EDITORIAL: Hate adds fuel to discrimination’s fire
Recent assaults prompt reflection on status of Muslims in US
After 9/11, the state of America and the rest of the world were marked by intensified fear. Terror became the overarching theme in media as well as in political rhetoric, and this aggravated fear insidiously, whether wittingly or unwittingly, pit groups of people against one another. America was shook by the seismic tragedy in 2001. Yet the fear of random acts of violence committed against oneself has ironically resulted in some Americans committing random acts of violence against others.
A day before the Islamic holiday, the celebration of Eid al-Adha, a 36-year-old Muslim woman dressed in religious garb was set on fire on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and she saw a man standing in front of her with a lighter. She doused her clothing before sustaining any injury, and the man fled, so his intention is still unknown. But regardless of his reason (we may never find this person or discover his reason) for assaulting a stranger, the act is situated within the grand context of increasing violence against Muslims. Among a variety of other incidents earlier this year, two Muslim mothers were harassed and punched by another woman as they were walking and trying to push their children’s strollers, and two Muslim men were shot in the back of the head in broad daylight. The rate and severity of these type of incidents prompted racial and civil rights activist Linda Sarsour to say that as a Muslim woman, it takes courage to even step outside her home.
As Muslims are perceived as terrorists and aggressors, Donald Trump is pointed to as the source of anti-Muslim sentiment with his harsh language and incitement of violence. But before Trump was even running for president and proclaiming Muslim travel bans, Muslim antipathy already existed in the United States. A circulating hashtag, #AfterSeptember11, illustrates the painful experience of prejudice that Muslims face in the aftermath of 9/11. Many of the people using the hashtag were children when the attack occurred, and so they share stories of not growing up without a mom because someone decided to gun her down and of not having friends growing up because parents not approving of her “kind.” Trump is not the cause, but a symptom of widespread misconceptions about the world, people, cultures and religions. Assaults against innocent Muslims are misdirected and polarize human beings along ethnic lines.
Muslims should not be afraid to step outside their home because of the color of their skin and the preconceived notions about their people. Not every Muslim is part of ISIS, and, in fact, they are the primary victims of the Islamic State, as a U.S. government National Counterterrorism Center report shows that Muslims suffer 82 to 97 percent of terrorism casualties.
Since this September holds a close proximity between Eid al-Adha and the anniversary of 9/11, it is worthwhile reflecting on the status of Muslims in America and around the world today. As many in the Muslims in in Iraq, Turkey, Bangladesh and Syria face terrorism committed by groups like the Islamic State, they also continue to encounter harassment, assault, abuse and murder at the hands of discriminators from the people in countries like the United States.
Fear pits one group of people over another, but there is a way to replace that with understanding and acceptance, requiring open-mindedness and effort. There is a responsibility to welcome people of various faiths, including Muslims, into the University and there exists many gestures to achieve that. Education is a powerful remedy to fear, and understanding others through acquiring adequate knowledge in others’ culture, religion, and overall experience is crucial. Recognizing differences and celebrating those differences are possible, especially in a University setting.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.