By Amitabh Pal on May 07, 2014

A new report shows that Islamophobia is metastasizing on the Internet. After anti-Muslim sentiment crystallized in 2010 around the construction of an Islamic interfaith center in Manhattan, there’s been a sharp increase in such feelings.

“In recent years, we have seen hate groups and anti-Muslim activists use the Internet and social media platforms to spread hate,” Madihha Ahussain, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates and lead author of the report, tells me. “For example, Pamela Geller, a well-known anti-Muslim proponent who has her own blog, had 19,000 supporters on Facebook last summer. Today, less than a year later, she has over 78,000 supporters.”

The report is entitled, “Click Here to End Hate: Anti-Muslim Bigotry Online & How to Take Action.” It mentions several hate groups.

There’s Act! for America, led by Brigitte Gabriel, who, the New York Times reports, “presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion.” Her outfit claims to have roughly 875 chapters and 279,000 members nationwide. Its Facebook page has almost 84,000 likes.

The United States Defense League, dedicated to “exposing Shariah law,” has nearly 23,000 likes for its page.

A blog named Bare Naked Islam has a reported 51 million hits since 2008.

The report does a good job of highlighting disturbing use of social media by elected representatives.

“It's quite troubling to see the extent of hate online, particularly when it comes from public officials and public figures that are using their personal Facebook pages or social media accounts to encourage violence against American Muslims,” Ahussain says. “It's clear that anti-Muslim bigotry online is alive and well on these various social media platforms.”

The report cites the case of a Tennessee county commissioner, Barry West, who posted a Facebook picture of a man aiming his gun with one eye closed. The photo was captioned: “How to Wink at a Muslim.”

And there is the online spewing of hate by public commentators. After the April Fort Hood shooting, Patrick Dollard, a documentary filmmaker and past Breitbart News contributor, tweeted, “If there is even one more act of Muslim terrorism, it is then time for Americans to start slaughtering Muslims in the streets, all of them.” In the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombings, Fox news contributor Erik Rush was more succinct: “Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.”

Ahussain and her colleagues recommend some things that can be done to fight such hate without violating free speech.

“The report focuses on two methods of responding to hate online: using the tools that Internet companies have put in place to report content that violates their policies, and engaging in counterspeech,” Ahussain says. “Many of the leading companies have policies specifically dedicated to hate speech on their platforms and they look to us, the users, to report the content.”

“Also, counterspeech has been a powerful antidote to bigotry that can completely transform a hate-fueled conversation into something productive and positive,” she adds. “We were inspired by the research surrounding counterspeech and how powerful it can be. In research that Twitter shared with us for the report, we saw that social media users often use ridicule and humor to drown out hate and we hope that this report will encourage others to do the same.”

As an example, the report cites the barrage of online hate received by the current Miss America Nina Davaluri (actually of Hindu background) when she won the contest last year. Some of the offenders actually apologized when challenged.

Ahussain wants the White House to address such bigotry.

“We recommend that the White House convene a national-level dialogue on hate against religious communities,” she says, “and invite Internet companies to participate in discussions about how to address this issue.”

Recent events have proven the report’s relevance.

“Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures,” Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is reported to have said in remarks that leaked public in the past few days. “They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship.”

And California GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly recently reposted on his Twitter account an article accusing primary opponent Neel Kashkari (again, of Hindu ancestry) of assisting in the imposition of Shariah law when he was part of the Treasury Department in the Bush Administration.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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