A phobia is a fear that is exaggerated and often illogical. That is why the word “Islamophobia” is apt when describing the way many Americans feel toward the religion of Islam. A fear of the religion of Islam and those who follow it is one that is highly exaggerated and we are at a risk of this mentality running rampant in our country.
Islamophobia in America is a largely invisible disease that risks becoming an epidemic. The disease has been simmering in people for a long while, and the consequences and symptoms of the disease risk appearing at any moment. All it takes is one instigator, and we may find Muslims in the U.S. in the same situation the Japanese were during World War II, living in internment camps around the country.
It is impossible to know what that instigator might be or when or if it may arrive. For example, it could be another attack on our country by terrorists calling themselves Muslims. Fear is a strong emotion, and when people are overcome by it there is no telling what they will do, regardless of how irrational that fear may be.
We know the threat exists because of incidents like the recent murder of Shaima Alawadi in San Diego, Cali. A note reportedly left next to her body read, “go back to your country, you terrorist.” The police are still investigating and have said they are looking into the possibility that it was a hate crime. But this incident, if it was a hate crime, is only a more high-profile example of a deep-rooted Islamophobia that exists in our country.
The best evidence is anecdotal and comes from Muslims themselves — almost every Muslim you talk to has experienced discrimination based on their religion or knows someone who has. Most Muslims I know have not experienced physical violence, but the vast amount of verbal hatred and subtle discrimination is just as troubling. This less aggressive form of hatred is dangerous because it is the type of Islamophobia at risk of exploding into violence at any moment.
Just take a look at any article online regarding Islam or terrorism, and the vast majority of comments under that article are hateful. I know Internet commenters are not truly representative of our country, but these comments are still bothersome.
The reason for this Islamophobia is largely a result of the media. Anytime a person hears about Islam it is through a news report on a violent Muslim extremist. Even people who will tell you they do not care about Islam one way or another most likely have a negative association with the religion just because they always hear about Islam in negative terms.
The media can do a much better job when reporting on Islamic terrorists. The media reports on how the Muslim extremists try to justify their actions, but do not investigate any further than that. Most Americans do not have enough knowledge about Islam to recognize the inaccuracies and contradictions in the justification used by such extremists. The media should not be content with merely reporting what one party says, because it is their job to also fact-check those statements and report on the truth.
It is important to realize that the motivations of Islamic terrorists are usually political and not religious. They do not approve of the numerous Western military occupations and interventions into their countries, and because they also happen to be Muslim they look through the teachings of Islam to specifically find something that would allow them to act on their strong anti-Western feelings. When a person is bound and determined to find something, they will find it, even if they have to ignore facts that are contradictory to what they are looking for.
The media, with the help of the Bush administration, generalized Islamic extremists after 9/11 and continue to do so today. The media continues to say that those who want to attack us are people who do not agree with our way of life, but that ignores the actual root cause of terrorism, which is all politics.
This type of reporting is the reason that it is not just racist bigots and violent crazies that we must be worried about. Islamophobia is a national problem that is far more widespread than most care to admit. Islamophobia may be in the background right now, but that does not mean we can ignore it until it comes into the foreground. Because when it comes into the foreground, it may be too late.