Muslim Oppression in America: the Terrorist Because of Religious Beliefs

Imagine what it feels like to be branded a terrorist because of your religious beliefs? How does one begin to cope with that struggle? Did you know that “About a third of Muslims…say they have been treated with suspicion over the past 12 months because of their religion”? The oppression of Muslims in America is a highly sensitive issue. People of the Muslim community in America struggle hard to find dignity and fight for justice against the discrimination that they have no choice but to face in today’s America. A major campaign is absolutely necessary in order to rid our nation of the bigotry and prejudice against this racially diverse and largely peaceful community.

The rivalry between the Islamic world and the West has its historic roots in the Crusades, the Holy Wars fought from the 11th to 15th centuries between the Christian kingdoms in Europe and the Islamic kingdoms of the Middle East. European colonization of the Middle East ended post World War II but also resulted in the western nations’ support in the formation of Israel through forceful eviction of Muslim Palestinians. This was a critical event that helped the Islamic world, both governments as well as radical groups, to unite against western powers. Post World War II, it has been a catalyst for armed conflict all over the region, as well as a sparked terrorist activity all over the world. Some examples are the Pan Am flight bombing in 1982 and the assassination of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Other events that further created distrust against Muslims in the US were the Iranian hostage crisis between 1979-81, Saddam Hussein and the two US-led wars in Iraq, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and the recent rise and fall of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

However, the event that has had the most negative impact on the image and lives of Muslims in America has been the dastardly events of 9/11 when two aircrafts hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists were flown into the World Trade Center in New York killing about 3000 people. This was the first real terrorist attack on American soil and completely changed the way the U.S. government and its citizens viewed Muslims and the Islamic world. Since then, the United States decided to “escalate operations in Afghanistan to root out the people responsible for the attacks, and invaded Iraq less than two years later.” Several travelers in airports underwent great scrutiny. Across America, many a debate raged over “how much liberty should be sacrificed in the name of security.” Muslim Americans rapidly started to file complaints of both religiously as well as racial discrimination and attacks. 9/11 forever “lives on in U.S. foreign and domestic policy, and it has shaped generations of people, how they see the world and themselves.” This is essentially how Muslim oppression in America started to take epic proportions.

Several hate crimes in America are a result of actions of misguided people who believe that the way to seek revenge for Islamic terrorism or militancy around the world is to physically or verbally attack innocent Muslim people living in the country. A further shame is that some of these hate crimes go unpunished. For instance, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a man-made several visits to a Muslim- owned café and repeatedly called the employees terrorists. A couple of days later, he wrote the word “Terrorist” outside the restaurant. The police know who the suspect is but claim that they cannot charge him as no physical damage was done. This is not the only event that has occurred. A teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma was found posting several inflammatory statements against Muslims among other controversial topics. There was no action taken against him. Such acts infringe on the First Amendment- the right to religious freedom.

The first amendment protects religious freedom in this country. It is supposed to establish separation from church and state. This prohibits both the federal government as well as residents in the country from interfering with one’s religious practices and beliefs. However, a law is only a rule; in and of itself it cannot change deeply ingrained biases and prejudice. Changing the hearts and minds of a large segment of the population needs nationwide communications and outreach programs that include governmental participation and opportunities for social interactions that encourage joint projects and listening without prejudice. Public schools can play a big part in this as children’s minds are malleable and can be molded early in their development.

Although the rate of hate crimes against Muslims in America has increased, there is hope. The recent congressional elections in late 2018 provided America with its first Muslim congresswomen: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. It is notable that Ilhan Omar was voted from a constituency that consists of a 70% white Christian population. Leaders such as these can represent the struggles of the community as a whole as well as highlight the impact it has on women and children. These women are wonderful examples of the “American Dream.” Both of them came to America as children in refugee families, worked hard to educate themselves despite their background, struggled to overcome biases and suspicion, and achieved the credibility and success they richly deserve. Regardless of the current administration’s divisive policies with respect to certain minorities, these leaders continue to persevere, believing that there is hope for the country, their constituencies, and the “American Dream”. In the words of Rami Nashashibi, a Muslim community leader and a fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, “We're trying to celebrate the legacy of the spirit of a transformational, empowering, inspirational Islam that is not just constantly apologizing or having to explain itself.'  

07 July 2022
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