The Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project (IRDP), a CRG research initiative, hosted its second international conference on April 21-22.
Conference presenters examined how Islamophobic content has been produced and shaped within media discourse, including news, television, film, and the internet. Presenters discussed how racism intentionally directed at Muslims/Arabs has become a sanctioned discourse, citing the 2010 midterm election season as a high point in this trend. For example, conference convener Hatem Bazian asserted that the wrongly labeled "ground zero mosque," which, as Bazian contends, was neither at ground zero, nor was it a mosque, was utilized as a wedge issue to peel away voters from the Democratic base and cause a landslide loss for the Democratic Party.
Scholars made a case that Islamophobia should be understood as a potent political tool that is used to exploit fear, creating a rationalization for unprecedented growth of the "national security state." Highlightin parallels between anti-black racism and Islamophobia, presenters discussed the similarities between the infamous 1980s Willie Horton advertising campaign, which was used to justify "get tough on crime" legislation and the exponential growth of prisons, and the Islamophobic media representations, which are leveraged to justify the militarization of U.S. society. Presenters identified individuals and institutions that perpetuate Islamophobia, the goals of Islamophobic production, and the political interests being served by this production, maintaining that it’s particularly vital to understand the production process in anticipation of how Islamophobia will be wielded in the 2012 election season. This annual conference will reconvene in April, 2012 to continue to broaden understandings of and challenges to Islamophobia.
IRDP and its partners are preparing to launch the Islamophobia Studies Journal, a bi-annual peer reviewed academic periodical focusing on emerging research on and analysis about the nature of Islamophobia and its impact on culture, politics, media, and the lives and experiences of Muslim people. The inaugural issue will be available in September 2011 and will feature papers from this conference. IRDP is also working with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to publish a report which evaluates the impact of Islamophobia on U.S. media and political culture.