Constructing the Fear

I have, my dear reader, a social media addiction.

Social media is great for a lot of reasons, primarily because people and social interaction without leaving my bed (the ideal life, honestly). There are also hilariously clever folks with hilariously clever posts and graphics. But what’s relevant today, for this blog, is that social media is how I find out about the depth of American anti-Muslim sentiment.

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Welcome to #afterseptember11, a Twitter hashtag that quickly caught fire just before September 11, 2015, the 14-year anniversary for the 9/11 terrorist attacks that jumpstarted America’s war on terrorism. The hashtag, started by user @jesstalwar, exposed the post-9/11 treatment of everyday people who happen to Muslim. Not terrorists, not radicals. Just a bunch of teenagers ranting on the internet about their problems; nothing new.

Being an avid Twitter user, I saw these immediately and was scandalized. These were teenagers, people my age and my social class and like me, that feared for their lives and were insensitively targeted. These were people I could relate to; this wasn’t a state government or Kim Kardashian. The contributors to #afterseptember11 were, and are, normal folk trying to live in “The Land of the Free.”

This is reality for Middle Eastern Muslim Americans. They are racially and religiously profiled as “terrorist threats” due to the Islamophobic rhetoric politicians like Ted Cruise have been advocating, no matter their political or religious affiliations. Despite attempts to separate the religion from the militant terrorist faction, public sentiment and misinformation has “constructed the terrorist.” Government entities have been designating mosques as terrorist organizations. The NYPD is and was surveilling innocent people, making them “feel isolated and afraid of the police.”

It’s an institutional issue.

But to me, what hurts the most about this “constructed terrorist” is not that it’s the government essentially sanctioning this misrepresentation of Muslims. Like the tweets show, it’s the people. I’m outraged for the people hurt by this generalization, and I’m also outraged that the American public has embraced the ridiculous all-Muslims-are-terrorists ideology.

Please see this link for better quality and more videos.

After the Paris/Beirut/Baghdad attacks on November 13, 2015, Samer Shalaby of Fredericksburg considered canceling the town meeting scheduled to discuss the proposal for a new mosque. He instead went through with the it, only to be faced with opposition from two men, one claiming that “Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult.” The meeting eventually was cancelled, with the optimistic intent to continue plans regardless. This changed, however, with the San Bernardino shootings. Fear “out of an abundance of concern for the safety of the Muslim community” influenced the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg to postpone future meetings.

It’s sickening. You can hear other people clapping for the man’s remarks. His statement, “You are terrorists. Every one of you are terrorists, I don’t care what you say,” even garnered cheers from some of the audiences. It’s infuriating to know that profiling of innocent people isn’t just something to accuse the government of, but of everyday folk, people just like me. With Islamophobic sentiment circulating public views and political atmospheres, with ISIL still creating a bad name for Muslims all over the world, the problem is only escalating. This “constructed terrorist” has constructed irrational fears.

But, as weird as this might sound, that video is a little heartening.

When I saw it for the first time on Facebook, it was captioned something like “Racist man calling innocent a terrorist; public disagrees.” You can see women in the front row pursing their lips at his statements, hear the woman filming sarcastically attacking the man’s argument. You can see people protesting against his words, telling him to “get out of here.”

The terrorist was constructed, the fear exists; maybe, though, humanity does under all of that too.

 

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