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Study: Islamophobia a dangerous blend of racism and intolerance

A new study has found that Islamophobia is about more than just the religion, and is rooted in racism and cultural intolerance.

According to the research, even though Muslims are not a race, American Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States face the same sorts of profiling and bias associated with racism.

Authored by Craig Considine from Rice University, the paper cited examples of academic studies and more than 40 news articles that discussed the experiences of American Muslims and depictions of Muslims in the media.

Considine’s paper concludes that Islamophobia is not just a form of religious bias, but in fact,  “race is endemic to Islamophobic incidents.”

The media and pop culture have been particularly apt at portraying Muslims in a negative light, thereby grouping all Muslims into one harmful racial stereotype that usually portrays Arab/Muslims as nefarious, bearded, dark-skinned and usually wearing a turban.

U.S. President Donald Trump has exacerbated this effect in his comments on the religion, telling CNN, “I think Islam hates us.”

Crimes by Muslims are given 449 percent more news coverage than crimes carried out by non-Muslims.

Of more than 1,000 Hollywood films depicting Arabs, only twelve of the films had positive portrayals of Arabs/Muslims.

“Despite the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of the U.S. Muslim population, they continue to be cast as potentially threatening persons based on perceived racial and cultural characteristics,” said Considine.

The racialization of Islam has created a rash of hate crimes against Muslims. For example, one of the hate crimes Considine cites in his paper is the shooting of a Sikh in Mesa, Arizona after September 11th.

The man who shot him wanted to just “kill a Muslim” in retaliation for terrorist attacks. Even though Sikhism is not connected to Islam, the Sikh was targeted and profiled because of his appearance and turban. The man who shot him identified the Sikh by the media’s racial stereotypes.

“This incident and other incidents referenced in the paper are examples of how Muslims have been racialized and thus subjected to a kind of racism,” Considine said.

Between 2010 and 2014, more than fifty percent of Muslims reported experiencing some form of hostility, bias, or felt targeted because they were identified as Muslim.

Simply classing Islamophobia as not a type of racism does a great disservice, and as Considine proves, is detrimental to the well-being and safety of Muslim Americans and Muslims in the United States.

“We would be misguided to dismiss the role that race plays in incidents where Muslims and non-Muslims are targeted due to stereotypes of ‘Muslim identity, this identity, insofar as the American context goes, appears to be weighted with racial meanings,” said Considine.

The study was published in the journal Religions.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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