Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why Islamophobia Does Not Matter

Most Muslim Americans would tell you that there has been a rise in Islamophobia, which is the irrational fear or hatred of Islam. There have been numerous recent events that illustrate this trend, such as the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, Qur’an burning, and the bombing of a Jacksonville Mosque. These events and other have come to collectively illustrate that there are people and groups in America that would like nothing more than to denigrate Islam and ostracize Muslims. This growth in Islamophobia has led some Muslims to feel alienated from mainstream society as a nascent awareness of their “otherness” has begun to take root. However, before Muslims begin to accept an inferior status in society, it is important to put Islam in America in context. I believe that by looking at Islam in America, one can see that Islamophobia does not really matter and is only a temporary setback for Muslims in America.

Islam in America is being practiced in a wide variety of ways by the estimated seven to ten million Muslim Americans. This group is comprised of both an indigenous and immigrant communities. The indigenous Muslim community is primarily composed of African-American converts who were first introduced to Islam through the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam in 1950s and 60s. That community eventually divided into two segments—one that continued to follow the Nation of Islam and another that moved towards mainstream Sunni Islam. In addition to the indigenous Muslim community, a large group of immigrant Muslims came to America after the passage of 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. This immigrant Muslim community was largely composed of well-educated professionals who were able to stake out their claims on the American Dream. Currently, Islam is the fastest growing religion in America and the community as a whole is a motley crew of first, second, and third generation immigrants and indigenous Muslims.

With the diversity of Islam in America, it is difficult to gauge the full spectrum of beliefs of the community. However, the most comprehensive research to date of Muslims in America was done in 2007 by the Pew Research Center. The key findings of that report was that Muslim Americans were largely middle-class, assimilated, and hold mainstream political opinions. In addition, nearly two-to-one (63%-32%) do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society. Overall what this research proved was that Muslim Americans did not have a problem reconciling their faith with their country and that Muslims are very much a part of the mainstream fabric of American society.

So if Muslims are mainstream members of our society, why has there been such a rise in hate-crimes and anti-Islamic rhetoric on the airwaves? Many people have addressed this issue and the general consensus is that Muslims are being targeted because it is politically convenient to demonize Islam and conflate it with terrorism because of the 9/11 attacks. However, Muslims in America are going through a hazing process that many other religious groups in America—ranging from the Catholics to the Jews—have already gone through only to emerge as stronger community because of it. I believe that this too will happen for Muslims in America.

The future for Muslims in America is bright. The bigots will not prevail and this recent spate of Islamophobia has provided room for a much-needed dialogue in our country. With an expanded dialogue, Americans will be exposed to what Islam in America is really all about. The sensationalist hatemongers will inevitably fall out of favor and Muslims will one-day find their place at the American table.


Charley said...


I agree with you, but I'd also like to point out that the mass media is the one inflating the issue of Islamophobia in the U.S. I obviously can't speak for everyone, but I think most Muslims would agree that it is the sensationalist 24 hour news networks that are spewing and forcing the fear of Islam upon us. If one turns on the news, or reads the newspaper, it seems like the only thing that matters is what issue Americans should be afraid of next. The stark reality, I believe, is that the majority of Muslims live and worship peacefully and without discrimination in the U.S. Also, I believe the Florida Qur'an burning debate a few weeks ago was drastically over analyzed and publicized, although you may disagree. I think you are correct in saying that Islamophobia doesn't matter, but I think it is also given too much coverage, and thereby propagated, by the media.

Naush said...

I agree with you 100% Charley.

Ossama Ansari said...

I agree with you both with just one addition: Yes, the Islamophobia is getting a lot of unneeded attention but instead of tackling these big issues such as Ground Zero Community Center and the Qur'an burning and well known people, media should really interview everyday Muslims around the country and capture their reaction to how they feel about Islamophobia and the treatment they get. I think that would be more effective in making people understand that they really have nothing to fear from American Muslims. We, just like any other American, however white, however black, just want to live our lives in peace and freedom.