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From ISIS to al-Queda, from the refugee crisis to the violence in the Middle East, it's no wonder that people are concerned about what seems to be an international upheaval. Of course, the world's leaders have weighed in on what's happened, from the promise that President Obama would accept an estimated 110,000 refugees by 2017 to Canada's generosity towards these refugees.
Many support groups are geared toward helping Muslims who are suffering in the Middle East, and followers of the religion have done their best to tear down the walls we've built up for ourselves. Even now, many people have continued to help Muslims be more accepted in Western societies, all the while endeavoring to nourish what used to be religious tolerance.
But now, despite the encouragements and vows to stay strong during a time of fear, many people give in to the paranoia. In November 2017, the Pew Research Center reported that crimes against Muslims in 2015–2016 rose since 2001, the year of the 9/11 terrorist attack. According to the Huffington Post, Islamophobia has found a new home in Europe and has been prospering ever since then. Even now, many people in America blame terrorist attacks on the general Muslim population, despite the fact that 93% of attacks are committed by white, American males.
It's no secret that perceptions of Islam are varied. Depending on the region, Islam can either be the truest way of life possible or a figment of another person's imagination. But how exactly does America view Islam? What about the world? And why is this so important?
Sources of Islamophobia in America
Despite America calling itself "The Land of the Free," its history shows it's anything but. Even now, the country is still struggling for these rights, some more than others. From the American Civil War to the Civil Rights Movements in the 1950s to the Women's March in 2017, we're constantly fighting for the freedom we were promised, even if it isn't fully acknowledged. However, since the events of 9/11, there's been a growing distrust of one particular group: Muslims.
After the attack on the World Trade Center, President George Bush called for a "War Against Terrorism." Enrollments in the military skyrocketed, as did patriotism. However, when the culprits were announced, not just American Muslims but the entire Middle Eastern area itself fell under suspicion. Once the leader of al-Queda was eliminated, a new terrorist organization took its place, one by the name of ISIS. Yet another Islamic extremist group, as the media continued to report on the group and their actions, Islamophobia grew.
These attitudes have been cultivated from many different sources. Whether it be from nationalistic individuals, politicians, organized religion, or otherwise, Islamophobia continued to flourish on American soil. It wasn't until Donald Trump began his campaign did the problem begin to fully manifest. From his comments about Islam and Muslims in general to the all-out travel ban he tried imposing on Muslims entering the US, it's clear that his attitudes weren't taken lightly.
But this fear has also been seen in news sources and other media. Fox News is notorious for feeding into Islamophobia, who have told their viewers many times over that by allowing Muslim immigration into the country, it would be putting itself at further risk for terrorism.
Other news outlets have taken into adding to the fear, even if they don't know it. Bill Maher has been known to promote his own Islamophobic beliefs, even going as far as to say that "vast numbers of Muslims want humans to die for holding a different idea." A CNN anchor, who attempted to analyze Maher's comments, clearly took his side, even when a Muslim scholar was brought in to debunk these false claims.
American culture has also taken to contributing to the fear. Many extremist Christian groups have taken to protesting against Muslim immigration. In different anti-Muslim groups, they treat the minority as if they were monsters, unwilling and unable to understand what it means to be human. They fear Muslims and have brandished their convictions in the most violent of ways possible. Even after being exposed to facts and contradictions to their way of thinking, they still stubbornly cling to their beliefs.
This, in turn, has led to fear in Muslim communities. According to a poll by Gallup, many Muslims feel that Western societies don't respect them, with 52% feeling like they aren't trusted in the United States especially. While differences in religion, culture, and overall lifestyle may play into these statistics, there's no doubt that these perceptions have come from the reactions to the terrorist attacks.
Around the World
International attitudes towards Muslims are more complicated.
In Europe, there's no doubt that Islamophobia is on the rise. According to editors Enes Bayrakli and Farid Hafez, many policies are often seen as discriminatory that restrict Muslim lifestyles, many of which are important aspects to not just to their religion but their culture as well.
Not only this, but it's clear that Islamophobia is prevalent in many social classes, ranging from the impoverished and misinformed to the educated and the elite. For example, in Germany, there have been many attacks against Muslim migrants, many of which are fleeing from the violence in their countries. While other countries may not see such levels of Islamophobia, there are talks that this hatred could rise.
And this fear doesn't just affect Europe. While Australia isn't particularly known for its Islamophobia, there have still many serious cases. In a study done by the Islamophobia Register of Australia, women were often the most susceptible to harassment and other forms of racism. Many Muslims are harassed online as well, whether it be through the use of death threats or otherwise. Even so, studies have also shown that many Australians supported increasing diversification, despite uncertainties revolving around Muslim immigration.
Africa isn't spared from these politics either. In fact, it's a bit of a game-changer, especially in Nigeria, where they inaugurated a Muslim aristocrat for president in 2015. In fact, according to Al Ahram Weekly, Muslims have often ruled over Christian nations, so it doesn't come as a surprise. Throughout history, and especially in this region, Christians and Muslims have often lived side by side with one another. Even so, after 9/11, Islamophobia began to spread. Extreme Islamist groups, such as Boko Haram, have started to spearhead such fears.
Even Asia isn't safe. Chinese Islamophobia is on the rise, mostly due to online advocacy, and hate crimes against Muslims have also increased in Southern Asia. This, strangely enough, is due to the fact that many Asians look like Middle Easterns. ThinkProgress even reported on this. In an interview with Michael Kigelman, who directs the Wilson Center's Asia Program, he stated, "[South Asians] are mistaken for people from the Middle East, [and the] assumption is that they're Muslim."
Islamophobia is an important topic that many people don't discuss. While some try to deny their Islamophobia, their comments and actions prove otherwise. Freedoms are rejected, and paranoia continues to spread like wildfire. Even so, while it may be scary, we still have to talk about this subject. By educating ourselves and breaking down boundaries that cause misunderstanding, we're able to better understand the majority of Muslims who don't engage in such violent acts, who want to take part in our communities, who treat us the way they want to be treated.
One way you can learn more about Islamophobia is through reading. Books can help give you an understanding of the general idea of Islamophobia, as well as give context as to how Islamophobia originates.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.