In my last post, I said I’m not sure that America is beyond the kind of bigotry and intolerance that led to the internment of Japanese Americans several decades ago. And I think the following video proves my point.
Last month, in Orange County, California, Muslim families were attending a dinner hosted by Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA in order to raise money to
establish women’s shelters and fight hunger and homelessness in the area. As they walked into the event, they were greeted by protestors who shouted bigoted and ignorant slurs, like “Go back home!” and “You beat up your wife, too?” Earlier in the day, in the park across the way, a protest was held in which local and federal government officials made statements like “I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.”
(The video was compiled by the Council on American Islamic Relations, and features video from local news stations and Muslims attending the event.)
This video is beyond saddening, but it is only one example among many, I’m afraid. This next video, which was filmed outside the White House, portrays protestors shouting at a Muslim man who prayed there. The full details can be found in this Washington Post article.
I truly hope we can say “never again” to institutionalized hate in America. But we can’t say it naively and passively, assuming that we’re too “advanced” or too “modern” or too “Westernized” to be intolerant. As I wrote in a commentary while I was a reporter at Y-Press, we said “never again” to genocide while inaugurating the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. in 1993; but a year later, genocide occurred in Rwanda while the Western world looked on.
We must ensure by our words and our actions that we are actively creating an environment that is not conducive to hate. Apathy and passivity is what allowed the institutionalization of hate in Nazi Germany and 1994 Rwanda.
Passivity allows for the scenes in this video to happen. A few years ago, ABC’s “What Would You Do?” did this special on discrimination of Muslims in America. When bystanders saw Muslims being discriminated against, many of them did nothing to stop it.
Sadly, hate against Muslims has become institutionalized in this country, and if passivity like the kind in the ABC special continues, institutionalized hate will only increase. This past week, we witnessed the Congressional hearing that investigated “radicalization” in the Muslim American community, and in several states efforts are being made to ban sharia law. Sharia law is greatly misunderstood in the West, and sadly has come to be synonymous with oppression and terror. (I hope to do a post on sharia sometime in the near future.)
Apart from political institutionalization, hate has become most entrenched in the mainstream media. It is possible for TV show hosts to make blatant lies about Islam on their shows, and yet no one holds them accountable for it. Viewers often assume that because those on TV claim to be reporters or journalists or objective commentators, they are upholding journalistic ethics—being truthful, presenting all the information, and just plain being respectful. This assumption is horribly naive. Cable “news” programs especially, whether or not they are “liberal” or “conservative,” are more concerned with appealing to an already established base and shaping the political discourse in a way that profits to them. We must question the news we receive and consciously seek to verify what we hear and see on TV.
In some of my blog posts I hope I’ve been able to provide some facts that will reveal how misguided the claims of cable hosts and guests can be. Despite the fact that cable networks have 24 hours of time in which to present coverage, their treatment of “news” lacks the nuance and depth necessary to flesh out many of the complex issues related to Islam and the Muslim community.
What we need instead of talk-show hosts that demonize and protests that spew hate are things like this: the “Today, I am a Muslim Too” rally that took place in New York City last weekend. This was a positive action taken with the intent of creating solidarity with and better understanding of Muslim Americans.
If we want to really say “never again,” and truly make institutionalized hate a part of our country’s past, then we must act—whether that means expanding our news sources, challenging a friend’s stereotypical comment, or visiting our local mosques (without signs).
We cannot sit idly by.
We know all too well the damage that passivity can do.
I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you think America has become more Islamophobic? If so, what evidence have you seen in your daily life, and what can we do to reverse this trend? If not, why? Do you think my criticism of the media is fair?
In a few weeks, CNN will be airing a special called “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door.” Below is the link to the promo video. I will be interested to see how this issue of Islamophobia is covered. As I alluded earlier, I am not always pleased by CNN’s coverage of Islam, so I am curious to watch this piece.