By: Hannah Sharim, Age 17
A phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of someone or something. Most people are afraid of spiders, small spaces, heights, or the dark. But phobia takes a new form when it comes to American Muslims.
It’s 6:45 AM. I wake up at the sound of my alarm, which I snoozed for the fourth time today. I brush my teeth, pin my hijab in place, and rush downstairs to go to school. Almost out the door, my parents wished me goodbye with what has become the norm: “be careful of your surroundings.” I stopped getting the “have a good day sweetie” a while ago. Now I just have to be careful, because I could be attacked. Because I could be the target of hate-speech. Because anti-Muslim bigotry is my reality.
BREAKING NEWS: Republican presidential candidate and party front-runner Donald Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown on all Muslims from entering the United States. This was the breaking point. I always felt that prejudice existed towards Muslims in America. As a young woman who wears the hijab, how could I avoid it? I feel the insolent stares I get in the streets. I feel the snarky remarks made under strangers’ breaths. I feel the isolation. But I would have never projected such intolerance to reach this extent. I never expected this feeling to overcome me. So I decided to investigate where it came from.
By Jonathan Herrera
When considering what internships to apply for as I seek a master’s degree in public policy, I focused on programs that would allow me to contribute to the protection of religious rights in America.
I am most concerned with the decline in religious tolerance toward followers of the Abrahamic faiths.
As a Christian, I see Muslims and Jews as my brothers and sisters under the same God. Seeing how the American Muslim community is struggling for equally, I felt compelled to assist in some way to ensure that the religious rights of Muslims in America are protected.
I applied for a number of internships, but only the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Government Affairs Department Fellowship Program allowed me to gain an in-depth perspective on government affairs at the nation’s capital, while simultaneously using this knowledge to achieve my goal of protecting religious rights.
It's election season. That means over the last several months, you've been inundated with ads from candidates who've collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars vying for your vote.
If that makes you feel special, it should. Clearly, your vote matters.
Yet the results of CAIR's recent survey of Muslim voters indicate that less than 70% of registered Muslim voters will head to the polls this year. While that number is an improvement over Muslims' participation in past elections, we can do much better.
Many American Muslims who don't vote may say it's for one or more of the following reasons.
No one can blame you for feeling this way. But remember: the most effective way to change policies and affect problems like Islamophobia is by speaking out against them. Your vote is your voice.
By voting for the candidate whose views are most in line with yours, you are establishing yourself as someone who has invested in their career as a politician. It gives you credibility to make your concerns a priority for legislators. This makes you a stakeholder and ensures that you have a seat at the table.
Elected officials are public servants. They have an obligation to meet with their constituents and to listen to concerns, but they will prioritize the thoughts and opinions of people who go to the polls and cast their ballots.
If their position on one issue conflicts with yours, let them know how you feel. Build support for your position by mobilizing your friends and community. Organize grassroots campaigns. Launch petitions via sites like www.change.org. Whatever you do, don't remain silent and do nothing.
The best voter is an educated and informed voter. Rather than becoming discouraged, learn about the candidates' positions on issues that matter to you.
Many organizations publish candidate scorecards that grade each candidate on their positions on important issues. Familiarize yourself with candidates' positions on issues that are important to you and learn what issues or causes they've supported in the past. Find out where candidates will be speaking and attend so you can listen to them speak firsthand or even ask them questions.
Research and watch past speeches and media appearances. Have they authored books or written articles? Reading these can help provide deeper insight on their views. Most importantly, the best way to learn is by asking questions. Speak with the leadership of your local mosque or another organization to organize a candidate forum.
Each state has a state board of elections whose website contains important information on the application process such as requirements to register to vote and important deadlines. The deadline to register to vote on November 4 is nearing or has already passed in most states.
If you are too late to register this election season, register now so you'll be prepared for the next election. And you can still make a difference by volunteering to be an election judge, volunteering for candidate campaigns, encouraging your friends and family who are registered voters to cast their ballots, and by helping to provide transportation to polling stations for the elderly and disabled.
If you have trouble physically getting to the polls, there are other solutions. CAIR encourages people to carpool to and from the polling stations. Carpooling helps more people to vote in greater numbers, is more environmentally friendly, and provides transportation for people who otherwise may not be able to make it out.
Contact your local mosque to find out if arrangements are being or can be made to transport congregants to the polls. Call your state board of elections and find out what kind of transportation services they are providing and in what areas. Ask a family member, neighbor, friend or colleague if they would mind giving you a ride. Many cities provide free transportation to and from polling stations for the elderly and physically disabled.
Correction: It does! There's power in numbers. Never doubt the impact of a single vote, especially in critical battleground states where the Muslim vote has the potential to play a key role. Not only is voting your constitutional right, it is also your voice. It's a way to express your views.
If you don't vote, you allow others who do to affect decisions on important issues like the economy, healthcare and education -- and you may like the outcome even less. The next generation is depending on you to make important decisions that affect their future. One way to do your part to secure your children's future is to vote in their best interests.
County and statewide elections stand to have a greater impact on an individual level. The role you play and the decision you make in whether to vote will be instrumental in deciding the direction of our collective future. Don't sit this ride out -- buckle up and head to the polls on November 4 to make your voice count.
Please consider the following commentary for publication.
One of the bigoted themes often promoted by the growing cottage industry of Muslim-bashers is that the increasing level of Islamophobia online and in the public arena is merely a legitimate response to the violent actions of Muslims worldwide.
These Islamophobes scour the Internet to highlight every act of violence or political instability that can be tied to Islam and Muslims.
If a Muslim in a remote village in Pakistan violates Islamic beliefs by abusing his wife, we will hear about it and about why Islam should be blamed for his actions. Reports on every crime committed by a Muslim are assigned to the faith, whether or not there is even a remote religious connection.
This leads to a collective "mental list" of outrages committed by Muslims that is used to justify Islamophobia and suspicion of Muslims.
The list grows with each new crime or act of violence committed by a Muslim anywhere in the world.
For example, when Muhammad Ahmad Ali was recently stopped for speeding in Ohio and some 50 bombs and four guns were found in his vehicle, that was added to the list.
And when chemicals, fuses, guns, bomb-making materials, and how-to manuals with titles such as "Boobytraps," "Deadly Brew," and "Highly Explosive Pyrotechnic Compositions" were found recently in the Maryland home of Omar Ahmed Muhammad, that too was added to the list.
Never heard of these cases? Perhaps that is because they involved not the stereotypical pseudonyms used above, but instead involved individuals named Andrew Scott Boguslawski and Todd Dwight Wheeler Jr., who are apparently not Muslim.
We all know about and condemn the Boston Marathon bombings, but how about the bomb targeting the route of a Spokane, Wash., Martin Luther King Day march? That bomb was packed with fishing weights coated with an active ingredient in rat poison.
How about the plot to kidnap or kill Alaska state troopers and a Fairbanks judge? The plans included "extensive surveillance" on the homes of two Fairbanks troopers.
Never heard of these incidents in which no Muslims were involved? You are not alone.
Does anyone truly believe that anyone anywhere would remain unaware of these cases if it had been Muslims who were charged?
That is the problem with the "list," it only grows if the perpetrator is an "Ali," "Ahmed" or "Muhammad." Violent acts or crimes committed by others are either ignored, attributed to the "deranged" nature of the perpetrator, or quickly forgotten.
This "list" phenomenon can be expanded to include political instability around the world.
The campaign to sever South Sudan from Sudan was portrayed as a struggle for liberation from oppressive "Muslim and Arab" rulers. We now see "liberated" South Sudanese killing each other based on having the wrong pattern of tribal scarring.
Thousands of Muslims rallying in support of democracy have been killed or injured by the forces of a military coup in Egypt, yet the world acquiesces to the slaughter.
Would the world have similarly failed to stop the slaughter of 130,000 Syrians or the persecution of Burmese Muslims if the governments committing the killings and abuses were "Islamist?"
The answer to that question is intuitive based on the selective information accumulated in the "list."
Only when we view all acts of violence or instances of political instability through the same intellectual lens will we be able take the steps necessary to achieve what should be everyone's goal - a more just and peaceful world in which people of all faiths and backgrounds are equally valued and respected.
Ibrahim Hooper is national communications director for CAIR.
ISLAM-OPED is a syndication service of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) designed to offer an American Muslim perspective on current political, social and religious issues. ISLAM-OPED commentaries are offered free-of-charge to one media outlet in each market area. Permission for publication will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis.
Please consider the above commentary for publication.
By Corey Saylor
According to a January 6, 2013, Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) guest column, "All the evil storms of history visited upon humanity did not expose to the people of Europe (who today host well-established enclaves of radical Islam in their midst) even the surface of the slaughter and injustice carried out by Muslims in the name of Islam, 'the religion of peace,' against Jews and Christians."
IPT's special guest, Dr. Reuven Berko, goes on to report, "They know that the Arabs' thirst for blood has a multitude of causes that are not even remotely related to 'Palestine,' but nevertheless they delude themselves into thinking that the chaos in the Middle East will somehow disappear if the Palestinian issue is 'resolved.'"
Other racist gems in the article include:
My question for Steven Emerson: "Are you going to publically renounce Berko's Islamophobia, anti-Arab prejudice, and blatant inaccuracies?"
(On a side note, the last time I questioned inaccuracies related to Emerson and IPT, I got a letter from his lawyer asserting that what he said was his First Amendment right. I agreed. The First Amendment does not require accuracy. But since I am not the government and have no legal power to interfere in his right to say whatever he pleases, I found the approach rather odd.)
Steven Emerson's IPT is part of the Islamophobia network's inner core.
Emerson has a history of not getting the facts correct.
After terrorists bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013, Emerson alleged that based on "certain classified information" he was "privy to" he was confident that the bomber was a Saudi national who was at the time in custody. The bombers turned out to be of Chechen descent. The Saudi was cleared of any wrongdoing, but rumors circulated that he may have been deported. This too turned out to be untrue. Questioned about this later, Emerson alleged, "This is the way things are done with Saudi Arabia, you don't arrest their citizens, you deport them, because [the Obama administration doesn't] want them to be embarrassed and that's the way we appease them."
The New York Times Book Review said Emerson's 1991 book Terrorist was "marred by factual errors ... that betray an unfamiliarity with the Middle East and a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias."
Emerson said of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, "This [the bombing] was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait."
Timothy McVeigh, a Caucasian American, was later convicted for committing the terrorist act.
In 1996, after a plane exploded off the coast of New York, Emerson quickly asserted, "I have no doubt whatsoever, at this point, that it was a bomb that brought down TWA Flight 800 -- not a missile, but a bomb. ... " The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the cause of the tragedy was vapor in a fuel tank, a tragic accident rather than a deliberate bombing.
Emerson's credibility was further derailed in the late 1990s when the Florida Weekly Planet newspaper senior editor John Sugg quoted two unnamed Associated Press reporters who said Emerson gave them a document on terrorism supposedly from FBI files:
"One reporter thought he'd seen the material before, and in checking found a paper Emerson had supplied earlier containing his own unsupported allegations. The two documents were almost identical, except that Emerson's authorship was deleted from the one purported to be from the FBI. 'It was really his work,' one reporter says. He sold it to us trying to make it look like a really interesting FBI document.'"