Tag Archives: Islamophobia
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).
I first learned about the incident through a tweet from Boston-based journalist Omar Sacirbey: “Did you hear we caught a terrorist last week?” And I said to myself: “Why, no, I did not.” In fact, most probably, much of the nation did not hear about the terrorist that was caught in the Houston area on March 27.
It really defies logic that people with clear anti-Muslim bias purport themselves as being “experts on Islam” and teach courses to law enforcement agencies about counter-terrorism. The latest of these is John Guandolo, who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “notorious Muslim-basher and conspiracy theorist.”