Islamophobia on rise in United States

Latest FBI records show the number of hate crimes against Muslims increased nearly 50 percent last year. One hundred and sixty cases of hate crimes against Muslims were reported in 2010 compared to 107 in 2009.

A report by the Center for American Progress released in August named several foundations and wealthy donors as being behind a ten year campaign to spread Islamophobia in the US.

Press TV has interviewed Ibrahim Hooper from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in New York to discuss the issue further.

Press TV: With the statistics that have come out, were you surprised at the figures? What do you think needs to be done at this point in time to try to decrease these numbers?

Hooper: I don’t think this jump in the report of anti-Muslim hate crimes is a surprise at all. We have seen for the last almost two years a tremendous rise in the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society by what we call the Islamophobia machine that is a coordinated, well-financed group of individuals and organizations that promote and exploit Islamophobia.

We have seen this over the past two years —primarily catalyzed, I think, by this manufactured controversy over the park51 Islamic community center in New York. So, it has been our experience whenever you see a rise in the anti-Muslim rhetoric, you are going to see a similar rise in anti-Muslim incidents and I think that is what has been demonstrated here.

Press TV: What about the reports now that say many of these organizations have had direct or indirect ties with Israel. Can you give us your perspective on that?

Hooper: I don’t know about that, the Islamophobia machine has a number of different motivations. We see extreme right wingers, we see religious extremism there, there is all kinds of motivation so I don’t know you can assign it to one particular motivation but we see increasingly these individuals coordinated amongst themselves, support each other. We saw the terrorist who gunned down dozens and dozens of civilians in Norway citing, in his manifesto American Islamophobes who are part of this Islamophobia machine. So it even goes beyond national borders.

Press TV: What about average American Muslims, do you think they feel the difference —compared to prior to 9/11 and now? Do you think there is a sense of more awareness on the part of Muslims now in the US?

Hooper: You cannot help but be aware of the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society, you can’t turn on a talk radio program, you cannot read the comments on articles online related to Islam and Muslims, you cannot watch the right-wing cable news programs without seeing, reading and hearing anti-Muslim rhetoric on a daily basis.

That is why we have asked mainstream leaders and individuals in America to speak against out this rising level of intolerance and hatred and so far we hadn’t had a great response; there have been some people who have spoken out but we need it come from the top even into the White House.

Press TV: What kind of effect this has had, specially on the young Muslims in the society —as far as their psyche, when according to what you are saying, when they turn on their TV or turn on cable, there are so many programs talking negatively about Islam. What does that do for the Muslim identity, especially for the young people in the US?

Hooper: That is a very good question because as adults we can often put up with this kind of rhetoric, we have life experience, we know times when this wasn’t the case, but how is this going to affect a young person who’s just started growing up now in a society where their faith is vilified publicly so often and so regularly; it is yet to be determined how that will impact those children.