Center for Race and Gender co-sponsors report on Islamophobia

Ayon Kabir/Staff
The Center for Race and Gender co-sponsored the study, which focused on prejudice against Islam.

The United States was given a score of 6.4 on a one to 10 scale measuring nationwide Islamophobia, with 10 being the “worst possible situation for Muslims,” in the first annual “Same Hate, New Target” report released June 23.

The report, co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Center for Race and Gender and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, defines Islamophobia as “close-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims.”

“An Islamophobe is an individual who holds a closed-minded view of Islam and promotes prejudice against or hatred of Muslims,” the report states.

The ranking is based on interviews conducted in September and October 2010 that asked both Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States to place the country on the 10-point scale. According to Corey Saylor, the council’s national legislative director, the report was released because the council observed a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment despite a drop-off of such attitudes prior to the 2008 presidential election.

“After Obama’s inauguration, the rhetoric against the Muslim community and reports of Islamophobia started spiking,” he said.

Saylor added that this is the first report of its kind in the United States and that it will serve as a baseline for similar work in the future.

The report details pages of instances of Islamophobia across the country, including employment discrimination and hate crimes, as well as lists of individuals and institutions who are both positive and negative influences on anti-Muslim attitudes in the country.

Pamela Geller, who runs the blog Atlas Shrugs and is a co-founder of the group Stop the Islamicization of America, is listed in the report’s “Worst” section of individuals whose work has shown “intentional efforts to spread fear and prejudice.”

According to Geller, who identifies as a “human rights activist defending freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” the report is attempting to enforce Shariah law and “restrict free speech.”

UC Berkeley lecturer of near eastern studies and east Asian studies Hatem Bazian, who contributed to the report along with students from multiple disciplines on campus, said the report will serve as a way of recognizing the country’s current level of Islamophobia.

“It is becoming increasingly acceptable to express islamophobic sentiments without feeling remorse or consequence for it,” Bazian said. “The purpose of the report is to say that this is a problematic undertaking and we need to challenge it.”

The title of the report, “Same Hate New Target,” draws on other historical periods of prejudice against minority groups, Saylor said.

“Hatred that we’re seeing directed at Muslims has been present unfortunately throughout our country’s history,” he said. “The new target is the American Muslim community, but it’s a manifestation of the same hatred we’ve seen directed at other minorities in our history.”

Saylor said Islamophobia has been repeatedly negated due to basic American pluralist values, as demonstrated by public response to the burning of a Quran by Florida Pastor Terry Jones earlier this year.

“A lot of people really found it an unsavory act not in line with American principles,” Saylor said.

The UC Berkeley community is not exempt from acts allegedly discriminating against racial and ethnic minorities.

“There have definitely been incidences of Islamophobia on the UC Berkeley campus,” said campus Muslim Student Association President Zienab Abdelgany. “We’ve had instances where women who wear the headscarves have had names called at them, eggs thrown at them as they’re walking down frat row.”

She added that the report and other writings on Islamophobia are valuable in recognizing a problem in our society.

“We offer a vision in the report,” Saylor said. “I’m not a believer that me writing one report will be the burning bush moment that reverses this trend, but we believe that by taking this report and acting on it, building on it, we will see incremental change.”