By Nikki Pappas
Imagine you’re a crafty high school freshman boy spending your weekend constructing a project to impress your science teacher. In class, you eagerly wriggle in your seat, waiting to show your teacher and friends. Something is amiss; your teacher is convinced the makeshift clock you constructed is an explosive device. The clinking of metal is heard down the hallway and the next thing you know you are taken out in handcuffs and levied a three-day suspension.
This is exactly what happened to young Ahmed Muhammad Sept. 21 at MacArthur High School in Dallas, Texas. Muhammad comes from Muslim heritage and has been featured throughout the media as a target of racial profiling and religious bigotry sparked by the fear of Muslims, otherwise known as “Islamophobia.” Islamophobia is becoming an increasing problem in our nation, causing adherents to the Muslim faith to be targeted and discriminated against by media outlets, the government and the rest of society.
Fifty-three percent of Muslims found it more difficult to be Muslim after the 9/11 attacks, according to data from the Pew Research Center and the Harvard Political Review in 2010. This was due to the generalization that most Muslim were radical, which caused public disapproval, harsh profiling measures and sensational media headlines specifically targeted at Muslims. Extremist attacks like 9/11 and the Boston Bombing caused security in popular tourist and public areas to increase tremendously. Law enforcement officials purposely targeted Islamic areas and “were given broad latitude to monitor these specific religious groups,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Muslims were frequently chosen for random searches in TSA security checkpoints and according to a Gallup poll, one out of three men felt uncomfortable with a Muslim passenger on their flight.
I believe these security procedures were originally put into place purely for public safety purposes, but the harshness in how these procedures are carried out is unnecessary. The government may not have intended to create a stigma towards the Islamic culture, but they did. Thankfully, in 2014, the government decreased their profiling techniques, enacting a policy that restricted federal agencies from surveying specific religious groups without probable cause. Although this policy lessened Muslim profiling, Islamophobia continues to run rampant through the United States. Even 2016 presidential candidate Ben Carson stated he “would not advocate putting a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
Terrorist units in the Middle East are constantly publicized in the media, painting the Muslim image as violent and threatening. Twenty-four hour media outlets like CNN draw in viewers through sensational headlines and bloody exaggerations. The current refugee crisis in Syria testifies to the deadly nature of radical Islamists, who behead and shoot people frequently. Unfortunately, most American citizens see the small percentage of radical Islamic terrorists as the same as the common fundamental Islamic believer. The media finds that radical Islam draws in more viewers and higher ratings, keeping Islamophobia alive.
This is the root of our problem. Islam is a peaceful religion and adherents of the faith do not want death to all Americans. Like any other religion in the United States, fundamental Muslims practice their beliefs and doctrines openly. The stigma painted by the media causes society to give all Muslims the cold shoulder and treat them like a threat. This causes all the Muslims to take the fall for the minute percent that are radical. As a society, we must educate ourselves in what the media is reporting fully, before we apply a stereotype.
Policies and safety measures by law enforcement officials should protect our public safety, not attack Muslims. On the other hand, Muslim-Americans should be aware that extremism does pose a threat to the United States, and, though it is extremely unfair, they may have to cooperate with “random” searches more often than other American citizens for the time being. In order to ensure discrimination based on religion or cultural identity is a thing of the past, Americans should move forward and educate themselves on the Islamic faith and not resort to labeling.