The New McCarthyism: Islamophobia, American Muslims & the Progressive Response – Begins July 22nd



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This three week course gives an insider’s candid perspective on Islamophobia and American Muslims, and the implications for progressives of all faiths and none. Drawing from his professional experience working with Islamic nonprofits, his scholarly expertise in the history of religion, and his background in political conservatism Jason Van Boom will provide a fascinating analysis of the current socio-religious climate in relation to Islam.

In Van Boom’s assessment, Islamophobia is McCarthyism 2.0. It is a recycling of an older paranoia, reshaped for a new target:  American Muslims. Although American Muslims bear the immediate brunt of this prejudice, the biggest danger is the threat that Islamophobia presents to all Americans. It is well-funded “wedge issue” that rationalizes militaristic foreign policies and creates precedents for weakening civil liberties. Because Islamophobia is a threat to a sane foreign policy and to civil liberties that progressives should be concerned about it.

Fighting Islamophobia does not mean no one can criticize Islam. The Enlightenment heritage of free critical inquiry is central to modern democracy. Islamophobia differs from philosophical criticism of a religion because of its extreme exaggerations in the service of prejudice. Islamophobes hijack legitimate questions about Islam and politics, create a cartoon parody of Islam, and launch character attacks on non-fundamentalist Muslims. The end result of Islamophobia is hysteria about an “enemy within.” The simple act of buying a turkey from a Muslim grocer becomes a threat to national securty. Ironically, however, political correctness strengthens Islamophobia. Attempts to ignore the real issues about Islam and politics, or trying to guilt trip people from speaking their minds, can only backfire.

At the end of the course, Van Boom outlines a five practical, realistic steps progressives can take to combat Islamophobia and protect peace and liberty.



  • a contributing author to All American:  45 American Men on Being Muslim (White Cloud Press, June 2012);
  • Founder and original host of Islam and Authors, the first American program on new books about Islam and Muslims;
  • an American Muslim with professional experience working for Muslim nonprofits against Islamophobia;
  • one of the first Muslims to be a professional historian of Christianity;
  • gives graduate level courses on Christian and Islamic history at Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley;
  • co-founder and director of Nicholas of Cusa Institute, a think tank and academic research organization that specializes in issues of political and cultural identity;
  • A blogger at Huffington Post and Tikkun Daily, and a correspondent for ILLUME Magazine, an award winning media organization that covers news from an American Muslim perspective.
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