Nosalski 1 Jessica Nosalski Marcia Hermansen Theology 295 -001 28 January 2014 Islamophobia: A Jihad Many Muslims Face
in America America’s history is filled with a variety of diverse people; immigrants from all over the world came, and are still coming, to fulfill a vision of a happier life for themselves and their families. America’s history is also full of unfair treatment toward individuals based on a variety of traits, including religious preference. And while it may be easier to believe that we have truly conquered these issues, it is an unavoidable lie to say that all individuals within America are now treated fairly, especially in the case of Muslim-Americans. Islamophobia describes the negative sentiment and prejudice that may be associated with Muslim-Americans or any group that may even appear to be Muslim; the causes for this unfair treatment are numerous. Islamophobia within America is a complex issue that involves media, Muslims, and the general public; it is a battle that America must vanquish to become the ideal place that it aspires to be. Acts and sentiments of Islamophobia are most seen throughout the general public; what fuels these feelings are “inputs from mass media, both historical and current…[Muslims] have been vilified in images, cartoons, films, and television for many decades” (Zaal 556). The Council on American Islamic Relations in 2013 also reported that there were at least 37 American based groups “whose pr imary purpose is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims” (CAIR Legitimizing Fear). Media within America usually portrays Muslims as violent or barbaric people and when this material is viewed at a young age, these negative stereotypes may resonate subconsciously within individuals. Many Americans will believe and perpetuate this negative and false view of all Muslims because this is what they have been told is the norm. Ali Asani argues that these stereotypes ultimately make individuals think Muslims “are not human beings…they don’t have the same feelings as normal
Nosalski 2 human beings…hence you can get away with treating them how you want” (Asani 38). While stereotyping is already a negative action, it is the violence and discrimination that may result from Islamophobia that is truly worrisome. The Council on American Islamic Relations has reported seeing a rise in “civic rights violations targeting Muslims in the workplace, at religious i nstitutions, and in schools” (Zaal 556); it appears that the number is rising as years progress. These negative stereotypes affect Muslims in many different ways. Many individuals often feel targeted because they feel as though they do not truly fit in. Some Muslims felt that they did not want to “be burdened with educating others about their faith or to defend their religion or ethnicity…[and some Muslims] described feeling alienated when peers promoted stereotypes about Islam” (Zaal 557). In a country that supposedly advocates democracy and tolerance all around the world, 78 bills with “negative implications towards Islamic religious practices were introduced in 29 states between 2011 and 2012” (CAIR Legitimizing Fear) within America. American citizens of all backgrounds must be willing to stand by the principles that they preach. Many possible solutions to Islamophobia should be based on educating individuals; not only on Islam but also knowledge of other major religions and cultures. Advocating tolerance for all religions or lack thereof is crucial in diminishing Islamophobia and also allows America to prosper. If individuals are knowledgeable about the religion, they will be able to separate between the truth and the stereotypes. Many people who are Islamophobic because they do not have much knowledge about Islam; there is a shroud of mystery concerning Islam to many members of the general public and this causes people to be apprehensive. After acquiring education, religious individuals may find similarities between Islam and their own personal religion which may form a connection between them. Those without religion or who are unsure of their stance will understand the tenants of Islam and hopefully become tolerant of Islam, thus eliminating effects of Islamophobia. Communication between both parties is vital in maintaining equal treatment and tolerance. Proper education will also teach individuals to question what they are witnessing within the media, which will help dispel the myths surrounding Islam.
Nosalski 3 The term Muslim-Americans is a blanket term that refers to the collection of all Muslim groups and cultures that are present within America. With all of these diverse groups, it is important not to “homogenize… the experiences of Muslims across the country” (Zaal 556). Interpretations of Islam are not the same for everyone that calls themselves a Muslim; it is important for citizens to not merely dislike or be fearful of Muslims simply because they are ignorant of religions that are not their own. Ending Islamophobia will allow Muslims to have the equal treatment that they and every other citizen deserve. America is known throughout the world for being the country that upholds life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – may it also be known for diversity, equality, and justice.