By Chelsey Sanchez
It’s always the same old story being told, only under the guise of different masks and words. Media outlets like CNN and Fox News unsurprisingly continue to paint dark-skinned folk as culprits, while painting the light-skinned as innocent victims. While not always inaccurate under certain circumstances, mainstream media’s association of “color” to “criminal” has devastating social consequences.
It’s easy to fall back on prejudices in the wake of current events. On January 7, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (a militant, extremist Islamic organization, AQAP) killed 11 staff members of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, after a controversial cartoon of the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad (whose visual depiction is banned in Islam), was published. “Je Suis Charlie,” a movement ignited after the tragic terrorist attacks that aims to empower free speech, gained global attention instantly.
Ironically lost in the recent discussions of freedom of speech is freedom of religion. Even more ironic, France treats its Muslim population embarrassingly for a country that seemingly fights for freedom of expression. France’s Senate passed a law in 2012 that banned the wearing of burqas in public. The discussions would be reasonable if such freedom was actively and consistently exercised in the Western world. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased by 65% in 2014 alone, according to the London Evening Standard. Last December, weekly protests took place in Germany against the “Islamisation” of Europe. Since the events concerning AQAP and Charlie Hebdo, France’s National Observatory Against Islamaphobia has recorded at least 60 incidents of anti-Muslim motivated crime alone. What is fueling these blatant attacks against a minority group already being marginalized by society?
As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and if the mainstream media is constantly feeding you demonized portrayals of Muslims, and thus perpetuating the myth of the “Fanatical Muslim,” then, obviously, what you are is afraid.
Here in the United States, the majority of terrorist attacks may not come from who the average, flag-bearing, hot-dog-eating-on-Fourth-of-July American may think they come from; the overwhelming majority of domestic terrorist attacks are committed by groups of European descent, while only a small minority are committed by extremist and separatist Islamic groups. In fact, only about 7% of American terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2011 were motivated by religion, according to a study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism in 2013.
Islamaphobia is unfortunately real, and it cowers behind every innocent “Well, you never know what they’re hiding under those headdresses,” and guileless “Can you really blame me for being nervous for flying with a Muslim?” What some people should come to realize is that, more than often, the girl in the airport wearing a hijab is just another girl wearing a hijab, and their Muslim neighbor next door is just their Muslim neighbor.
Do not use Charlie Hebdo to justify your anti-Muslim sentiments. Do not use these tragedies as a scapegoat for your Islamaphobic agenda. Instead, examine the logic behind your beliefs. Chances are, you’ll find none.