Religion story of the year: anti-Muslim bigotry in America

“Anti-mosque protests, anti-Shariah laws, and anti-Muslim hate crimes could easily fill any list of ‘top five’ religion stories in 2011”, Charles C. Haynes of the Religious Freedom Education Project writes:

Never mind how many studies show high levels of opposition to radical Islam and extreme interpretations of Shariah law among Muslim Americans. Never mind how much Muslim leaders and institutions in the U.S. help in the fight against extremism. Never mind the millions of Muslims who have practiced their faith freely and peacefully in America for generations – without undermining the Constitution.

No reasoned argument, no amount of scholarship, no pile of studies is enough to convince the diehard “stop the Islamization of America” crowd that they are wrong to demonize Islam and Muslims in the U.S.

In 2011, the anti-Muslim narrative migrated from the right-wing fringe into the mainstream. It’s gone so far that even an innocuous television show created to fight stereotypes loses a sponsor because it doesn’t portray the very stereotypes it attempts to dispel.

Fortunately, Americans who care about religious freedom are beginning to push back. As I write this, Christians, Jews, Muslims and others are organizing boycotts of Lowe’s in cities throughout the nation. And growing numbers of religious and political leaders are speaking out against intolerance and prejudice aimed at Muslim Americans.

First Amendment Center, 29 December 2011