Refugees fleeing the Middle East deserve even more respect than American soldiers returning from battle in Afghanistan. They have faced the same enemies as Western nations, the same radical terrorist groups, and they have done so without the support of the strongest military in the world. But if recent public polls are accurate, they won’t receive a warm welcome in the United States, a country founded by immigrants fleeing religious persecution.
Ironically, they would face strong prejudice in a country whose first constitutional amendment begins with the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
About a month ago, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump advocated in a press release for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” In that same month, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey on 532 consistently Republican voters, and found some disturbing results. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said they would support banning Muslims from entering the United States and 28 percent would support shutting down mosques in the United States. Twenty-six percent thought that the religion of Islam should be illegal in the United States.
Forty-six percent of Americans believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers, according to a Pew Research survey conducted in December.
Furthermore, 30 percent would support the bombing of Agrabah, the fictional city from Disney’s “Aladdin.”
This association of Islam with terrorism must end. Islamophobia doesn’t just lead to dangerous prejudicial profiling—it fulfills the goal of terrorism, which is to inspire fear.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. It is, at best, ignorance and, at worst, arrogance to make any generalization about a population of that size. It would be like claiming that every single person in North America, South America, and Europe is a terrorist, as the total population of these continents roughly equals 1.7 billion, according to 2013 estimates, the most recent available.
Additionally, the most recent data available from the CIA estimated that ISIS had between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters, which is 0.00002 percent of Muslims. At its height in the 1920’s, the Ku Klux Klan had millions of members. But no one would claim that the Ku Klux Klan represents all Christians, even though Klan leaders have often affiliated the organization with Christianity and a so-called sense of ‘Christian morality.’
And let’s consider Islam itself. Islam doesn’t advocate violence any more than any other religion. Reza Aslan, a professor of religion at University of California, Riverside, said in an interview on CNN that a religion doesn’t encourage peace or violence. Believers bring their preexisting violent or peaceful dispositions to a religion.
You could find quotes advocating stoning women in the Bible. You could also find quotes advocating love. You could find the same in the Quran. The result is that peaceful believers will abide by peaceful passages, and violent believers abide by violent passages, regardless of religion.
There is great danger in ignoring prejudicial characterizations of entire religions. It was the passive acceptance of growing anti-Semitism in Germany that enabled what would eventually become the Holocaust. The Nazi Party’s anti-Semitism began just as words in “Mein Kampf”, and eventually evolved into the Nuremberg Laws, which banned Jews from the legal profession and civil service and encouraged a German boycott of Jewish businesses. It might seem like hyperbolization, but this gradual progression of prejudice that led to institutionalized discrimination could very easily be repeated.
Growing Islamophobia can be seen all around the world. Militia groups have formed in Finland to patrol towns where refugees and asylum seekers from Muslim countries live. They claim to protect White Finnish women from refugees.
In France, where the National Front, a far-right party, has quickly been gaining voters, its leader Marine le Pen has advocated denying citizenship to binational Muslims and removing “foreigners who preach hatred.” In an article she wrote for Time magazine, she proposed shutting down “radical mosques” and no longer “welcoming thousands of migrants” in order to combat “the barbarism of Islamic fundamentalism.”
An Italian regional government approved a law that makes it challenging for mosques to be built, even as the country seeks to relocate Muslim refugees into that area.
In a particularly refugee-crowded region of Germany, protesters rallying against “Islamization” vandalized buildings and marched through the city of Leipzig, bearing signs that read, “Rapefugees Not Welcome.”
These acts demonstrate the type of Islamophobic sentiments that must be rejected. They conflate Islam and terrorism, Muslims with radicals, and they validate blatant racism. All Redwood students should challenge Islamophobia when they see or hear it. Don’t laugh at Islamophobic jokes. Find statistics from this article or online to inform yourself about Islam. Argue with family members or friends whom you overhear making anti-Muslim remarks. If you feel uncomfortable, remember that you’re not alone.