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Wade Michael Page: Islamophobia unleashed

7 August 2012 Salon 10 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Wade Michael Page

Wade Michael Page

Wade Michael Page: Islamophobia unleashed

How much longer will we tolerate politicians who stoke bigotry like that which drove Wade Michael Page to kill?


Here are some of the things we know about Wade Michael Page: He led a “racist white power trio” called End Apathy; he had a tattoo commemorating 9/11; he shaved his head; and, on Sunday, he killed six individuals and wounded a police officer at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

We have yet to determine if Page mistook Sikhs for Muslims, but such questions are irrelevant. In today’s Islamophobic atmosphere, there has been increased marginalization of all AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian) communities. In particular, Sikh Americans have faced the brunt of post 9/11 hate crimes and backlash, with Sikh men often being mistaken for Muslims. The first, post 9/11 hate crime murder was of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Arizona, whom the murderer chose because he was“dark-skinned, bearded and wore a turban.”

This extremist violence and fear-mongering does not exist in a vacuum. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported the highest number of hate groups ever recorded in U.S. history, with nearly 1,018 active groups. Furthermore, anti-Muslim hate groupshave increased 300 percent in the last year, and the FBI reported a 50 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. The reasons for the record rise in hate groups are due to the faltering economy, changing racial dynamics in America leading to a minority-majority country, and the election of Barack Hussein Obama.

However, the reality according to the latest studies is that American Muslims help law enforcement, are more likely to reject violence than any other U.S. religious community, and nearly all American Muslims have no sympathy or loyalty for Al Qaeda.

Yet facts and evidence do not detract a paranoid fringe from indicting American Muslims or anyone who looks “Muslim-y,” including Arab American Christians, Iranian Jews and Sikh Americans.

On August 6, a second fire in less than five weeks burned down a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, most likely a result of a hate crime. Furthermore, a committed anti-Muslim contingency in Murfreesboro, Tennessee continues to impede the progress of a mosque construction belonging to an American Muslim community that has peacefully lived there for over three decades.

Despite President Obama publicly proclaiming Jesus Christ as his savior, attending Church, and celebrating Easter, nearly 17 percent of registered American voters still think our President worships Allah. Obama’s alleged “Muslimy-ness” continues to act as a smear, handcuffing “Muslim” to something deemed “foreign,” “hostile” and “anti-American.” Furthermore, Islam currently has its lowest favorability rating in America, even lower than the weeks following 9/11.

The cynical and deliberate baiting of ignorance, racism and Islamophobia by political players was exposed in an investigative report I worked on last year, “Fear Inc, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” produced by the Center for American Progress. My coauthors and I identified a lucrative cottage industry comprised of an interconnected, incestuous network of right-wing pseudo-scholars, policy experts, politicians and media pundits who have received nearly $43 million from seven funders to create and disseminate fear and misinformation against Muslims.

As an example, the exploitation of Sharia, or Islamic religious law, as being a fictional “threat to America” was used by nearly every major mainstream Republican candidate running for President, including Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty and the modern-day Islamophobic Nancy Drew, Michelle Bachmann.

Instead of using their position of influence to build bridges of understanding, Bachmann and four GOP colleagues recently decided to stoke the flames of fear-mongering by engaging in a witch huntagainst fellow Americans. Facts are not Bachmann’s strong suit. Instead, she continues the odious tradition of McCarthyism and relies on paranoia, hunches, and the prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country to justify smearing respected American Muslim individuals as being connected to radical Muslim organizations. Bachmann’s Islamophobia was appreciated by her Tea Party-base who rewarded her “dangerous” and “downright vicious” conspiracy theories with July donations totaling $1 million. (For perspective, Bachmann previously raised $1 million over a period of three months, April through June.)

To liberally misquote Mel Brooks’ “The History of the World”: “It pays to be an Islamophobe.”

On the other hand, a target of her witch hunt, long-time Secretary of State Hilary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, a recent mother no less, was forced to hire a security detail after receiving death threats.

In his perpetual, pathetic quest to remain relevant, Newt Gingrich continued to pander to the radical right of the Republican Party and slither towards ignominy by offering support for Bachmann’s McCartyhesque endeavor. To court his fringe base, Newt has likened Muslims to Nazis and vowed during his failed Presidential campaign to initiate loyalty oaths for American Muslims.

He heroically labeled Bachmann and her four accomplices as the “National Security Five,” which sounds like a radical rendition of Scooby Doo’s Mystery Inc.

Unlike the cartoon, however, these elected officials are not uncovering villains; rather, they are preying on innocent citizens scapegoated for their religious affiliation and ethnicity.

This is particularly shameful for Gingrich considering he helped set aside prayer space on Capitol Hill for Muslim congressional staffers in the late 1990s. Furthermore, he belongs to the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – featuring an all-star roster of Conservatives. Key Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, a “longtime friend”and consultant to Bachmann who feeds her anti-Muslim, conspiratorial evidence, asserts CPAC has been infiltrated by radical Islam.

This revelation should inspire Congressman Peter King, R-NY, who serves as the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee,to host yet another congressional hearing, this time, however, exposing the infiltration of the Republican Party by Mr. Gingrich, obviously the Muslim Brotherhood’s Manchurian Candidate.

King relies on key members of the Islamophobia network for his inaccurate information on American Muslim communities, including the discredited claim that over 85 percent of American mosques and its religious leaders are radicalized. In the past, King has also claimed there are “too many mosques” in America. King also falsely claimed that 90 percent of terrorist crimes are carried out by Muslims. In the U.S., 56 percent of terrorist attacks and plots have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, 30 percent by eco-terrorists and 12 percent by Islamic extremists.

Yet, King is still allowed to chair congressional hearings on American Muslims. That’s like asking Dan Cathy, the homophobic president of Chick-fil-A, to host a hearing on LGBT issues, or asking Mel Gibson to chair a hearing on Jewish American communities.

In a perfect world, we would readily dismiss these cynical politicians as amusing cartoon characters who say nutty things cueing a laugh track that prompts us to mock them. Sadly, they are elected officials and political players with a sizeable constituency deliberately misinforming their base, keeping them ignorant and afraid, and inciting paranoia and radical sentiment for sake of short term political gain and publicity.

Unfortunately, a tremendous negative externality emerges from such ill-gained profit. As we have seen time and time again, extremist rhetoric inspires extremist violence.

Anders Breivik, the anti-Muslim, Norwegian murderer who killed 77 people last year, left behind a 1,500 page manifesto frequently citing the writings and ideology of the American Islamophobia network. Upon reviewing the manifesto, counter-terrorism expert Marc Sagemen said the Islamophobes’ “writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

“This rhetoric,” he added, “is not cost free.”

The senseless murder of six Sikh Americans was the tragic cost of hate-monger’s perverse ideology rationalizing violence against innocent civilians.

Perhaps it is time we turn the tables and expose the enablers and disseminators of divisive, fear-mongering rhetoric that has no place in today’s fragile and racially sensitive environment. Let Bachmann and company enjoy their short term profit in the dustbins of history, seated next to ideological allies like Joseph McCarthy, as the rest of us move forward as communities united against hate.

Wajahat Ali is a playwright, attorney, journalist and essayist. He is currently writing a pilot with Dave Eggers about an American Muslim cop from the Bay Area and working on his first movie screenplay with filmmaker Josh Seftel (“War Inc.”) He is co-editor of the anthology “All American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim”, which published in June 2012. His award-winning play“The Domestic Crusaders,” was published by McSweeney’s in 2011. He is the lead author of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.”MORE WAJAHAT ALI.


  1. Wouldn’t it be better to wait before you start pushing the islamophobia agenda? It might be the case that it is mistaken identity but he would have to be a particularly stupid man to have immersed himself in white supremacism for years yet not be able to tell the difference between muslims and sikhs. White supremacists tend to be, well, white supremacists, non whites are their figures of hate, maybe he thought a sikh temple was a soft target.

    “Anders Breivik, the anti-Muslim, Norwegian murderer who killed 77 people last year, left behind a 1,500 page manifesto frequently citing the writings and ideology of the American Islamophobia network. Upon reviewing the manifesto, counter-terrorism expert Marc Sagemen said the Islamophobes’ “writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

    When muslims murder people they often cite the writings and ideology of mohammed.

  2. Muslims kill in the name of their religion, quoting scriptures, allahu akbar, etc. This guy lived near this temple and they were non white so yeah, he thought it was an easy handy target. Suicide plus homicide maybe appealed to him.

    What do the SPLC have to say about this I wonder. We tracked the guy for 10 years, we tracked him real good. I saw a bit of one of his rels. I still blame it on family members not being in enough contact.

  3. I think it’s shameful the way some Muslims try to piggyback onto attacks on non-Muslims to twist those attacks to make Muslims the victims.Those who died in Norway and Wisconsin were NOT Muslim. The author of this rant seems also to not like the American system of government or the first amendment right to free speech. If you don’t like Bachmann and King they have to face the voters every two years. Campaign to get them out of office.

  4. There does, however, tend to be a trend of people mistaking Sikhs for Muslims. There is precedent. And with all the sites out there proclaiming Islam as the ultimate enemy of America, he may have thought that if he were to kill non-whites, he would choose Muslims. I’m just saying, there is precedent for it. Regardless of intentions though, it is still horrible when hate fuels such violence.

  5. I wonder if he was inspired by the Aurora shooter.

  6. “I wonder if he was inspired by the Aurora shooter”

    The Aurora murderer you mean. I guess Page could have seen how easy it is to cause carnage with easily purchased weapons. Page was a white supremacist, it was that appalling ideology which warped him.

  7. What a disgusting, toxic environment we as human beings live in today, although I do disagree with the title of this article being “Wade Michael Page: Islamophobia unleashed” when the it goes on to say “We have yet to determine if Page mistook Sikhs for Muslims, but such questions are irrelevant.”

    While Muslims are unfairly hated in the USA (and some other countries) on average, it’s possible that this sick man just wanted to kill some “foreigners”.

    I mean, my first thought upon hearing about this shooting was “he probably thought they were Muslims”, I still feel there’s a reasonable chance that he just wanted to go put some lead into some “mud-skinned foreigners trying to ruin the white race” or whatever those Stormfront folk think

  8. The man was a hater. Most of the people of his ilk would just as soon attack or rant on any group that is not white. However, most of them do not turn into mass murderers. If people are concerned about them being watched the government has quite a few informants inside these groups of people. That is why they have been able to take some cells down before incidents take place. This seems to be the act of a lone individual whom his doctor had turned into the police suspecting he was going to do something violent. Somehow this man slipped through the cracks and killed a bunch of people. It is the people who work as individuals that are hardest to stop.

  9. Hera,
    I guess you can’t read.

    “I think it’s shameful the way some Muslims try to piggyback onto attacks on non-Muslims to twist those attacks to make Muslims the victims”.
    Really? Where? the author did not mention the Muslims as victims he is talking about the sikhs being attacked because they are mistaken for Muslim. Its basically just saying its wrong to stereotype.

    Btw, the Muslims have had their countries invaded long b4 9/11. You have a childish way of looking at the world. Why then does it come as a surprise when they throw a bomb back? Go back through history from the rise of Islam. Violence between Jews and Muslims started because the Jews broke every single treaty with the Muslims. Violence between Muslims and the Christian Byzantine Empire started because the Christians killed a Muslim ambassador (a war crime today). And Israel today has displaced 40 million Muslims from their home in Palestine. They deny 1000 years on the history of Palestine and teach their children . They convince the world through their large control of the media that they are the one’s being oppressed. Oooh ooh look at Hamas! Yeah lame excuse considering Hamas is a response to being driven from your homes and murdered for a half century. And you claim the Muslims play the victims? America is the biggest oppressor in the world attacking every country around it. Yet you only look at the world from the comfort of your couch. Why not take a trip to Israel and see the walls they are building to prevent the Palestinians from ever returning to their homes. America supports the real terrorists. Problem is you just wont admit it.

  10. M Bennett, so once again the muslims aren’t responsible for anything?

    40 million muslims displaced from Israel? Utter nonsense.

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