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:
- The not at Ground Zero “Ground Zero Mosque” debate that interestingly ended post-elections
- The Florida pastor’s threatening to burn the Qur’an
- Multiple incidents of hijab discrimination in the workplace
- Harassment of Muslim women
- The stabbing of a Muslim cabdriver
- The rise of ACT! for America
- Billboards and ads on buses, subways and highways warning of the rise of Islam and offering help for Muslims seeking to leave Islam
- Opposition to the growth or building of mosques around the country, notably in Murfreesboro, Tennessee
- Hate mail and vandalism targeting mosques
- The Oklahoma amendment to outlaw Shariah law
…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.