Islamophobia: Is Our Nation In Danger?
In this first month of 2016, when many of us are trying not to abandon our New Year’s resolutions, we sometimes need to look back on the year before. 2015 was a year filled with many historical turning points. From the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on gay marriage to the milestone international agreement on climate change, 2015 was definitely a year that will go down in history. Perhaps the biggest trend of 2015, however, was the rise of Islamophobia – the fear, or even hatred, of Muslims. While other events may come and go, Islamophobia is not a fad that will stay in the last year, but rather a pattern that has affected us for more than a decade and will sure continue to do so in 2016 and the years to come, which is precisely why we need to examine this issue, and determine exactly how, or even if, this mindset will affect us.
Almost exactly one year ago today, the terrorist organization known as Al-Qaeda opened fire on the French headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, including two policewomen. The news of the shooting spread like wildfire, enraging the international community. However, a mere ten months later, the Daesh extremist group ISIS conducted a shooting in Paris, an act of terrorism even bigger in scale than the 9/11 attacks. According to CNN, more than 120 people died in six separate shootings that night, and another 350 were injured. Only two weeks later, a shooting in San Bernardino, California, killed more than a dozen people and injured twenty-two more. These seemingly incessant string of terrorist attacks prompted unprecedented fear of Muslims and Islam, a sentiment termed Islamophobia.
Across America, politicians and citizens alike have made it plenty clear that Islam is to blame and Muslims are not welcome. According to a recent Gallup poll, more than 50% of American citizens state that they “do not respect” Muslims, and this sentiment has reflected in the words and actions of Americans. As Al Jazeera America reports, hate crimes and bias incidents are becoming more frequent, with Muslims verbally assaulted in restaurants and on the streets, and threatening phone calls and letters directed at mosques across the country. Even politicians have come to criticize Muslims and the Islamic faith as a whole, with presidential candidate Donald Trump promising to require Muslim-Americans to register with a government database, and carry “special identification cards that note their faith”. His words resulted in the removal of a Muslim woman from one of his political rallies at the beginning of the new year.
As anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes skyrocket in the United States, it has become increasingly clear that our nation is gripped by Islamophobia. Yet now, a new question emerges: is our nation in danger? The majority of Americans would answer ‘yes’ to that question. Indeed, our nation is in extreme danger, but for reasons different than one might think. Most Americans believe that Muslims are a portal to danger in the country, but, in truth, the danger lies in that very belief itself. Islamophobia is tearing the country apart by attacking America and the exact sense of unity that brought the country together centuries ago. We associate terrorism with Islam, when in truth the two cannot be further apart. As a Pew Research poll discovered, more than 90% of Muslims have an unfavorable view of groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda. By clumping together Muslims with terrorism and alienating all Muslims in the United States, we are essentially splitting the country into factions, ripping the country in half. Our animosity towards Muslims and Islam as whole will just work to deepen the schisms between faiths and between people, and magnify the clash of civilizations. As Friar Calabria accurately said, “I understand people are fearful. But you don't respond to fear and hatred with more fear and hatred." Likewise, generalizing Muslims and consequently spreading Islamophobia in a world already riddled with hatred and terrorism is analogous to pouring oil on a raging fire; it’s just exacerbating the problem.
In conclusion, the belief that our nation is in danger cannot be more true. Americans’ animosity of Muslims and of Islam is threatening to tear the country apart. So although it seems like America has turned a new leaf with the start of a new year, in reality we have only started a new year with old battles and old hatreds that, if unchecked, will attack America at her roots.