This article, by Bridge Initiative Director John L. Esposito, was originally published in Huffington Post.
Fear of Islam has become the new normal in American and European popular culture. Islamophobia, prejudice towards or discrimination against Muslims, has grown exponentially as have hate crimes against Muslims and even Sikhs who are mistaken for Muslims and have been murdered.
The Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Survey found that: “no religious, social, or racial and ethnic group [is] perceived as facing greater discrimination in the U.S. than Muslims.”
Islam and the vast majority of Muslims have been brush-stroked by domestic & international terrorist attacks (Al Qaeda, ISIL). Reflecting and reinforcing this strong Islamophobic trend in America, candidate Donald Trump told Anderson Cooper of CNN, “Islam hates us.” The President believes, not ISIS or Muslim extremists, but Islam, the religion of 1.6 billion Muslims and the second largest religion in the world, hates America. Asked if he’s talking about radical Islam, he said “It’s very hard to separate, because you don’t know who’s who.” There are even recent reports that the Trump administration wants to change the name of the program “CVE”, Countering Violent Extremism to Countering Islamic Violence (CIV) even though the FBI and Department of Justice have identified US right wing extremists a bigger threat to America than ISIS.
Unlike Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, President Trump and Steve Bannon, the Counselor and Chief Strategist to the President, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and, until recently National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, make no distinction between the religion of Islam and Muslim terrorist ideologies. Bannon, and other members of the administration like ISIS and Al Qaeda believe in an impending clash of civilizations, warns: “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism.”