As a Muslim teen growing up in the age after 9/11, I’m lucky to say that I have not really suffered at the hands of islamophobia. However, since moving to Alabama at age 8, I have heard my classmates make enough offensive jokes about how we are terrorists, compelling me to speak about how the view on Islam and Muslims have changed in the media since the tragedy of 9/11.
Muslims are unfairly held accountable for actions that we are not responsible for. Since the events of 9/11, a prominent bias has been displayed against Muslims and Islam throughout the world, demonstrated by media portrayal and hate crimes.
The media, particularly in the United States, has not been kind in reporting Islam related terrorism. Research from Erin Kearns at Georgia State University shows that when the perpetrator is Muslim, it can be expected for the attack to receive about four and a half times more media coverage than if the perpetrator was not Muslim. Put simply, Kearns says, “A perpetrator who is not Muslim would have to kill on average about seven more people to receive the same amount of coverage as a perpetrator who's Muslim” (National Public Radio).
Kearns’ research aids in proving the media’s prevalent bigotry in their coverage of terror attacks tied to Islam. It is also typical, according to the Kearns’, that the terrorism label is often only applied when the perpetrator is Muslim. A member of another religious group could commit an equivalent act and be able to avoid the media’s attacks on the religion itself. It is not fair that the reason behind the crime is attributed to the religion and its “corrupt” principles rather than the immoral decisions of the individuals.
Hate crimes towards religious and ethnic groups have existed but had rarely occurred against Muslims until this century. In 2014, Statistics Canada reported an increase in hate crimes against Muslims, being the only community in which there was growth, as much as 44% (The Walrus). FBI crime statistics showed that the number of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States raised significantly after the 9/11 attacks, including 481 incidents in 2001 alone (Gale Opposing Viewpoints Collection). This data indicates that as a result of the attacks in 2001, Muslims are more likely to be subjective to hate crimes based on their religious affiliation alone. It also validates the claim that members of the religion are being targeted based on the portrayal of Islam in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and the new perception that Muslims are radicals. Though most Muslims do not have the same views as extremists, they are treated as if they do, once again proving the prejudice that is faced solely on having a particular religious view.
Bias simply on the basis of believing in Islam is faced by many Muslims throughout the world. According to a study conducted by Katayoun Kishi for the Pew Research Center on Islamophobia in the United States, an estimated 49% of Americans believed that at least some Muslims are un-American, and 11% had strong Islamophobic viewpoints, believing the majority of Muslims were un-American (Gale Opposing Viewpoints Collection). This concrete statistic proves that there is in fact discrimination towards members of Islam, likely a hatred rooting from generalizing all Muslims as terrorists.Despite no part of Islam holding anti-American standards, it is still viewed as such for no particular reason that can be pinpointed.
It can be understood why there is hate towards Islam to a certain extent. Losing a loved one to the various extremist Muslim attacks can form a somewhat reasonable bias against the perpetrators. But there is a fine line between loathing the criminals and hating an entire religious group. It becomes something thoroughly different when one targets members of the religion solely because of their beliefs, especially when the morals of the extremists are not in line with the rest of the Muslims throughout the world. All of Islam cannot be to blame for the actions of a few.
Bigoted treatment of Muslims has escalated since the events of 9/11. The media has displayed their prejudice in their method of covering Islam-related terror attacks. It is simply unreasonable for an entire religion to suffer from the crimes of some who do not represent them.
Written by: Jawana Kamal / @jawanakamal
Edited by: Isabel Hope / @isabamahope