Politics of Fear: The Case for a Broader Understanding of Global Affairs

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It seems with the recent election cycle, issues concerning terrorism are on the rise yet again. And consequently, the egregiously incorrect association between Islam and terrorism has taken an even stronger foothold on our country. Islamophobia has not only grown but has been defended by several politicians, as a legitimate stereotype that people are told is okay to believe in.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi By Ethan Epstein, Senior Staff at Daily Cal Courtesy of Daily Cal
Khairuldeen Makhzoomi
By Ethan Epstein, Senior Staff at Daily Cal
Courtesy of Daily Cal

Most recently, there have been several cases of Muslims removed from their flights, justified by unclear and shoddy reasoning provided by airlines. One such Muslim included a student from UC Berkeley who was taken off his plane simply because he was heard speaking to a relative over the phone in Arabic.

Islamophobia is a problem that affects our peers and is one that needs to be resolved. It is absurd for people to be jumping to such crass conclusions immediately, using the way someone looks or the language one speaks as rationalization for their judgements.

It seems that terrorism is just an excuse people are hiding behind in order to justify discrimination against Muslims. But beyond discrimination, my belief is that uninformed citizens are choosing to endorse Islamophobia to cover up their misunderstandings concerning the conflicts that actually fuel terrorist acts.

Islam is a multifaceted ideology that most Americans know close to nothing about, which makes it an easier target for manipulation as a scapegoat. It became easier to connect terrorism to a group of people than to actually understand the complicated political history concerning terrorist groups and the conflict that exists between these groups and our nation.

In fact, many Americans were kept in the dark about the United States’s consistent and constant involvement in warfare in the Islamic world on the lead-up to 9/11. Our global affairs often garner anger and hate from people very far away from us, people that we often aren’t even consciously aware are affected by our policies and the decisions of our politicians.

The fear of terrorism incentivizes people to push around blame, point fingers and adopt false beliefs. Islamophobia is one unjustified manifestation our nation’s fears. The simplification of these global wars have come at the cost of an entire population of people.

I do not condemn people for having fears about terrorism, although the fear may be slightly unfounded, since statistics from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control show that a person is more likely to die from being crushed by furniture than  from a terrorist attack.

I do, however, admonish people for scrutinizing a  religion and making broad generalizations about a large group of people based on the actions of a few. In fact, those who participate in Islamic extremism and carry out terrorist attacks have very small — if not nonexistent — associations with the rest of those who practice the religion.

To consider Islam and all Muslim people unanimous to terrorism and terrorists is a deeply false notion that we much work to extinguish from the minds of our fellow citizens.

But it doesn’t seem to be enough to simply tell people that there is a large distinction between the two. In order to make progress towards deconstructing Islamophobia, people need to be informed about what is going on in the world.

Conflicts are more easily understood when we gain a “we” versus “them” mentality. But the issue with terrorism is that the “them” is not clearly identified, so instead, we have put the label on a largely innocent group of people. We don’t seem to realize that the nature of our supposed enemies cannot only be identified with the descriptors “Muslim” or “Islam.”

Allowing ourselves to compartmentalize and box away complicated issues for the sake of simplicity is the exact mindset that has allowed Islamophobia to grow to the point that is has come to now. The only way we can reverse this unjust stereotype is for people to gain an informed understanding of the issue of terrorism as a whole.

 

Ashley Duong is a first-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at alduong1@uci.edu.

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