Islamophobia has become increasingly prevalent within Western society, often indirectly by negative media attention. However, although it may seem justified, it is blatantly incorrect and has severe consequences upon the Muslim community.
Islamophobic is defined as the ‘dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force’. This prejudice has grown from Orientalism, leading people in the West assuming that the actions of extremists and terrorists represent all Muslims. This is utterly incorrect but has been created by media organisations, cementing the perspective into the minds of people. For the rates of Islamophobia to decrease, this perspective must become part of the past.
Terrorism has no religion.
The hateful rhetoric toward Muslims, often carried by the media and politics, gives people permission to be discriminatory toward them, whether overtly or more subtly. These negative messages often result in many Muslims remaining in a constant state of vigilance. Moreover, a report by the University of Iowa in America found that anti-Muslim discrimination also undermines US employers. The study of more than 125 Muslim women discovered that workplace discrimination and religiosity were related to lower levels of job satisfaction. This discrimination also affected company productivity which can be detrimental to the effectiveness and efficiency of businesses.
Incidents of Islamophobia are also present within Australia with an increase in anti-Muslim incidents collected by the Islamophobia Register. The harm of these attacks goes past any physical impact. The attacks lead to the belief that an individual is not wanted in that country, not safe and not protected. That sense of insecurity extends to families, communities and cause further physical and mental impacts.
Dealing with Islamophobia requires a cultural change within society. The ill-founded notion that Muslims are lesser and are connected to terrorism must be destroyed. This will allow for services to reach out to Muslims effectively and provide support.
In America, Mental Health 4 Muslims was founded in 2008 which offers a director of Muslim mental health practitioners around the country, as well as articles, podcasts, webinars and other resources for people seeking help.
The media also has a significant role to play. They must change the way they depict Muslims to help prevent hate crimes. A report by the University of Michigan found that exposure to news in which Muslims are portrayed as terrorists were associated with support for military action in Muslim countries as well as support for unconstitutional policy proposals, such as not allowing Muslim Americans to vote or to own guns. This constant barrage of Muslims portrayed negatively only assists with the stereotypes and creates fear within Western communities. This fear is what has started the cycle of religious motivated terrorist attacks over the past few years.
Hatred against Muslims does not begin with the sound of gunfire breaking through the peaceful calm of a place of prayer which occurred in Christchurch, 2019. It starts with simple prejudice in our schools, workplaces and communities. We must all work towards decreasing anti-Muslim sentiments and spreading the truth about Muslims, which the media fail to acknowledge.
As I stated earlier, terrorism has no religion. That is the sentiment we should all be carrying as we look towards reducing Islamophobia within our communities.