Even before the smoke had cleared from the skies over Manhattan on 9/11 after the destruction of the World Trade Center, ordinary Americans were expressing their resolve to fight terrorism and not give in to the sentiment of fear which many quite rightly said was one of the objectives of Atta and his henchmen.
At the same time, Americans, their press and their politicians were almost unanimous in condemning what few instances of anti-Muslim violence followed 9/11, and it was quite correctly estimated at the time that any backlash against Islam and Muslims in America would be manna from heaven for Islamic terrorists because it would prove to the world that Americans were becoming paranoid and afraid, thus falling into Bin Laden’s trap.
Nine years later however, that rosy image of America’s courage and realism is beginning to fade, and it is being replaced by a darker picture.
One of the first signs of a shift in attitudes was Andy Martin’s 2004 claim that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Accusations made in 2006 by smear-campaign specialist Ted Sampley
added fuel to the flames when he also insisted that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Then came the anonymous viral email campaign
which ran up to 2008 and which claimed that Obama was hiding a radical Islamist past.
All of this could have been dismissed as being the harmless mischief of the cranks and nutcases they were if it hadn’t led to the reality that about around 10% of Americans came to believe in 2008 that Obama was indeed a Muslim. This belief finally persuaded a non-negligible number of Americans to refuse to vote for him during the presidential election. That figure rose to 11% in 2009 and today sees the figure at almost 20% in what has been called the ongoing “firestorm of controversy”
concerning his supposed Muslim beliefs.
In other words, although a man’s religious affiliations should not be a negative factor for his reputation, more and more Americans firmly believe today that Obama is a Muslim, a fact which in itself shows that Islam is being seen in an increasingly negative light by America.
Today sees America in the middle of an election campaign. And what is the major issue being exploited by both sides? The economy? Afpak/Iraq? The climate? No, it’s Islam.
Obama has found himself caught up in a fierce debate on Islam, religious freedoms and terrorism which stemmed from the proposal to create a mosque
near the 9/11 site. He kept his distance from the affair until the project was given a green light by NYC authorities, whereupon he made the mistake of supporting it, but even if he had gone against it, that would have given rise to the same virulent polemic.
Once the mosque story began filling the papers with banner headlines he tried his best to back out, saying that his point of view should not be taken as giving support for any one religion or another, but it was too late. The mosque has now become an election issue due to its potential for deciding swing voters, and not only are the Republicans brandishing it as a stick to beat him with, some Democrats in marginal seats are also up in arms, smelling defeat looming over them with every day which goes by with allegations that Obama is pro-Muslim.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida has put the cat among the pigeons with his off/on promise to burn copies of the Koran
in front of his church tomorrow. This has resulted in a media feeding frenzy, with right-wing news outlets in particular, such as Fox News, plastering their front pages with inflamed articles and opinion. It is 13:15 here in France as I write and a quick check reveals that there have been 6 front page articles on this subject in the last 24 hours alone here on Digital Journal.
Jones has organized a carefully-orchestrated effort designed to pressure the President and American citizens to put Islam firmly on the map as an important issue. It has worked.
What will be the next spark to light the next blaze?
Tomorrow sees the ninth commemoration of the 9/11 attacks. There will surely be many fine and noble speeches about how tolerant Americans should be of Islam and how Americans will not be cowed into fear by radical Islam and its terrorist representatives.
That’s all very well, but if America isn’t careful, it will end up becoming unhealthily obsessed with Islam to the point where the terrorists will begin to believe that the attacks they carried out on that infamous day nine years ago are finally beginning to bear the bitter fruit of the very seeds of fear they created.