You likely heard about the shooting murders of three Muslim American college students in North Carolina in January 2015. Perhaps you’ve heard of the occasional mosque vandalization, too, or seen local news reports about Muslims being harassed at school or the grocery store.
While most Americans aren’t aware of the extent of hate crimes against Muslims, which rarely receive media coverage on a national level, they do view these instances of prejudice and discrimination–Islamophobia– as patently unacceptable. What they don’t realize, however, is that this Islamophobia doesn’t just exist at on “society’s extreme fringes.” According to Nathan Lean, who wrote a piece for CNN on the 2013 anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Islamophobia “is increasingly legislated and enforced” by government bodies.
In “Since 9/11, U.S. Policy Enforces Islamophobia,” Lean outlines a number of ways that the U.S. government has deepened, not lessened, America’s Islamophobia problem.
Lean first summarizes the New York Police Department’s “Muslim Mapping” program that …
… sent “rakers” into Muslim neighborhoods to observe restaurant owners and shopkeepers, deployed “mosque crawlers” into Muslim houses of worship to monitor sermons, and planted undercover agents on a university rafting trip in Buffalo where they took notes on how many times Muslim students prayed each day.
Despite bugging mosques, sending in spies, and designating organizations as “terrorist enterprises,” no arrests were made, nor leads found, during the program’s six years.
The NYPD wasn’t the only law enforcement agency to infringe on Muslims’ civil rights. Lean then details the case of Craig Monteilh, an FBI informant paid to seduce Muslim women in South California and instigate local Muslim men to carry out terrorist attacks on the homeland. Lean also mentions profiling policies used at the national level to curtail the travel of Muslim citizens.
Also problematic are laws and other initiatives at the state and local levels. Lean chronicles 32 states that have made efforts to ban Islamic shariah law, and seven states succeeded in instituting the ban. These campaigns to ban “foreign law” were not a response to a real crisis or the threat of Islamic law being implemented full-scale across the country, but rather were a way to generate fear and win political points. Similar efforts stalled the construction of mosques in town like Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where a simple effort to build a house of worship turned into a national debate.
Read more of Lean’s piece at CNN’s Religion Blog, where it originally appeared.