Why, when most people think of terrorists, do they assume Ahmed, Mohammed, and Nader and not Aaron, Michael, or Nathan? Not every terrorist is of Arab descent or even a Muslim, but to many people in America, if you have a foreign sounding name that could be Middle Eastern, you are automatically thought of as being a “potential terrorist.” Too many Americans continue to perceive Arabs and/or Muslims as terrorists, therefore causing severe injustice to the entire group.

Balayla Ahmad, a student at University of Bridgeport made national news last year when she reported being sexually assaulted by another student. The harassment had been going on for years, but when reported she didn’t get the response she was expecting. Instead of the student being reprimanded for his assault, Ahmad was turned into the FBI on suspicion of terrorism for being an American Muslim woman. In 2009, she was asked by a security guard if she had gone through proper procedures of reporting the sexual harassment, and then was told that there were allegations of her being a terrorist; the student she reported on for sexual assault had spread rumors about her being a terrorist. The place of privilege from which he spoke, as a straight white male in America, undoubtedly affected the college’s acceptance of his accusations; when Balayla tried to tell her side of the story, not only was she silenced as a survivor of sexual assault, but she was also silenced as a Muslim. Ahmad claims the college is being racist; the college “profoundly disagrees with the erroneous and misleading allegations that have been made.”

Racism comes in all forms, it doesn’t matter if it is the way you look, the way you dress, the way you speak, or even if it is subtly written into a seemingly innocent pep-talk.

Saad Allami who lives in Canada, has also been labeled a terrorist, all because of a harmless text message. Text messaging seems to be the number one go-to for communication; especially in the work force when everything seems to be so hectic. Allami was accused of being a terrorist by police because a text message of “blow away your competition” to his colleague was misinterpreted; he was only giving his co-worker a boost of confidence. The same statement has been or will be used by everyone at some point. How is it that when this man wrote it in a harmless text he was labeled as a terrorist? While he has not yet been formally charged as a terrorist, on his permanent record he is a suspected terrorist and has since been fired and also because of it, he can no longer get a job.

Unlike the two people above, this man’s story actually has a happy ending, although it undoubtedly difficult for him to get to where he is today. Farouk Ali-Haimoud, who lives in Detroit Michigan, has had to travel a very hard road to get his name cleared of allegations of being a terrorist. After September 11, 2001, Ali-Haimoud was accused of being a terrorist and was jailed for 15 months in Wayne County Jail. Not only was he left in jail and accused for actions he never committed, but he was also assigned to isolation and strip searched often.  He was discriminated against ad utterly humiliated. He was subjected to countless federal court dates, and was misnamed. Fox news kept his picture up on the news when they spoke of terrorists, but erroneously named him Youssef Hmimssa. Not only did they have the wrong man, they also had the wrong name. His family was basically ruined after the false accusations. Ali-Haimoud fought rigorously for his freedom in the face of accusations of commiting “the worst crimes on the planet” and a potential life sentence. At the end of 2011, he was finally granted American citizenship. There is no doubt that Ali-Haimoud’s experiences with blatant injustice have everything to do with his religious affiliation. Instances like this represent a major failure of the American system and highlight the ways that cultural bias against Islam and Muslims embedded in the media has directly caused a great deal of discrimination and inequality.

One subtle way that news reports influence the way people perceive Islam and Muslims is by the language it uses to describe crimes. For any affiliation, religious or otherwise, other than a Muslim one, a person who commits an act of violence is merely a criminal, but someone who self-identifies as a Muslim commits the very same act, news media is quick to label the person a “terrorist.”

This inconsistent nomenclature embeds into the minds of the masses that Muslims are terrorists, thereby enabling and encouraging a great amount of injustice for those perceived to be Muslims across America. As consumers of news media, we must become increasingly aware of this bias in the hopes of diminishing and eventually stopping the injustice that has affected people like Balayla, Saad and Farouk.

 


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.


6 COMMENTS

  1. i missed my flight yesterday at SFO, because of some ignorant people working for Lufthansa, the German company, from all the people, Germans, you think they would learn from the WWII…i had one-way ticket to India, transiting through Germany. One ignorant/angry tkt agent wanted to sell another round-trip ticket to me just incase if I would stay in Germany and not coming back and she was telling me i need visa for Germany…in my passport it is stated birth place, Afghanistan…ignorant/uneducated people they don’t know that Afghanistan has nothing to do with terror…they were victims in the hand of Taliban for 6 years and I’ve lived in the US for almost 40 years and why would i leave California and live in a cold/unfriendly place…bottom line, people are fooled and brained wash by media, they believe in just anything that they see on the news and generalize it…this comment has nothing to do with intelligent German people. It is just that people in some companies are driven to make money at any cost…they are not intelligent or helpful, unaware of the customer need. The woman at the tkt counter of Lufthansa was just pushing another ticket on me…with an American passport, I always buy a one-way ticket when I travel abroad…never had any problem with any company, but Lufthansa…these type of ignorant people need to educate themselves about the people first before they deal with public…superficial yes mam and no mam is not politeness or customer service…solve the problem and don’t insult the customer…these type of low self esteem individuals individuals with inferiority sugar coated with superiority, should not be in charge or work customer service. To them money come first and people second…by the way, with an American passport i don’t need visa for most places in the world, especially when you transit…

  2. I came to this website to find information on why Muslims are so wrongly accused of being terrorists this website is falsely titled. This website just gives examples on how they’re falsely accused as terrorists.

  3. Really. This is sad. Because of a few Muslims terrorists others innocent Muslim people are being targeted. C’mon guys lets change our narrow mentality and lets try and make our world a better place. I know its not easy but it ain’t impossible. One small thing like saying that WE SHOULD TREAT EVERYONE EQUALLY might awaken some people and they will pass the message to others thus sought of a multiplier effect. #peacelover

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