A Look Back at 2010: Year of Islamophobia

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly from PBS put out a special report that summarized the big events concerning religion and ethics in the news over the year. Hosted by Bob Abernathy, the panelists in the discussion were E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for the Washington Post, and a professor at Georgetown University, Kevin Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service, and Kim Lawton, managing editor of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

One of the topics they brought up was the rise of Islamophobia this past year, an unusually high occurrence since 9/11.

Just looking at the whole controversy over whether the President of the United States is a Muslim shows the troubling attitude that dominates the country and its relationship with the Muslim community.

As Eckstrom mentioned, “It’s a way of smearing someone now in America in 2010. If you don’t like them, you can say that they are a Muslim. It’s a way of saying that he’s different, that he’s other, that he’s not like the rest of us.”

The otherization of Muslims this past year allowed many cases of harassment, abuse, debate and outrage including, but not limited to:

…and there’s more.

A comment at the end of the article stated this:

Mr. Dionne draws the usual academic equivalency between the U.S. citizens’ distrust and discrimination against groups such as Catholics and other religious or ethnic groups as part of their assimilation and the Muslims, implying that U.S. citizens are just being vile bigots again, and need to get over it. It is a false equivalency. Small groups of Catholics did not repeatedly attack the U.S. and attempt to destroy it as a nation, while the larger group of Catholics in the U.S. and world wide did not condone such actions. That is the current situation with Islam. The U.S. system of governance, equality or rule of law are antithetical to the stated tenants of Islam. Secular Muslims may be able to adapt, but religious Muslims will not, and the American people understand this, even if intellectuals, such as Mr. Dionne do not.

This is the reason why I wish all the negative things that happen to Muslims weren’t the only issues that become news, as much as I appreciate the exposé of harassment and fear towards Muslims. It’s important to understand there is a crisis of communication and respect. Acting like it doesn’t exist doesn’t help anyone and isn’t truthful.

However, it is just as important to show and report stories of positive interfaith interactions, Muslims clerics denouncing terrorism, and Muslims in general engaging and responding to acts of terror or hatred from even if we are not personally responsible, in the same continent nor familiar with the individuals that are acting on their own accord. Because let’s face it, most people believe that all Muslims are mutually responsible for the actions of a few. Instead of quickly pointing fingers and calling out bias and bigotry a la Juan Williams, we need to dig deeper and learn why people possess this irrational fear that they feel is perfectly rational.

No one expects all white men to apologize for the dominance of white men as rapists and pedophiles. We expect everyone to be aware of the problem, protect each other and stand united against such crimes, even if one group is disproportionately and reliably more likely to engage in such acts.

Yet no one wants to stand united against terrorism it seems. We all want certain groups–the Muslims– to solve the problem, average Muslim citizens of each country who live their own lives just like everyone else are supposed to drop everything, go into stealth mode, locate where these terrorists are, call them up like old pals that we need to chastise and stop them single-handedly from going on that plane. Does that make any sense?

Here’s the reality: There are thousands upon thousands of times that Muslims have stood up publicly to denounce terrorism, actively pursue peace, conflict resolution and cooperation with authorities, law enforcement and the government.

Muslim are widely condemning terrorism all the time and support for Al-Qaeda worldwide is dropping drastically, but why don’t more people know this? Why are the poll numbers still showing mistrust for Muslims? Why do Americans like this commenter believe that American law and values are in direct contradiction to Islamic law and values and only secular Muslims will be able to exist peacefully in this country?

The commenter says the American people understand that religious Muslims cannot adapt but intellectuals don’t? American barely know anything about religion. The average American person doesn’t even know a Muslim personally, so how can they understand the complexities of the stated tenants of Muslim law? If the majority of Muslims in America are living like normal citizens day by day, isn’t that enough proof that they come here willingly and understand they are abiding by the American Constitution?

I find it ridiculous that people choose to take these isolated incidents of outbreaks and terror and then rationalize them as the norm, while the ordinary peace Islam has in America is seen as an exception. No one wants to seek knowledge due to the new age of anti-intellectualism. Imam Rauf is beginning a speaking tour of the U.S. to try and promote this necessary dialogue about Muslims in America.

Everyone wants to stick with gut emotion, sound bites and assumptions. There is a huge divide between the public’s knowledge of the activism and positive contributions of the Muslim community, especially in combating terrorism, and the truth. I am eager to find innovative ways to close this gap, because it is a serious flaw in the worldwide media coverage.

So while this past year might seem full of negativity, hatred, and uncivil discourse, I look forward to next year with optimism that more transparent, thoughtful, investigative journalism paired with advocacy will ensure a more informed, educated citizenry.

6 thoughts on “A Look Back at 2010: Year of Islamophobia

  1. I find it ridiculous that people choose to take these isolated incidents of outbreaks and terror and then rationalize them as the norm, while the ordinary peace Islam has in America is seen as an exception

    To be honest, when did we (Muslims) ‘show’ the Americans or (for that matter) the world that we are peaceful. Look back at the year 2010, we protested to great extents on some stupid cartoons published over Facebook, but we NEVER protested at the horrors of Somalia (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11437595) carried out by the ‘so called’ Muslims.

    None of us protested over that Faisal Shahzad incident, or the more recent Somalian teenager incident. We protested against Israeli attacks on the flotilla, fair enough, but why didn’t we protest over the minorities persecution in Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh?

    How are you going to tell them that we (Muslims) are peaceful?

    • Hi Hasan,

      Thanks for the comment.

      You are right that we heard a lot more protests from Muslims about the cartoons than we did from Muslims over Somalia. I agree that for many Muslims, their priorities are mixed up about what is truly important for us to address. I’m someone who is greatly concerned about those conflicts, which is why I have this blog.

      But think about how many Muslims actually protested against the cartoons out of the entire Muslim community. Think about how much coverage they were given. It was exaggerated to the point that it seemed like everyone was doing it, but I looked around my community and nobody cared. There were sighs, eye rolls, head shaking and muttering that now some Muslims will use this as an excuse to do something stupid. The Muslim community has become convinced that they will always get bad press so they choose not to associate with it.

      Now when there is something constructive we can do to protest abuses within our own community we have become afraid to do so because we feel we are already victimized, thus we don’t want to do it ourselves. That is just wrong. We have to motivate and change Muslims’ attitudes that they have to be just as enthusiastic to proactively stand up, admit mistakes, fight for justice if we expect others to do the same for us.

      I caution though about generalizing and saying people didn’t protest over Faisal Shahzad. Any of the terror plots that happen in America, there is always some kind of response to it by CAIR or other organizations. It’s the international incidents that definitely don’t have that kind of support. People are either afraid or cynical about any substantial change and it’s frustrating. I mentioned that in one of my blog posts about the Christian minority in Iraq and how I find it unbelievable that we are not doing more to protect and support their rights. For some reason, every group is self-interested sadly and that needs to change.

      The only way we can show that Muslims are peaceful is by Muslims not being afraid to be more vocal about it and stop the cynicism as well as media working to highlight and promote those stories as well. I know whenever I read positive stories about Muslims fighting against poverty or saving lives, people are so surprised and ask why they don’t hear about those things. I strongly believe that the ideas for peace and cooperation are already in the minds of Muslims, but they need to be pushed out of their comfort zone into turning those ideas into reality, into turning those thoughts into action. Muslims are known for being disorganized and uncommunicative about little things, so when it comes to these big issues, you have to expect that reaction time will be slow. We need to give the community the tools to be citizen journalists and citizen activists and leverage the media to help spread ideas of empowerment and responsibility as a collective unit.

      • I agree with you on every account. I am trying to do the same thing, though you will find me more skeptical towards the modern Muslim behavior towards all the inhumane phenomenon taking place in the name of Islam. It is seriously mutilating the image of our peaceful religion.

        Muslims will use this as an excuse to do something stupid.

        Well you got that right

        Recently the Shariah law is in focus, I have made many posts about them, about the blasphemy law too, even the educated Muslims argue with and it all ends with me being called an apostate and an Indian agent lol.

        The main reason is that Muslims don’t research into their religion by themselves, they follow the ignorant clergy.

      • I also wrote about the blasphemy law too! Sadly I haven’t gotten lots of responses from people yet so I’m not sure what they think. I used to have a YouTube channel and I got called plenty of things, so I completely understand:)

        I find it sad that some Muslims can call you out about superficial things like how you dress, who you interact with, whether you listen to music and say they are just doing the right thing and helping you become a better Muslim. When others try to reason with them about actually following Islamic behavior, living moderately, with accountability and justice, they become insulted and say you are speaking out of the religion and don’t know what you are talking about.

        There are real problems out there and people either ignore and say it will fix itself or that it’s not their fault and don’t make the Muslims look bad. I’m not trying to blame anyone in particular. I just live by the saying that Allah won’t change the condition of a people until they change themselves. Some of us just don’t get it….

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