Anti-Islamic Rhetoric On The Rise: Is Free Speech Taking Aim At Religious Freedom? It's happening not just in New York, but all around the country. Protests targeting mosques and Islamic gathering places, similar to those against the proposed Muslim community center near ground zero, are on the rise.

Religious Freedom, Free Speech Face Off Nationwide

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NPR's David Schaper now has more on some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric increasing around the country.

DAVID SCHAPER: Local opposition to new mosques is nothing new, but usually - at least publicly, anyway - the critics complain about increased traffic, noise, and more traditional zoning concerns.

Unidentified Man: We want our country back!

Unidentified People: Yeah!

SCHAPER: But in Temecula, California recently, protesters weren't shy at all about saying exactly why they don't want this proposed mosque.

Ms. CYNTHIA DAUM: I don't care for their religion. I don't care for their politics.

SCHAPER: Cynthia Daum was one of about two dozen protesters.

Ms. DAUM: I don't want them here opening mosques in every city, trying to open it up on Ground Zero in New York, where they killed thousands and thousands of people. They don't belong here. They don't belong here.

SCHAPER: Though supporters of the mosque outnumbered opponents in Temecula that day 3-1, such anti-Islamic sentiment appears to be on the rise. There have been similar protests against mosques in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.

And it's not just mosques being targeted, but increasingly the Muslim faith itself. A church in Gainesville, Florida is planning a burn the Quran day on September 11th. In Tennessee, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey suggested last month Islam is a cult and may not be protected by the First Amendment.

And in Indiana, Republican congressional candidate Marvin Scott is making fighting Muslim extremism one his main campaign principles. He's challenging Andre Carson, one of just two Muslim members of Congress. And Scott often portrays all Muslims as extremists.

Mr. MARVIN SCOTT (Republican Congressional Candidate, Indiana): The question becomes, when are young people indoctrinated into the Muslim ideal and how much are they willing to carry out. I mean, it's no different than the Japanese kamikazes.

Mr. REZA ASLAN (Author): I cannot think of a time in which anti-Islamic sentiment has been higher than it is today.

SCHAPER: Muslim scholar and author Reza Aslan says the anti-Muslim fervor in this country is even greater now than it was after September 11th, 2001. He believes part of it comes out of recent attempted terrorist acts in this country, such as the failed Times Square car bombing. Aslan and others also point to anxiety over the poor economy as another factor.

Mr. ASLAN: But I think the truth of the matter is that there has been certain television networks, news networks, and certain politicians, Republican and Democrat, who have really latched on to this paranoia, this fear of Muslims in the United States and have done so for economic and political gain.

SCHAPER: And that has many Muslims in this country worried. Aminah McCloud is the director of the Islamic World Studies program at Chicago's DePaul University. She says the anti-Islamic rhetoric is appalling and inaccurate and she worries it could incite violence, as happened in Nazi Germany.

Ms. AMINAH MCCLOUD (Director, Islamic World Studies): To see the rhetoric that enabled people who had good sense to give over to it beginning again scares me to death.

SCHAPER: Human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar, founder of, fears the country is turning into what he calls the United States of Islamophobia.

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR ( For millions and millions of us who were born and raised in this country, who have known no other home other than the United States, we're starting to feel like Albert Camus, we're starting to feel like strangers in a strange land now, and you know, that's something that is, you know, patently un-American.

SCHAPER: Iftikhar and others say the anti-Muslim rhetoric threatens one of this country's fundamental rights - freedom of religion. But Muslim Americans say they're encouraged by the support they're getting from Americans of other religious faiths. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and many other religious organizations have denounced the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric. And many local churches have come out in support of the building of mosques in their communities.

David Schaper, NPR News.

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