Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Xenophobia and Islamophobia in the USA
By Paul J. Balles
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 20, 2010
Paul J. Balles considers the mindset the ignorance,
irrationality and faulty reasoning behind xenophobia and its latest
manifestation in the United States and other Western countries, Islamophobia.
To generalize is to be an idiot. William Blake
Xenophobia is a fear or contempt of that which is foreign or unknown,
especially of strangers or foreign people. It includes hatred of persons
belonging to a different race, or different ethnic or national origin.
The fear or hatred that makes up xenophobia involves a great deal of
generalizing about "others".
Unfortunately, if you develop a mindset
about large numbers of people based on the actions of a few, you can treat
whole populations badly.
British historian Thomas Macaulay said: "In
proportion as men know more and think more they look less at individuals and
more at classes."
Generalizations involving xenophobia include
thoughts like "immigrants are not as worthy as natives", and "women are not
as capable as men".
There are those in America who consider Barak
Obama unworthy of being its president because of his colour, because his
father was not American by birth or because Obama's middle name is Hussain.
"Blaming a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is
anti-American. Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit
the building of a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal
building that McVeigh blew up?"
The mental degradation
as part of this generalizing applies to any and all who don't belong to the
tribe or group of the xenophobes.
Philosopher and author Eric Hoffer
observed that "We are more prone to generalize the bad than the good. We
assume that the bad is more potent and contagious."
Thus, by faulty
reasoning, if there is one bad black, all blacks are bad; and if one Muslim
has committed a crime, therefore all Muslims must be criminals.
special name Islamophobia applies to xenophobia involving Muslims; and
Islamophobia has been growing alarmingly in America recently.
knife-wielding lunatic attacked a Muslim taxi driver in New York City. Why?
The driver admitted to a drunk lunatic that he (the taxi driver) was a
The attacker reasoned from the specific (an attack attributed
to Muslims on 9/11) to the general (all Muslims were responsible).
mosque under construction in Tennessee suffered an arson attack. Why?
Comments by Islamophobes like Newt Gingrich have incited a general hatred of
Newt Gingrich, once the speaker of the US House of
Representatives, would naturally have others attaching greater credence to
what he says.
How many people has Gingrich fed anti-Muslim thinking
with his inflammatory public remarks about Islam? The false generalization:
if one Muslim is bad, all Muslims must be bad.
Florida Pastor Terry
Jones planned to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. Why?
He generalized from Muslims alleged to have been responsible for 9/11 to all
Documentary film-maker Michael Moore pointed out: "Blaming
a whole group for the actions of just one of that group is anti-American.
Timothy McVeigh was Catholic. Should Oklahoma City prohibit the building of
a Catholic Church near the site of the former federal building that McVeigh
Protesters have been assailing the building of an Islamic
cultural centre including a mosque near Ground Zero in New York. The
protestors disregard the fact that before Ground Zero became Ground Zero, it
had two mosques.
The problem: general and increasing Islamophobia.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 49 per cent of all Americans
say they have generally unfavourable opinions of Islam. A larger percentage
opposes the cultural centre.
Poet Ezra Pound wrote: "Any general
statement is like a cheque drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is
there to meet it." In other words, if the money isn't in the bank the cheque
Applied to the generalizations about Islam, if they
don't fit Muslims generally, they are worthless expressions of xenophobia
and the ignorant fear called Islamophobia.
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university
professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many
years. For more information, see