Islamophobia in America

Islamophobia is the fear and hatred towards Muslims. . With this in mind, I believe the term “Islamophobia” is a misnomer of the reality. This fear and hatred stems from ignorance and intolerance towards a religion and their particular values and beliefs. The lack of education and the desire to understand different cultures is the underlying factor that fuels this fear and hatred towards Muslims.

After the 9/11 attacks, Muslims became the targets for violent hate crimes. On September 21, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan fell victim to one of these hate crimes. As a gas station owner, he was accustomed to the idea of armed robbery: this is what he was expecting. However, when Mark Stroman entered the gas station with a double barrel shot gun and asked, “Where are you from?” he realized this wasn’t a robbery. He was shot in the face from 4 – 5 feet away.

This story is the epitome of ignorance and intolerance towards “others.” “Where are you from” is and ignorant question, especially if where someone is from is the motivation towards that particular hate crime. Technically speaking, Rais is from Dallas, Texas. However, he practices Islam. Regardless of what Stroman said and what was intended, hate crimes towards others is awful. Every American citizen has the same rights and freedoms: this includes the freedom of religion and speech. Unfortunately, mainstream media has skewed society’s perception of cultural groups. Stereotypes are created based on the “worst” and most extreme images of that particular group, and an attitude based on this inaccurate representation is developed. To further demonstrate society’s ignorance, members of the Sikh community have also become victims of these hate crimes. There is little education on the religious customs of “the other.” As a result, xenophobia, or fear of the other, is developed.

Rais Bhuiyan’s attacker, Mark Stroman, was sentenced to death for his actions. Bhuiyan does not believe this is the appropriate penalty. He believes that forgiveness is the best policy. By sentencing Stroman to death, the opportunity is missed to have Stroman promote anti racial hate crime and share his experience and how he has changed. Instead, showing compassion and forgiveness towards Stroman sets a precedent social relations management between gender, race, and cultures.

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Female Performance and White Privilege in Marvel’s The Avengers


Inspired by the popular films that grace the silver screen and our recent lecture, this post will focus on the female performance of militarized masculinity along with the concept of white privilege in the movie The Avengers. The comic-inspired adventure movie is based upon the super-humans who form the group The Avengers, and their quest to help save the earth from alien armies that threaten to takeover. The character of my interest however is the only female in the group, Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson), who is a spy and trained in combat.

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Romanoff demonstrates the inherent warrior mentality to fight with this group of specialized forces, and is depicted as a powerful, key member of The Avengers. Never a liability, she has achieved high respect from important military figures. Although her hyper sexualized nature and stereotypical heroin appearance is impossible to ignore, overall I feel Scarlett Johansson’s character provides an example of female empowerment and breaks binary social constructions.

Similar to the female role of Maya in Zero Dark Thirty as expressed in class, Natasha Romanoff has a firm belonging in the group and has respect of the people around her. One of the first scenes of the film opens with an agent calling her while she is in the field undercover. She proceeds to easily manipulate and beat up three men while on the telephone after the agent informs her she must come in because they “need her” and The Avengers group would not be complete without her. (YouTube link of the scene described: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wOE8cPWTMc). There is no issue of performance to see as a result of her femininity; she has the strength, skill, and abilities to help protect the entire planet. One improvement in comparison to Maya’s character I found though was that Johansson’s character did not have to work throughout the movie to gain her place. Rather, immediately from the start The Black Widow was a fierce and powerful super-human and the world required her assistance.

This respect for her abilities, and a man’s confidence in her attributes is not only refreshing, but also how it should be. However, it is a sad reality that these qualities are rare to find in many adventure storylines such as this one. Taking another one of the films discussed in class for example, Happy Feet, the female penguin is turned down by Mumble to join him on his adventure. He is convinced that she would not be “happy” to go out exploring; she would regret not having a home and children. Thus, the stereotypical female traits attached to her femininity mark her as unsuitable for this adventure. It’s a sad realization that all over media sources we see female characters only acceptable at a certain time and place.

Happy Feet Ship

Although Scarlett Johansson’s character is can be looked at with a sense of female empowerment, it is crucial her appearance is not ignored. While she does in fact reinforce all the stereotypical characteristics of a heroin by being beautiful and hyper sexualized, the fact that she is a young, white woman is also interesting. Could perhaps some of her success be credited to the inherit white privilege that she has? What’s more, all members of the avengers are white, upper-class individuals. Do you think we should overlook this undeniable fact that this elite white male-dominated group only has one woman in it that happens to be of white skin color? Is this a message to viewers about race in general? Those only white upper class individuals have the ability to make a difference in the world? Thoughts?

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Islamphobia in America

What is Islamaphobia?
Islamaphobia is most commonly known as the fear of all Muslim people. This fear is often seen through acts of hatred and the discrimination of the Muslim community (including their practices, faiths and citizens) from mainstream society.  

Islamophobia as a misnomer?

Islamophobia, like homophobia, can be seen as a misnomer due to the fact that the ‘irrational fear’ felt by islamophobics is often questionable. It is unclear whether islamophobics are fearful of all Muslim people, or if like many homophobics, they just possess some sort of hatred towards these individuals or their practices. 

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This is how islamphobic individuals view those individuals who fit the stereotype of the ‘man in the turban’. 

What did Rais Bhuiyan’s attacker say before he shot him? How did this make you feel and why?

Before Bhuiyan’s attacker shot him, he asked “where are you from?” Speaking from shear honesty, this made me feel sick to my stomach. The fact that a man could walk into a gas station, with no intent of committing a robbery crime, however, the intent of committing a hate crim. This is baffling to me, and disgusting. No person deserves to be treated differently, never mind SHOT IN THE HEAD, on account of mistakes and crimes that have been made by individuals of the same colour.

Late last year, the tragic school shooting in Connecticut occurred killing 28 people, 20 of those being children. Who was the evil man behind this plan? Like most, I don’t know ‘who’ exactly this man is, however, I know he is WHITE. Following this shooting, there was no occurrence of an individual walking into a store, and asking the white cashier clerk where s/he was from, and then continuing to shoot them. The criminal actions of a group of individuals who are the same colour does not define ALL individuals of that colour. That is simply not the way the world works!!!! Although, I’m sure many would disagree…

The individual who shot Rais Bhuiyan was put to death and Bhuiyan said that was the wrong thing to do. Why?

Bhuiyan feels that this was the wrong this to do for the soul purpose that hate and killing is NOT a solution to acts of hate crime. In all faiths, the transcripts about killing and forgiveness all claim that killing is a sin, and forgiveness is the best policy. It is not a solution to fix hate crime with more killing. As an individual, Bhuiyan has been a witness and victim of hate crimes and claims that he has mentally, physically and emotionally grown from these, and has not resorted to more violence as a solution. By killing the shooter, the hate crime is just being solved with more violence instead of focusing on and solving the root of the problem, which is prejudice and discrimination against social groups lying outside of the social norm. Bhuiyan believes that forgiveness is the best policy, and after forgiveness, you can begin to move forward looking for real solutions to the problem, not death sentencing. Ie. Would be more powerful to keep shooter alive so that he could explain why NOT to follow in his path of hate and discrimination.  

According to Corey Saylor, what other religion/ethnic/racial groups have been targeted by the United States government for being dangerous?

According to Saylor, Anti-Muslim groups target those who fall under the Muslim stereotype, or otherwise known as ‘the man in the turban’. Social groups who fall under this category, such as Sikh, are often found as victims of hate crimes towards the Muslim community. As a result of US policies and media, anyone who appears to be connected or have relation to the Muslim community is discriminated against and often publicly hated.

What is xenophobia?

Xenophobia is the irrational fear of things that are foreign to you. This is often seen as the irrational fear of individuals from countries, cultures or religions that are foreign to your own. Therefore, Islamphobia falls into this phobia category. 

Islamophobia is a phobia just like many others, rooted in hate and discomfort as opposed to true irrational fear. It needs to stop, as all Muslim individuals are NOT the same, just as all white individuals are NOT the same.  

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The Steubenville Rape Case and The “Not-Rape Epidemic”

The Steubenville rape case is a trial covering a rape that occurred back in August 2012 in Steubenville, Ohio. The victim was a 16 year-old girl and the convicted perpetrators are two 16-year-old boys, although there were reportedly many others involved in witnessing and documenting the explicit happenings of that night.
I don’t want to cover too much of the case’s background, but I will provide some further reading at the end of this post for any of you who may not be familiar with the case.
The accused (and now convicted) are two male high school football players, both aged 16 at the time of the incident. One is black and the other is white. Both seem to come from middle-class families, although a statement made by one boy’s father about “not being around” when he was young may suggest a working class upbringing. It seems that they are both heterosexual, and there is nothing to suggest that they are not able-bodied, though it is not known if either of them suffer from an invisible disability.
The convicted: Trent Mays & Ma’lik Richmond, Steubenville High School students
Although numerous factors contribute to the massive controversy around this case, one of the main fuelling points is the position of the boys within their school community, specifically in regards to their age and social status (or ‘popularity’).
Being just 16 years old when the crime occurred is a soft spot for many who have been following the trial. Some argue that the boys were just being young and stupid, and that they shouldn’t be severely punished for what happened one drunken night. Others sympathize with them for having to spend time (regardless of how short it may be) behind bars due to a ‘mistake’; something that all kids do while they are growing up.
Additionally, the two boys seemed to be well-liked and fairly popular within their high school. There is even a large community in denial of the boys being able to commit such a horrendous act because they had many friends and were generally well-behaved.
By examining the boys’ standing in both society and their town, I couldn’t help but attribute the shocking amount of support they receive mainly to these two factors. What would have happened if they were older? If these boys were actually 30 year-old men rather than ‘harmless’ teens, would the verdict have happened a lot more quickly? Or if they were not highly popular and on a successful football team, would they still have the same following of supporters?
I also started thinking about how this story would have been covered if other aspects of the boys’ positionality were different. For example, would anything have been changed if both of the attackers were black, completely eliminating the concept of white privilege? Or what if one of the boys were disabled, by either a visible or invisible disability? Would this provoke even more sympathy by the public? Finally, visualizing the entire situation with the victim as male and the two aggressors as women could be a complete paradigm shifter. The case would likely be seen as laughable, and probably would not receive the media attention that this case got.
In looking through one of our custom textbooks (Pearson 1), I came across an article titled The Not-Rape Epidemic in which blogger Latoya Peterson introduces a concept that she calls “not-rape”. She discusses it as the objectification and exploitation experienced largely by women that may not be distinctly identifiable by one significant act. It includes the seemingly small things we may come across every day that we tend to learn to write-off. She goes on to give examples, such as being pressured into losing your virginity (even with consent), being objectified by a group of boys at school/work everyday, or even something more obvious like being asked for sexual favours by your mother’s boyfriend.
The Steubenville case is just one atrocious act of blatant rape that attracted a mass of media attention, but what about the prevalence of “not-rape” in society today? In my opinion, addressing the widespread nature of this issue and highlighting examples of everyday real-life cases could help people recognize how common rape culture is, and may aid in eliminating the occurrence of “actual” rape in society.
Do you think it is important to educate the public on this theory of the “not-rape epidemic”? And do you think that raising awareness to this issue will diminish the occurrence of sexual assault?
Steubenville rape Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steubenville_High_School_rape_case
CNN coverage on the story and outcome: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/17/justice/ohio-steubenville-case
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Oppression and the Muslim Woman

Since we were on the topic of Islamophobia in lecture, I thought it would only be appropriate to touch on the recent laws made in France banning face veils in public. There is some very intense debate on whether this infringes on the rights of individuals to practice their religion and even debates between Muslim women who support the law and who do not support the law and say that wearing the niqab or burqa is one’s own choice. To give you a taste of this type of debate, here’s a video:

Both sides have their merits. Mona Eltahawy states that the niqab dangerously equates piety with the disappearance of women, and therefore she wants it banned everywhere. Hebah Ahmed counters this by stating that the ban is just another ploy by men to control women, in particular their dress, and that by taking it to a government level is violating not only individual rights but what democracy is based on. Both women, who are Muslim, have most likely had vastly different experiences with the burqa and niqab, as Eltahawy repeats a motif of force regarding this issue whereas Ahmed repeats that it is not a matter of force, but choice for women to choose to wear the niqab or burqa.

Personally, Eltahawy’s argument (and the debate as a whole) reminds me of this particular, classic picture:

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I think enough has been said, that we can’t project our Western beliefs onto women who are themselves individuals, not a homogenous population like we discussed in lecture. We can neither say that each Muslim woman has the choice to wear the niqab or burqa any more than we can say each Muslim woman is forced to wear the niqab or burqa. However, the fact that a law controlling how individuals dress is happening to Muslim women in France and not, say, the white population with regards to the lengths of skirts or the dresses is, at it’s most basic, unfair. France would never legislate a law that said women would be fined if their skirts were above the knee. Could you imagine how much outrage that would garnish? Similarly, France would never legislate a dress code for men, except that they did in 2004, but for turbans (‘headgear’) only. So clearly there are some racist undercurrents here, which brings me to my real concern.

What’s more interesting for me is an analysis of this law and how it relates to Islamophobia. Consider this statement: “Muslim groups report a worrying increase in discrimination and verbal and physical violence against women in veils. There have been instances of people in the street taking the law into their hands and trying to rip off full-face veils, of bus drivers refusing to carry women in niqab or of shop-owners trying to bar entry” (Chrisafis 2011). Is this ban not excluding this group of women from the social sphere? In France anyone who wears the niqab or burqa faces a fine if doing so in ‘public’. But then this raises issues about what is public and what is private. For example, veiling is still allowed if one is in a private car, or the home, but as soon as one steps out of this private sphere they’re, quite simply, breaking the law. France isn’t the only one doing this. Other places in Europe are following suit. So what do you guys think about this trend of banning veiling? Since, as the video above demonstrates, there is no black and white answer, where on the grey spectrum do you lie?

Further reading:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/19/battle-for-the-burqa

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/11/france-begins-burqa-niqab-ban

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The Big Picture with Thom Harttman: Islamophobia

The following video is an episode of Thom Harttman’s The Big Picture on Islamophobia in America, and the questions below are a response to the first 13 or so minutes of it.
What is Islamophobia?
Islamophobia is defined as a fear of all Muslim people. It involves extremely prejudice thoughts that can often result in widespread discrimination towards those who are of or who may appear to be of the Muslim faith. Within the episode of The Big Picture that we watched for this post, it is referred to as “anti-Muslim sentiment in America”.
Thinking back to our discussion of homophobia, is the term Islamophobia a misnomer?
Islamophobia can be seen as a misnomer, because just like with homophobia, it is unclear if those who suffer from the ‘phobia’ really hold a fear of the other. In many instances, those who are Islamophobic or homophobic simply hold some form of hatred due to differences that they see between themselves and the ‘other’ individual.
What did Rais Bhuiyan’s attacker say before he shot him? How did that make you feel. Why?
Mark Stroman, the man who shot Bhuiyan, exclaimed “where are you from?” immediately before shot him directly in the face. Knowing that this was an act of Islamophobia, it didn’t surprise me that the attacker asked this question or that he didn’t even wait for the answer. Stroman assumed that Bhuiyan was Muslim purely based on his appearance, and was not going to wait for an answer because of the preconceived Islamophobic beliefs that he held.
This all being said, hearing this comment lead me to think about my use of the question. It’s something that I ask almost every time I meet someone new, and although I use it because I’m curious as to where people were born and what their background is, it isn’t always used in this context. Some individuals, like Bhuiyan, who have experienced this question in a not so innocent way may not appreciate being asked it by someone who they do not know very well.
The individual who shot Rais Bhuiyan was put to death and Bhuiyan said that was wrong thing to do. Why?
Bhuiyan was an advocate for not executing Stroman because he believes that killing is not the answer to the problem at hand. In his opinion, putting Stroman to death is purely reinforcing the prevalence of hate and violence in society, which goes on to fuel the occurrence of hate crimes. He suggests that forgiveness is the solution to ending these heinous acts, based on the fact that this was the message that was once spread by all messengers of God. Bhuiyan sticks to his strong beliefs that if we allow ourselves to heal in a mental, psychological, and spiritual way, it will enable us to be forgiving and compassionate. Giving the perpetrator the chance to reform, as opposed to using death as a solution, is part of how the massive issue of hate crime can be solved globally.
According to Corey Saylor, what other religious/ethnic/racial groups have been targeted by the United States government for being dangerous?
In the segment, Radjeep Singh introduces the idea that that anyone who looks like “the man in the turban”, which commonly includes the Sikh community, can easily be targeted by the government for being dangerous. Saylor talks about how America is now using those of Islamic culture to replace the previous enemy of the Soviet Union, due to 9/11 and terrorist attacks that have followed.
What is xenophobia?
Xenophobia is the irrational fear of individuals who are “different” than you, which is often projected on those from other countries and/or racial backgrounds. Islamophobia, in the context of an American fearing someone who is Muslim as well as not looking at the term as a misnomer, would be a perfect example of this fear.
To wrap this up- I tried to look for a funny or light-hearted anti-Islamohphic meme to close, that was AGAINST Islamophobia. Unfortunately, I instead came across probably 50 memes that completely bashed Muslims, Sikhs, and many other racial minorities. Rather than posting one and talking about how ridiculous and wrong it was, I am deciding to close this without any visuals. I definitely think these memes should be ignored, as any perpetuation of Islamophobia needs to end now!
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Islamophobia and Dispelling Hatred

Islamophobia has several debated meanings, but the most common one is an irrational fear of Muslim persons which often leads to discriminatory practices regarding Muslims and the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society. The term Islamphobia may be a misnomer just like homophobia seems to be, as it’s debatable whether there really is an ‘irrational fear’ of Muslim people in Islamophobics. Quite simply, more Islamophobics have an intense hatred of Muslim people, seeing Islam as separate and ‘other’, which often translates into inferior, sexist and barbaric in comparison with the West. As the video states, in America there have been 160 hate crimes against Muslims in 2010 alone, and the growth of hate groups is tremendous. It’s startling and chilling that the crime against Rais Bhuiyan is one of potentially many more. The simple “Where are you from?” that Bhuiyan’s attacker asked moments before shooting him is something that, taken out of this context, is so innocent, but put into this context raises so many issues. Targeting someone just for where they’re from is absurd. As is targeting someone because of their sexual orientation, skin colour, etc. I know I was horrified after hearing that, having Arab friends myself. They come to mind because of their own stories of racism (and this is in Canada, of course), and I know they have said they’ve received their fair share of remarks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Still, I can’t imagine how anyone could do something so horrific to another human being, just because of where they’re from.

Bhuiyan’s attacker, Mark Anthony Stroman, was put to death for several killings that were spearheaded by his white supremacist beliefs. It’s interesting to note that the entire after story of this shooting is what is really intriguing. Bhuiyan forgave Stroman for his hate crime.  In the video Bhuiyan states that he went through a healing process and that seeing a lot of hate crimes and killing throughout the world based on race, sexual orientation, religion, etc helped him to realize that hate and killing is not the solution. In his words, “Hate only causes more pain and suffering.” Instead Bhuiyan believes education is a better vehicle, and despite what he suffered tried to stop Stroman’s death sentence, instead hoping that Stroman would serve behind bars and could educate people so that there would not be individuals following in his path. In fact, it is said the two, attacker and victim, reconciled before Stroman’s death, which is incredible if it is indeed true that Stroman’s beliefs changed that dramatically.

Regardless, xenophobia, fear of the other (people from other countries), is very real and according to Corey Saylor the Anti-Muslim groups target anyone who fits their stereotyped image of the man in the turban. This means that Sikh are often targeted for hate crimes and mistaken for being Muslim, perhaps creating tension in this area between Sikhs and Muslims. Overall, this apparent ‘epidemic’ is breeding a lot of hate and I believe Bhuiyan is right, that education is key in dispelling some of this hatred.

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