A late night cab ride in New York. Nothing so unusual about the circumstances, but one question prompts a surprising scenario. A crime committed in a cab was called a hate crime and a young man faces charges from an assault against the Islamic cab driver. Was it hatred – or fear? The unnatural fear of Muslims is known as Islamophobia.
This fear encompasses the idea that people who are Muslim are less religious and more politically motivated. It also believes that Muslims are more prone to violence.
Michael Enright is a 21-year old film student who has been to Afghanistan. He works for a company that promotes religious tolerance, yet on August 24th, 2010, Enright entered a cab, asked the 43 year-old driver, Ahmed H. Sharif if he was Muslim and within a few minutes Enright allegedly slashed the driver screaming the phrases, “Assalamu Alaikum” and “consider this a checkpoint”.
Enright was arrested and did not enter an initial plea in the case. It is reported that the young man lived with his parents in New York. The driver has lived in the United States for more than two decades and all of his children were born in the U.S.
The Rise of Islamophobia
The term Islamophobia was birthed in the 1980′s, but became more widely known following the Twin Towers collapse in 2001. Since that time there has been a cautious fear in many that take the violence of the terror attacks and link it to all Muslims. This has led to instances of personal racial profiling. Many people have developed a fear of anyone who looks or dresses like their perception of Muslims.
Islamophobic Perceptions or Symptoms
According to the Runnymede Trust these are the perceptions that often influence the presence of Islamophobia.
- Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
- It is seen as separate and “other.” It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
- It is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
- It is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.
- It is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
- Criticisms made of “the West” by Muslims are rejected out of hand.
- Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
- Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.
It could be argued that there are often times when the term Islamophobia is misused. When someone suggests there may be instances of violence among Muslims, that, in and of itself may not mean the individual is Islamophobic. The same information could be said of virtually any people group.
Remember, any true phobia is centered on an irrational fear.
Was the New York cabbie someone to be feared? Was the passenger spurred to commit the act based on a hatred of Muslims or because he was drunk?
Combating any true fear is first a matter of learning more about the object of fear. The same is true of Islamophobia. If you believe you may have more than a simple sense of caution about Muslims you may benefit from a visit with a therapist who can help you get to the root of your fear and learn how to manage the fear in appropriate ways.
In a recent video on CNN.com a question was posed, “Is America Islamophobic?” Here’s the video.