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Islamophobia on rise in US

world Updated: Sep 11, 2010 00:34 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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Till two days ago, no one knew Terry Jones. Today this little known pastor from Florida is threatening to push over the edge a deeply conflicted country.

Jones has been threatening to burn copies of the Quran to get Muslims in America to accept and respect the country’s Constitution, which he believes they don't. He has the support of only his small 50-member church.

Any other time, he might have been ignored, but not now Jones is being seen here as only the most extreme manifestation of an under-the-surface antipathy for Muslims simmering since September 11.

"There has been a rise in Islamophobia in the last some weeks even as Muslims have grappling with anti-Muslims sentiments since September 11," said Priya Murthi of South Asian Americans Leading Together.

And these are not imagined fears and apprehensions.

These simmering sentiments first found outlet in the wave of opposition that met an announcement by a New York Islamic Cultural Center of plans to construct a Mosque at a location quite close to Ground Zero.

The nation was quickly divided between vociferous, fist-waving opponents and dignified supporters who reasoned the Constitution guarantees equal rights to all religions.

And then one thing led to another. A New York taxi driver, Sharif Ahmad, was stabbed on August 25 by a passenger who first asked him if he was a Muslim. The community suddenly felt cornered.

The Pew research center found in a survey conducted among 1003 non-Muslim adults that less Americans view Islam favourably in 2010 than five years ago – 30 per cent to 41 per cent.

Sarah Thompson of the Islamic Society of North America agreed politics. was adding to the surge in anti-Muslim sentiments. "The mosque had turned into a tool in the hands of politicians," she said.

But Terry Jones is no politician. And that's what makes him so dangerous.