Dear Future President,
As a sixteen-year-old Muslim American, I want to talk to you about Islamophobia. Islamophobia is a concept in the United States where people fear Muslims because of the many terrorist attacks worldwide, especially the tragedy of 9/11. Before 9/11, Muslims were just Muslims, and the word terrorist was not attached. I get it; there is something to fear, but we are all fearing the wrong thing. Due to the terrorist attacks, the idea that Islam is a religion of violence has spread everywhere. Islam is the second largest religion in the world with approximately 3.3 million followers in the United States alone. If my religion taught violence, I would not be typing this letter, but rather terrorizing the world. This is not what my religion is about. What I am trying to say is, the members of ISIS and other “Muslim” terrorists are not Muslim. If I claimed as I was Catholic, but did not follow the Bible, can I be considered Catholic? By continuously murdering and terrorizing the world, members of ISIS are not following the peaceful way of life presented by the Quran, and therefore are not Muslims. Even if they claim to be Muslim, why do their crimes have to impact how we feel about all Muslims? A research conducted by an organization called Pew Research Study, estimated that the number of Muslims worldwide is approximately 1.6 billion, which is only 23% of the entire world’s population. Out of this 23%, around 0.006625% are extremists. If they only make up a handful of the population, the peaceful majority of Muslims should not suffer.
Many Muslims are trying to spread the idea that terrorists are not Muslims, but there isn’t much we can do when media is telling a different story. One day my sister was playing tag and chasing this girl in our class. When my sister was catching up, the girl hollered, “Run from the terrorist! Run from the terrorist!” The girl turned around and put her hand over her mouth and apologized profusely. Even if it was an accident, where did she get this idea from? It came from her environment. Most likely she heard it on television or even her family. Media plays a massive role in people’s ideologies, and since the media immediately broadcasts most crimes committed by Muslims, Islamophobia grows. Every time a Muslim criminal comes on the news, one word is always mentioned, and that is the word terrorist. People have noticed that if a Caucasian person commits a crime, they are humanized because they’re mentally challenged, but if a Muslim commits the same crime, they are labeled as a terrorist. According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in US state prisons, 62% of the white inmates are declared mentally ill, as compared the 55% of black inmates, and 46% of Hispanic inmates. In local US jails, 71% white inmates are considered mentally ill, opposed to 63% black inmates, and 51% Hispanic inmates.
If media had no effect on people, Islamophobia would not be huge problem. However, because of the way media portrays us, Muslims all around the country are impacted. For example, because media has led people to fear Muslims, some Americans do not want to let helpless, dying refugees into a country where everyone has an opportunity for success. According to a poll taken by A Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 36% of Americans said they would accept Syrian refugees into the United States. That leaves 64% who are opposed to letting Syrian refugees into the country, because they fear the outcome. Some choose to be undecided, which is just as bad. Many Muslims are attacked and harassed because of Islamophobia, but people don’t see this because it isn’t on most news channels. Therefore, the harassment has led some Muslims to fear for their lives to the point where they don’t want to wear the hijab or let people know they are Muslim. I know at least four people who decided to give up their religious practice because of Islamophobia. This is a problem, because if we can’t have a place for people to express themselves without fear, how will we ever unite to become the strongest country? Though Islamophobia is growing, so are the number of followers. Pew Research Center predicts, by the year 2050, there will be a 2.1% growth of the Muslim population in the US alone. It goes to show how resilient Islam is, even in the toughest of times.