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Islamophobia, Its Effects, and What We Can Do To Combat It

As the holy month of Ramadan continues, it is imperative that all people comprehend the true meaning of Islam.  So often it is misconstrued into false understandings, fake news, and immediate thoughts of extremism and/or terrorism.  Islamophobia is a serious concern for The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) and this article addresses all components of it and what we as a company, but also as individuals can do to counter it.

 

A phobia, according to the dictionary is defined as an inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object or situation. Since the September 11th attacks, one phobia has grown. Islamophobia is an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life. Islamophobia is often posed as the motivation behind acts of mosque vandalism, hate crimes against individuals thought to be Muslims, sensational press coverage of “the Muslim threat”, the elective policing and surveillance of Muslims communities, and electoral campaigns smears in which a candidate is linked to Muslims extremists or is said to be Muslim.

 

While it is unknown how many Muslims are in the United States, there are estimates. According to a study conducted by Pew Research, it is estimated that there were about 3.45 million Muslims of all ages living in the U.S. in 2017 and that Muslims made up about 1.1% of the total U.S. population. Muslims in the U.S. are not as numerous as the number of Americans who identify as Jewish by religion, according to the estimate. Some metro areas, such as Washington, D.C. have sizable Muslim communities and certain states, such as New Jersey, are home to two or three times as many Muslim adults per capita as the national average. But there are also states and counties with far fewer Muslims. In addition, one-in-five American Muslim adults were raised in a different faith tradition and converted to Islam.

 

Anti-Muslim Activities

 

Robert McKenzie, a Senior Fellow at New America and the founding Director of its Muslim Diaspora Initiative and his team have worked on determining the number of incidents of anti-Muslim activities in the United States. McKenzie and his team have found since 2012 there have been 763 incidents of hate crimes in the United States against the Muslim population. The most incidents overall have occurred in California, Texas, New York, and Florida. California had the most incidents overall with 56 recorded, followed by Texas with 48, New York with 48 and Florida with 46. However, when looking at the number of incidents per capita, Maine has the most followed by South Dakota. Most of the 763 reports were categorized as media reports of Anti-Muslim Violence & Crimes. In this category, there were 197 reported incidents. This category is defined as incidents involving threats, harassment, physical harm, attempts at physical harm, or any other criminal incidents that were reported as motivated by prejudice against Muslims from media reports. The next most reported category was Hate Incidents Against Mosques & Islamic Centers with 178 reports.

 

 Map showing anti-Muslim incidents from 2012 to present, from New America.

 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations recorded a 17 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide in 2017 over 2016. This was accompanied by a 15 percent increase in hate crimes targeting American Muslims, including children, youth, and families, over the same period. Of particular alarm is the fact that federal government agencies instigated 35 percent of all anti-Muslim bias incidents recorded in 2017. This represents an almost unprecedented level of government hostility toward a religious minority within the United States, and is counter to the American value of religious freedom. Following the executive order barring the entry of individuals from several Muslim-majority countries into the U.S., the first version of which was signed on January 27, 2017, CAIR received a deluge of cases. Over the course of the year, CAIR recorded 464 incidents pertaining to the unconstitutional Muslim Ban. That is a staggering 18 percent of the total number of anti-Muslim bias incidents documented in 2017.

Overall, the top five categories of abuse were:

  1. Harassment, a non-violent or non-threatening incident of bias, at 14 percent of cases.

  2. Incidents in which the complainant was inappropriately targeted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection accounted for 14 percent.

  3. Hate crimes, including physical violence targeting individuals and damage targeting property, making up 12 percent.

  4. Cases in which the FBI harassed or otherwise inappropriately targeted the complainant, constituting 10 percent.

  5. Employment discrimination — including denial of work, being passed over for promotion, or harassment by a supervisor or other senior staff — accounting for 9 percent.

 

Additionally, CAIR recorded 144 anti-mosque incidents, including harassment, intimidation, and hate crimes.

 

Bar graph depicting anti-muslim bias and anti-muslim hate in 2016 versus 2017 from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

 

The increase of Islamophobia in the United States has caused more hate crimes towards American Muslims. In 2017, there was on avery of nine mosques that were targeted every month. The graph below shows  63 publicly reported incidents from January to July 2017, where mosques were targets of threats, vandalism or arson. On average, that comes down to nine every month and at least two a week.

 

 Map depicting Mosques target in 2017 from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

 

 

Image from Ridz design

 

4 Myths about Islam

 

Misleading information leads to the increase in hatred towards Islam and Muslims not only in America but the entire world. From the media to acts of terrorism, myths about the world's second largest religion are automatically embedded with the faith.

 

Myth #1: Islam promotes hatred. The Qur’an is centered around faith, hope, and peace. When lines from the Qur’an are used to claim that Islam is violent, these quotes have been taken out of context (Huffington Post).

 

Myth #2: Jihad is synonymous with terrorism. While extremist groups have understood terrorism as a form of jihad, jihad itself is an Arabic word that means “exerted effort or struggle to better oneself.” In other words, jihad is a lifestyle commitment and can be practiced similarly to New Year’s resolutions (Huffington Post).

 

Myth #3: The hijab, or headscarf, is oppressive. Almost all Muslim women who wear a hijab have chosen to dress in this way. There are only a couple of passages in the Qur’an that even address modesty, and the word hijab itself is never used. Like many other religious symbols — such as a cross or yarmulke — the hijab is a sign of faith. Reima Yosif, the founding president of the Al-Rawiya Foundation, says her decision to wear a hijab can be described as “an outward expression of an inward experience” (Huffington Post).

 

Myth #4: Islam is oppressive to women and to the LGBTQIA+ community. While some Muslims use the Qur’an and Hadiths to justify patriarchy and queerphobia, many other Muslims assert that Islam demands practicing compassion, acceptance, and love (Hernann 2015). As with other religions, there are many different ways that Islam is practiced, and it is a generalization to say that Islam is anti-woman or anti-queer.

 

Social Media Impact

 

Social media platforms has also shown how Islamophobia has spread across the nation. The media that makes distinctions between the actions of radical Muslims often affects the moderate Muslims.

 

Picture showing the media effect on Islamophobia, from Pedro Bonilla

 

 Example of Islamophobia in social media,from CJ Werleman Twitter Page.


 

Example of Islamophobia in social media,from Axios Twitter Page.

 

 CBS Evening News Image of Isaiah Peoples

 

Police said an Iraq war veteran, who was accused of intentionally plowing his car into a crowd, targeted people he believed were Muslim. The disturbing allegation came as Isaiah Peoples appeared in court. Carter Evans reports. Islamophobia shown from youtube

 

Fourteen ways you can fight Islamophobia

 

  1. Remember the Prophet. The Prophet was subject to horrible insults and hate crimes in his lifetime. He remained steadfast, patient and tolerant in the face of this Islamophobia. We must model this same behavior.Good and Evil deeds are not alike. Requite evil with good, and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend. But none will attain this save those who endure with fortitude and are greatly favored by God. (Quran 41: 34-35) Pray that God guides these people who mock the Deen and one of God’s Prophet.

  2. Note that incidents of Islamophobia are not isolated. Whether it's threat of bombing Makkah, calling Islam evil, depicting the Prophet as a terrorist, disrespecting the Quran, discriminating against Muslims, profiling Hindus, Sikhs, or Latinos thinking they look like Muslims, torturing prisoners, bombing civilians, these are all signs of Islamophobia.

  3. Also note that not all media or all non-Muslims support this type of insulting behavior. Many have been at the forefront of condemning torture, bombing and occupation. There are 75 million Americans who, despite all Islamophobic media, think positive about Islam and Muslims.

  4. Equate racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They all are fruits of the same tree of hate.

  5. Start using the word Islamophobia to describe any kind of hate crime or speech against Islam and Muslims. Doing this will make the term uniform and eventually, an accepted part of the English language the way the term "anti-Semitism" is.

  6. If you are involved in interfaith work, bring up the topic of Islamophobia at your meetings. Stress the urgency and need for people of all faiths to help address and condemn it and all other forms of intolerance publicly. If possible, get the organization to issue a public statement condemning Islamophobia in general, as well as in response to specific incidents like those mentioned above.

  7. Sponsor reports on Islamophobia. Unless more documentation and yearly opinion surveys are conducted, people will continue to dismiss Islamophobia as a reality. So far, the UK is the only country which has officially commissioned a report on Islamophobia. The word has yet to become a part of American media.

  8. Request your local library to purchase some of the latest books and articles on the phenomenon of Islamophobia. Some of these include Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy, Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism: Causes and Remedies and Combating Islamophobia depends on unlearning intolerance

  9. Report any and every incident of Islamophobia you, your family or friends encounter. The FBI collects hate crime statistics. Report Islamophobia to them at your local FBI office. File a report with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They issue an annual report on Muslim civil rights in the US. Also report the crime to your local police office.

  10. For every incident of Islamophobia, write a letter to the editor and your local civil rights organization about it.

  11. Organize a program at your local mosque or community center about the problem of Islamophobia today. Hold a brainstorming session as part of the program as well to discuss how to solve this problem.

  12. Thank those who speak out or act against Islamophobia. A quick call, even leaving a message and/or a two-line email message are sufficient.

  13. Make Dua that Allah guides those who hold Islamophobic views and practice Islamophobia. The Prophet made Dua for the Quraysh, asking for them to be guided because they were ignorant of what they were doing by committing Islamophobic acts and saying wrong things against Islam and the Prophet.

 

This articles serves as measures to make aware of how real the threat of “Islamophobia” is in the United States. The 9/11 attacks that spurred previously nonexistant Islamophobia the and current right-wing extremists who spread their hate on social media have created a hostile environment for Muslim Americans. We as Americans should educate ourselves about the faith to be able to understand what Islam is really about and that their way of life is not what the media portrays it to be. Wherever you are, there is probably a local Muslim community, and a Muslim community that may increasingly feel that it is isolated and fearful. Reach out to them and let them know they are not alone in this fight for understanding and acknowledgement.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has dedicated individuals who are working collectively to detect, deter, and defeat Islamophobia here in the United States. Monitoring daily news outlets, social media platforms, and communicating with Islamic religious leaders are some of the key components in diminishing Islamophobic falsehoods.  Connections have been made with local Muslim communities, and CTG is working towards spreading the importance of religious understanding and nonviolence among places of worship. At CTG we have made it our mission to actively pursue these leads in the digital space and provide early warnings to law enforcement and community centers. If you are one of these services or desire to know more about our services please contact us.

 

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1. Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the West, Gallup, April 2019,

https://news.gallup.com/poll/157082/islamophobia-understanding-anti-muslim-sentiment-west.aspx

2. Islamophobia/Islamophilia: Beyond the Politics of Enemy and Friend, Andrew Shryock, April 2019,https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=QdamRHJ3dxUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=Islamophobia&ots=3pEZhMLFR7&sig=rzy-yq2kJlMV-5SkW5CPsRY7sRE#v=onepage&q=Islamophobia&f=false

3. New estimates show U.S. Muslim population continues to grow, Pew Research Center, January 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/03/new-estimates-show-u-s-muslim-population-continues-to-grow/

4. Anti-Muslim Activities in the United States, New America, April 2019, https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/anti-muslim-activity/

5. Frequently Asked Questions, New America, April 2019, https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/anti-muslim-activity/faq/

6. Anti-Muslim Activities in the United States, New American, April 2019, https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/anti-muslim-activity/

7. Frequently Asked Questions, New America, April 2019, https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/anti-muslim-activity/faq/

8. 2018 Civil Rights Report: Targeted, Council on American-Islam Relations, April 2018, http://www.islamophobia.org/reports/224-2018-civil-rights-report-targeted.html

9. 2018 Civil Rights Report: Targeted, Council on American-Islam Relations, April 2018, http://www.islamophobia.org/reports/224-2018-civil-rights-report-targeted.html

10. 2018 Civil Rights Report: Targeted, Council on American-Islam Relations, April 2018, http://www.islamophobia.org/reports/224-2018-civil-rights-report-targeted.html

11. 2018 Civil Rights Report: Targeted, Council on American-Islam Relations, April 2018, http://www.islamophobia.org/reports/224-2018-civil-rights-report-targeted.html

12. Islamophobia what is islamophobia? - Diversity & Inclusionhttps://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS824US824&q=Photo+Credit:+Ridz+Design&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjrvqvqpuzhAhXyYt8KHWtoD7wQ7Al6BAgJEA8&biw=1536&bih=746#imgrc=1EQHEV0nDbaCxM:

13. Islamophobia what is islamophobia?, The University of Arizona Office of Diversity & Inclusion Excellence, April 2019, https://diversity.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/islamophobia.pdf

14. Getting the Most out of Journalism and Social Media: Islamophobia, Pedro Bonilla, https://commons.trincoll.edu/pbonilla/getting-the-most-out-of-journalism-and-social-media-islamophobia/

15. Death threats against Arabs, CJ Werleman Twitter Page, April 2019, https://twitter.com/cjwerleman/status/1118691802226184192

16. Hate crimes investigation by the FBI, Axios Twitter page https://twitter.com/axios/status/1122485617491890176

17. Iraq war veteran, who was accused of intentionally plowing his car into a crowd. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4-zVo05fp0

 

 

 

 

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