By Gabriella Shery ‘17
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Muslim Americans have been relentlessly targeted by hate crimes.
The rise in attacks against Muslim Americans can be quantified. Brian Levin runs a hate -crime research group at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. According to Crimes Against Muslim Americans and Mosques Rise Sharply by Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times, Levin’s research has found that there are, on average, more than 12 suspected hate crimes against Muslims in the United States each month.
The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham, in his article Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes are Still Five Times More Common Today than Before 9/11, writes that, after Jews, Muslims are the second most frequently targeted religious group.
Recent hate crimes against Muslims came in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. On the night of November 13, 2015, gunmen and suicide bombers left 130 people dead and hundreds more wounded following attacks on a concert hall, stadium, restaurants, and bars in Paris. As reported by The Associated Press in Paris Attacks: What Happened That Night, one of the attackers is said to have shouted “God is great” in Arabic during the assault. A witness also heard a gunman blame French President Hollande for intervening in Syria, while another witness remarked, “It was the first clear evidence that Paris was once again being targeted by Islamists.”
According to CNN, less than a month later, on December 2, 2015, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik attacked a holiday party at a center for people with developmental disabilities in San Bernardino. The married couple killed 14 people and injured 17.
Compounding the fear generated by these terrorist attacks, Zenab Jamil ‘17 believes that Muslims are targets of hate crimes because they aren’t considered “ideal representations” of Americans. “Being a Muslim in America means living in an atmosphere where a lot of people do not accept you as a part of their society,” she said. “In fact, some people don’t consider us to be Americans because of our beliefs and our choice of attire.”
This prejudice against Muslims has been most prominently evoked by Donald Trump. According to Trump Embraces Muslim Ban in Opening TV Ads by Jill Colvin and Steve Peoples of ABC News, the Republican presidential candidate is calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. “It’s radical Islamic terrorism,” claims Trump. “That’s why I’m calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we figure out what’s going on.” How this could be reconciled with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bars the government from creating laws prohibiting the exercise of any religion, remains to be seen.
Kelly Wong ‘17 said, “If Trump becomes president, America will no longer have any hope left of recovering decency. Trump’s actions and words prove that he is not a supporter of minority groups, and if he becomes president I believe he will both mistreat and discriminate against Muslims.”
Ms. Maysoun Mansour has never encountered anyone being put down due to their religion at Midwood, which she attributes to the school’s diversity. “It’s not the people that worry me, but what the politicians are telling them,” she explains. “If they hear what these politicians have to say, they’ll begin to rationalize it and think it’s true.”
Historically speaking, there are precedents to Trump’s anti-Muslim proposal. The internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is just one example of a group being targeted in the past. Mr. Daniel Sadok, a history teacher, explained, “The Japanese were loyal to the United States and posed no security threat. Japanese-Americans fought in World War II to prove their patriotism. There was just an irrational fear of the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which inevitably lead to their banishment.”
According to history.com, another example occurred in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. There was a perceived threat posed by communists in the U.S., which became known as the Red Scare. This fear of Communism led to the pursuance of suspected communist supporters, which became known as McCarthyism.
Ms. Mansour said, “This widespread fear of terrorism needs to be disassociated from the Islamic religion because Islam is a peaceful religion. In every religion, there is a minority that’s violent. Thus, we shouldn’t condemn all Muslims for the actions of a small minority of extremists.”
Mahmoud Ae ‘17 added on, “America symbolizes the freedom and opportunity I have of becoming a scientist. I worry that my future won’t be secure if we separate groups by religion. The reason is that when you’re separated from a group, you’re seen more as a rival.”
Komal Zahid ‘16 has similar aspirations. “If I was in Pakistan, my education would end after high school,” she said. “In America, I am able to pursue a college degree.” Zahid goes on to explain that she is trying to obtain the American Dream, not sabotage it.