Islamophobia is Cool in America Today


By Arsalan Iftikhar

AUTHORS NOTE: At the time of posting, the original title for this column was “Islamophobia is the New Black,” which was in direct reference to the popular culture Netflix television show “Orange is the New Black” (hence the orange background). As people who are well-versed in the English language are quite aware, most people know that the phrasal template “_________ is the new black” is generally used to denote something that is “cool” or “fashionable” within society today. Even so, as senior editor of this magazine, I decided that I did not want the title of my piece to distract from the overall message on the growth of Islamophobia and xenophobic racism against Muslims today.

Whenever I hear someone say, “Barack Obama is a Muslim!” anywhere on our television airwaves, I feel like Jerry Seinfeld should pop out and say, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”

The most recent occurrence of political Islamophobia happened at a New Hampshire rally this week for 2016 Republican primary presidential candidate (and blowhard billionaire) Donald Trump. During the question-and-answer session of his town hall event, the first person to speak proved that Islamophobia is alive and well as a Republican political football for many years to come.

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims,” the Trump supporter said into the microphone. “We know our current president [Barack Obama] is one. You know he’s not even an American. … But anyway, we have training camps growing where they [Muslims] want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?”

Instead of challenging these horribly racist statements, Trump just responded by saying, “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things and you know, a lot of people are saying that [Obama is a Muslim] and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

This latest Trump moment is reminiscent of a 2008 town hall meeting in which a woman stood up and called then-Senator Obama an “Arab.” Then Republican presidential candidate John McCain drew boos when he corrected her, saying, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

According to Mediaite, McCain “did not explain why being an Arab [or Muslim] and a ‘decent person’ were mutually exclusive in his case.”

CNN also recently reported that this was not the first time Trump publicly insinuated that Obama was a Muslim. In 2011, Trump launched a campaign to gain the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate, going as far as saying that he would send investigators to Hawaii. His actions helped give rise to the “birther” conspiracy theory, which claims that Obama’s real birthplace is in Kenya. Trump has also suggested that the president’s birth documents may identify him as a Muslim.

“He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim,” Trump said in 2011. “I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want” people to think he is a Muslim.

A few days earlier, a 14-year-old American Muslim teenager named Ahmed Mohamed made international headlines for getting arrested after bringing a homemade clock to his school in Irving, Texas, to impress his teacher.

“I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed told reporters. “It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it.”

Let’s be honest. If he was a white non-Muslim kid named Alex Morgan, he would have probably won the school science fair. But his teacher already viewed him as a “threat” because he was a black Muslim kid named Ahmed Mohamed.

To be absolutely clear, it is evident that Islamophobia has become the accepted form of racist xenophobic bigotry in America today. Unlike Anti-Semitism or homophobia, which are roundly (and rightfully) condemned by every corner of American society, we are seeing increasing levels of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric growing around the country.

For example, a September CNN/ORC poll found that 29% of Americans, including 43% of Republicans, believe that Obama is a Muslim. Even prominent conservative Republicans have conceded that Islam and Muslims will continue to serve as a radioactive political football wedge issue for many years to come. Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, recently wrote a Washington Post column on the growth of Islamophobia in the Republican Party today.

During the last two presidential nomination cycles, Republican candidates, at various points, have proposed requiring a loyalty oath for Muslims to serve in government [2012 Republican candidate Herman Cain]; ruled out Muslims serving in their Cabinet [Cain]; called sharia law “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States” [2012 Republican candidate Newt Gingrich]; raised alarms about the “creeping attempt” to “ease [sharia] law and the Muslim faith into our government” [Cain]; warned of “no go” zones where sharia law rules; described Muslim immigration as “colonization” and warned that immigrants “want to come and conquer us” [2016 Republican candidate Bobby Jindal]; said there were only a “handful” of “reasonable, moderate followers of Islam” [2016 Republican candidate Scott Walker]; described Islam as “a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet [2008 and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee].

For these reasons, it is now quite clear to over 7 million American Muslims that racist xenophobia against our religion has become “fashionable” in the United States and I cannot wait until Islamophobia (and all other forms of racism) go out of style like Donald Trump’s terrible haircut.

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    Arsalan Iftikhar

    Arsalan Iftikhar is Senior Editor of The Islamic Monthly magazine

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    • O. Locke

      islam is a death cult NOT a race. there isn’t any racism when someone attacks the religion

    • Noura

      I guess you forgot you can be BOTH black and muslim………….. “new black”, shows your ignorance

    • Mouhamadou Diagne

      There is a lot of truth to this article but it once again erases the reality of anti-black racism that is still a problem in this country at large and in the muslim community. This article is racist, out of touch, and an erasure of the black experience in the Muslim community. Quite honestly I’m sick of this bullshit.

    • roccolore

      Islam is not a race, but Muslims tend to be racist.

    • dmfarooq

      President Obama or any one does not need any certification from right wing extremists conservatives , bigots full of hatred for fast increases in diversity of population in these United States . Should some one care about bigots ? Notably , a number of 2016 Republicans in run for the White House , have been ignoring the iron clad expectation of all Americans , ( to keep their racial , religious and all other biases and beliefs if not private ) , as mandated by the Constitution , separate from the business of the State .

    • What a joke

      Islamophobia is such a problem that even when it doesn’t really exist, the president not only pushes his agenda to make sure we THINK it exists, but then – contrary to all non-Muslims who experienced the exact same thing – he invites the “victim” to hang out at the White House. What garbage.

    • I am glad that you were responsive to concerns but still hope that you will address them more directly.

    • ErikKengaard

      ” . . . . the accepted form of racist xenophobic bigotry? ” Nonsense. I’m a right leaning Trump supporting Goldwater Republican, who votes republican, supports Planned Parenthood, and also supports NumbersUSA. When I was 18 I met a foreigner from Checkoslavakia, and fell in love with her. When I was 19, I met a Hungarian, and really fell in love with her. When I was 22 I met another Hungarian, and loved her more than the first one. Then I met a girl from Denmark – you guessed it. Next a girl from Ireland. My sweet Irish rose. Took her to dinner on St. Patricks, and – you are right. So who says we don’t love foreigners?

    • mastqalander84

      I think it’s awful how you did not even apologize for the original title you had, “Islamophobia is the New Black.” Anti-blackness and erasure of Black Muslims is a reality that we should not ignore. There is an important critique of your article’s original title over at and I hope you get a chance to read it. Your note comes off as very defensive and condescending. It shows no acknowledgment of how offensive your title was nor does it address the anti-blackness that is prevalent in Muslim and non-Muslim communities. You imply that people who didn’t understand your title are not “well-versed in the English language.” This is not only ridiculous and insulting, but also an attempt to deflect attention away from the reality of anti-black racism. When you can’t understand an anti-racist critique, I suggest you take a moment to step back and reflect, especially when you claim to care about anti-racist struggles. Anti-blackness is pervasive in the Muslim community and all over the world, so I think it’s important that you take that into account before writing people off. We have to think about the impact of our words, not our intentions. I hope you consider writing an apology.

    • Ryan Fairfield

      I am not a Muslim; I am a white Atheist. That being said, I am deeply saddened and frustrated at the blatant ignorance and racism in America today. It is as if nothing has been learned from our past: the Native American genocide, the African slave trade, the Red Scare, the Japanese-American internment, and the aftermath of 9/11.

      Now after these attacks in Paris, the Islamophobia continues to intensify with Trump calling for the mass-surveillance of mosques and Jeb Bush declaring that we should only allow Christian refugees in, not Muslim refugees. These are not the ramblings of a crazy homeless person. These are presidential candidates with thousands of followers. That is scary to me.

      I am not scared of refugees or of Muslims or of diversity or other religions. I am scared of the “conservatives” who continue to perpetuate fear, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and ignorance.

      Please know that not all white American citizens share the opinions of these fools.

      • O. Locke

        look, pal.

        your comment is wholly ignorant.

        if you’re a “white Atheist” youre a guilty party according to many muslims. there are muslims in your own country that if given the opportunity they’d behead you just like they do in saudi arabia.

        more than that, you benefit from colonialism. you have privilege not afforded to your human brothers and sisters of different origins. And here you flaunt it with such an ignorant and ridiculous comment.

        using history as a cudgel against your own country blinds you to the facts. EVERY country and EVERY people have their own historical stupidities and their hands have the same and in some cases more blood on them.

        shame on you, pal!

        • Tom jenson

          Agreed, Athiest would absolutely be the first to get their heads chopped off. Their ignorance is insane. Also how would it be racist to not want to be anywhere near a crackpot “Devout” Muslim who could kill you for not believing what they do. Islam and Western values not at all compatable, don’t think we can actually live together, so one of us has to go. Just saying…

          • O. Locke

            no. that isn’t factual.

            there are many muslims that have lived in the U.S. for a very long time and their values are the same values anyone has. what honest non-r@cists are saying is that the moderate muslims need to reform their faith and come into the fold.

            your comment was very bigoted and you should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Zenobia van Dongen

        Mosques are systematically spied on by the governments of all Muslim-majority countries.

    • O. Locke

      there is no such thing as islamophobia.

      no one is denying the rights of muslims and no muslims are being attacked. this is an attempt to smear U.S. society.

      what honest people are saying is separate and re-define what it means to be a muslim. western muslims have already done this. why not accept it?

      it is alright for muslims to be gay, it is alright for women imams, it is okay if women lead prayer, it is okay if your daugheter or son wants to marry a jew. what is so hard about this?

      any criticism of the muslim religion is labeled “islamophobia” the problem is that it doesn’t exist.

    • Nicklos Silkworth

      Is it just me or did Islam become a race? When did this happen. I always thought it was a religion a multicultural one at that? Everyone wants to be a race now; why is that? Islamophobia is a reactionary term because Muslims that are not Islamists want to sweep all that is happening in the name of their god under the rug. They say Isis and Al-Qaida are doing these horrible things and not me… Well, its that kind of complicit complacency that has gotten us all here. We need more million Muslim marches and op-ed peace from Muslims speaking out. IT also does not help when a person on the news asks a Muslim if they would see Sharia as superseding our or constitution. The answer should always be NO!!! Besides 1400 years of experience on earth should convince any Muslim that Sharia has not and will not work. Same is true for this Caliphate nonsense. The jews used to have this very problem but through due diligence they have carved out a successful turn around.

      • O. Locke

        muslims want to identify with the blacks in the U.S. so they can have favored status.

        not going to work.

    • O. Locke
    • Zenobia van Dongen


      The UN convention against all forms of racism defines racism as discrimination based on “colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”. It makes no mention of religion.

      The Norwegian Anti-Discrimination Act bans discrimination based on ethnicity, national origin, descent and skin color.[27]

      In British law the phrase racial group means “any group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin”

      As far as I know, no law in any country labels as “racist” hostility to any belief system.

      Consequently to call people “racists” because they criticize certain religions has no basis in law and is therefore simply a lie.