Anti-Islam Stereotypes Are Rooted in Ignorance

     

    A Saudi national was detained for “suspiciously” running away from the explosion. A Moroccan American, high school boy was accused of being the bomber in the New York Post. A hijab-wearing woman was punched and verbally assaulted in a Boston suburb a day after the bombings. It is no revelation that the American society is still prejudiced, but it is hard to believe that it is still this brutish.

    The most troubling of all the hate crimes after the Boston Bombings was the unprovoked assault of Mohamed Salim, a Muslim cab driver and Iraq War veteran. Salim is a patriot who fought for his country, but he became a victim of malice. He was judged merely for the color of his skin and the foreignness of his name.

    Hate is often justified by the refrain that, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to the FBI, between 1980 and 2005, Islamic extremists committed only 6 percent of terrorist incidents in the U.S. The Oklahoma City Bombing was the largest terrorist attack on American soil before 9/11, and it was committed by a white radical right winger. This is not to say racial profiling is ever acceptable, but rather that the stereotypes are driven by ignorance and maliciousness.

    And these wider societal reflections trickle in to the views of governments, too. The NYPD established a “demographics unit” that spies on Muslims in mosques, bookstores and restaurants. They even spied on Muslim Student Associations in the New York City area. Further, 1500 officers were shown an Anti-Muslim film during administrative orientation called the “Third Jihad” which claims that American Muslims are secretly plotting to take over America. Hate speech like this clearly ignores that Muslims regularly police their own community against extremists. The New America Foundation has tallied 41 distinct incidents in which Muslims tipped off law enforcement about terrorist plots.

    Muslims in the media, too, are rarely given complex narratives and are often portrayed as terrorists. For those Americans who have little to no contact with Muslims, this only incites prejudice. A survey by the Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of the public believes that Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions. It also found that Americans view Muslims as the most discriminated group when compared to Blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians and women.

    The FBI reported there were 160 Anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2010, 50 percent higher than the previous year. Additionally, one Department of Justice study estimates that 56 percent of hate crimes are never even reported to the police. To stem the rise of hate crimes, society as a whole — including the media and the government — must take corrective actions and stop viewing Islam through a negative lens. 

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