Islamophobia isn't Just Intolerance of Muslims, Study Finds

Fagjun | Published 2017-09-16 01:45

A Rice University sociologist has found that Islamophobia isn't simply based on religious bias. It is actually racism intermingled with cultural intolerance.


Photo via Getty Images



"We often hear that because Muslims are not a race, people cannot be racist for attacking Muslims," says Craig Considine, a sociology lecturer at Rice University and author of the paper "The Racialization of Islam in the United States: Islamophobia, Hate Crimes and 'Flying While Brown'". According to Considine, we can't discount race when it comes to anti-Muslim sentiment. Thus, we need to go deeper than the literal meaning of “Islamophobia” in order to understand the rising tide of prejudice against the Muslim community.


Anti-Muslim sentiments and acts stem from racism and cultural intolerance, though many don't see it that way. Considine also says that certain charitable foundations in the US as well as news outlets around the world fuel Islamophobic sentiments both in the US and in other countries as well.



Islamophobia in Numbers




The paper brings up a number of points to prove its central thesis. One important point is that in 2016, violent anti-Muslim acts as well as harassment rose by 57%. Also, over 50% of Muslims in the US experienced some form of violence from 2010 to 2014, while over a third felt targeted for being Muslim. It's also important to note that, according to the paper, 59.2% of hate crimes in the US in 2015 were due to race, ethnicity, or ancestry. Only 19.7% of hate crimes were religious in nature, while 17.7% were due to sexual orientation.


News outlets also gave much more attention to crimes perpetrated by Muslims. These crimes and attacks received 449% more coverage on average than crimes perpetrated by non-Muslims. Also, 932 of 1,000 Hollywood films depicted Muslims in a bad light—as bearded, undeniably foreign, sinister villains. Out of all these films, only 12 depicted Muslims in a positive light.


Considine writes that Islamophobia isn't a “rational” criticism of Islam, and is thus not in fact rooted in religious bias. The paper includes an incident that occurred a few days after the September 11 attacks, in which a man shot and killed a Sikh man because he “wanted to kill a Muslim”. This incident exemplifies how anti-Muslim sentiments aren't religious in nature, but are in fact rooted in racism and cultural intolerance.



An Irrational Criticism


Photo by Eduardo Munoz / Reuters



Another important point in the paper is that the Muslim population in the US is racially heterogenous, despite the racialization of Islam. Not one race or ethnicity represents more than 30% of the Muslim population in the US, which numbers 3.3 million. 30% of US Muslims identify as white, 23% as black, 21% as Asian, 6% as Hispanic, and 19% as mixed race or other.


However, in spite of this diversity in the US's Muslim population, others still perceive them as a threat based on racial and cultural characteristics.


Considine also found that, according to the Center for American Progress (CAP), seven different charitable organizations spent $42.6 million in support of spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric from 2001 to 2009. Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations claims that anti-Muslim groups have had access to at least $205 million to spread Islamophobia.


The paper and its findings may be instrumental in fully understanding the nature of anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric. As such, the paper can also help find a way to address these problems more effectively than before.

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