Since the 9/11 attacks, many Americans have labeled Muslims in the United States as a threat to our country due to the fact that they share their religion with the extremists responsible for worldwide terrorism. Due to the recent conflicts between the US and various Muslim groups, the Muslims that live in America continue to face isolation and danger because of their faith. Many people are responsible for this labeling, including journalists, politicians, and evangelical Christian fanatics. However, those mainly responsible for giving Muslims in America a modern day scarlet letter are the extremists themselves.
Muslims in America face discrimination and danger due to their faith. Following the 9/11 attacks, employers, classmates, and (to a certain extent) the United States government have shown bias against Muslims (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Followers of Islam working in the USA have been targeted. Hundreds of Muslims have been harassed or discharged by their employers based on their faith since the terrorist attacks (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Trans State Airlines fired First Officer (co-pilot) Mohammed Hussein because of his Islamic beliefs and Arabic appearance (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Hussein had an excellent work record and was unable to respond to the charges. Muslims going to school in the US have also encountered discrimination. ("Living in Fear," 52). School children of Middle Eastern origin have encountered abuse and beatings. An Iraqi boy that happened to be named Osama was repeatedly harassed because of his name ("Living in Fear," 52). The US government has also been unfriendly. Several Muslims applying for citizenship had their background checks illegally delayed (Reza, pg. B5). Federal raids aimed at "terrorists" in the US targeted people recognized as Muslim leaders (US Commission On Civil Rights). None of these Muslims had any connection to terrorism. One of them, Dr. al Alwani, was an outspoken critic of extremism and used to travel from mosque to mosque to speak about how great America is. America thanked him by ransacking his house and destroying many of his possessions. Muslims in the US are also facing danger from ordinary US citizens. There have been slurs vandalism, shootings, fire bombings, and other strikes directed at mosques, businesses owned by Muslims, and individuals (O'Driscoll, "Muslims in the USA Live with New Fears after Attacks"). In one case, a car crashed through the entrance of a mosque. Muslims wearing traditional garments tend to draw stares and odd looks. Several Muslims and people mistaken for Muslims have been killed by the revenge-seeking citizens (O'Driscoll, "Muslims in the USA Live with New Fears after Attacks"). These types of acts have created an atmosphere of apprehension and fear in the Muslim community.
Many people are responsible for this labeling, including journalists, politicians, evangelical Christian fanatics, and the extremists themselves. In addition to these people, various stereotypes also bring about the threatening image of Islam. Journalists can bring their opinions to the public through newspapers, magazines, and TV stations. They help mold people's opinions and have helped spread the image of Islam as a threat. When Osama's extremists attacked the US, the public was stunned and immediately wanted to know why (US Commission on Civil Rights). Journalists and politicians immediately attempted to inform the public and to formulate various reasons. The journalists and politicos said that Islamic extremists hated Americans because of our values, our democracy, and because of our very existence (US Commission on Civil Rights). The public appears to have taken this to heart. And since Islam is at the heart of the extremist's actions (every attacker believed they were going to paradise), the public came to think of Islam as an anti-American death cult instead of a large and well-cultured religion. Needless to say, none of these "reasons" were true (US Commission On Civil Rights). In Osama bin Laden's statements and head hijacker Atta's suicide notes, it is easy to see that the extremists identified three policies as reasons for their attacks (US Commission on Civil Rights). The main one was our policy in Iraq. Following the first Gulf War, the US enforced a policy of containment that supposedly killed thousands of Iraqi children a year. When Secretary of State Albright was asked about the consequences of the policy, she responded, "Yes it's tough, but it's worth it." That statement angered the whole Muslim world (and many non-Muslims as well). It sent the message that the US did not care about the death of thousands of children (US Commission on Civil Rights). The others were the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia and the US support of Israel in its conflict with Palestine, two very controversial issues. Although these do not justify the attacks, they showed that the public got the wrong message. Other journalists have made even more direct attacks on Islam. When the University of North Carolina made its undergraduate students read a book called Approaching the Qur'n, popular anchor Bill O'Reilly compared the book choice to making students read Hitler's Mein Kampf during World War II ("Living in Fear,"52). Since most people have not even opened a copy of the Koran, most listeners may have thought that O'Reilly (who anchors the most watched cable editorial news show) actually knew what he was talking about. The fact that the public hears so many negative things about Islam from people they generally respect gives the idea that journalists and politicians are responsible for the labeling of Muslims as threatening.
Evangelical Christian fanatics also play a role in spreading an untrue image of Muslims. The religious fanatics can include anyone, including preachers that speak to an audience that is all ears, looking for divine truth. This is the case of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is, among other things, anti-gay (their main prejudice), anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon, and anti-Semitic ("Westboro Baptist Church"). The minister of the church, Rev. Fred Phelps, said this about Islam to his audience:
"Mohammed was a demon-possessed whoremonger and pedophile who contrived a 300-page work of Satanic fiction: The Koran! Like America's own whoremonger and pedophile wangled his own hokey Book of Mormon!"
The very fact that this message of hatred and intolerance was given in a church is not only disturbing, but it gives insight into why people feel that Islam is threatening. When ministers deliver a message criticizing Islam, their audience generally takes it to heart, since ministers usually explain religious truths for people. This may be why people are very anti-Muslim, because they are told that the religion of Islam is nothing but Satanic fiction. Other religious fanatics get their "Christian" message out in the form of books and even cartoons. For instance, Jack Chick, a cartoonist, consistently portrays Muslims as hell-bound savages in his work. ("Jack Chick"). Many people look at these forms of writing and occasionally take them seriously (though not so much the case with Chick), which leads them to believe that associating with Muslims is like associating with Satan himself. Religious fanatics encourage discrimination by making Christians feel that Islam is evil and should be erradicated.
Stereotypes and misunderstandings about Islam also lead to the image of Muslims as threatening people. Three negative stereotypes are common: Islam is incompatible with democracy, Islam calls for the suppression of women, and the 9/11 attacks are a kind of act that is justified by Islam (US Commission On Civil Rights). These sterotypes are engrained into people's minds because the public only hears about the actions of the extremists and the oppressive policies of leaders in Muslim countries such as Iran and Afghanistan. However, these three stereotypes are untrue (US Commission On Civil Rights). According to the Koran, women are given the same rights as men. They are only different in the fact that they are expected to perform different roles. There is absolutely no contradiction between Islam and democracy. In fact, Islamic law states that people should be governed by an elected body. Also, Islam does not justify atrocities like the 9/11 attacks. Islamic rules of warfare prohibit scorched earth policies and the killing of unarmed civilians. No killing of common people ever took place under the prophet Mohhammed's rule. In addition, every Muslim group in America and many Muslim groups world wide (including Lebanon's notoriously trigger-happy Hezbollah) condemed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These untrue sterotypes, however, are passed from person to person and lead many people to perceive Islam as threatening.
It seems to me, however, that the people most responsible for the discrimination in America against Islam are the extremists themselves. This is because they carry out violent and bloody attacks against their enemies (often innocent civilians) and use Islam to justify their actions (US Commission On Civil Rights). This can be seen through the devastating consequences of rebel suicide bombers in wars and terrorist attacks. The last words of the 9/11 hijackers were, "God is great." Those same words are often uttered by other suicide bombers before they blow themselves up. Also, the connection between terrorism and Islam is pointed out very plainly when the extremists say that they are waging a "holy war" against the West. In addition to this, extremists have used Islam as a justification to attack synogogues, churches, and Hindu and Buddhist temples. Due to the fact that the terrorists who perform such inhumane and criminal acts associate themselves with Islam, the public that suffers from these attacks comes to view Islam as a serious threat. In reality, only 15 of the over 1 billion Muslims are extremists and of those, only a few engage in terrorist activities (US Commission on Civil Rights). However, the actions of the 85 of normal Muslims do not make the nightly news. All the public hears about are the extremists and their actions. In the case of Islam, the majority has been silent while the minority has been screaming into a microphone, causing many Americans to believe that all Muslims are threatening. Also, the actions of certain Muslim countries help to reinforce the stereotypes. For instance, the policies of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan in regard to women help reinforce the belief that Islam is oppressive towards women (US Commission On Civil Rights). The problem is that there are 53 other predominately Muslim countries that do not treat women like objects. Only in old Afghanistan were women forced to stay inside all day unless they covered 99 of their bodies. However, most news stories do not focus on the places where things are going right, but on the places where things are going wrong. Consequently, very few people have heard about the better treatment of women in Lebanon and other Muslim countries. Nothing, therefore, counters their belief that Islam is oppressive towards women. Due to all this, it is clear that the extremists play a large role in pinning the scarlet letter on Muslims in the USA. The Muslim extremists, American journalists and politicians, religious fanatics, and various untrue stereotypes all are responsible for the labeling of American Muslims as threatening people.
The labeling of Muslims as threatening is a serious issue in our society and needs to be stopped. America prides itself as being a place where everyone, regardless of faith or race can be free and have the same chances to live "The American Dream." However, if our ministers continue to condemn Islam in American churches, if Muslims continue to be fired from their jobs because of their faith and appearance, and if Muslims keep getting killed because of their resemblance to an enemy that is abroad, Americans would be acting contrary to our own national beliefs. It is very possible that the War on Terror may lead to the imprisonment of all Muslims in internment camps similar to what World War II brought on the Japanese. The extremists will gain more support if we keep attacking Muslims without any ties to terrorism simply because our victims will start viewing us as their enemies. In order for America to truly be a free society, the fear of Muslims should be eradicated, and in the place of that fear, we should substitute respect for the Islamic faith.
O'Driscoll, Patrick. "Muslims in the USA Live With New Fears after Attacks." USA Today. 19 September, 2001. pg. Unknown
Reza, HG. "7 Muslims Win Citizenship Tussle, US Approves Their Applications." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. 6 October, 2006. pg. B5.
"Living in Fear." Irish Times. 7 September, 2002. pg. 52
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Muslim Pilot Fired Due to Religion and Appearance. US Government Printing Office, 2003.
US Commission on Civil Rights. Understanding Islam in the Aftermath of September 11. US Government Printing Office, 2002.
Jack Chick. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 7 November, 2006.
http://en. Baptist Church. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 7 November, 2006.