One would think that Islamophobia in the United States is mainly rooted in the 9/11 attacks. While these played the role of bringing it into the public eye and giving it an exposure it never had before, the seeds for widespread Islamophobia have been rooted in American society for decades. At least since the first part of the twentieth century.
Starting in the 1930s there was a large influx of anti-Islamic imagery in cartoons and in feature films. A typical example was the 1960 Paul Newman film Exodus, which was about the foundation of Israel. In this movie the Palestinians are portrayed as Nazi collaborators. This was clearly a propaganda piece designed to engage a largely uninterested American Jewish community in the building of the state of Israel. There was a period when these kinds of films were made to bring a sense of identity with the many Jews in the United States that were largely uninterested in the happenings in the Middle East, as a way to garner support for the establishment of Israel.
With the American public already prepared to demonize Islam, the media's focus on terrorism in the 90s and the attacks of 9/11 resulted in Islamophobia turning into a viable political strategy. The public's craze with terrorist cells in the United States and the possible repetition of this kind of attack made the first decade of the 21st century the decade of Islamophobia in the United States. Even in the 1990s thee is evidence of wrongful incarceration for many Muslim leaders, based in the widespread terrorist hysteria and the escalating violence in the Middle East.
Even then, it took 9/11 to bring this hysteria and Islamophobia to the institutions and congress. The fact is that, while 9/11 brought Islam into the public eye, American attitudes in regards to Islam did not really change. There was always an extremely negative view of Palestinians and Islam in general. Ironically, it was George W. Bush that publicly spoke against Islamophobia at the United States National Cathedral, which has not been done since then.
So what is to blame for today's rampant Islamophobia in the American media? It may be something as simple as president Barack Obama's middle name (Hussein.) As the republicans find ways to attack the president in an effort to reclaim the White House, they have latched on to this aspect of Barack Obama as an easy way to turn the American public against him. These attacks on Islam and on American Muslims are really part of a planned-out political strategy aimed at the 2012 elections. As they harbor this ridiculous idea that Barack Obama is a Muslim, they identify all Muslims as representatives of the democratic party and the presidency. This kind of misconception is not surprising, even this far into his presidency, more than half of Americans have responded to a poll saying that they do not believe Barack Obama is an American citizen.
-- Al Arabiya Digital