Not long after the Declaration of Independence granted Americans their freedom from tyranny, the founding fathers gave Americans the greatest gift of all—the constitutional right to religious freedom.
Most Muslims are unaware that what they are going through is more of a sociological rather than a religious phenomenon, one that remarkably parallels the historical experience of immigrant Catholics and Jews. American Muslims today feel as if their faith is still generally regarded by American non-Muslims with suspicion and hostility.
America was founded on the principle that all peoples possess four freedoms, one of which is an inalienable right to believe, worship, and practice what they wish. In fact, religion has historically been at the heart of community building, and often the very first thing a new community does is establish a place of worship.
ENGY ABDELKADER discusses how Americans often associate Muslims with violence and extremism. This perception problem is perpetuated by anti-Muslim hate groups and amplified by negative portrayals in the news media.
Terrorism has become one of the gravest concerns of all nations. Because the media is globalized, whatever U.S.-based media broadcasts also informs and influences public opinion around the world.
As violent extremist groups become stronger and their actions escalate, it is incumbent upon the media to modify its coverage of this violence so that it no longer indirectly serves the interests of extremists but the interests of the public instead.
The United States has a checkered civil rights history that unfortunately often includes the demonization of minority populations, and the American Muslim community is no exception. Since September 11, American Muslims have collectively experienced greater public and legal scrutiny.
In the mind of a bigot, the enemy is Islam itself, not just the fanatics. And if the faith is evil, then by implication, anyone who claims to follow Islam and calls themselves Muslim is deliberately espousing evil and should be dealt with accordingly.
While the effects of biased media narratives and deteriorating government-community relationships may seem abstract, the recent surge in hate crimes targeting American Muslims makes concrete the real-life impact of hate crimes that individuals and communities have felt across the country.
Every few years, a new Islamic term is invoked by anti-Muslim bigots to “otherize” Islam as a so-called un-American religion, and to conjure up fear of Muslims by painting them as a menace to “civilized society.”
Many Americans, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, are relatively unaware of the history of incarceration in the United States. Starting in the 1980s, various policies that were part of the “Tough on Crime” and “War on Drugs” approaches increased the U.S. incarcerated population by an overwhelming 500 percent.
There is no middle ground on the issue of Islamophobia and domestic security. It is of utmost importance to treat American Muslims with respect and appreciation for the commonalities that we share.
Though Islamic teachings emphasize that “there is no compulsion in religion,” it is the ideology of force and compulsion that has led to the formation of Daesh. Followers of this movement believe that a religiously-centered life requires compelling Muslims to become better Muslims by force and by compelling others to either accept Islam or die.
Muslims, like everyone else, grieve the loss of order and the erosion of common sense every time violence occurs where we least expect it.
The senseless killing of Muslims by Daesh and the Assad regime in Syria, as well as the refugee crisis that we are witnessing today, are all too familiar in Muslim history. However, Muslims have a long history of perseverance in the face of extremism and in their search for a place to call home.
In the post-9/11 era, a defining moment in every Muslim youth’s childhood or adolescence takes place: it is when they first click on the comments section of a news article related to Islam or Muslims.
Wearing the headscarf as a signifier of one’s tradition is not an easy task for those who have adopted it. In an age where overexposure seems to be the socially acceptable way to dress, the ability to control how much or how little others can see of one’s body can be incredibly satisfying and powerful.
As Muslims continue to become a “normal” part of American society, Hollywood will have to confront its stereotypes and prejudices.
As American Muslims in a post–9/11 world, it has become our vocation to respectfully broaden the American landscape not only by showing ways with which our faith betters our actions, but that we are also the best and most involved citizens.
American Muslims who engage with their communities are doing something incredibly important. They discredit Daesh and all “jihadist” narratives. These terrorist recruiters hope to drive a wedge between Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors. They search out the vulnerable, angry, and naive, and promote a message that says, “America is at war with Islam”; “There is no place for Muslims in America”; “us versus them”; and “don’t be friends with the non-believers.”