Thursday, August 26, 2010

Exasperating poll shows rising anti-Muslim bigotry in US

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The Economist has the results of a poll on whether or not Americans think Muslims can or should, legally or morally, build the proposed Park51 Islamic cultural center two blocks north from Ground Zero (the notorious and misleadingly labeled “Ground Zero Mosque”). The results are pretty much what you’d expect – not that it makes them any more pleasant.

Here’s what Americans believe regarding the legality of the matter:

People who think Muslims have a constitutional right to build a mosque near Ground Zero
People who think Muslims have a constitutional right to build a mosque near Ground Zero

Of course, the only acceptable answer is a resounding “yes”. There are absolutely no laws, rules or zoning restrictions prohibiting anyone from building a community center, or even a dedicated house of worship, in the area where Park51 is to be established. Not only that, but such a thing as the First Amendment, which guarantees everyone’s equal right to religious liberty regardless of ethnic or religious creed, basically ensures that any attempts made to prevent Park51 from being built would, themselves, be unconstitutional and quite possibly illegal.

Notice the usual split between party lines. I’m quite disappointed to see that so many Democrats (~ 42.5%) are also that ignorant of the law if they don’t know the obvious answer. The same cannot be said for the Republicans, though, seeing as how we all know the majority of them are legally illiterate, anyway, something they throw into relief whenever they get emotionally charged.

Next, The Economist asks people to enter their viewpoint into one of three possible answers:

How people feel about the “Ground Zero Mosque” affair
How people feel about the “Ground Zero Mosque” affair

So that’s just about a full half of Americans who don’t believe that Muslims have the same right as any other religious people to build their houses of worship wherever they want. And a full 14% (~ 43 million) think that Muslims shouldn’t be building any more mosques at all anywhere in the US.

Whilst regrettable and depressing, this climate of bigotry is the predictable result of a wretched mixture of faux-patriotism, lingering bigotry and fear-mongering gone awry. As Ed Brayton says it well:

Absolutely depressing. And it only feeds into the narrative that the Islamic radicals are trying to sell to Muslims around the world. I never cease to be amazed by how cowardly and authoritarian the American people can be if you make them just a little bit afraid, and especially if some demagogue whips them up into an emotional reaction.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)