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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

The Scary Rise of Islamophobia

As a Muslim-American activist, I am appalled by escalating Western Islamophobic sentiments and actions. In an era of liberal free thought, people take it upon themselves to disrespect and insult Islam. Why should freedom be equated with intolerance?

The West prides itself on righteous freedom; but such freedom comes with responsibilities. The precept of ‘treat others as one wants to be treated’ is taken for granted in this grand age of liberal freedom. Why do I bring this issue up time and time again? Because I am trying to educate the public to what is really going on against their Muslim neighbors. We are not aliens, as some would like to label us. We are your neighbors, much to the dismay of many who deny us. We are your classmates, your coworkers, your clerk, your doctor, your lawyer, your teacher, a fellow shopper, etc. Muslims come in various shades and colors yet Islamophobic sentiments come from government officials, average citizens, the media, etc. People who belong to the Islamophobic mindset constantly ask me why don’t I talk about the so-called Muslim nations who are intolerant to their own people and speak ill of non-Muslim peoples? This issue is misunderstood and unconnected to Islam. What people do reflects culture, what the media chooses to focus on from the so-called Muslim world (and might I once again reiterate there is no such thing as a Muslim nation, because no country in the world follows the Qur’an and Sunnah correctly).

Back to the issue at hand. Anti-Islamic sentiment is more prevalent than one assumes. Let’s take for instance the hot topic in America – the democratic process of electing the next president for 2008. What does this have to do with Islam? Plenty. I am focusing on one part, the Obama-bashing with supposed connections to Islam.

In America, one would assume the populace would be ready to embrace difference, change. Oh, but wait. If such change has any connection to Islam it puts a damper on the candidate because somehow all Muslims must be painted as one color – terrorists. When media sources claim Obama’s grandfather was a Muslim, that somehow this means Obama is a Muslim, is an utterly false claim. Obama never once said he was Muslim. He is a Christian. Not to mention, in Islam to be a Muslim it comes from one’s faith (iman) and is not passed on through familial ties.

Secondly, it is sad that he has to be on the defense to the American public because they’re scared of Muslims. There is nothing wrong with Muslims being politically active – there are many Muslim American political groups who vote and lobby the Muslim vote and take part in public duties, like any other American civil group. However, since there is fear of anyone different, and Muslims who wear supposed different garb are not one of the American populace, then anti Muslim sentiments arise.

I heard someone say to a Muslim woman who does not wear hijab that she is not threatening because she doesn’t look different. She doesn’t look like a Muslim. Fear of the “other” – fear of the Muslim who supposedly wears a turban (i.e. the picture of Obama in Kenyan traditional garb taken for Muslim clothing). Don’t get me started on personal anecdotes of how people treat me because I look different. Let’s take at an example of Islamophobia from ABC news. On February 26th ABC aired a special, “What Would You Do?” with hidden cameras following a woman wearing hijab in a Texas bakery. Discrimination and racial slurs, “go back home you towelhead!” with people idly watching and even joining in with the clerks are just a few examples of what the cameras caught. All this, and the poor girl was born and raised in America.

One last point: the sharp retorts against the Muslim global community uniting to defend the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Just because we honor and defend our Prophet, we’re backwards. This is where education about Islam is necessary in the West. Non-Muslims need to understand that for a true believing Muslim the love of God and His Messenger is more so than the love for themselves. Muhammad is not just a prophet but a complete role model in all aspects of life. There are many education campaigns about whom the Prophet was, dismantling the negative and false stereotypes constantly put out in the media. This is what the West needs to hear about. But, learn about why iconography is forbidden in Islam to the point Muslims protest cartoons. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forbade Muslims to make images of living beings whether human or animals, let alone of himself, for images can lead to idolatry which leads to assigning “partners” to God, a blasphemous sin in Islam. In other words, for Muslims, slander on our great Prophet Muhammad is not just on him as a person but an assault on our daily life and practices for what we do everyday – how we pray, how we treat others, how we treat the environment, orphans and widows, etc. are all from his tradition.

To get rid of Islamophobia in the West will take time, no doubt about that. Many other religious groups and cultures have been dealt the same blows at different times, from the Japanese, to the Irish, to the Jews. The key is to have people on both sides willing to listen and learn. In terms of Islam, I will not let the media represent my religion; it has done enough damage. We, as Muslims, must first go back to our sources – the Quran and Sunnah, and then educate the people around us. Opinions are one thing, facts are another; let’s rid the world of Islamophobia together!