religious groups to say they have experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year.

“What we need to do,” Ricks said, “… is we need to be continually be vigilant, speak truth to power, to ensure stereotypes and phobias are rejected, and see them for what they are: social constructions… collaboration and participation can do that.”

The Center for American Progress published a report entitled “Fear, Inc” in 2011, suggesting that Islamophobia has its roots in a campaign of misinformation from a relatively small group of organizations with an interest in misrepresenting the realities of Islam. According to the report, the resulting fear has had a negative impact on the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution, and it has fueled the belief that the West is at war with Islam and Muslims.

“Phobia – what I call the bogeyman thesis – is not going anywhere,” Ricks said. “It has been a tactic used by elements in society for various reasons and it is a form of behavior modification; if you want to move a country one way or another, you use the element of fear.”

“We can look back on whether this fear has been perpetuated by one group stereotyping another,” Nabulsi said, “but now we’re trying to reverse the trend by creating a different platform for our conversation.”

“I have to be hopeful,” Lekovic said. “I have to look at the future as a better place than today. We need to not move minds, we need to move hearts. Muslims are one of the most integrated communities in the country, and people just need to know us for who we are.”


Moderator: Ashley Goossen

Producer: Nancy Moreira

Anchor: Beau Akers

Reporters: Beau Akers, Samantha Benitz, Ken Harvey and Briseida Holguin

Social Media Editor: Cristal Canedo

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