Same Hate, New Target: Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States

Same Hate, New Target: Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States

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UC Berkeley co-sponsored report finds Islamophobia on the rise

By Hanan Salem
Friday, 22 July 2011
Weeks before American skies set on fire, a groundbreaking study reminded many of our nation’s anti-Muslim sentiments. As Americans celebrated another Independence day, scholars suggest we have yet to celebrate pluralism and tolerance. As faith minorities, Muslims still face prejudismice, discrimination and barriers from fully participating in American society.

“Same Hate, New Target: Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States,” was released on June 23 by UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender and the Council of American-Islamic relations (CAIR).

Dr. Hatem Bazian said the study is a comprehensive tool for both academics and activists to combat America’s antipathy towards Muslims.

“It’s the first time that we have an actual listing and documentation of the anti-Muslim cases that have occurred in the United States in the past two years,” Bazian said. “We want communities to know what is happening, to take attention of this enough to not give credence to those like Peter King who go on witch hunts and to not feed into Islamophobia discourse.”

Bazian’s Islamophobia Research and Documentation project at Berkeley contributed to the study.

Co-author of the study and national legislative director Corey Saylor said the idea behind the report was to establish a baseline to analyze the phenomena.

As defined in “Same Hate, New Target,” Islamophobia is a close-minded hatred or prejudice towards Muslims or Islam.

“Key in that sentence is close-minded. So these are people who come up to you and say ‘I’ve read that your religion hates and therefore I hate you’,” Corey said. “So when somebody has decided that there is no room for conversation, there is no room to learn, their mind is closed and they act on that prejudice, that’s Islamophobia.”

The research presented in the study illustrates spikes in anti-Muslim sentiment, citing catalysts like the Park 51 Islamic community center in Manhattan and Pastor Terry Jones’ International Burn a Koran Day. The study also cited ten Californian mosques that were vandalized, hit by Islamophobic rhetoric or targeted otherwise.

Not only do anti-Muslim sentiments rise, but they are being exploited by politicians. We already see the inclusion of Islamophobia in the upcoming election process.

Corey said politicians will continue to use Islam to “score cheap political points.”

“Just watch Herman Cain for ten minutes. He said he would not have a muslim in his administration. He has called for muslims to be treated differently than non-muslims. And American’s applaud.”

Republicans are trying to out-do each other in terms of anti-Muslim propaganda, Corey said.

A recent Time poll also reflects the unabashed prejudice of a slice of the American public.

CAIR’s National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said one-third of the American public would oppose a muslim running for office or presidency.

What we are dealing with are the same exclusions that can be traced throughout our nation’s history, CAIR officials said. Consider the Chinese exclusionary act. The African American once was worth three-fourths a human. Native-American children were taken away from their families to learn “white culture,” even until the 1960s.

In contemporary America, muslims are experiencing exclusions from public offices as well as employment exclusions.

Hijabs, kufis, even turbans repel Islamophobes looking for any way to identify a Muslim.

“We are increasingly seeing instances of unemployment exclusion based on the wearing of the hijab,” Bazian said, “The hijab is being politicized as a symbol of Islam in American and European society. Rather than seeing it as a reflection of an individual’s religious dedication, it’s used a symbol of exclusion.”

Names that sound muslim too, end up on No-Fly lists. Hooper likens the reality of Muslim Americans to that of the Japanese Americans who were interned in camps.

“When Pearl Harbor happened, Japanese Americans were blamed for it,” Hooper said. “They are the only other community who were blamed for an attack on the United States.”

Even non-Muslims are victimized by Islamophobia. Sikhs who are from an entirely different region are subject to killings and shootings, Bazian said.

Although not fatal, CAIR officials said the spreading of malicious information about muslims may impact their psyche.

“Certainly there’s pressure. Nobody asked for it but it’s the situation that we find ourselves in,” Corey said. “Show patience and tolerance that the prophet showed when he was in times of difficulty. We want muslims to reflect his character. What we’re doing is undoing stereotypes.”

Public airwaves and television sets entertain Islamophobia too.

According to Media Tenor, Islam is the religion most frequently mentioned in television news in the U.S. and a significant share of the coverage is negative.

Muslims should be wary of pulling the trigger of their own image assassination, CAIR officials said.

“I think sometimes our actions don’t facilitate the sharing of correct information. A lot of times people have questions about Islam and Muslims and we’re not doing a good job of answering,” Executive Director for CAIR San Francisco Bay Area Zahra Billo said.

Positive personal interaction with a muslim is essential to dismantling Western images of Islam, according to the study.

Knowing a Muslim personally tends to reduce levels of apprehension and is most frequently cited by people who are tolerant of Islam.

“You have to acknowledge why people have misunderstandings about the religion,” Corey said. “Let’s take it as a reality. Most people in the United States were introduced to our faith when an airplane crashed through a building.”

একুশ নিউজ মিডিয়া এখন ফেস বুক এ

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