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Clarence Page: Islamophobia in word and deed

BY CLARENCE PAGE Published: December 7, 2012
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That's the central theme of “Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America,” Patel's new instructive and beautifully written memoir on how post-9/11 fears and suspicions affected him as a Muslim, born in Mumbai, India, 37 years ago and raised in suburban Chicago.

The book recounts his personal journey through the often-boiling pot of America's ethnic diversity, beginning with his shock and dismay over the backlash against Cordoba House in the summer of 2010. The proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan would have an interfaith theme, open to all, much like the YMCA or a Jewish Community Center.

But you may know it better as the “Victory Mosque at Ground Zero.” Although the site was two blocks from Ground Zero and not a mosque — although the facility, renamed Park51, includes a carpeted prayer room — the inflammatory label was posted by conservative firebrand blogger Pamela Geller — and picked up by the New York Post, Fox News and other media as an insult to the site where 3,000 Americans were killed by Muslim fanatics. Suddenly, the father of the project, Imam Feisal Abdul Raul, a well-known proponent of better interfaith relations who had condemned the Sept. 11 attacks, was being smeared as a terrorist conspirator.

And Patel even came across his own name described in the anti-Muslim blogosphere as a “Muslim terrorist.” A year earlier, he had been named by US News and World Report as one of “America's Best Leaders” for promoting interfaith cooperation. But all Muslims look alike to some knuckleheads. That's how Islamophobia works. When the tag fits, wear it.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES