I’m not your “average” Muslim; let me tell you why. I’m not Arab; I happen to be African-American. I don’t wear the hijab, and I don’t support terrorist. In a world filled with media that paints the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world with a brush, I invite to make up your own mind about Muslims.
Islamophobia in America started after 9/11. The public was in a state of fear; politicians and the media, with or without intention, made all Muslims look like terrorist. The media portrays Islam as a war like religion, when in reality, Islam is a religion of peace. Although in the religion Muslims are allowed to defend themselves from oppressors, Muslims are not allowed to kill innocent people in order to cause fear.
Most news anchors have their own view of Islam which is not backed up by evidence. They have no educational background on Islam or simply have had any personal experiences with Muslims. SAGE Publishing reports, according to a meta-analysis of 345 published studies about Muslims and Islam from 2000 to 2015 led by the International Communication Gazette, concluded “our findings suggest that a large majority of studies covered by Western countries, Muslim countries and Muslim media have been neglected. We also identified an evident lack of comparative research on online media. We found that most studies investigated the themes of ‘migration’, ‘terrorism’, and ‘war’. Moreover, our meta-study shows that Muslims tend to be negatively framed, while Islam is dominantly portrayed as a violent religion. Implications of these findings are discussed.” Through this study, more validation is provided. Although not all news anchors fall into this category, sadly most who conduct studies on Muslims and Islam do. The news anchors who fall into this category expose their flawed studies into the world, and in response, Islamophobia keeps on rising.
Just like most of the media, politicians also portray Muslims and Islam negatively, with or without intention. Some politicians don’t understand the impact of their words when speaking on Muslims and Islam. Hate crimes against Muslims has sparked in America. According to a PEW Research Center Poll, assaults against Muslims in U.S. surpassed the 2001 level. The poll is from 2000 to 2016. In 2001 it was no surprise the assault rate increased from 2000 to 2001; because of 9/11, it went from 12 in 2000 to 93 in 2001. But from 2015 to 2016 there was a 19 percent increase after a moderate amount from previous years. In 2015 the number of assaults was 91; in 2016 it increased to 127. In 2000 to 2001 it increased because of 9/11, but it increased from 2015 to 2016, because of news anchors and politicians who express their views on Muslims and Islam without evidence, educational background on religion, or simply any personal experiences with Muslims.
These words affect the daily lives of mainstream Muslim, who are devout followers of Islam, but don’t have part in terrorism nor condone it. They are unlike Muslim fundamentalist, as described by Marieme Helie-Lucas as “political movements of the extreme right, which manipulate religion to achieve their political aims.”
There are many Muslims who have fought against extremist at the forefront. Karima Bennoune’s book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” is an excellent source for showing how Muslims at the forefront of countries overrun by extremist don’t support this. These people have risked their lives in order to stand up against extremist who have overtaken their country. In the book, Bennoune tells the stories of 286 people from 26 countries who are of Muslim heritage who fought Muslim fundamentalist. Just look at Malala — most of us have heard her story. She got shot in the head for wanting to get an education in Pakistan. There are countless stories like her’s that haven’t been heard of. In the book, Bennoune, someone who has dealt with extremist at the fore forefront tells the heroic stories of people from Muslim heritage. Everyone should work together to fight extremist Muslim or not it’s an issue that has risen because of politics and interference from western countries. In order to really fight extremist, we must all work together, not divide and point fingers.
When the words terrorist and extremism come to mind it’s usually linked with Islam which is something that is horrendous. As I say this it’s not to offend and point fingers, but it’s the same people who link these words to Islam who are hypocritical when they make their claims. Many religions have caused terror from slavery in America, the killings of six million Jews in the continent of Europe, and to the crusades. There have been many horrible acts committed by people of other faiths and ideologies. As open-minded people, it should be known that no religion condemns the killings of innocent people. All the major and minor religions don’t allow this the point of religion is to restore humanity to the world. As it states in the Quran 5:32, “Whoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.”
Some might ask “why is this important?” It’s important because this is the most effective way to destroy extremist. Muslims want this to end as much as anyone most Muslims are at the forefront of extremism; just look at Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, or Afghanistan. The lists goes on when showing that Muslims are at the forefront of countries controlled by extremist. Mainstream Muslims all over the world from every color and creed want to stop being labeled negatively. Once the hysteria and the rise of Islamophobia stops, that’s when society will be at peace with Muslims and Islam.
Let’s all work together and be open-minded to everyone. Not everyone fits the labels placed on them we are all different in our own ways. So I invite you to engage with Muslims — we’re not evil people — learn more about Muslims and Islam and find out what it’s really about, not what the media says it is. This isn’t to preach, as Muslims believe there is no compulsion in religion, rather it’s an invitation to set oneself free from Islamophobia.
Louzolo, of Sidney, is a freshman at Edison State Community College. Her column was written as part of a class assignment.