Development of Islamophobia in America

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Islamophobia is not new to America but the single-story that Islam is a violent religion and all Muslims are terrorists has been a prevalent issue in the United States for over a decade now. Islamophobia is the fear of the Islamic faith and those who follow it, Muslims. It is an irrational fear that brings about prejudice and distrust for all Muslims one may come across. There are about 1.8 billion Muslims in the world and there are an estimated 3.45 million of those living in America. This single story has brought forth a spike in hate crimes, inequality, changes to public policies and law, negative formal and informal sanctions, as well as some suppression of Muslim identities.

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How did this story become ‘a thing?’ What is the function of the story? How does this story fit in with other social processes/ structures? Etc. The story has ties to the early days of America. Most notably the story is perpetuated by the 9/11 attack. It functions to keep manufacturing the fear of Muslims and drive political decisions.

Explore its impact on identity, perceptions of others, social relations, and social institutions: How does the story affect people’s sense of self? How does it affect the way we understand each other? How does it affect contemporary social relations? How does it contribute to the perpetuation of inequality in society? How has it become institutionalized? Who tells the story and who hears it? This single story has affected the way many see Muslim people in America, even at first glance. Those who believe in this stereotype have a tainted perception of every Muslim they meet. Often times, they misidentify Arab people as a Muslim, when in fact not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arab. When the term “Muslim” is applied (particularly in Western discourses), it often overshadows racial, ethnic or national elements of an individual’s identity (Sadek, 2017). After 9/11 many Muslims or perceived to be Muslim were targeted. There became an extreme distrust for those who practice Islam. Along with physical violence and verbal abuse, many Muslims experienced inequality in the workplace by losing their jobs or was refused from any prospective jobs. One look at a name like “Mohammed” and they were no longer a candidate. Some Muslim’s sense of self became conflicted, they know their religion teaches peace so how can they be labeled a terrorist? To ease their perceived place in society some took to changing their names or not wearing their Hijabs. It disproportionately impacts those visibly identifiable as Muslims, such as women who wear scarves and people who are often mistaken for Muslims, such as Sikh men who wear turbans.

Formal sanctions came after 9/11 as air travel security transformed with stricter rules and regulations. Air safety is a positive outcome but there were negative implications for those who are perceived to be Muslim as they, for example, experienced racial and religious profiling and subjection to extra security checks. To avoid such incidents internal surveillance-panopticism becomes apart of their flying routine.

The media has done a lot in the continuation of this single story. In American TV shows and movies, the role of a terrorist is constantly portrayed by Middle Easterners with little other roles cast portraying them in another character. The portrayal of non-white non-christian in our films and media are constantly a discussion for debate. Stereotypes are heavily used with minorities and therefore further perpetuate single stories like the one of Muslims since the film has a hand in swaying the general public’s view. In terms of public reporting in the news.

The counter-narrative to this single story is that Islam is a religion of peace. In fact, “salam” is the Arabic word for peace from which Islam is derived from. These violent extremists that become the forefront speakers for this religion are not viewed as real Muslims by those who follow the teachings of peace and tolerance of Allah. When you hear these counter-narratives, you see how a comparatively small group of people have strayed from their faith, convincing themselves that the manipulated version of their beliefs justifies their own agenda. You begin to see how the extremist’s actions have been used by our nation to stir the political environment with the corresponding lands. Behind this anti-Islam lens are scare tactics that invoke fear which tremendously influences foreign policy.

Through education of understanding and tolerance of other people’s religions, I believe we can be one step closer to changing single stories like these. Researchers contend automatic attitudes and beliefs can develop toward a social group after repeated exposure to evaluative attributes associated with the group (Devine, 1989; Park, Felix, & Lee, 2007). A moment of self-reflection to analyze your own lens can help to become aware of microaggressions. On a broader scale, less media influence can greatly scale back negative perceptions. Consecutively, voting for political officials without strong bias would keep the uprise of anti-muslim supporters to a minimum. It’s important to implement leaders who won’t give perpetrators of the single-story a cry of encouragement. In our time, both war and peace are more expensive, more destructive, and more violent than they have ever been before (Köylü *, 2004). These single stories are damaging to everyone, those who tell them, and those who hear them.

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