Disgusting Islamophobia

TLC is doing a reality show called American Muslim,  following five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan.   The show follows average Muslims living every day lives as cops, coaches and consumers — typical Americans.

Not for the Islamophobes!   Islamophobia is similar to the anti-semitism of the Nazi party in Germany before World War II.  It wants to posit Muslims as a different kind of people, not truly American – just as Jews were not truly German to the anti-semites.   They want to spread myths about Islam, making it sound like Sharia law is always some kind of horrific set of barbarian practices, that women are treated horribly, and every Muslim secretly wants the Taliban to come to power.

Not everyone who is concerned about Islamic extremism is an Islamophobe.   Islamophobia is defined as an irrational fear of Islam, usually present when people become convinced that Islam is an inherently anti-western anti-modern religion that can never co-exist with Western values.   Such a view is absurd when taking into account the history of Islam and the reality of Islam in America (or Europe).     Yes, there are extremist and irrational Muslims too — and it’s right to oppose them, and when a filmmaker is killed in the Netherlands or a terror act occurs in London, the religious element has to be dealt with openly and clearly.

However, true Islamophobia is as dangerous as anti-semitism was in Germany in the 20s and 30s and must be fought just as fervently as any of us would fight anti-semitism if we were transported to Germany in 1930.   It is the stuff of vile bigotry, a kind of evil that is fundamentally anti-American and ignorant.   Alas, it still has clout.

The big retail chain Lowe’s caved to pressure from an Nazi Islamophobic organization called “The Florida Family Association.”    Like the Nazis, this group’s irrational fear and hatred is not limited to Muslims, they are also homophobic, warning of a gay and Muslim “agenda”.  From their website:   “TLC’s “All-American Muslim” is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values. ”

Get that – seeing Muslims as average Americans is dangerous because it hides the “Islamic agenda.”   Just like how the Jewish agenda in Germany was put forth when Jews were seen as normal shopkeepers, scientists and artists.   It is morally equivalent and Lowe’s is doing the moral equivalent of caving to Nazi pressure.   According to the neo-fascist website for the Florida Family Association, Sweet-n-Low is also withholding sponsorship, as is Home Depot.

One might be tempted to cut them some slack because they are a Christian organization.  But the world view they espouse does not differ much from any fascist world view.   Hitler said he was fighting to save Germany from anti-German elements — not just Jews, but liberals, socialists, pacifists, internationalists and homosexuals, all of whom stood against traditional German values.   Fascists portray themselves as promoting strength, virtue, and wholesomeness.   They defend their violence as saying it is the true strong German (or, in the case of this group they’d say American or Christian) is unafraid to speak the truth about threats to society and willing to do what is necessary to counter them.  Violence and intolerance is to them a virtue.

For Hitler the battle in the 20s was a culture war for Germany’s soul, promoting fear of the diversity emerging in the 20th Century in order to get people to embrace what was sold as a return to strong German values.   The world view of this “Florida Family Association” is similar.  They want to protect American culture from Muslims, gays, liberals, and secular humanists.   The core of their ideology is fear of difference, and even though they are not yet espousing violence, once a group is defined as a danger to society and something different and even evil, the line to violence is much easier to cross.

But even if it doesn’t go as far as Nazism did, such fear-based bigotry is fundamentally anti-American and enables discrimination, prejudice and abuse against others.  It is fear of people based on the essence of who they are — their faith, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity.  As such it’s an anti-human ideology, one that must be countered.

The best way to do that is to contact Lowes, Home Depot, and Sweet and Low — and whoever else refuses to advertise on that show.   Tell them that their support of an anti-American boycott is despicable and unless their policy changes you’ll shop elsewhere.  Moreover, one should speak out and condemn this kind of organization and the fear that underlies its mode of operation.  Having studied German history in the 20s and 30s, I know that apathy — or a belief ‘well, they’re a bit extreme but they have a point’ — is extremely dangerous.   Finally, watch the TLC show and support advertisers who don’t cave to extremist pressure.

Most importantly, however, is in our every day life to support tolerance and mutual respect for all people.   Disrespect and opposition should be based on actions people take, not who they are or even what they believe.   This includes groups like the Florida Family Association.

One has to focus on the specific actions taken by that group, and not use their actions as an excuse to be bigoted against Christians or even those whose personal belief system is one that does not support Islam, gay marriage or homosexuality.  There is room for all kinds of beliefs in this country, and we can’t respond to bigotry with bigotry in return — that simply reinforces and deepens the intensity of bigotry.   Instead the focus has to be on countering their message and offering a positive alternative.

We have come a long way in ten years.   The country understands and accepts Islam far better now than it did then, and groups like this are on the periphery.   Let’s keep it that way.

  1. #1 by Juliano on December 10, 2011 - 18:19

    shariah law IS barbaric!! And many women protest against it. In your defecnse OF Islam remember that countries that are Islamic persecute and execute gay people! etc This is not to saw western countries are OK. I am not saying that at all, but just dont get carried away–like your doing painting the shariah law as not bad.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on December 10, 2011 - 21:26

      Sharia law varies. It can be very mild and modern, or it can be barbaric. Certainly we should push for Arab states and others to respect human rights. Bigotry against all Muslims or something like what this “Family” association wants goes too far. One has to speak out for human rights without attacking a whole faith — a great world religion — by making it sound like all Muslims are like the extremists.

  2. #3 by kott on December 10, 2011 - 20:41

    ‘ Having studied German history in the 20s and 30s, I know that apathy’

    Bullcrap you understand anything about German history, “professor”. You present the bits you want and make up some decontextualized version of our history. Get your own house in order before raping ours for your own personal ends.

  3. #4 by Scott Erb on December 10, 2011 - 21:23

    Yes, I’ve studied German history and have lived in Germany. Your comment would sound less like some ignorant bigot if you could out precisely where you think I’ve made an error and avoid the weird trash talk. Your style discredits you, “kott.”

  4. #5 by Titfortat on December 10, 2011 - 23:46

    a great world religion(Scott)

    I guess I would ask you to define great?

    • #6 by Scott Erb on December 11, 2011 - 00:53

      Well, I could go with a “World’s Great Religions” course on CD I got, which had Christianity, Islam, Judiasm, Buddhism, and Hinduism as subjects. But also the number of adherents, scope and teachings are important — it’s number two right now in terms of adherents. Also, while people focus on the extremists, the reality of Muslim history and practice is contrary to the extremists. Muhammad was a reformer who wanted to improve conditions for women and the poor (women didn’t have to wear veils or anything like that in public when Muhammad lived). And before the Ottomans, Islamic rationalism helped lead to great strides in science and philosophy, with the Islamic world far more tolerant of Jews and Christians than the European Christians were of Jews and Muslims. It’s just a shame that a mix of cultural stagnation thanks to the Ottomans and the acts of extremists make it hard to see Islam for what it really is and can be.

  5. #7 by plainlyspoken on December 11, 2011 - 00:31


    Seems like you’ve poked the hornet’s nest my friend. I suspect kott’s attitude stems from the right-wing, neo-nationalist views trying – once again – to rise in Germany and other parts of Europe.

    • #8 by Scott Erb on December 11, 2011 - 00:54

      Yeah, the Germans I know would not object to what I wrote. But I don’t hang around with the far right nationalist crowd!

  6. #9 by Mr Night on December 11, 2011 - 08:15

    Scott Erb stars in The Sixth Sense.

    “I see Nazis”

    “No, Scott, just turn away from the mirror”

  7. #10 by van gogh on December 11, 2011 - 09:27

    Dutch cartoonist killed?

    You mean Dutch filmmaker killed and Danish cartoonist threatened.

    Fuck Scott, I suppose all white guys look alike to you as well.

    Professor my big hairy ass.

    • #11 by Scott Erb on December 11, 2011 - 20:18

      I deleted this comment and have since learned that the poster is upset thinking I deleted it simply to cover up the fact I mistakenly had “Dutch cartoonist” instead of “filmmaker” in the original post.

      The reason it was deleted is it does not abide by my very liberal comment policy, which reads in part: “Mean spirited comments with no value may be deleted. Trolls — mean spirited commentary from people who do not give their proper e-mail address and name — will be deleted immediately. Anonymous comments that are meant to contribute to the discussion are allowed.”

      The profanity and insults and use of an alias to hide the person’s identity all contributed to this post not living up to the standards of this blog. I’ll leave this in only to clarify the comment policy.

      • #12 by Mike Lee on December 12, 2011 - 17:30

        What about the comments you delete that have no profanity?

      • #13 by Scott Erb on December 12, 2011 - 17:39

        Mike, no comment is deleted if it doesn’t violate the comments policy. Even profanity is not cause for deletion. In 4 1/2 years I’ve deleted less than a dozen comments, and if you take away some from a poster that for awhile was posting long political diatribes that I felt got in the way of real discussion, it’s probably less than five. The bottom line is that if someone has something substantive to say about an issue it’s allowed. The purpose is to avoid what used to be called ‘flame wars’ and trash talk that doesn’t really add to discussion.

  8. #14 by Juliano on December 11, 2011 - 11:14

    I presonally challenge all the huge membership popular belief systems which are sharing a patriarchal root, and hence this is where the ‘extremism’ comes from. Surely instead of blaming the extremists you must look at the very belief system itself?

    • #15 by Scott Erb on December 11, 2011 - 14:27

      There was a time when Islam was far more tolerant and advanced than the barbaric Christian world, and the West has a history of violence that includes the holocaust, world wars, colonialism and the destruction of culture, slaughters in South America. That’s not to criticize the West or Christianity now, only to note that politics and culture can give a variety of expressions to religious belief. There is nothing inherent in Islam that requires the conservative or extremist vision — there are many modern Muslims, and in fact Islamic rationalism helped start Europe on its path forward (then the rationalists were put down by the Ottomans). The Islamic faith will be here for centuries, just as will others. Trying to attack it is not only misguided but doomed to fail. The key is to help the Islamic world find a way into the modern world and adjusting its theology. Much of that will be us simply standing aside and letting them chart their own destiny, but with globalization spreading the half the Arab world under age 23, I think change is inevitable. I think American and European Muslims can play a very positive role and we should support them.

  9. #16 by Juliano on December 11, 2011 - 15:19

    I dont consider myself J-C-I nor Buddhist, nor Hindu, nor ‘secular/materialist’ etc. These are all stories people have drummed into them as children, and then they do it to their children. Same is so for the materialistic paradigm. For example the latter claims we are basically biochemical machines or ronots without free will, and that there is no essential meaning to life nor death, and the enforced schooling system drums this into millions of children everyday, as do the mass media etc. THAT I also challenge. I dont apologize for it, and I dont apologize for Christianity which presumes a ‘creator’ different from ‘HIS’ ‘creation’ which is dualistic, or for Islam–a term which literally means ‘submission’ to their similar montheistic conceot of ‘God’. I at least CAN challenge that belief here in the West, but even here you have to be very careful, as when even artists tried to explore islamic oppression, such as –not to sure how you link websites here, but Google ‘MURDERING ISLAM’S CRITICS: The Female Slaves and Theo Van …’ Theo van Gogh was murdered brutally on the street for simply exploring the oppression of women by people who promote Shariah law! And we have those Danish cartoonists in fear of their lives for daring to make fun of Islam. These are REAL events that effect real people and spread fear. Where were the ‘moderates’ up in arms about these extremists ‘besmirching’ their religion? Do you think they may have been too fearful to condemn such actions? Would some quietly agree, for after all Mohamid is their prophet, and don’t they robotically say ‘peace be upon him’ efverytime they mention his name?
    When I look at the israelie Palestinian conflict, I see stories people cling to which dictate their actions, and there IS no end to this until we question these stories and look for new ones that encourage a much deeper understanding, and we can ONLY do that when we demand freedom of inquiry. I have heard so-called ‘apostates’ can be lawfully murdered in some islamic interpretation of Shariah law.
    Over here, if you say ‘No!’ to authority we are seeing what happens also aren’t we. Military trained and dressed police armed with all manner of weapons and sprays which they will use against peaceful protesters. So me criticizing Islam is not JUST that story is the point I am making—I am looking a the rotten roots which connect what has happened and continues to happen on the world stage. If something is rotten dont you go to pull out the root? Or at least point to it?

    • #17 by Scott Erb on December 11, 2011 - 15:30

      I would argue that the Arab youth are trying to do that by taking to the streets and bringing change to their region. But politics is the art of the possible, and cultural change is slow. Moreover, it’s wrong to fixate on a few acts of extremists and connect them to the peaceful lives of hundreds of millions of Muslims world wide. Moderates have been condemning extremists on blogs and in the media, and right now there is a struggle starting in the Islamic world between those embracing modernism (whom I think are winning and in fact are destined to win) and those who reject it. If people condemn Islam as a whole, that actually helps the extremists by feeding into a meme that Islam can’t modernize. It may not westernize, but that’s OK – the west’s path to modernism isn’t the only one.

  10. #18 by Juliano on December 11, 2011 - 17:31

    How do you expect me to feel, a gay male, seeing gay males executed in Iran? LOVE Islamic culture? Do you think I love Texan Christian culture? Or our culture based on greed and doing wars, genocide, ecocide? dya think i want to encourage people bringing up their kids in these beliefs? Do you agree with circumcision for example?

    • #19 by Scott Erb on December 11, 2011 - 18:16

      My state is going to have a referendum on gay marriage next November, and I am optimistic it will pass. Things change, but slowly. I think the problem is we’re still in the ‘barbaric prehistory’ of human kind, and it’ll be generations before we overcome the worst. I just don’t think associating all of Islam with extremists in Iran helps. The same is true with associating all of Christianity with the fundies. The last gay wedding I attended was officiated by a Methodist Minister. So my focus is not on the religion as a whole, but on practices, and on helping those within fight to change practice. Most of the treatment of women in the Arab world comes from past Arab culture, much of which Mohammad tried to reform, but were brought back in the Hadiths after his death.

      So blameArab (orTexan) culture. Critiize practices. But avoid lumping all of one religion into the mix. There are gay Muslims, Muslims who drink alcohol, and Muslims opposed to fundamentalists.

  11. #20 by Jeff Lees on December 12, 2011 - 08:22

    Great post Scott. I hope that some of these retailers will reconsider their poor decision to remove their advertising.

  12. #21 by brucetheeconomist on December 12, 2011 - 16:05

    Wow! This really did stir up a hornet’s nest. This show sounds very positive.

    My assumption has always been that Muslims are mostly just folks just wanting to live their lives in peace, regardless of how you might interpret some passages in the Koran or their religous tradition.

    On the other hand, I’ve encoutered so many quotes and claims that supposedly show that Islam has some unique aspects of its oral or written doctraine that preclude any tolerance of infidels that I don’t know how to respond. For example, I’ve noted that the Bible has a number of stories where God commands the Israilites to effectively committ genocide (at least that’s what I’d call it.). In that way it seemed to me that Christianity/Judaism is arguably as violent as Isalm given that both have stories of peace and love offset with many acts of violence in God’s name.

    The counter that I don’t know how to respond to suggest that Islamic doctraine makes the most recent commandment control if their is a conflict with earlier doctraine, and the commandment to violence come last, and thus are the Islamic faith’s controlling doctraine now. Without more research into the Koran than I have time to do, I don’t know how to deny some creedence to the “Islam is violent” argument. Anyone more knowledgeable: please comment.

    That said, I think the refusal to sponsor a portrayal of Muslims is reprehensible. I do hope perhaps the program could explore what typical Muslims think their faith requires them to do to balance their faith and promotion of their faith with living in a majority non-muslim nation

    • #22 by Scott Erb on December 12, 2011 - 16:38

      I heard all those claims too, and since I have to teach about things like foreign policy, terrorism, and global politics I found it necessary to really investigate Islam. I think I read at least parts of a dozen books (one of the best is “No God but God,” by Reza Aslan) and even ordered a course on CD from the Great Lectures series. I’m still not an expert, but it convinces me that those negative parts of the Koran are misused by both people against Islam and Muslim extremists. Many of the worst (“Kill the infidels/polytheists while they sleep, tell them lies, etc.”) are easily explained as those were Muhammads commands to his community in preparation for attacks from the Quarysh (the Meccans who wanted to destroy Islam). They were never meant to be rules of thumb, they were specific instructions before a battle. Other rules (there should be no compulsion of religion, you should not fight an opponent if they do not want to fight, Christians and Jews should be given special respect and not persecuted) that are general paint a far more tolerant picture.

      Moreover, some of the worst social practices (sexism, etc.) came from the Hadiths after Muhammad’s death, sometimes undoing efforts earlier to improve the status of women. Ultimately like any such religion it is what its followers make it, so therefore I think the prudent thing is to do whatever possible to support those who are not following the extremist view, and not lump everyone into one image. If you want an enjoyable and informative book about Islamic history, I really recommend Aslan. The Great Courses series on Islam is excellent too — I ordered the whole great religions series and learned a lot while driving around listening to my CD player!

  13. #23 by Jeff Lees on December 13, 2011 - 02:47

    Certainly not an academic article, but very informative to those who think they know everything about Islam:


  14. #24 by Titfortat on December 15, 2011 - 02:08


    You do realize mohammed was a general?

    • #25 by Scott Erb on December 16, 2011 - 19:10

      Muhammad lead the Ummah, or the community of his followers. However, “General” doesn’t seem appropriate. He had been a caravan driver and only had to fight after the Quarysh from Mecca came to Medina to try to eliminate him and his followers. They had tried to kill him after his uncle (and protector) died, but he managed to get away. He did take the lead in combating the Quarysh, and ultimately defeated them. General denotes something more officially “military.”

  15. #26 by Titfortat on December 18, 2011 - 23:41

    Well, I guess there are other takes on whether or not he was or wasnt military? 😉


    • #27 by Scott Erb on December 19, 2011 - 03:11

      Well, it was 622 when Muhammad escaped Mecca and set up his community in Medina. It was 630 when he died. The Meccans went after him first, and the battles were between Muhammad and the Ummah and the Quarysh. Only in the final two years of his life did he engage in conflict with other tribes, often out of fear that they would attack. So I think the author overstates things. It clearly is true he wasn’t a pacifist like Jesus, and he did want to help the Arab people unite and overcome what he considered to be barbaric customs. Unfortunately he did not succeed in casting those customs aside.

  16. #28 by Alan Scott on December 19, 2011 - 00:40


    Your tolerant Muslims just beheaded a woman for sorcery in Saudi Arabia.


    ” There was a time when Islam was far more tolerant and advanced than the barbaric Christian world, and the West has a history of violence that includes the holocaust, world wars, colonialism and the destruction of culture, slaughters in South America. ”

    I can argue history with the best of them, but just how is ancient history relevant to today’s Islamic world ?

    • #29 by Scott Erb on December 19, 2011 - 03:04

      It means simply that times change. Islam has a lot of very intolerant people in the Mideast, much like Christians during the crusades or invading Latin America — or witch hunts, whatever. Islam is not going away, but the region is going through change. The intolerance that is there is based on politics and culture, not religion — religion will reflect a given culture. To attack the faith is counter productive. Work against practices, help moderates, and help the region undergo its own modernization. A lot of that “help” will be just to stay back and let them work through it, as messy as it might be.

  17. #30 by plainlyspoken on December 19, 2011 - 01:13

    As i commented on another blog several days ago:

    <blockquote.Has there ever been a “peaceful” conquest of another’s lands? Seriously, regardless of reason, when one group wants what another has they will violently take it and justify it under any reasoning they find useful.

    What positive aspect comes from this incessant argument of who is more wrong? There is enough blame to go around to all.

    Here is an article on American Thinker you could read: http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/12/the_lone_politician_who_stood_against_japanese_internment.html

    Just replace Japanese/Jap/Japs with Muslim/Muslims and realize the hate is the same now against them as against the Japanese then!

  18. #31 by Titfortat on December 19, 2011 - 17:11


    Like Christianity, Islam is not a monolith. I think it is important that we do look at the different sects of the Muslim community and see if that cultural belief is what we want for our own. To be wary of this is not Islamophobia, it is wise. Just like clitorectomies are a cultural belief from certain African nations, would we really want them to be part of our societies? The truth is much of the worlds Islamic nations are still stuck in the medieval mind frame. When you watch their religious group warfare it very much reminds us of the Hatfield and McCoys blood feud. Now, honestly, is it really a phobia to point out this truth? By the way, here in Canada we are dealing with a specific type of homicide called honour killings. We recently had a father, mother and son kill 4 female relatives because they dishonoured their family. That is one of the nasty parts of certain Islamic cultural beliefs. I know it is not across the entire religion but I do think it is something to be concerned with, wouldnt you agree?

    • #32 by Scott Erb on December 19, 2011 - 17:21

      It’s not of what we want for our own. The West is a cultural system that has emerged over centuries, as is the Islamic world. The two civilizations exist and will continue to exist. The Ottoman Empire took a vibrant progressive Islamic world and put it in a conservative deep freeze from which its now slowly emerging.

      What I think you’re risking her is ignoring the vast majority of Muslims who live without extremism (I have a number of Muslim friends how practice a modern form of the religion) in order to focus on a tiny number of cases like ‘honor killings’ as you point out. It’s a fallacy of ignoring the non-occurrence.’ The extremes get noticed, the millions of normal Muslims in every day life in the US and Canada don’t. Nobody wants extremism to come into our culture from any religion, and thus we’ll punish it. But the case was one of a group of extremists opposing a reality show that follows Muslims because they were “too normal.” That’s a group that doesn’t want average good normal Muslims — the vast majority in the US — to be seen as representative, they want to focus on the tiny number of extremists. They do that because they live in a world where they want to think they have the “right” religion, and everyone else is “wrong.”

      Now, go to Africa and the Arab world, they have a task of change and modernizing ahead that’s going to take generations. There are extremists there, fighting against the change, and there will be turmoil. I think that’s just the way history unfolds. The key is not to be anti-Islam, but against certain practices that often get attached to Islam — while recognizing that our allies are Muslims who also oppose those practices and embrace modernization.

  19. #33 by Titfortat on December 19, 2011 - 17:34


    I agree with much of what you say but you must remember that Islam is still relatively new to the west. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that our societies were originally more from the judeo\christian mindframe. I know that there is some overlap but it is still vital that we pay attention to the Islamic cultural belief systems that dont agree or fit within our framework. Much of Sharia law makes this idea clear. I am actually all for eliminating all religious stuff from the public sector. I think it is actually imperative for all our religious leaders to get together and draw from all our common lawful practices and put those into play. I feel this is the only way to limit the extremists from making such a nasty impact.

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