May 8, 2017
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Waleed AlSammak, I am a student attending Syracuse, New York enrolled in the college of engineering and computer science. Before I begin discussing the issue I will address, allow me to express my gratitude for allowing me the opportunity to write to you about such a critical issue that concerns myself and many of my fellow Americans. Mr. President, it is with great sadness and sorrow that today, in the 21st century racism is still perpetuated in many forms against many different racial, religious and ethnic groups. One of the main groups targeted in the US and the world today are Muslims. My letter today to you has the main intent to shed light on this issue of Islamophobia. In addition, how the media has and continues to contribute to our growingly Islamophobic society. The issue of islamophobia has become a critical one, Muslims today are oppressed, scared and helpless. A population of 1.6 billion in the world and 3.3 million in the US are being labelled terrorist as a direct result of the actions of a few extremists that represent an insignificant part of the total Muslim population. The way the media handles the latest so called “Islamic” terrorism has been nothing less the disgraceful, and I strongly believe that it has immensely contributed to the Islamophobic society we live in.
“Why is it that no one within the Muslim community there in France knew what these guys were up to?” is what CNN anchor John Vause asked Yasser Louati a French anti islamophobia activist following the Paris attacks, to which Yasser responded “Sir, the Muslim community has nothing
to do with these guys — nothing. We cannot justify ourselves for the actions of someone who just claims to be Muslim”. Muslims have been and are constantly being blamed by the media for the actions of a few extremists who identify as Muslims, and the truth is, the vast majority of Muslims have nothing to do with any of it, yet they fear speaking Arabic on a plane, wearing their traditional clothes in the street, or even walking out of a mosque late at night as a result of the way they are represented. The questions that arises here is if Muslims are held accountable for ISIS, then why are Christians not held accountable for the Lord’s resistance army or the KKK. The answer is simple, the media. The media can point, shift and change the peoples point of view very easily. People believe what they are show. The media today has become very predictable when it comes to islamophobia in television coverage. Whenever any act of terrorism, they start of with speculations about identity, bring in a panel to discuss Islamic extremism and then labels them Muslim terrorists, if they end up not being Muslim like the Dortmund bombing two weeks ago they change the label from the terrorist to financially motivated lone wolf or something similar.
The social stigma being fueled against Muslims creates issues that mirror broader problems in the United States like class, genders and sexuality. When talking about class issues, social immobility and unequal job opportunities dominate. One one of the many results of islamophobia is that Muslim families have become socially immobile due to unequal job opportunities and discrimination when hiring, in fact a recent study by Carnegie Melon University found that only 2% of Muslim American applicants at jobs received interviews while 17% Christian Americans received interviews especially in conservative states. This is no doubtlessly a result of how the media portrays Islam. The repercussions of class based issues are disastrous to communities, being socially immobile in society has a direct impact on any families financial stability, education and child growth, and emotions. Living in a society that regards you as a danger/threat to the rest generates a socially stratified society where Muslims are the lower class that are helpless and are unable to attain the American dream. For Muslims, they are having a requiem for the American dream. If the situation remains as is, most Muslim American will have a difficult time assimilating in the American society, and although one might argue most Muslims have only recently migrated a counter argument would be that no matter how long they have been here if racial discrimination remains an issue, Muslim Americans will face tremendous difficulties fitting into the American society which is detrimental to their class standing.
Although class is a big part of the issue to consider when reviewing such a troublesome topic it is very unfortunately one of many. Gender is also a prevailing issue that relates to Islamophobia. Both men and women who are Muslim face difficulties performing basic daily tasks. Women who wear the traditional veil also known as Hijab are constantly discriminated upon. In fact, one researcher found that an astonishing 69% of women who wear the veil have reported at least one incident of discrimination. The American Civil Liberties Union has also lately reported a spike in racially motivated incidents against Muslim women who wear the veil, reports varied from verbal attack to the physical removal of the veil accompanied with aggravated battery.
One can easily spot an overlap between class and gender, women are already paid less and have a harder time finding employment in addition wearing a veil adds another limitation to finding a job. Reports have indicated companies are opting not to hire veiled employees and some of those brave women who have been rejected have taken the matter all the way to the supreme court A young woman who applied to work at Abercrombie and Fitch got denied a job opportunity because her veil goes against the companies dress code. The violated victim took it all the way to the supreme court where she won 8-1 votes asserting that the constitution stands by this woman’s inherent freedom to wear whatever she desires.
Muslim men are also subject to serious discrimination based on their gender. Males are predominantly portrayed as more aggressive in general and with Muslim men especially those who fit the description of your typical middle eastern Muslim have a very hard time even walking around without getting looked at like scary individual let alone get a job. There have been many cases were Muslim middle eastern looking men have been booted of airplanes, busses and arrested just because another passenger reported them with no basis. In fact recently Southwest and Delta both had to deal with scandals of booting Muslims of planes just because other passenger complained they heard them speaking Arabic. One example is Khairuldeen Makhzoomi who is a UC Berkeley graduate, Makhzoomi who was just calling his uncle to tell him about how exited he was to have asked the UN Secretary General a question at a dinner ealier ended up getting booted of the plane. Makhzoomi ended the phone call after saying inch Allah “God wills it in Arabic” He saw a woman stare a him a, 2 minutes later a man with two officers came and got him off the plane where he was consistently asked to tell them about the Martyrs. Just because the young man is a male Muslim who speaks Arabic he was mistreated and humiliated which sheds light on how the stigma in society that is fueled by the media has a very negative effect of Muslims.
Another aspect to be discussed is race and how African American Muslims suffer greatly from a combination of islamophobia and racism against the African American community. Black Muslims struggle not only within the greater American community, but within the Muslim community itself. African American Muslims must deal with discrimination on multiple front. The intersectionality between being black and being Muslims makes them a very discriminated upon group, they suffer from the stigma that blacks people are violent, uneducated and the stigma that Muslims are terrorists that want to take over the western world. Black parents often tell their children how to navigate their lives to avoid discrimination, however for black Muslims this conversation goes to whole other level. Living a life like that in constant fear of being labelled and or viewed as a threat because of your race and religion has immediate consequences to their life. Their children’s education is affected since they grow up surrounded by hate, their employment is as a result also affected which leads to class immobility. African American Muslims live a life of a prisoner without bars or guards. The stigma fueled by the media towards Muslims and African Americans plays a key role in this unfortunate situation.
Mr. President the issues above are have reached a critical point, people’s live have been take, others have been ruined and it is essential that we, the American people must take a stand however without your help and support Mr. President not much can happen. What’s above explains the consequence of islamophobia and the false rhetoric perpetuated by the media, yet the question remains what can we do to end it.
Following Nancy Fraser’s theory, we can identify our issue of islamophobia as a combination or social structure and hybrid/bivalent categories. The issue requires recognition and awareness and other solutions such as an integrationist model that aims to assimilate Muslims in the western communities to form emotional bonds that will help put an end to Islamophobia. However, with the media’s manipulative methods that intentionally perpetuate prejudice it will be a challenge.
My support for the 1st amendment should firstly and fore mostly be made very clear, in no way should the freedom to speak one’s mind or give one’s opinion ever be infringed, however the Islamophobia that exists today is fueled by the way the media handles issues relating to Islam. “Make no mistake: When producers dream up panel discussions about whether Islam is a violent religion, they aren’t merely “asking the question”: they’re perpetuating prejudice. ” and unfortunately many of my fellow Americans have fallen prey to such perpetuations. The government must counter this type of spreading of prejudice. There must be public statement, by high ranking officially explaining the truth, informing the people about who the true enemy is, the true enemy that is racism. We must implement and enforce the law against those who discriminate against our fellow peaceful citizens, measures must be taken to ensure the correct portrayal of Muslims and the truth behind terrorism and how it is not related to Islam. In fact, according to the federal bureau of investigation 94% of attacks perpetuated on US soil between 1980 and 2005 were in fact committed by non-Muslims. And for the sake of argument, even if all attacks since 1970 “around 140000” were all committed by Muslims one can still not related that to Islam as that would represent 0.00009% of the Muslim population. Such statistics need to be made clear to the public.
Raising awareness about the issue to the American public at every level should a primary focus. People should know that religions are not evil but people are and that we shouldn’t paint a group of people with one brush especially since only a few who are extremists. Furthermore the constant portrayal of terrorist as Muslims in shows and movies also has to end, TV is one of the most efficient ways to reach the general public, constantly portraying Muslims as terrorist does no good, it only fuels the islamophobia.
Lastly, the best way to help lower islamophobia in the US is by helping Muslims incorporate in the American society. By doing so, a bond is created on an emotional level helping lower tensions between the different factions.
In conclusion Mr. President, it is crucial that we begin a journey of restructuring our way of thinking when it comes to Muslims. We must end this madness that has caused countless Muslims to lose hope and has resulted in blood shed, vandalism and fear. Mr. President, the United States of America, is a beautiful nation, full of beautiful people from many backgrounds. We must ensure that our fellow American Muslims incorporate with the rest of the population. This is the land of Freedom where anyone can practice their religion freely, wear their traditional clothe freely, talk freely without being judged. I hope Mr. President that you view my concern as a legitimate concern with serious repercussion in many social aspects. In the end Mr. President, I reiterate my thanks to you for allowing me to write to you.
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