Deconstructing Hate: 'Islamophobia'

Image/Al Jazeera

Image/Al Jazeera

In our current contemporary culture, we picture the slow, albeit “effective” revolutionizing of thought; our generation, often peppered and stamped with self-proclaimed “activism”, is heralded as those that would champion a new era of the sociopolitical Renaissance, a coup-de-tat of scholar-hood, and a world that is free from the inhibitions of bias and hatred. However, the progressivism of our thoughts came to a dramatic, screeching halt when met with a teen-fueled, teenage-fury altercation: on Thursday, an East Brunswick High School (located in New Jersey) student was charged with simple assault in connection with a physical battering that took place at the school, in which she belligerently pulled off the hijab worn by a Muslim student, further compounding the vitriolic nature of the assault by spitting religiously-antagonistic words of defamation.

Oh, our generation — one filled to the brim with idealism, fast-paced maturity, and rigor — still clearly has a long ways to go until the “activist” label fits all of us as snug as a rug. Events such as these, created by unabridged teenage hastiness amplified by “adult-ish” feelings of unbridled hatred, abet in perpetuating an atmosphere that has made “routine declaration” a sport by means of demonizing the Muslim community and fueling an anti-Muslim narrative. 

But, alas, we live in a world where those who do not directly experience the suppression of another group surreptitiously assume the mantle of wordsmith and “end-all-be-all” definer. This plight becomes worsened when school-board and district officials are made hard-pressed to finally decry anti-Muslim rhetoric/induced actions, but still choose to smokescreen their willingness to tolerate the intolerant through means of gas-lighting or superficial condemnation. Nevertheless, in times where what it means to have religious or racial motivation miring the animosity of an attack, it remains acutely important that we deconstruct the term ‘Islamophobia’.

To begin with, Islamophobia does not necessarily manifest itself as a ‘phobia’ — people do not fear a Muslim person the way they fear a spider (or heights for that matter). Islamophobes do not retreat from what they perceived to be a threat, as cowardice would prove to “emasculate” their pompously-proclaimed “superiority”; they often gravitate towards enacting some form of hatred, violence or verbal abuse at Muslims. For this reason, it is important to note that Islamophobia is not simply a reversible fear, it’s a hatred pervasive in all aspects of our society and lives.

Incidents of injustice (both students involved in the East Brunswick, NJ attack were subject to the "zero-tolerance" policy which harshly disciplines both students involved, even in cases of lopsided administration of blame and victimizations) and incidents of hate (shouting vitriolic anti-Muslim slurs whilst punching and kicking someone who is Muslim) serve as our wake-up call — not only for us to be allies to our brothers and sisters, but to also to think about how Islamophobia is not a homogeneous experience.

Research by Tell MAMA, a national Islamophobia measuring body, found that in 2015 71% of Islamophobic attacks were directed towards women. Muslim men are 75% less likely to have a ob of any kind compared to white, British men of the same age. Queer Muslims are made to suffer for identifying as both LGBTQ+ and Muslim. 

These unique experiences of Islamophobia, to name a few, show how dismantling Islamophobic premonitions/actions is not merely about one cause, submerged in generalizations: it is part of a staunch, broader agenda meant to encompass “equality for all”, whether it intersects in realms such as reproductive and sexual rights, the dismantling of compulsory heterosexuality, or empowering both modesty and frivolity in the womanist realm.

We must continue to foster a collective awareness and eventually lead the charge in prompting a fight against the perpetuation of anti-Muslim sentiments — whether is a part of the fabric of our academics, our politics, or our media.