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Islamophobia: A Discussion About The Causes And Possible Solutions

The executive director of CAIR-St. Louis, Faizan Syed, addresses the crowd at an interfaith service on the Archgrounds.
(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
The executive director of CAIR-St. Louis, Faizan Syed, addresses the crowd at an interfaith service on the Archgrounds.

A 2013 report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) identifies a network of 37 organizations that systematically promote anti-Muslim sentiment in America through prejudice, fear and hatred. CAIR calls it Islamophobia.

According to tax filings analyzed by CAIR, this network had access to nearly $120 million between 2008 and 2011.

"After September the Eleventh, you would expect there would be a spike in anti-Muslim or anti-Islam attacks in the United States," said Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-St. Louis.  "And that's what we saw after September the Eleventh. But what's unique is that after the first few years, those percentage of attacks actually kept going down and down and decreased. And then in 2008 and 2009, we saw another spike in those biased, motivated attacks. And we've seen that height now more than even after September the Eleventh." 

That's where the network of organizations identified in the report comes in.

"We feel that part of the bigotry and hatred that exists is not just because it exists. But rather, it is an orchestrated, well-organized, well-funded thought process that is being pushed on the American public," said Syed.

The report’s title, “Legislating Fear,” comes in part from the proliferation of bills targeting Islamic religious law in recent years. According to the report, 78 bills with negative implications towards Islamic religious practices were introduced in 29 states between 2011 and 2012. As of 2013, seven states have made these bills into law.

"I think that there were certain legislators who were more or less duped by these national organizations who were pushing fear and concern about really non-existing problems," said John Chasnoff, former program director of ACLU-Eastern Missouri. "And then there were other legislators who thought that it was to their political advantage to jump on board."

Earlier this year, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the latest version of the bill in Missouri, known as the “anti-Sharia law bill.”

To counter Islamophobia, Islamic Americans need to be more involved in their communities, said Syed. "We need to speak to a more diverse crowd," he said, and "be more engaged with [our] neighbors."

A discussion about the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR's) second report on Islamophobia, the practice of prejudice against, hatred for, or fear of Muslims or ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim, and CAIR's efforts to counter it.

Related Event

St. Louis Jewish and Muslim Day of Service

December 25, 2013

Members of all faith communities, or those of no faith affiliation, are welcome to participate.

For information about service sites or to register, visit the website.

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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