With the developments over this summer of anti-muslim rhetoric and violence by right wing political movements, and particularly the plans to burn Koran’s by christian zealots in Florida on September 11th, SDS at UH decided to voice our opposition to the climate of hate and fear that is growing. This morning, September 13th, we distributed stickers and the flier below to students on our campus.
A wave of islamophobia has swept the country this summer. In the last couple months there have been attacks on property; including arsons at Mosques in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Arlington, Texas in August and vandalism of a mosque in San Antonio this month. Worse, there has been violent rhetoric that has set the stage for attacks against Muslims and people of color: On August 24th Bangladeshi cab driver Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in New York City in August, and across the county, a Sikh convenience store clerk in Seattle being accused of membership in Al-Qaeda and physically assaulted.
These attacks on Muslims, Arabs and people perceived as Arab and/or muslim are heinous and awful and we people on conscience need to stand up and oppose them. We understand that these attacks do not come out of a vacuum, but are consequences of a racist and xenophobic agenda that is being pushed by the right wing and a media that has shown no objection to pushing this fear based narrative.
This hysteria seems to have emerged in large part out of the opposition to the Park51 community center that is planned for construction in southern Manhattan by a muslim organization. We think you have probably heard of it; it has been labeled as “the ground zero mosque” by right wing activists, a label that has been accepted and repeated without question by large sectors of the mainstream media. This loaded name and the controversy surrounding it not only implies that Islam is equivalent to terrorism, but is a threat to freedom of religion in our country. There are religious extremists associated with every religion and it is unreasonable to hold an entire population accountable for the acts of extremists who have taken religious teachings out of context in order to gain power and influence in a region. Many muslims died in the 9/11 attacks and many have been killed by these extremists through out the middle east, they do not represent Islam just as the hateful Westboro Baptist Church does not represent Christians.
It is also important to recognize that this hateful reaction is not a new phenomenon in American political history. There is a long history of Xenophobia in the US that has been used for political purposes. Irish and Catholic immigrants in the 1800’s were labeled as backwards and outcasted for being practitioners of the catholic faith. Jewish immigrants from throughout Europe have been persecuted and anti-semitism still exists as form of prejudice by some on the extreme right. The first repressive immigration laws of this country were written to stop chinese immigration, and during world war 2 the fear of japanese immigrants was sufficient to forcibly relocate japanese-americans into concentration camps. The racist narrative about Mexican and Latin American immigrants is alive and well, according to nativists and racists, they are both stealing our jobs and simultaneously lazy and leeching off our welfare system. This white supremacist bigotry is foundational to this country, since the forced relocation and attempted annihilation of the native americans and the enslavement and subjugation of african americans.
While anti-black racism is now politically incorrect (thank goodness), the right wing, the republican party and the mainstream media allow and promote these attacks on muslims and arabs. Even now with the election of our first biracial president, the same forces that push islamaphobia and distrust of immigrants question his citizenship and spread rumors that he is a secret muslim.
By giving the crazy bigots of the church in Gainesville Florida a pedestal to stand on, the mainstream media has given a microphone to some of the most crazy and hate filled charlatans in the country. A congregation of 30 people seem to think they will be able to dictate the political terrain for the rest of us living in this country, and that they can stop the construction of Park 51 and other islamic centers across the country. We think it is necessary to oppose religious intolerance, such as Koran burning and limits to the right to worship freely and oppose the medias’ attempts to give publicity and validation to fear mongers and bigots while ignoring larger progressive movements working towards peace and solidarity.
We students In SDS oppose racism,xenophobia, and intolerance in all forms and are determined to work against any group or measure which threatens freedom or peace. We promote solidarity among all peoples and peaceful opposition to racism, militarism and classism in our society. If you think that sounds sweet, join SDS!