A few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker, Edward Curtis IV who is the Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts, Professor of Religious Studies and Adjunct Professor of American and Africana Studies from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis come to our class to speak about Islamaphobia. Curtis IV has written several books on many different aspects of the lives of Muslims in America. During his talk to our class, he spoke about the history of Islamaphobia, its current forms and ways in which moving forward, Islamaphobia may or may not change. Islamaphobia is a huge issue facing our nation today especially within the context of the 2016 Presidential Election. Politicians have perpetuated Islamaphobia through their comments especially this past year and many things need to change in order for individuals of the Islam religion to be able to truly enjoy their lives and freedom within this country.
According to Islamaphobia.org, Islamaphobia is the presence of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam prejudice. There has been a long history of discrimination and prejudice toward Muslims within the United States. One key figure that Curtis IV mentioned was Muhammad Ali, who was charged for draft evasion when he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War. He was arrested and had his titles stripped. He was able to appeal this decision all the way up to the Supreme Court and get it reversed, yet the fact that he was not able to legitimately claim his religion to avoid the draft was a form of discrimination in itself. Though there was discrimination then, now since the War on Terror and many other terrorist attacks, Muslim Americans face a huge amount of prejudice than ever before.
There are many practices today that perpetuate Islamaphobia within our culture, these include the presence of discrimination and prejudice toward Muslims as portrayed by the media and entertainment in popular films and television shows. In class we spoke of this image within the movie “London Has Fallen” with Gerard Butler. The media is a very powerful outlet and many times what is portrayed within these outlets is the only exposure people get to Muslims and Islam. Another way that Islamaphobia is present today is the fact that there is government discrimination against Muslim Visitors and Immigrants and lastly there are many politicians who exacerbate the discrimination and prejudice against Muslims due to their words and how they vote for or against certain policies. This arguably has done the most damage especially in this past year.
A large majority of anti-Muslim comments have been made by Republican politicians. George W. Bush perpetuated an extremely negative image of Muslims through the War on Terror. Republican Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly expressed his negative view on Muslims. He refused to meet with over a dozen Muslim constituents when they asked to have a physical meeting to discuss domestic issues, via email and phone. In terms of the presidential candidates, Donald Trump had originally called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. After he received a huge amount of criticism for this, he decided to revise his policy to “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants. These comments have further contributed to the United States being scared of an entire demographic within the United States population.
Many of the reasons why Islamaphobia exists is due to the above stated reasons. There is not enough education around Islam and separating the religion from the violence that has occurred around it. There needs to be a much more open mind toward Islam to reduce the effects Muslim Americans feel now about the current state of discrimination and prejudice. It will require a rewiring of how the United States has trained itself to think in regards to Islam. The only way to reduce the effects of Islamaphobia is to continue to learn more about the religion, those practice the religion and also by learning to understand the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists.