What is Islamophobia?
In the U.S., the fear of terrorism has been repeatedly used to justify the racial and religious profiling of Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim. This has paralleled a rise in incidents of intimidation and violence and the creation of policies that discriminate against refugees and immigrants — and deny community members their civil and human rights.
Muslim Engagement and Development defines Islamophobia as:
“Any prejudice, aversion, hostility or hatred towards Muslims that encompasses any distinction, exclusion, restriction, discrimination, or preference against Muslims that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
In simpler terms, Islamophobia is any unreasonable dislike, fear of and prejudice against Muslims or Islam.
There is a tendency to racialize the Muslim identity and see it as interchangeable with Arab/Middle-Eastern and foreign. American Muslims represent various races and ethnicities. The first Muslims in the United States were actually enslaved Africans. Social scientists believe that between 15-20 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslims.
Islamophobia or anti-Muslim animus is more often viewed as the interpersonal interactions between individuals. However, history documents a long-standing tradition and practice of institutionally racializing and discriminating against identities deemed as Muslim. Before the current and most recent Muslim Ban which went into effect in 2017, a ban which restricted the entry of foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries, there was the Naturalization Act of 1790 which prohibited Muslims from becoming U.S. citizens.
How can we counter Islamophobia in our lives and communities?
- Take an inventory of our resources. Where do we get our news? Our entertainment? Your commentary on culture? Be intentional about diversifying your bookshelf, feed, podcast list, music and film selection.
- When seeking to learn more about Muslim culture, find sources written by Muslim people within the culture.
- Learn and unlearn to combat your own biases. Remember that cultural groups are not monolithic.
- If you witness an act of hate or Islamophobic harassment, focus your energy on the person receiving the act and their safety, rather than on the perpetrator.
Resources for Continued Learning
How Islamophobia Was Ingrained in America’s Legal System Long Before the War on Terror
Join us for It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race™
We are looking forward to welcoming Dr. Khaled Beydoun to speak about Islamophobia at It’s Time to Talk. Khaled Beydoun is a leading thinker on national security, civil rights and constitutional law. He has published a series of books, including the critically acclaimed “American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear.”
The strength of our future depends on our ability to develop new skills around inclusion and equity, understand the realities of racism today and commit ourselves to action. It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race fosters a space for racial justice engagement that is open to all people, no matter where they are in their racial justice journey.
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