Muslims and Racism

Islamophobia is real; take a look at the past several months of American politicking and all the proposed legislation that circulated through our highest offices if you don’t believe me. To some extent, it was even successfully implemented and imposed a travel ban on several majority-Muslim nations, barring entry of those originating from those countries. Now, while I will not claim to know all of the ins and outs of political methodology, it’s not difficult to see why there is such a fear of the Muslim community. For those of us that were around to experience it, our generations “where were you” moment was most definitely September 11th, 2001, just like generations before us experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The vivid memory and the uprising of propaganda of conflict between Muslim nations and the Western world that propagated from it still exist to this day. And with the rise of militant groups such as ISIS, the message that many try to send has only seemed to get even clearer. Muslims are the enemy.

For the record, I don’t agree with this line of thought whatsoever, but it’s obvious to see the ripple effects that something like this has on the American people and their view of the Muslim community. I once spoke with a woman who openly expressed a fear of Muslim women who would enter grocery stores wearing the hijab. Her reaction was that she was afraid they might have bombs strapped underneath. This is the sort of ignorance that our country has come to embrace. Similar to profiling teenagers for wearing hooded sweatshirts in public that make them look suspicious by default (you know the incident I’m referring to), the assumption that anyone wearing a hijab might be coming into public buildings with bombs strapped to their chest is utter lunacy. Granted, I’m not saying it couldn’t ever happen, but the fact is that the modern propaganda has altered much of the nation’s view on Muslims and we now hold them accountable on everything they do that differentiates them from other religions or cultural backgrounds. Which borders very close to – if not, crosses into the territory of – racism.

Now, some of you may be tempted to argue that being Muslim is not a race, so it’s impossible to be racist against them. And to that, you would technically be right. People are not simply born Muslim as they are with darker or lighter skin – it is a result of choosing (freely, in an ideal circumstance) to follow the beliefs and practices of the religion. But, there are some who would argue that the entire concept of race is just a load of garbage anyway. Yes, there are defining physical qualities that separate some humans from others, whether it be complexion or stature or something else that we can’t help but accept as part of our lot in life. But there are some who would argue the fact that many of us decide to divide the world population up into nice, neat portions is little more than an arbitrary social construct based on (arbitrary) sovereign borders because our long-lost ancestors decided to settle in certain places a long time ago. And is often the case, as one Stuart Hall might argue, these sorts of differences picked out are done so due to an imagined sense of superiority in terms of cultural sophistication – the same stereotypical way an admirer of ballet and symphony orchestras might look down upon those who go for rock and roll or rap music.

The point of all this is that, while racism might not be the most accurate term to describe prejudice against Muslims, there is very much a strong prejudice in the American community. Whatever word is put to it, the fact remains that Muslims suffer from stereotypes and heavy profiling – a lot of it due to the government’s handling of international affairs and the worldview that is painted by a handful (radical militants) compared to the reality of the rest of the entire Muslim community.