“Hi. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I’m one of them. You’ve mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?”
– Gorbah Hamed, whose question was addressed to both candidates for President of the United States
by Virginia Wright
Last night’s second Presidential debate contained at least one dramatic reminder that Islamophobia is a prominent component of the rhetoric of the campaign. The woman who brought forth the question encountered implicit dismissal of her concerns by the Republican nominee, and found herself swept into broad brush assumptions of a direct connection with International extremist terrorism, which was not directly relevant to her justifiable concerns as a Muslim American. This fear-based and unfounded hate speech is dangerous and dehumanizing, and is sadly reflective of an underlying racist underbelly in America.
While Islamophobia is, by definition, a form of discrimination based on religion, there is an undeniable element of racism in the way that Islam is always clearly identified as the non-White “Other” by a considerable segment of mainstream White-identified Americans. The Hijab has come to symbolize a lot of confusion for Americans, and is commonly used to criticize Islam from many sides of the political spectrum, from right-wing Christian conservatives, who want to suppress religious expression, to White-identified Feminists, who view Islam through a very restrictive lens encompassing what they consider gender-based oppression.
The presence of Muslims in America is not new, something that is often overlooked by those describing a great influx of Muslims into the country and feeding into the idea that we are less safe as a country as a result. While it is easy to recognize that Islamophobia grows from a place of ignorance, that doesn’t go very far in combatting it. Here in Seattle we see fewer examples of outright prejudice against Muslims, but there are local examples and personal experiences, and it is important to expose the ways that this bias impacts members of our communities, at individual, community, national, and international levels.
This Tuesday evening, as part of our “Dismantling Racism: A Forum for Southeast Seattle” series, we will be discussing Islamophobia and what it means locally and beyond. Here in Southeast Seattle we have larger concentrations of Muslim residents than in many other parts of the city, so this topic is of particular importance to members of our communities. All are welcome to attend the talk. Bring your personal experiences as Muslims in 2016 America. Bring your questions as non-Muslims in 2016 America. Bring your ideas about how we can fight this unfortunately growing form of intolerance. Knowledge and understanding are the tools for dispelling these forms of prejudice, and at the very least all of us can broaden efforts to spread these among people that we know. The forum will be presented in collaboration with Rainier Valley Historical Society, SEED Arts, The Seattle Globalist, and South Seattle Emerald.
October 11th, 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Rainier Arts Center
FREE and open to the public