Thepoliticization of hatred and discrimination of Muslim Americans has facilitatedreligious violence and increased the visibility of racism against minorityethnic groups. Muslim Americans are uniquely subjected to religious violencedue to popular rhetoric that makes this discrimination on the base of religion increasinglyacceptable. Of course, it is true that Islamophobia was not created in 2001,rather the first use of the word was first published in 1997 (Sheridan 2006), butIt is important to acknowledge that fallout from events such as 9-11 and theWar On Terror has caused the public perception of the Muslim community tochange in a way that unfairly generalizes and blames all forms of Islamicpractice as fundamentally rooted in Jihadist terrorism and violence. This religiousdiscrimination, as well as the associated racism and violence, occurs in theUnited States and many other western countries in a way that is deeply damagingto Muslims. This paper will examine some possible contributing factors of modernday islamophobia that have allowed religiously based discrimination to flourishas well as the personal and psychological effects of violence anddiscrimination on the Individuals who experience life within the context of Islamophobia.From a viewpoint based in Bernard Lonergan’s theories of alienation andauthenticity we will also examine the questions of how religious discriminationagainst Muslims has become structuralized and perpetuated in the United Statesin media and politics. Additionally, how does this analysis of Islamophobicviolence effect Muslims in their day to day lives?Media,Politics and DiscriminationIn some respects,the War on Terror shared characteristics with the Vietnam War of the 60’s and70’s. During the Vietnam War film and photography were for the first timeavailable to reporters traveling with American troops, documenting the terrors ofwar for the world to see.
In the Vietnam War this was problematic andcontributed to disapproval by the American population of the conflict. Themajor change from Vietnam and even the Gulf war of the early 1990’s was thewidespread availability and development of the internet. For the first-time in amodern American conflict terror groups like al-Qaeda could speak to theAmerican people directly through television sets and computer screens as wellas claim responsibility for events of terrorism almost immediately. Everyonecan recall the images of Osama Bin Laden that circulated following the eventson that fateful morning of September 11, 2001. This made the connection betweenthe Muslim head coverings such as the turban to the enemy overseas easy tomake. To make things worse, soldiers in combat were subject to new forms ofweaponry namely improvised explosive devices or I.E.
D.’s for short. Thesedevices were popular among extremist militant groups and are a cross between abomb and a mine some veterans lucky enough to return home alive usually did sowith major burns, scarring and in many cases missing limbs making combatinjuries more visible.
These visuals were so available to Americans that incombination with political rhetoric and media coverage that they could haveeasily set the stage for Islamophobia to escalate to a crisis level in the U.S.This is not to say that discrimination was in any way “caused” by mediacoverage or the image that the war burned into people’s minds. Rather, it couldhave laid the groundwork required to contribute to the way that anti-Muslimismrhetoric was accepted by the American people more recently. It is importanthere to note also that although Anti-Muslim sentiments are not universally Americanor perpetuated through discrimination and violence exclusively by Americans I willspeak of this issue as a fundamentally American issue.
By approaching thisissue from the point of view of the United States alone it may be easier toisolate possible causes of religious discrimination and violence and the effectson Muslims through politics and media coverage. It is hardlysurprising that incidences of Muslim hate crimes and discrimination rosesharply following the events of September 11, 2001. The unfolding of eventsthat day and the years following of American military involvement in Iraq andAfghanistan contributed to the formation of a certain expectation of thestereotypical Muslim in the United States. It is evident that events ofterrorism have formed an image of Islam that has allowed for certain politicalfigures to attack religious minority groups, especially Muslims. In this sense,the imposed “travel ban” by the Trump administration has not only singled outMuslims by targeting predominantly Muslim majority countries, but also madeviolence and discrimination on the base of race and religious affiliationincreasingly acceptable. The politicization of this issue is especiallyproblematic in the United States due to the nature of American identitypolitics. American identity politics have moral implications as well as acertain evangelical project especially as far as the Republican Party isconcerned.
The affiliation of political parties in the United States withevangelical agendas complicate the problem of islamophobia in a way thatclearly defines an acceptance of one god, our god and dismisses “other” formsof religious practice. In this day and age the agenda of right wingconservative politicians have become the issue of Muslim Americans as they havebeen signaled out and targeted directly. This convenient political agenda has contributedto the formation of an accepted ideology of “othering” that encouragesviolence, discrimination and hatred against minority religious groups. Thestrong prevalence of identity politics in the United States also means thatindividuals are more likely to support groups rather than ideas. This makes theUnited States exceptionally susceptible to the formation of radical ideologiesdue to the tribalism of political polarization.ReligiousDiscrimination and Day to Day Life Theworld that we live in today requires that we acknowledge the threat ofterrorism by groups such as ISIS, but these effects are felt disproportionatelyby practicing Muslims who value peace and acceptance. Studies on religiousviolence and discrimination among Muslims in non-Muslim majority countries showa steep increase in incidences of discrimination following September 11, 2001.One such study on Islamophobia compared self-reported incidences ofdiscrimination before and after September 11th, 2001, in the UnitedKingdom.
The results showed a significant increase in both overt and indirect experiencesof discrimination. Additionally, data from a general health questionnaire also administeredduring the study showed that 35.6% of participants showed evidence of metal healthproblems with “significant associations between problem indicative scores andreports of experiencing a specific abusive incident of September 11threlated abuse” (Sheridan 2006). Despite a relatively small sample size thisstudy suggests that the effects of September 11th reached far beyondthe borders of the United States and real people were feeling the effects ontheir day to day lives. A similar study in the United States confirmed that thesame result was indeed discovered following 9/11 (Kaplan 2006). Itis obvious then, that discrimination and violence does have effects on the dayto day lives of Muslims. Another study examined paranoia and anxiety in MuslimAmerican populations as effects of discrimination based solely on issuesaccompanying religious affiliation.
“Findings suggest that a statisticallysignificant relationship was found between perceived religious discriminationand subclinical paranoia” (Rippy and Newman, 2007). The results of this study thereforesuggest that perceived discrimination that Muslim Americans experience isrelated to increased suspicion, vigilance and that perhaps differences withinthe Muslim community itself affect the perception of discrimination. Otherstudies exposed a similar narrative of discrimination and issues of identityfor Muslims living in America and other western countries. Sirin and Fine(2007) examined the navigation of identity in Muslim youth who, after theterrorist attacks found themselves in a precarious conflict between their Americanselves and their own religious selves. Feelings of insecurity, unease and negotiatingconflict in their daily lives, Muslim youth in the United States were forced tochange the way that they lived their lives post 9/11. Thelived experiences of discrimination have affected the ways that Muslim Americansdevelop in the context of society, American culture and in terms of religion. Themany challenges of growing up Muslim in the United States especially the lackof support for the Muslim community have caused the alienation of Muslims to continueto be alienated on many levels.
This can be problematic as any individual orgroup regardless of religious affiliation may be more inclined to violence andnegative behaviors especially when they are allowed by social conditions tocreate conflict based relationships to their own nationality. Americanismitself seems to have recently made a conscious effort through political actionto exclude Muslims from broader society creating barriers between religious acceptanceand state membership. Implicationsof American islamophobiaFor Bernard Lonerganthe connection between visuals of some Muslim groups as enemies of the state inaddition to political rhetoric and impact of American politics on the threat onterrorism in a way that clearly designates the Muslim as “other” could be seenas further steps of the formation of an ideology that would serve as ajustification for alienation (Arcamone 2015). Steps to formalize and permeatethis alienation are evident through the proposed Trump “Travel Ban”.
Once legalmeasures based in alienation and the supporting ideology are in place in keyinstitutions it becomes solidified. In this context, the understanding of thelink between alienation and ideology allows us to see the ways that Islamophobiacan be understood within the framework of theoretical analysis. As the ideologyof Islamophobia and religious based discrimination grows it can be seen that theeveryday lives of Muslims as well as other religious minorities caught in thecrossfire such as Sikhs live the effects of the discrimination.
For Lonerganalienation leads to inattentiveness, irrational, irresponsible and downrightun-informed decision making. This alienation once percolated through major institutionsbegin to inform decisions on humanitarian issues, as well as political andeconomic decisions (Arcamone 2015). The ideology that encompasses Islamophobia isitself a justification of ignorance to reason. By stripping Muslim Americans oftheir religious pride and self-worth and making religious practice an issue ofconflict. This is a result of the view that terrorism is a fundamentallyracialized problem. For Lonergan court resistance of the travel ban that wasable to stall and alter the scope of the ban to fight against it’sunconstitutional nature is a sign that resistance is not futile.
In fact,combatting the spread of an ideology that justifies discrimination on the baseof race or religion is a sign of hope. In conclusionIslamophobia in the United States in particular is a problem that is highly damagingto individuals. This occurs through evidence of psychological damage as well asissues related to identity formation. It is also evident that media portrayalsand politicization of issues associated with terrorism and the broader Muslimcommunity in general could have contributed to the formation of an ideologythat accepts and encourages discrimination on the basis of religion alone.
Through Lonergan it is easy to see that the development of anti-Muslimismsentiments could be the beginning of a very damaging reaction. Issues ofreligious discrimination could easily make certain groups who reside within theborders of the United States feel unsafe in their own country.