Islamophobia in the United States
Islamophobia in the United States can be described as the affective distrust and hostility towards Muslims, Islam, and those perceived as following the religion and or appear as members of the religion and its associative groups. This social aversion and bias is facilitated and perpetuated by violent and uncivilized stereotypes portrayed in various forms of American media networks and political platforms that result in the marginalization, discrimination, and exclusion of the Muslims and Muslim perceived individuals. Media and politicians capitalize on public fear and distrust of Muslims through laws that specifically target Muslims, while the media emphasizes Muslim religious extremism in association with violent activity.
Advocacy groups like Center for American Progress explain that this social phenomenon is not new, but rather, has increased its presence in American social and political discourse over the past ten to fifteen years. They cite that several organizations donate large amounts of money to create the "Islamophobia megaphone". CAP defines the megaphone analogy as "a tight network of anti- Muslim, anti- Islam foundations, misinformation experts, validators, grass root organizations, religious rights groups and their allies in the media and in politics" who work together to misrepresent Islam and Muslims in the United States. As a result of this network, Islam is now one of the most stigmatized religions, with only 37 percent of Americans having a favorable opinion of Islam, according to a 2010 ABC News/ Washington Post poll. This biased perception of Islam and Muslims manifests itself into the discrimination of racially perceived Muslims in the law and media, and is conceptually reinforced by the Islamophobia network.
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A report from the University of California Berkeley and the Council on American–Islamic Relations estimated that $206 million was funded to 33 groups whose primary purpose was "to promote prejudice against, or hatred of, Islam and Muslims" in the United States between 2008 and 2013, with a total of 74 groups contributing to Islamophobia in the United States during that period. This has been referred to as the "Islamophobia industry" by scholars Nathan Lean and John Esposito.
- 1 In employment
- 2 Women in Islam
- 3 Muslim women's health
- 4 In education
- 5 In airports
- 6 In politics
- 7 In the media
- 8 Hate crimes
- 9 Contributors and organizations
- 10 Commentary
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Sources
A 2013 Carnegie Mellon University study found that, nationally, Muslims had "13% fewer callbacks" than Christians after submitting identical job applications to the same establishments. The study also concluded that discrepancies between callbacks for Muslims and Christians were larger "in counties with a high fraction of Republican voters," with Christians getting almost four times as many return calls in these constituencies. On the other hand, there was no discernible hiring discrimination against Muslims in Democratic counties. Biases were larger on the state level, with Christians getting more than seven times as many callbacks than Muslims in Republican states. Democratic states, once again, showed "no significant callback biases." The study added that "employers in older counties are significantly less likely to call back the Muslim candidate compared to the Christian candidate"
In the workplace
Protection against religious discrimination in the workplace is found in the context of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Employees claim religious discrimination when it involves any of the following: disparate treatment, religious harassment, failure to reasonably accommodate religious beliefs, and retaliation against an applicant or employee who alleges religious discrimination. Disparate treatment can be defined as someone receiving different treatment regarding recruitment, hiring, promotion, discipline, compensation because of their religion. Religious Harassment involves employees who are forced to participate or abstain from religious practices if they want to stay employed. Accommodation claims involve the employer's failure to reasonably accommodate any change to the work environment that would enable the employee to remain compliant with their religion. Retaliation happens when an employer resorts to punitive action against an employee for seeking out religious accommodations, threatening or filing a claim, assisting in someone else filing for discrimination, or testifying in discrimination proceedings.
After the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC reported that religion- based discrimination against Muslims had increase by nearly 250 percent. Moreover, the number of discrimination claims made by Muslims over a four-year period, from 2001 to 2005, nearly doubled when compared with another 4-year period.
In regards to religious harassment, studies show that, in general, these type of suits are increasing. In the case of Zayed v. Apple Computers, an Arab Muslim woman sued Apple Inc. on the grounds of harassment, retaliation, defamation, and infliction of emotional distress based on religion, national origin, and gender. Zayed had been employed as an at- will engineer since 1994, and stated that she had experienced dramatic changes in her work environment after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Zayed claimed that fellow employees began inquiring as to whether or not her religion encouraged Muslims to engage in suicide bombings. Additionally, she stated that these same employees gave her malicious expressions, slammed her door, and expressed visible discontent and anger with Zayed after she expressed her disapproval with the war in Iraq. Moreover, she also felt isolated when Apple put up red, white and blue ribbons on many employees' doors, but not on hers. Soon after Zayed claimed that she felt marginalized and believed that she was wrongfully excluded from projects and career opportunities that were mostly given to white, non- Arab, colleagues. Finally in 2004, Zayed chose to go on disability leave, stating that it was partly due to the stress she had been experiencing in response to the harsh treatment from her supervisors and coworkers. But while on sick leave, Apple terminated Zayed. After her termination, Zayed decided to sue.
In the case Al-Aqrabawi v. Pierce County, a Muslim man from Jordan had been educated as a physician abroad, but was only hired as a nursing assistant at a county mental health facility, to which the county originally stated that it was due to licensing issues. In addition to this, the Plaintiff also experienced discriminatory comments by an LPN alluding to their suspicion that the Plaintiff was a terrorist. The Plaintiff also claimed that a fellow coworkers said that "we have to send in our Phantoms and bomb their Mecca". These comments, in conjunction, with discriminatory licensing practices, led to the plaintiff suing on behalf of claims of failure to promote, discrimination, and hostile environment.
In regards to religious accommodation, a Muslim woman named Halla Banafa filed a discrimination claim after she didn't receive a job stocking merchandise at an Abercrombie Kids store in Milpitas, California because she wore the hijab. According to EEOC, the manager decided against hiring the woman because she didn't fit the Abercrombie look, which would violate the company's "Look Policy". This policy functions as an internal dress code that explicitly prohibits head coverings. However, this is not the first time that Abercrombie has run into issues with their strict "Look Policy". In 2005, the company paid $40 million in a class- action suit involving African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and women because Abercrombie "refused to recruit, hire, promote, and retain minorities because they didn't fit Abercrombie's 'All- American look'".
In 2017, the government of New York City charged Pax Assist with discrimination after refusing requests by Muslims employees to change the times of their breaks to coincide with iftar. The company responded by saying "we don't care about Ramadan. We'll give you a break on our time, not your time."
In the case Ibraheem v. Wackenhut Services, the black male Muslim claimed religious retaliation when he was fired after submitting an EEOC charge of discrimination and filing for a lawsuit involving claims about hostile work environments and religious discrimination.
Women in Islam
The existing discourse that positions Islam and western values against each other also underpins how the Americans perceive Muslim women in society. Scholars assert that media, Islamophobic organizations, and politicians have played a tremendous role in depicting Muslim women as consistently endangered and subjugated by the alleged patriarchical nature of Islam. In support of this presumption, many scholars conclude that women's status in Islam has a complex history, one that implies instances of male privilege and the relegation of women to a second class citizenry.  
One of these issues includes the rising controversy and questioning of the meaning behind veiling. First and foremost, those who adhere to a feminist interpretation of the Qu'ran say that the conception of veiling is not monolithic in nature. Rather, what constitutes veiling varies across regions. Some choose to wear a Niqab which refers to various materials that are used to cover a woman's face. Others choose to wear long conservative skirts and dresses that cover most skin. The hijab, which is usually worn around a woman's head, is also prevalent among various regions. Furthermore, just as the definition of what constitutes veiling varies, so do the attitudes of those who choose to veil.
Muslim women's health
Although empirical research on Muslim women's health in the United States is limited, sample studies provide insight into the experiences and health behaviors of American Muslim women. Recent studies on depression and experiences of stigma measured through heightened vigilance, risk for non-communicable diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc.), and contraception utilization provide a scientific foundation for future research studies with Muslim women.
At Columbus Manor school, a suburban Chicago elementary school where nearly half the student body is Muslim Arab American, school board officials have considered eliminating holiday celebrations after Muslim parents complained that their culture's holidays were not included. Local parent, Elizabeth Zahdan, said broader inclusion, not elimination, was the group's goal. "I only wanted them modified to represent everyone," the Chicago Sun-Times quoted her as saying. "Now the kids are not being educated about other people." However, the district's superintendent, Tom Smyth, said too much school time was being taken to celebrate holidays already, and he sent a directive to his principals requesting that they "tone down" activities unrelated to the curriculum, such as holiday parties.
Since the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11, American airports have considered it their duty to act as the "front line of defense". Polls conducted in the United States also show that more than half of Americans support the policy of more extensive security checks for Arab and Muslim Americans in airports.
Some publishers have noted the presence of Islamophobia during immigration proceedings. Nonetheless, such forms of xenophobia have been said to primarily affect the male members of the Muslim population. There have also been claims stating that such forms of xenophobia have enveloped the Arab community in the U.S., often resulting in deportations, revocations of visa, and dispiriting interrogations at American airports. This purportedly occurs because Muslim women are seen as less of a threat than Muslim men.
After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the President George W. Bush's administration passed sweeping, unprecedented legislation in response to the American public's demand for action. After three days, Congress passed the law called the Authorization for the Use of Military force, giving President Bush the power to use the military in any way that seemed "appropriate or necessary towards unspecified states and non state actors." Six weeks after 9/11, the PATRIOT ACT was passed, greatly expanding several government agencies' abilities to acquire information via searches, electronic surveillance, and wiretapping. This same act also introduced searches that did not require the government to notify the private owner of a residence that they had been searched for up to 90 days. Some scholars argue that the passage of laws like the Patriot Act was the government's way of capitalizing on a fearful American public by legalizing racially targeted policies. A poll conducted shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, echoes this line of argument when it found that about one- third of Americans thought it was acceptable to detain Arab Americans in camps reminiscent of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Pew Research Center's poll, conducted in 2004, also found that almost of half Americans were willing to forego certain civil liberties in favor of ensuring national security.
The enforcement of the Patriot Act has far- reaching repercussions, and is widely believed to target Muslims, Middle Eastern and Arab looking men. According to the ACLU, the New York City Police Department has been spying on Muslim- American communities since 2002. In this same report, the ACLU asserts that the NYPD has singled specific Islamic associations, groups, mosques, and businesses, while not subjecting any other non- Islamic associated groups to this type of surveillance or scrutiny. The NYPD was enabled by the Patriot Act to essentially map out the communities, introduce spies into the community to identify or collect evidence, and even track individuals in these communities who change their name to a more Americanized name. The legalization of dismantlement of civil liberties for a group, deemed inherently suspect, has caused a cultural rift in America's view towards Muslims, Middle Eastern men, and those who appear to be Arab.
As a supplement to the Patriot Act, the U.S. government also instituted immigration policies such as the National Security Entry- Exit Registration System in 2002. This policy targeted immigrants from twenty six countries, twenty five of them known as Muslim countries, and had them fingerprinted and registered into a select system upon entry into the country. Supporters of the policy in the Justice Department explain that the selection of immigrants into the system is predicated on the current intelligence data that has been collected to monitor terrorist organization's activity. Even though the Justice Department elucidated that the system is highly sensitive in their targets, they also stated that the system will track "all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria," despite knowing that none of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks were from these countries. In spite of the money dedicated to the new homeland security paradigm in the wake of 9/11. Bill Ong Hing argues that the restructuring and implementation of more security measures via immigration policies as well as the expansion of powers of executive enforcement has not aided in the goal of apprehending terrorists. Hing cites that over 83,000 men came forward to register in the system, and about 13,000 of them were deemed dangerous enough to enter deportation proceedings. However, James Ziglar, President Bush's appointed INS commissioner, stated that nobody in the registry was ever charged and convicted of crimes associated with terrorism.
The U.S. government also decided to devote resources to create the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2001. This policy afforded the TSA the duties of careful airport screening, which was once performed by private security firms chosen by certain airlines. It also allowed them to conduct random canine- assisted searches, implement more checkpoints, and place air marshals on thousands of flights coming from all over the world. The TSA also holds the No- Fly List and the Automatic Selectee list, two controversial terrorism watch lists. The No- Fly List contains names of individuals who have been labeled as a threat to aviation across the United States. If on the list, individuals are not allowed to fly on commercial flights headed towards the United States, are supposed to fly over United States airspace, or are managed by a U.S. airline. Although, the No Fly List and the Automatic Selectee List existed prior to the 9/11 attacks, the combined total of names on both lists rose from less than 20 to more than 20,000 by the end of 2004. Scholars argue that these lists target millions of innocent people who resemble distinct Middle Eastern characteristics, like ethnicity, skin color, language and clothing. With these governmental policies in place, racism has been institutionalized in regards to Muslims, especially foreign born. The foreign born Muslims seeking travel to the United States are depicted in airports as potentially violent and religiously extremist. However, even U.S. citizen Muslims who fit the American caricature of a Muslim are not safe from these policies. A USA Today/ Gallup poll conducted in 2010 echoed the prevalence of racist public sentiment, showing that about 60 percent of the American public showed favorable views towards ethnic profiling towards Arabs, even if they were U.S. citizens.
In the media
In the immediate months following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, an expected surge of media attention was devoted to American Muslims and Arabs. Frequent news stories and discussions involved the issue of civil liberties that American Muslims were facing due to the increase in reports involving physical violence and assaults on Arabs and Muslims. Despite the notable prejudice towards Arabs and Muslims after the terrorist attack, outlets like the New York Times printed opinion pieces discouraging the indiscriminate attribution of blame to one or more groups by the way of curtailing civil liberties and social freedoms.
Other researchers like Brigitte Nacos and Oscar Torres- Reyna coded media dispositions on Islam and Muslims before and after 9/11. Their studies concluded that before 9/11, about 25 percent of the pertinent articles taken from four different newspapers connoted positive sentiment towards Muslims. Likewise, approximately 40 percent of the articles taken from the same newspapers expressed empathetic attitudes towards Muslims and Arabs alike. These same researchers argue that 9/11 terrorist attacks changed the way news media outlets (print or television) reported on Muslim Americans and Arabs. They cite that because news media outlets selected Muslims and Arabs for interviews and discussions instead of their traditional authoritative sources, these minority groups became more visible to the American public. This increased visibility, in conjunction with news items reporting public figures advocacy for increased understanding between Muslims and non- Muslims, echoed the heterogeneous nature of the religion. Additionally, these pleas and visibility helped dispel the idea that Islam was a violent and hateful religion, temporarily debunking the myth that terrorism is intertwined with the Islamic faith.
In totality, several opinion surveys reflected the impact of the shift in media coverage towards Muslim Americans and Arabs. The surveys showed that the American public viewed American Muslims more favorably than they did prior to the 9/11 attacks.
As time passed the immediate months post- 9/11, the news media outlets reflected a notable shift away from positive, supportive, and empathetic sentiments towards Muslim Americans and Arabs. The next six months and the years after the attacks showed that, in addition to westernized media, American media outlets became increasingly critical of Muslim Americans. Some attribute this notable shift to the silencing of voices that once advocated for Muslim Americans as peaceful individuals.
According to Media Tenor International, between 2007 and 2013, media outlets like NBC, Fox News, and CBS characterized Islam and the Muslim identity as one linked with violence and extremism. Other studies conducted by LexisNexis Academic and CNN found that media outlets devoted more coverage to terrorist attacks involving Muslims, especially Muslims who were not born in the United States.
Author and researcher Nahid Afrose Kabir examined similar reporting on violent events. One event he studied was the Fort Hood shooting that occurred on November 5, 2009. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who was identified as American born but held a Muslim background, shot and killed thirteen soldiers and wounded thirty more. Some of the interviewees commented on how the news reporting of this event emphasized Hasan's Muslim background. The same interviewees in this study compared the Virginia Tech shooting with the Fort Hood shooting in which a non- Muslim individual, Seung- Hui Cho, killed thirty- two people, but following news reports did not make a point to emphasize his religious or cultural ties. Similarly, in various print media outlets, headlines alluded to the idea that the Fort Hood Shooting had ties to terrorist acts or other terrorist organizations. Another incident that occurred in Times Square on May 2, 2010, provoked more anti- Muslim sentiment. Faisal Shahzad made a bombing attempt that failed. The Times subsequent reporting indicated that Pakistan's Tehrik- e- Taliban took credit for the failed attempt. In the same report over the incident, Kabir noted that the Times report used this incident to further legitimize the wars in the Middle East, emphasizing the need to take out potential terrorists. Kabir echoed Reem Bakker's sentiments, an interviewee in Kabir's study, that the failed attempt further ostracized the Muslim community.
In general, the definition of a hate crime involves two elements that distinguish it from other illegal acts. Namely, that the crime must be a criminal offense that is backed by a biased motivation. This biased motivation is usually revealed when an individual targets an attack on an individual because of some immutable personal characteristic that is protected by law. Hate crimes vary from assault, murder, damage to property, work place discrimination and housing discrimination.
In 2000, the FBI reported 28 hate crime incidents against Muslim. By the end of 2001, the number of hate crimes rose to 481. Although the FBI finds that the number of anti- Muslim hate crimes has decreased since 2001, the incidence rate is still five times as much their 2000 rate, suggesting that the stereotypes that negatively link Muslims, extremism, and terrorism are still pervasive. Some scholars suggest that the spike in hate crimes against Muslims in a post- 9/11 political climate is not surprising because of the phenomenon known as "vicarious retribution". This phenomenon explains how when one member of a visibly identifiable group acts aggressively towards members of an out group, then the aggressor will also indirectly harm his or her fellow in group member. In the context of Anti- Muslim hate crimes, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 transformed the way U.S. society would view Muslims and people of Arab descent. Other experts also point out that anti- Muslim sentiment existed prior to the terrorist attacks, however, this sentiment was more or less overshadowed by other anti- minority group sentiments. In contrast, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Arabs and Muslims were largely depicted as monolithic group of foreigners, extremists and terrorists
Some publishers have opined that the increase in hate crimes against Muslims was an Islamophobic abuse with an ethnocentric trait. This is because many of its proponents do not distinguish between Arabs and Muslims and think all Arabs are Muslim by shapeshifting the Muslim faith into an ethnoreligion. This is in contrast to decreasing hate crimes against other racial groups, such as blacks, Asians and Latinos with the exception of Jews.
Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations attributes the spike in recent anti-Muslim attacks to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, as well as the coverage" 'radical Islam' on the news while not using the word "radical" for non-Muslim faiths. According to a report by CNN and a survey from the Council on American–Islamic Relations there have been over 63 acts of vandalism and anti Muslim behavior in 2015 from January through December 3.
Zohreh Assemi, an Iranian American Muslim owner of a nail salon in Locust Valley, New York, was robbed, beaten, and called a "terrorist" in September 2007 in what authorities call a bias crime. Assemi was kicked, sliced with a boxcutter, and had her hand smashed with a hammer. The perpetrators, who forcibly removed $2,000 from the salon and scrawled anti-Muslim slurs on the mirrors, also told Assemi to "get out of town" and that her kind were not "welcomed" in the area. The attack followed two weeks of phone calls in which she was called a "terrorist" and told to "get out of town," friends and family said.
A Muslim school in the Northeastern U.S. state of Rhode Island was vandalised with graffiti bearing "Now this is a Hate crime", indicating that the perpetrators were wary of the hateful nature. The incident was described by some media outlets as "Islamophobic".
Contributors and organizations
In 2011 the Center for American Progress produced a report called Fear. Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobic Network in America, and asserted that an esteemed, elite, and wealthy group of conservative foundations and affluent donors were the engine behind the continuation of Islamophobia in law, private spheres, and general public sentiment towards Muslims and Arabs at large. In this same report, they analyzed seven specific organizations that contributed almost $42.6 million in funding towards various organizations and think tanks that promoted Islamophobia. Much of this money goes to the "misinformation experts". These experts are people who spread the message that Islam is an inherently sinister and hostile religion that seeks to convert or destroy all non- Muslims, especially those residing in the United States.
CAIR and Center for American Progress list ACT for America as anti- Islam hate group run by Brigitte Gabriel. According to ACT's website, the organization views itself as the gatekeeper of national security for American borders, with over 750,000 members and 12,000 volunteer activists. They state that their activities are geared towards educating citizens and elected officials to impact public policy and guard America for terrorism. CAIR attributes anti- sharia law campaign with ACT in Oklahoma. Additionally, CAIR asserts that ACT has ties with white national supremacy groups such as Vanguard America and Identity Europa.
Robert Spencer is listed as a misinformation expert. He contributes content to the blog known as 'Jihad Watch', which heavily funded by the David Horowitz Freedom Center Initiative and the Stop Islamization of America groups. Smearcasting, an organization dedicated to accurate reporting, accused Spencer of only focusing on the violent verses and texts within the Islamic faith and deeming it as a representation of the faith as a whole. Scholars and academic like Dr. Carl Kenan and William Kenan at UNC- Chapel Hill have also commented on how Spencer's beliefs regarding Islam have no foundation in any reputable academic work or in the religion itself. According to the Jihad Watch website, they cite the purpose of the website is to inform non- Muslims all over the world that Islamic jihadists are attempting to destroy societies and impose Islamic law globally.
Center for American Progress's report in 2011 also cites the importance of political players in contributing to the spread of Islamophobia. Peter King, a congressman who has served over ten- terms, held congressional hearings titled "Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response."  Despite the fact that most terrorist plots in the United States have been initiated by non-Muslims after 9/11, King has been cited as stating that 80-85 percent of mosques in the United States are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists. King attributed this statistic to Steven Emerson, from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, also known as viewing Islam as an inherently violent religion that is hostile to non-Muslims. Other political players like Sue Myrick, an eight - term congresswoman from North Carolina, rely on the network of the experts who view Islam as inherently violent. Sue Myrick wrote a foreword to a book titled Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America. David Gaubatz, author of the book, served on David Yerushalmi's Society of Americans for National Existence, who advocated for a 20-year jail sentence to those who practiced Sharia law. Center for American Progress asserts that Sue Myrick relies on Gaubatz's book for information regarding the Islamic faith. In 2011, she chaired the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence.
Some commentators have criticized individual American New Atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens for making Islamophobic statements. Commenting on Greenwald's response to Harris, Jerome Taylor, writing in The Independent, has stated that, "Like Chomsky, who has also been a vocal critic of New Atheism, he [Greenwald] blames writers like Harris for using their particularly anti-Islamic brand of rational non-belief to justify American foreign policies over the last decade. Two educators at universities in Utah have claimed that these American atheist activists invoke Samuel Huntington's 'clash of civilizations' theory to explain the current political contestation and that this forms part of a trend toward "Islamophobia [...] in the study of Muslim societies".[verification needed]
Part of the study of Islamophobia has involved historians, scholars and educators writing about institutional violence against American Muslims and incitement of violence against foreign Muslims. Edward Said in his book Orientalism describes how the West is taught about the East through a Westernized lens and that most of the East's history is written in Europe by European historians, instead of specialized scholars of Eastern history. When applied, Orientalism serves as a way of using demeaning representations of the East to assert the cultural and political superiority of the West over inferior Muslims.
- Persecution of Muslims in the United States
- Anti-Arabism in the United States
- Anti-Middle Eastern sentiment in the United States
- Anti-Iranian sentiment in the United States
- Islamophobia in Australia
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