When we think about the attack on two mosques in New Zealand, which killed at least 49 people, it would serve us well to remember just how widespread and acceptable the hatred of Muslims is in Western society.
Islamophobia is everywhere. It cuts across party lines and political ideologies. It is a mainstream form of racism for which there are few consequences.
Studies have shown the preponderance of negative media coverage of Muslims cannot be explained away as merely news coverage of violent events. One study found that “Muslims are clearly distinctive as the only [religious] group associated with overwhelmingly negative coverage.”
Just this past week, a host on Fox News—the most popular and influential cable news network in America—implied that Rep. Ilhan Omar might not be loyal to America because she wears a hijab. The host was let off with a slap on the wrist and has suffered no other punishment. Why would she? Fox News has been a breeding ground for anti-Muslim hatred for years and years.
The second-longest-serving late night talk show host in America is Bill Maher. He is, for some reason, beloved by many liberals. He is also a committed Islamophobe. Here he is talking about the popularity of the name Mohammed in Britain:
“Am I a racist to feel that I’m alarmed by that? Because I am. And it’s not because of the race, it’s ’cause of the religion. I don’t have to apologize, do I, for not wanting the Western world to be taken over by Islam in three hundred years?”
Maher was not hounded off of television for any of these comments. Everything’s fine for him.
Speaking of Britain, things are perhaps even worse there. The British media routinely blares Islamophobic, false propaganda across its front pages. One of its most respectable conservative magazines has a regular columnist named Rod Liddle, who wrote a column last year which included the headline, “my own view is that there is not enough Islamophobia within the Tory party.” He suffered absolutely no consequences for this.
Liddle wrote this in defense of Boris Johnson, the former foreign minister for the British government, after Johnson compared Muslim women in burqas to “letterboxes” and bank robbers. Johnson, whose long history of Islamophobia and racism has not prevented him from reaching the height of British politics, also suffered absolutely no consequences for this. He is still a potential front-runner to become the next British prime minister.
Even if Johnson were to reach those heights, he would pale in prominence next to the most powerful Islamophobe in the world: the president of the United States, whose pledge to ban Muslims from America helped him get elected, and whose decision to carry out that pledge was upheld by the Supreme Court.
In Australia, where the suspect in the New Zealand attack is alleged to live, Islamophobia is a healthy and thriving part of political culture, where the two main parties vie to see who can crack down more on mostly Muslim immigrants who are trying to reach the country’s shores. These policies have been embraced by the far right around the world.
These are just a tiny number of examples. But the truth is obvious. You can hate Muslims and still make tons of money on television. You can hate Muslims and be a highly successful politician. You can hate Muslims and never lose your elite perch in the media. And if you violently target Muslims, it’s more likely than not that people will move on quickly. It’s long past time for that to change.