They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.
Posted by Anni on Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
At this point in our nation’s history, islamophobia has become a constant hum. Each time someone new proposes a prejudice-driven piece of legislation, speaks out against a peaceful mosque, protests against a Muslim television program, or otherwise feels the need to share xenophobic rhetoric, life gets a little darker for a lot of people. How is the average Muslim living in America supposed to process these constant reminders of the prejudice all around him?
For those of us who are not victims of insidious and constant prejudice, it’s easy to think that words are weak. But every time a pundit expresses his fear or a politician proposes anti-Muslim policy, real damage is done to real people. It’s similar to the fear and anger of a child who is bullied at school. While the psychological toll may not be easy to measure, the constant worry has real physical consequences. Anxiety is a silent killer. Living in a state of constant nervousness is not a healthy way to live.
Take Tennessee representative Rick Womick’s anti-Muslim rhetoric back in 2010. Womick, a republican, called for the U.S. military to rid itself of all Muslims in service.
He didn’t mention the fact that these soldiers are Americans. He didn’t think to acknowledge their records of exemplary service, or the fact that they risk their own lives every day to defend the freedoms he enjoys. Womick’s message was a naked display of islamophobia, raw and blatantly obvious. While his proposal didn’t get anywhere, the words were said. The damage was done.
Ironically, Muslim soldiers interviewed after Womick’s statements said that, while they were appalled by his words, they were unwavering in their commitment to defend the freedom of speech that allowed him to say them.
So what can be done to protect innocent people from the anti-Muslim vitriol that pervades the media? It’s tempting to give that old advice: just ignore them. But does that really work? Does ignoring a bully make him stop bullying? Of course, fighting the bully doesn’t help either—he’s bigger than you and he takes karate. Unless there is an actual crime being committed (in which case you should call the cops or the FBI) the only viable answer to vitriol is words—to peacefully protest the rhetoric while offering up a better way of interacting. As frustrating as it is, taking the high road is the only way to diffuse the hatefulness. It’s not fair that the victims of prejudice have to be so much better and stronger than the perpetrators of it, but it’s the only true and peaceful path to progress.