Tag Archives: Islamophobia
The past year has undoubtedly ushered in a new era for identity relations in America; with the police killings of black men in Ferguson and New York, the partisan fueled arguments over immigrant amnesty and the ‘religious freedom protection’ laws targeted at LGBTQ communities introduced in several states, racial and religious tension saturated our media climate in 2014. With 2015 well underway, these tensions continue to permeate several facets of American life. Notably in March, Starbucks launched their ill-conceived and eventually retracted ‘Race Together’ campaign aimed at sparking a national conversation on race in between latte orders. With the seemingly ever-present discussions and debates regarding identity based discrimination and its subsequent role in modern American society and government, I found myself questioning how American Muslims were fairing in this contentious climate—what is the status of Muslim discrimination in America? Are Muslim communities in the U.S. facing similar tensions and most importantly, how is the U.S. government addressing potential discrimination? To tackle these questions I took inventory of some key problems, as well as federal, state, and local legislative actions that have affected Muslim American communities across the nation in the past year.
Last week the Center for Interfaith Engagement at Eastern Mennonite University held a panel discussion titled “Faith and Trauma: Abrahamic Perspectives” at the American Islamic College in Chicago. The overall theme of the event was the perspective of each Abrahamic religion – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – toward personal and communal trauma – both as a source of healing and of trauma itself. Often inter-faith dialogues on controversial topics fail to address the elephant in the room. But in this case, the panelists took aim at how each religion has been both a victim and perpetrator of trauma.
By Ameen Omar
Three weeks ago in Chapel Hill, North Carolina shootings occurred resulting in the death of three college students. The shooter, 46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks, the victims, 23 year old Deah Barakat, 21 year old Yusor Abu-Salha, and 19 year old Razan Abu-Salha. In the week after this incident, it made headlines over social media and news broadcasting outlets. Many questions emerged as a result from such coverage, were these murders a result of a hate-crime, is there a projected bias within the media, and is the Muslim community galvanized over this incident? Even now it seems none of these questions have been fully answered.
At 3:35pm on a Tuesday as I sat at the reception desk at CAIR-Chicago, I received a phone call. As a communications intern with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Chicago, I do a lot of my work from the reception desk and therefore I get a lot of phone calls. This in itself has been a learning experience: I learned how to get over my fear of talking on the phone, how to transfer calls – I even learned how to transfer calls in Arabic. Sitting at that desk means that I am the first thing people see when they walk in the door or the first voice they hear when I pick up the phone and on Tuesday it meant that I got a call like this:
Tuesday night our nation lost three innocent lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The murders of Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, are still under investigation and though police have yet to make an official determination it is speculated by many that the faith of the three Muslim victims contributed, at least in part, to the motive of the killer, Craig Stephen Hicks. Whether or not law enforcement deems these murders a hate crime is irrelevant to the unacceptable double standard displayed in the aftermath of this tragedy.
Two men who had made threats on FaceBook alluding to shooting and killing Muslims at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, a suburb of Chicago, were released on Friday by local police after turning themselves in. The local media only reported that the men were questioned by the Bridgeview Police Department and the FBI, but never explained why after such serious threats they would be released without charge. Why were men who made threats causing the local police to have regular patrols of the mosque, school, and surrounding community released?
For the past week, the television has blared fierce conversations full of provocative labels that have been circling like sharks for the past year – “Extremists,” “Islamists,” “Jihadis,” “terrorists”, “anti-Semites,” ”ISIS supporters,” “murderers,” and “victims.” It was really not until last Wednesday, January 7th, when all of these words suddenly landed together, crashing into a multi-media debate on the spread of militant Islam and the virtues of freedom of speech and the extremists who seek to demolish it.
On June 22nd, CNN aired a debate between Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT! For America and Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York on the question of whether the media is “fueling the fear of Islam”. To me this question is answered by an irrefutable “YES!” Our media has instilled great fear of Muslims and hatred of our faith as a propaganda tool for the War on Terror. The Western media uses terrorist and fanatic stereotypes in television shows, movies, novels, and, most troubling of all, biased academic works and news outlets, which feature Islamophobic spin-doctors. Hate is an industry.
The press “controversy” around the release of Bowe Bergdahl has been the perfect storm of Islamophobia (Bergdahl’s father’s beard = he’s Muslim = he’s a terrorist); only traitors are anti-war (Bergdahl expressed doubts about the Afghanistan war so he deserted); and Guantanamo prisoners can’t be released (except when we can trade them for a captured U.S. soldier).