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.