“No, I am not a terrorist”. Islamophobia in today’s society.
“No, I am not a terrorist”. Islamophobia in today’s society.
When The Twin Towers came down in 2001, the Muslim community became the subject of people’s fears and paranoia. After 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium, Muslims across the world were looked down upon, innocent Muslims were scrutinized and discriminated against, mosques attacked and destroyed. Innocent people were and still are bullied, harassed, and objectified based on their religion.
In another example of the Muslim community being the subject of people’s fears, a few hours before he began his killing spree in Utøya island Norway on 22nd July 2011, Andres Behring Brejvik posted a 1,500-page manifesto in which he claimed to wage a war on ‘Islamic imperialism’. He said that we were at war with Muslims and that the slaughter of the campers was meant to be a wake-up call.
In March 2019 we saw the horrific massacre at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in New Zealand – an attack which was partly broadcast live on Facebook when an Australian born man readied himself with a head-mounted camera to live-stream the attack in central Christchurch. The streams were broadcast online showing the violence in shockingly graphic detail. An online social media account linked the attack to an 87-page manifesto full of self-justified motivations for the attack, and anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Muslims around the world have shared how misunderstandings, stereotypes, and hateful rhetoric about their religion has affected their lives more so in the years since 9/11. After 9/11 and the way the media reported this case, millions of innocent Muslims around the world were suddenly looked upon with distrust and suspicion. Some Muslims report living daily with rude comments, dirty looks and constant fear of vicious retaliation. Why are we so quick to believe the media’s hateful rhetoric?
“It would be as grave a mistake to see Osama bin Laden as an authentic representative of Islam” (Armstrong, 2011). From already knowing that some American citizens see Osama bin Laden as a representation of Islam is unnerving and is the kind of mentality that can lead to discrimination, prejudice and scapegoating of millions of Muslims who wish to cause no harm. The way the stories were reported by international media played a big part in inciting hatred and blame towards Muslims and the misrepresentation and fear of Islam grew, marring whole countries.
If we put 1+1 together and use our common sense, we should be able to sense that the media ‘spin’ is just that, a spin designed to instil fear and separation amongst people. When we stand by and watch without speaking out that it is wrong, does it not make us complicit in the very evil that feeds the energy of hate, murder and atrocity?
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me." Martin Niemoller
From these examples, we could say that due to the actions of a few, the world-wide religion of Islam was misrepresented, and this misrepresentation has led to prejudice and hatred towards Muslims. Added to which, the differences in how we talk about attacks on Muslims, as opposed to those performed by Muslims, exposes an ultra-double standard in the media. When Muslims are the victims, the media have often refused to call it terrorism. Jameel Muhktar and his cousin Resham Khan were attacked in east London by a white male in an appalling acid attack that has Islamophobia written all over it. As horrifying as the attack was, most mainstream media either failed to cover it or reduced it to a minor story. What if Jameel and Resham were Tom and Sarah and were white rather than Asian, what would the headlines look like then?
All around the world Muslims are feeling the growing tension of Islamophobia: the lack of reporting of this is not the only problem. Throughout July 2016, the think tank Demos (a think tank with a cross-party political viewpoint, Demos specializes in social policy developing) recorded over 215,000 worldwide Islamophobic tweets, equating to nearly 7000 per day. 14,000 of these were likely sent from the UK. Studies by Lancaster University and Cardiff University demonstrate the extraordinary level of prejudice Muslims suffer from parts of the mainstream media. Such academic studies show that for every 1 positive or neutral reference to Muslims in print press, there are 21 negative references.
The awkward, inconvenient truth is that Islamophobia is now seen to be ‘normal’ in certain segments of society because a different standard has been set by some, e.g. that there is an issue with Islam or with Muslims, but how can any of us make such a sweeping statement about a whole religion, culture or nationality?
It would seem that Media coverage in these examples exacerbates Islamophobic attitudes. The Islamophobia in Australia report that surveyed 243 incidents involving physical, verbal and online attacks on those identifying as Muslim, found in cases where the gender of the victim was known, 67.7 per cent were female. Women wearing hijabs or burkas are considered particularly vulnerable to Islamaphobic attacks due to their visibility, and when women are targeted it has an impact on their children. 79.6 per cent of women abused were wearing head covering, and more than 30 percent were with children.
The sad reality is that many targeted have nothing to do with terrorism, international conflicts, or radicalization. They are simply at the receiving end of the rage and anger caused by the Islamophobic judgement that something is fundamentally wrong with Muslims and Islam.
Our mainstream media has a lot to answer for when it comes to inciting judgment and blame onto others; this article specifically highlights the condemnation the Muslim religion has faced, yet unfortunately this also relates to other cultures and religions that too have been targeted in this way.
We are blinded when we do not feel the quality of a person in front of us and instead allow the poison fed to us, often by the media, to distort and manipulate our view. How sad it is that we can miss out on that genuine care, connection and affection with another because we have swallowed the poison fed to us from those that do not want harmony.
Between 2005 and 2010 there were 24 American deaths from Islamic terrorists but there were 309,717 gun deaths in the same period, so you are 12,000 more times likely to be killed by a gun rather than a terrorist. Yet this is not what the media would have you believe, as from the narrative replayed and hashed out it would be quite easy to believe the numbers could be the other way round.
In England, letters encouraging recipients to take part in "Punish a Muslim Day" were sent to addresses across the country. Images of the notes, which contained a list of violent acts suggesting that people could win “points” for a range of activities aimed at Muslims, including removing a headscarf from a woman or beating a person up, were then shared widely online. Once this was known by the public, many different nationalities and religions in the community stood up to the bigotry and the #LoveAMuslimDay hashtag originated.
As always, the buck stops with us; as members of the public, as readers and observers of media, we need to ask why we allow for such blatant discrimination and say no to Islamophobia in its many varied guises.
When reading/ watching media we need to stay curious, stay open, and acknowledge when there is bias. Knowing who we are, knowing we are love first helps us to feel the truth and discern this bias. When connected to the truth inside of us it is far easier for us to say no to the poison of judgment, blame and separation that’s on offer when we read or watch these things.
If we just stand by and watch rather than say no, we are condoning the abuse, which is just as poisonous as being the abuser.
All forms of judgement, discrimination and bias, whether it be Islamophobia or xenophobia, imposes on a man’s expression. The racism, the sentencing, the judgement and hatred are miles away from the brotherhood that we all know to be true in our hearts. We do know deep down that we are all the same, and that currently we are living far from that truth: currently at the time of writing it can be said humanity with the help and judgement of mainstream media are in the cesspit of separation.
Deep within we all do know there is another way, a way that allows others to be, a way that is supportive, loving and truly compassionate to all humans. We have a long way to go until this way of living is reflected everywhere in society but acknowledging the love we are, and the divinity we are all from, is a starting point we all need.