I have a new piece up at LobeLog on the Trump phenomenon and its ties with the wave of right-wing, populist-based Islamophobia we’ve seen growing throughout Europe and in the US. Research does show a correlation between increases in anti-Muslim incidents and the 2016 campaign:
This uptick in anti-Muslim activity seems to correlate with the onset of the 2016 campaign cycle. A study released in May by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative found that incidents of anti-Muslim violence began increasing in March 2015, which roughly coincided with the start of the primary campaign process. That study noted the degree to which anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim rhetoric played a role in the Republican primary in general, and focused on one candidate in particular: former reality TV star and current Republican nominee Donald Trump. As the Bridge Initiative study noted, Trump’s candidacy has combined a high level of Islamophobic rhetoric with a degree of free media coverage almost unprecedented in modern American politics, enabling his message to reach millions of people both in the U.S. and overseas. In a number of anti-Muslim incidents, the attackers have identified themselves as Trump supporters.
A series of surveys of American attitudes toward Muslims and Islam, authored by University of Maryland scholar Shibley Telhami and discussed at a Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland also held on October 20, seems to bolster the idea of a connection between the Trump campaign, and Republican Party politics in general, and the increase in Islamophobia in the U.S. The three surveys, taken in November 2015, May 2016, and June 2016 (shortly after the Orlando nightclub shooting) actually showed an overall increase in favorable American attitudes toward Muslims (from 53% to 58% to 62%) and favorable attitudes toward Islam (from 37% to 42% to 44%), even after the Orlando attack. But that shift was entirely driven by self-identified Democratic and independent voters. Self-identified Republicans, and particularly Trump supporters, saw their mostly negative views of Muslims and Islam remain constant or even grow slightly more negative.
Trump didn’t create anti-Muslim paranoia, obviously, but he’s certainly brought it further into the political mainstream, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Though more Americans have moved away from Islamophobia than toward it since Trump began his campaign, that figure has been inflated by the fact that Trump and Islamophobia are now identified with one another, so people who oppose Trump naturally gravitate in the opposite direction. When Trump is no longer around to serve as the bogeyman of the anti-Muslim cause, we should actually expect to see some people slide back toward more Islamophobic views.