On a typical workday, Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations talks to a dozen or so print and broadcast reporters.
“The vast majority does a pretty good job and they need to be congratulated,” he said.
It’s another story when Hooper watches cable TV commentators, listens to talk radio or surfs hundreds of anti- Islamic Web sites. “The level of anti-Muslim rhetoric is growing in quantum leaps since 9/11,” he said.
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Hooper and other experts addressed “Islamaphobia” in the media during a panel discussion Sunday at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center in Rosemont.
Web sites are especially virulent, Hooper said. Consider these comments recently posted on the blog of Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).
• “If I happen to wax hateful and angry from time to time when it comes to the subject of Islam, that is the fault of Islam and its thriving terrorist establishment. . . . It is good to hate your enemies: We are going to have to kill them.”
• “I hate is-lame with an incandescent intensity.”
(Spencer says he does not hate Muslims. Postings from others “are unmoderated and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jihad Watch or Robert Spencer.”)
Hooper said he wishes he could dismiss such sentiments as fringe opinions. “But that’s not the case.”
Polls have found that between 20 percent and 25 percent of Americans are hostile to Islam and Muslims, Hooper said. He cited a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll that found that 22 percent of respondents wouldn’t want Muslims as neighbors. That poll also found that 39 percent of respondents felt at least some prejudice against Muslims. The same percentage would favor requiring Muslims, including U.S. citizens, to carry special IDs to prevent attacks.
Anti-Islamic prejudice “is increasingly bleeding into mainstream media,” Hooper said. After Sept. 11, columnist Ann Coulter wrote, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”
Before Sept. 11, Coulter “would have faced swift repudiation from her colleagues,” Hooper said. “Now it’s accepted as legitimate commentary.”