For the later half of the 20th and most of the 21st century, the people who follow the faith known as Islam have often been stereotyped as being part of some type of radical terrorist organization. This stereotype is especially predominant among citizens of the United States and catastrophic events such as the November 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France have further pushed this stereotype into the minds of a large percentage of people. Because of this stereotype, many Muslims are frequently treated unfairly in the workforce, when traveling, in politics, and in religious gatherings. Along with the inequalities that Muslims face, most Muslims must also go through their daily lives in constant fear of any hate crimes or bigotry that may come about towards them by Islamophobic individuals. Even though these claims about Muslim Americans have made other individuals afraid of followers of the Islamic faith, there is no need to be afraid of them as Muslim Americans are just like every other American who lives in this country, people.
The origins of the stereotype among Muslims did not take full effect until the late 1970s. According to Semonti Hossain, when Muslims first began to immigrate into the Western World for economic opportunity in the 1960s, Non-Muslims were very welcoming towards the new Muslims and many of these new Muslims lived successfully in their new lives (Hossain, par. 5). Many Non-Muslims began to question the aspect of peace behind Islam in 1979 with the Iranian Hostage Crisis which portrayed Islam in a negative facet (Hossain, par. 5). After this took place, Islam was portrayed as a corrupt belief and many Islamic Centers were attacked and burned down (Hossain, par. 6). The Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995 further pushed this negative portrayal and the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 which led to the war on terror ultimately sky rocketed the stereotype into wide popular use among Westerners (Hossain, par. 5). Since these terrorist attacks were attacks implemented by followers of Islam, all Muslims were unfortunately stereotyped as a result (Hossain, par. 6).
When considering the physical and behavioral characteristics of a “stereotypical” Muslim, one would think of any middle eastern man who is dressed in long robes with a turban and an extremely long beard. Along with this, a “stereotypical” Muslim also would have a very strong Arabic accent and would want to bring death upon America through means of terrorism. A “stereotypical” Muslim is also assumed to be part of a terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda or ISIL. The American media has further pushed this stereotype into the minds of the mass media as the typical depiction of someone who is Islamic is made out to be a primitive, savagely cruel person.
Being a heterosexual, white male, I cannot even begin to imagine the daily life of someone who happens to be of Islamic faith. I am sure that most Muslim Americans feel extremely misunderstood about how they are portrayed in society. Not many people realize that terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIL make up an almost microscopic amount of the Muslim population. According to the article, “Struggling against Stereotypes,” it states that American Muslims often ask why a small group of extremists, whose terrorist actions violate the central principles of Islam, should determine the public image of the entire Muslim community (par. 1). Most of the Muslims who do reside in America are just ordinary individuals trying to live ordinary lives, yet these people have experienced discrimination in housing and employment, or even harassment and attacks from strangers on the street (Stereotypes par. 2). Not only is discrimination a main factor of living in America as a Muslim, but Muslims must also experience vandalism of Islamic Holy Centers and Mosques with little help from authorities (Stereotypes par. 2). This is why I can assume that Islamic individuals living in the United States must often feel like second class citizens and confused as to why their peaceful and holy morals are met with such negative prejudice. So many people have thought of Muslim Americans as fear-inducing, monolithic people, and people of this nature do exist in the world, but a huge percentage of the 1.6 billion followers of Islam are often extremely against this way of thinking as it adheres away from the nonviolent ways of teaching within Islam and have been for hundreds of years.
In light of all of the negative portrayal of the Islamic Faith, the American Muslim Community and many Muslim organizations offering resources to educate the media and the general public about Islam, and to encourage Muslims in their local communities to speak out against discrimination. In the media, there have been multiple television shows that try to rebrand the negative thought of being a Muslim American and strives to portray Muslims as ordinary people (Stereotypes par. 7). These shows include, Little Mosque on the Prairie, which was a comedy which aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and All-American Muslim which debuted on The Learning Channel (TLC) (Stereotypes par. 7). Muslim individuals are even taking the initiative to disprove the stereotype made about Muslims by holding lectures at Mosques for Non-Muslims about Islam, holding “Islam 101” classes, and hosting an “Islam Awareness Week” on college campuses (Stereotypes par. 6). These types of innovative ways to break the stereotype that has been perpetuated about Islam can make not only Non-Muslims more well educated about Islam, but also give Muslims the opportunity to educate other individuals about the growing religion that is Islam.
With the claims that are often assumed about the people that practice Islam, many individuals often forget that these peaceful followers of Islam are also people who are practicing the religion that they are entitled to practice. Although it cannot be done overnight, hopefully Muslim Americans can one day live confidently in the United States without having to fear or worry over any kind of harsh discrimination.
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