ISLAMOPHOBIA

Prior to the 9/11 attacks, there was little representation of Muslims in the media and throughout popular culture. However, after the attacks, Muslims gained increasing representation but in a negative light. Muslims became targets of ISLAMOPHOBIA, which is the irrational fear of Muslims.

In her article “Representations of Islam in American News and Film: Becoming the ‘Other’”, Rubina Ramji explores the various ways in which the fear of Muslims have created negative stereotypes of Islam, and elements in the media portray all Muslims as fundamentalists. These negative stereotypes also affect foreign policy and this racism displayed through popular culture creates separation amongst the population, between Muslims and non-Muslims (Ramji, 2003).

Over the years following 9/11, Islamophobia has continued to exist but did not receive much public attention. However, with the recent attacks in Paris by Islamic extremist group ISIS, Islamophobia is back to the forefront of society. In Canada, there has been a violent outbreak of hate crimes against the Muslim population.

A Muslim woman in Toronto was attacked and robbed while picking up her children from school. The only mosque in Peterborough was intentionally set on fire. Two Muslim women were assaulted on a TTC subway.

The people who have committed these hate crimes and believe these racist stereotypes share a similar attitude to that of Judge Jeanine Ferris Pirro, who’s show was cancelled in 2011. She stereotypes all Muslims, and begins her episode with the opening statement, “We need to kill them”.

As these Islamophobic views and hate crimes recieve more attention accross the nation, Canadians are outraged about how their fellow citizens are being treated, since the fundamental principles of Canada is multi-culturalism and freedom of religion. More so, these hate crimes have sparked various initiatives across Canada to reach out and offer support to the Muslim population.

People began using the hashtag #illridewithyou to offer support to the two Muslim women attacked on the subway, and to comfort any other Muslims who fear being persecuted in public.

A fundraiser to raise $80,000 to rebuild the only mosque in Peterborough raised more than expected in just two days.

Three friends also stood together in a busy metro station to demonstrate how there should be no boundaries between religions and different cultures.

The Syrian refugee crisis has also encouraged anti-racism. For instance, Canada has joined together in many efforts to help refugees arriving from Syria. Canadians from various religions and backgrounds all over the country have created projects in order to aid arriving Syrians and welcome them to Canada.

A Sikh community in Vancouver has collected over 1000 blankets, in addition to meeting with local representatives to plan free meals, housing and tuition.

Refugee Winnipeg also raised enough money to sponsor a Syrian family and provide a prosthetic leg for their son, who was run over by a military truck in Syria.

President Barack Obama has also called for anti-racism on an international level at the G20 in Turkey. In his speech, Obama says that there should be no religious test for entry into the United States of America. Christian Syrians and Muslim Syrians have equal priority when seeking refugee. Obama also calls on other countries to help and accept more refugees, when other GOP leaders wanted to back out. He argued that it is not moral to religiously discriminate against people who are fleeing a war torn country for their lives, and that all people are morally responsible to help the vulnerable. Obama continues to push for the acceptance of Syrian refugees, regardless of resistance from the Republicans.

Many celebrities and influential icons in pop culture have also come out to voice their support for the Muslim community and Syrian refugee crisis. J.K Rowling offered messages of compassion over twitter, which was retweeted by many of her fans.John Green also tweeted that he would be matching donations for Patrick Ness’ fundraiser page.

In addition to opening his own home to Syrian refugees, Michael Moore has launched an initiative called “My Home is Open” in order to encourage fellow citizens to open their homes to Syrian refugees. He says, “I’m asking anyone who can, anyone who has spare rooms in their homes or an empty apartment, cottage, or whatever, to make it available for Syrian and Iraqi refugees for between six months and a year while they’re being settled in the U.S”

These initiatives to promote acceptance of Muslims and tolerance demonstrates the Secularization Thesis, which argues that as societies develop, they become less religious. This can apply to organized and strict religion, but religion itself still remains to serve a purpose within society. The morals and values taught through religion have been embedded into the underlying principles of society. For instance, every religion teaches that it is the right thing to help others and be a good person. These initiatives show how people can move past their own religion to help those from another faith. Even those who do not believe in religion or identify as atheists try to help because it has been implemented through institutions in society to be kind and generous. Canadians who have made efforts to help Syrian refugees gain nothing out of raising donations and being kind, except the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping others. Although the role of organized religion is diminishing, the values and influence religion has left on society will continue to exist and influence the views and beliefs of society.


Bibliography:

Chen, T., & Silverman, C. (2015, November 24). 16 Times Canadians Stood In Solidarity With Muslims And Syrian Refugees. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://www.buzzfeed.com/tanyachen/canadians-in-solidarity-with-muslims-and-syrian-refugees#.fi7xqg0Pv

Nikki Schwab, U.s. Political Reporter For Dailymail.com. (2015, November 17). Obama recommits US to accept Syrian Refugees. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3320882/Obama-insists-America-continue-accept-Syrian-refugees-Republican-led-states-line-refuse-entry.html

Michael Moore Launches #MyHomeIsOpen Website to encourage Americans to House Refugees. (2015, November 27). Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2015/11/27/michael-moore-launches-myhomeisopen-website-encourage-americans-house-refugees/

Nikki Schwab, U.s. Political Reporter For Dailymail.com. (2015, November 17). Obama recommits US to accept Syrian Refugees. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3320882/Obama-insists-America-continue-accept-Syrian-refugees-Republican-led-states-line-refuse-entry.html

Ramji, R. (2003). Representations of Islam in American News and Film: Becoming the ‘Other’. In Mediating religion: Conversations in media, religion and culture (pp. 65–72). London: T & T Clark.

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