#MUSLIMLIVESMATTER: Understanding Islamophobia

Hatred stems from ignorance, and the reason for the existence of this ignorance in our society is because of the way stories are told to us. Islamophobia is a term for prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam or Muslims.

Islamophobia is the result of anti-Muslim bigotry and inaccurate depictions of events, in the context of shaming and distortion of Islamic ideologies. The way we are told stories, and the manner in which information is delivered to us is the reason Islamophobia is present in our culture. There has to be some flaw in our cultural climate and the way Islam is addressed as a religion if we never see Islam being shown in a positive light in the media. The real question we need to address is – how did we get here?

The Western media is the biggest perpetrator of Islamophobia in our world today. The most exposure the West has to Islam is the media, and therein lies the problem. Western media often exaggerates the negativity in Islamic ideologies, portraying Muslims as backwards, oppressive, and violent. News channels use scare tactics and manipulation to frighten viewers and paint a damaging image of Islam in their heads.

Take the Chapel Hill murders for example. 3 Muslims in America named Deah, Yusor and Razan were killed execution style by their neighbor Craig Hicks. Hicks was accused of murdering the 3 students with a motive of hatred of religion. This was covered up by various media outlets: Wral.com news, CTV news, wsj.com news, Fox 8 news, and National Post news all stated that Hicks motive for murdering the 3 students was a ‘parking dispute’. Hicks was called a ‘troublemaker’ instead of a terrorist.

The dispute was said to have begun over ‘a parking space’, ignoring the fact that Hicks’ social media profiles showed his hatred for religions. Talkpoints.memo.com reviewed Craig Hicks Facebook, and shared what might have been his motives for the murders.

The cover photo on Hick’s Facebook page declared his belief in “anti-theism” and stated that he wants religion to “go away.” The picture stated the following words:

“Of course I want religion to go away. I don’t deny you your right to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out its ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people.”

Craig-Hicks-Facebook-Anti-Theism

Anti-Theists are those who not only believe that God does not exist but also is against the idea of God’s existence. They oppose religion.

Hicks expressed how he lost respect for “Abrahamic religions” after 9/11 on a 2012 post:

“My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th,” the post read. “The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.”

Major US media outlets including CNN and LA Times, as well as news channels in other countries, only reported the murder several hours after it had occurred. These media outlets showed no live coverage at the time of the investigation and arrest.

Western news channels draw a focus to crimes committed by Muslims on a daily basis, which is why Islamophobia exists. Muslims are specifically targeted and focused on in Western media. The ‘negatives’ of Islam make headlines every other day, and Muslims are constantly harassed, stereotyped, disvalued, and depicted as murderers non-stop in the media. Those who have never had any other exposure to Islam other than the media are not to be blamed for the existence of Islamophobia. Those who deliberately report inaccurate portrayals of the second-largest religion in the world, of the 1.5 billion Muslims who are alive right now – they are the ones to blame.

Stereotypes and generalizations can never be positive. No matter how much we can attempt to cover it up, it’s not morally right to say that one individual or a group of people is capable of representing an entire majority. Then why is it, when a Muslim does something wrong, the whole of Islam is blamed?

Everyone always seems to be asking for facts or says “its just the facts” to justify their opinion, and that its not extremists who are carrying out terrorist activities, but rather its just the teachings of the Islam. ‘Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims’ is repeated over and over, it seems to have become a sort of ideology. If facts are what validate the opinion that all terrorists are Muslims, then here are the actual facts:

Europe: “According to statistics from Europol, less than two per cent of all recorded acts of terror were perpetrated with religious motivations, with an even smaller number being committed by Muslim extremists. Estimates suggest only around two per cent of all terrorist attacks were committed by Islamic groups or individuals.”

USA:An FBI report shows that only a small percentage of terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 were perpetrated by Muslims.Princeton University’s Loon Watch compiled a chart from the FBI’s data: the chart shows that only 6% of terrorist attacks in America were done by Muslims.

In this day and age, we’re trying so hard to eliminate stereotypes. Gender stereotypes, racial stereotypes etc. are all trying to be eradicated by much of society right now, yet Muslims are still labeled as ‘terrorists’ no matter how moderate their beliefs and actions may be. Terrorism is done by extremists, not just in Islam but also in any other faith, political view etc. The real problem is that we don’t see this terrorism done by other faiths. Why do we never hear about the Christian terrorists, the Jewish terrorists, or the Buddhist terrorists? Terrorism is commonly defined as violent acts (or the threat of violent acts) intended to create fear (terror), perpetrated for an economic, religious, political, or ideological goal. Are Muslims the only people in the world who’ve carried out such acts? Judging by the facts, if only 6% of terrorist crimes in American from 1980-2005 were committed by Muslims, then how is it possible that all terrorists are Muslims? What happened to the other 94% of terrorists? Why don’t we ever hear about them and their acts of extremism?

According to Princeton University’s Loon Watch’s chart that was compiled from the FBI’s data, 42% of terrorism crimes in America were committed by Latinos. 24% of terrorism in America from 1980-2005 was committed by Extreme Left Wing Groups, and 7% of terrorism was committed by Jewish extremists.

According to a study carried out by Global Research in May 2013, “approximately 2.5% of all terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1970 and 2012 were carried out by Muslims.”

2.5% doesn’t really seem like a lot, yet western media outlets never fail to attempt to label Muslims as the only terrorists.

Just because we don’t hear about acts of terrorism or violence committed by people of other faiths, beliefs, or motives doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means they’re not reported. Anti-Muslim propaganda and bigotry has come from this misrepresentation and incorrect deliverance of information. The facts are there. We just don’t hear about them.

Many of us cannot accept that Islamophobia is something that exists in our world right now. As people in general, we are hardly able to acknowledge that something exists unless we see it with our own eyes. The problem is that we don’t see Islamophobic behavior around us, or rather, we don’t recognize it. The question I want to think about is, what if your peers were victims of Islamophobia? The people you study with, sit with 5 times a week, and will see for the next however many years of high school you have left. What if they had been victims of harassment simply because of the religion they choose to believe in?

Those people exist, and they’re all around us. Islamophobia exists, and we’re living right in the middle of it.

A student who wishes to remain anonymous recalls when she applied to a Catholic high school in Mississauga: “I applied to a Catholic school and the moment they heard my mom’s middle name was ‘Ahmed’, they started to treat her coldly and claimed there wasn’t enough space for anymore students.” I asked her how they treated her before they found out her mother’s middle name. “They were so welcoming,” she said.

Another student in Mississauga told me a story where she was harassed in public simply because she was Muslim. “Once me and my friend were walking near Square One. Her parents came to pick her up, so I was waiting outside alone and this creepy guy came and started lingering around me. Naturally I moved away but he kept moving closer. He made eye contact with me and asked me if I was ‘one of the Muslims’. I wasn’t aware I should say no, and I was really quiet for a while and ignored him… until he spit near my shoe. I moved my foot away, he cursed at me and all Muslims, and left.”

I asked the student how they felt about the situation and Islamophobia. “I think just in general Islamophobia is so inherent that people don’t necessarily realize when they do it. The perception of brown Muslims and the Middle East is so skewed that when people think about us, they just think of terrorism. Casual Islamophobia is so rampant in our world right now.”

This last one is the one that shook me the most. This student who chose to share her story with me wears a hijab. She also wishes to remain anonymous.

“Once when I was sitting a boy was walking by with his friends. It was right after one of the biggest terrorist crimes ISIS had done. The boy told his friend who was talking to me that he shouldn’t talk to me because I wear a scarf. He said that they should stay away from me, as I’m probably hiding bombs or working with ISIS. He then took his friend and walked away.”

I asked her how she reacted. “I just simply smiled at him and left because I knew that he would react in a negative way if I tried to have a discussion with him, which would have given him a greater reason to think we are terrorists or bad people.”

Hatred, oppression, and injustice contribute to the destruction of our society. We need to save our society from the diminishment of morality and question the way we are told stories. We need to question the way we are given information, and the reason for the manner in which it’s delivered. Islamophobia exists in our world right now, and its time we start acknowledging its presence. We need to educate ourselves and seek information on our own, and not always rely on the mainstream perception of things. As Russell Brand said: “We have to accept that we have a responsibility in the way we tell stories.”

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Terrorism has no religion.

 

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