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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