It’s time we stand up for the Muslim members of our community
by Erin Oshiro
Since Wednesday’s violent shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., which left more than a dozen dead, the all-too familiar rhetoric perpetuating tired stereotypes of Muslim Americans surfaced — beginning with the cover of Thursday’s NY Post headlined “Muslim Killers.”
The Twittersphere also erupted, with tweets lashing out against Muslims Americans.
As Deepa Iyer says in Colorlines, “we cannot ignore how the media and political characterizations of the shootings reveal the double standards and assumptions of collective guilt that occur when perpetrators of mass violence are of Muslim, South Asian or Arab descent.”
Muslim Americans, already frequent victims of hate crimes and speech, are on edge yet again as more community members are threatened. These developments follow weeks of thinly-veiled anti-Muslim attacks on the continuing resettlement of Syrian (and sometimes Iraqi) refugees in the United States.
It is incredibly disappointing and painful to see this narrative play out again and again. Yesterday, Asian Americans Advancing Justice issued a statement urging the media to exercise caution in its reporting and to avoid stereotyping or profiling of individuals or communities on the basis of race, religion, national origin or immigrant status.
Beyond the media, all of us — including elected officials, candidates, and community members — need to do more to protect against not only hate speech but potential violence toward Muslim Americans. It’s encouraging that Attorney General Loretta Lynch publicly vowed to take strong action against “anti-Muslim rhetoric … that edges toward violence.”
Already, hate crimes and other attacks against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have spiked in the U.S. since the November 13th attacks in Paris. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reports more than 20 incidents of threats or violence committed against individuals or mosques in the U.S., in the days immediately following the Paris attacks, including several in California. The most recent incident occurred earlier this week, when a bullet-riddled copy of the Qur’an was found at the door of an Islamic clothing store in Orange County, California.
Now is a time for all of us to come together and challenge these Islamophobic attitudes. Everyone has the opportunity to speak out and intervene if they see someone being harassed because of their religion or national origin. We must reach out to Muslim friends and offer support, and begin conversations with family and friends about their fears and what constitutes an appropriate response.
We also should remember the real issue before us: how our country should deal with gun violence. Instead of wasting time on fear and prejudice, let’s channel our energy toward tackling real problems and solutions so every American is safe.
On Sunday night, in a rare Oval Office address to the nation, President Obama made this call to every American:
“ It is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.”
For community members who have questions about hate crimes, including how to report a possible hate crime, please check out this resource from Muslim Advocates.