Given what the climate was like in the months after 9/11, I imagine it’s hard to say that reflexive hostility towards or fear of Muslims is on the rise. But in a series of stories we’ve been following in recent weeks, I’m wondering if public expressions of various sorts of Islamophobia are now more socially acceptable. To put it more bluntly, perhaps fewer anti-Muslim bias crimes but maybe more politicians saying that Islam isn’t covered by the first amendment or that new mosques shouldn’t be built because any mosque or Muslim community center is a probable base of terrorist recruiting?
I’m not putting this out there as a rhetorical question but a real one. I have not followed the issue in a systematic fashion. And in a political season in which all Republicans are running after the hardest part of the Tea Party right, you’re going to have people saying a lot of crazy things. But my recollection of the year or so after 9/11 was that there was at least among politicians and people who spoke publicly a lot more genuflection toward the idea that the US had no beef with Islam and that we wanted to integrate Muslims into the fabric of American life. I say that knowing that in practice things weren’t necessarily so welcoming. But I wonder if going on a decade of two wars and constant counter-terrorist surveillance hasn’t led to some general hardening of views. Again, not a rhetorical question.