A whirlpool of humans circling a large black box to eventually kneel down and pray to it. It could induce fear in an individual that isn’t aware of such a practice. It is simply the Hajj, a religious pilgrimage taken by every Muslim at least once in their lifetime to Mecca. A peaceful journey that is vital to the completion of the 5 Pillars of Islam, according to the Quran. Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world make the journey to the holy site in order to grow spiritually and expand their faith.
But ever since the attacks on the World Trade Center, the United States has become a breeding ground of anti-Muslim sentiments and fear inducing propaganda, which has left a misunderstanding view of Islam. It seem that a lack of information has unknowingly justified mass hatred and has distorted the views of what Islam really is for the Western world. This cultural hegemony has caused Muslim Americans to face prejudice and violence without any association to terrorism simply because of their religious backgrounds. Even Bill O’ Reilly, an influential talk show host, stated on national television, “It doesn’t make any difference who you kill in the process of retaliation against the attacks” (Altwaiji 315). It seems that conservative America has become perfectly content with unjustified killings of a group of people in order to pursue revenge. An entire faith group cannot be blamed for the actions of a small extreme population.
Lets talk about what actually caused the attacks on September 11, 2001. An extremist group known as Al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, had carried such as attack on American soil. We saw this attack as a call for war and the United States retaliated with strict foreign policy in the Middle East. According to history, Al-Qaeda began in the 1980s as a group of militants who defended Afghanistan against Soviet invasion. This group of militants can be traced to Operation Cyclone, a CIA program that funded extremists in Afghanistan in order to keep the Soviets from gaining power. The United States channeled over $600 million to arm these extremists against our biggest enemies, the Soviets. By destroying one enemy, it seems that we created another one. As someone who was so against the Soviets, Ronald Reagan put weapons into the hands of Al-Qaeda and traded missiles with terrorists. It seems like the events of 9/11 could be traced back the United States government but instead of owing up to their mistake, the government funded an illegal war in the name of neo-imperialism.
Okay, now that we’ve traced back the origins of Islamic terrorism, what does this mean for the average Muslim American? Well, with the rise of tension in race relations within the past few years, it seems that the Western world has become a dangerous place for people of color, especially Muslims.
Muslims from the Bronx such as Hebh Jamal were only one years old at the time of the September 11th attacks. Being 15 years old, Jamal and her family has faced widespread prejudice because of their religious affiliations. The recent Paris Attacks and the killings of 3 Muslim students at Chapel Hill, NC has left the American population fearful of future attacks. In order to counteract this fear, there has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments within American politics also. With the influential power of Donald Trump being higher than ever, it has become easy for ignorant Americans to express their disgust and hatred against the Muslims. Trump has used the slogan “Make America Great Again” to tap into the feelings of patriotism that is extremely powerful in blindly uniting a large population. Such hateful rhetoric has caused for teenagers such as Hebh Jamal to no longer feel safe within her own home. Someone like Donald Trump gaining power within the Republican Party is dangerous to the values of liberty and freedom of religion within the USA.
Here is what hostile speech against Muslims causes:
Donald Trump has a hijabi woman sporting a shirt that clearly says “Salam, I Come in Peace” escorted out of his rally. She was not a disrespectful audience member and was standing peacefully alongside Trump’s supporters. It seems that peace is not an option when Islamophobia has grown so rapidly within a few years.
Can we really let the leading political candidate of the Republican Party publicly express these types of opinions? According to Mr. Trump, surveillance and a watch list of all Muslim Americans is what will protect us. He seems to cherry pick only a small population to protect, mostly being just White Americans.
Now that we understand how this affects the Muslim population of America, how can we help reduce prejudice in the United States? The fastest way to understand Islam is truly to educate yourself in the differences between the religion and the political manifestation.
Here is an explanation between the Islamic faith and what happens when extreme politics is mixed with a powerful religion: