Two weeks have passed since the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school in the northern part of the country. The Islamic jihadist group, Boko Haram, took the young girls to sell them as brides.
While scrolling through news sites and forums to receive updates on the situation, I noticed the hate and anger that is directed towards the Islamic faith as a whole, instead of at this specific terrorist group. When a tragic situation such as the abduction of the young girls occurs, the blame is wrongly shifted from the actors themselves onto Muslims as a whole. This fear and hatred perpetuates negative stereotypes about the fundamentals of Islam and its 1.6 billion followers.
In the post-9/11 America that we live in, the fear of Muslims, terrorists and jihadists is widespread. The Internet is full of hateful comments and many conservative news outlets, such as Fox News, publish articles with anti-Islamic sentiments. Their Islamic topics section is full of articles like, “Islam’s global threat” and “Mocking Muhammad is not hate speech.” Rarely are there articles celebrating the positive aspects of Islam. Islamophobia stems from biased news outlets that are fueled by post-9/11 fears. What most Americans do not realize is that Islamic terrorists use Islam as a means to justify their political motivations. Their ideals and actions often times go against the teachings of the Quran.
Since many Islamic countries are underdeveloped and have low literacy rates in rural areas, extremists are able to twist the teachings of Muhammad (PBUH) to fit their selfish motivations. The very first page of the Quran admonishes the acts that terrorists are committing. Surat Al-Baqarah 2:8-2:13 says: “And there are some people who say: We believe in Allah and the Last Day; and they are not believers…. And when it is said to them, ‘Make not mischief in the land,’ they say: ‘We are but peacemakers. Now surely they are the mischief-makers, but they perceive not.’ ”
Much of western fear stems from the belief that Islamic countries are anti-American and would love to see our demise. While it is true that the northern Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram seeks to put a stop to Westernization, their motivations are not purely religious. They seek political control over the area. In order to do that they need to convince people to support them and fight for them.
With the Westernization of Islamic countries comes education. Education threatens Islamic fundamentalist groups’ power because once a person is educated, they will then have greater means to fight back or point out the flaws in their doctrine. This is also the case with the Taliban’s anti-education laws. Their political motivations are carried out under the guise of religion, which has more influence on the general population. Many Americans have come to believe that Islam is the antonym of Christianity, when in reality our origins and fundamental beliefs are very similar. Both Christianity and Islam are Abrahamic, both believe in one almighty God, and both follow a set of moral codes sent down from God as interpreted through prophets.
Biased news casting and post-9/11 fears have fueled Islamophobia in the U.S. If we simply educate ourselves about Islam and the motivations of terrorist groups, our fear would not turn into hatred and the U.S. could become a more tolerant place for its Muslim citizens.
Natalie Pimblett is a junior political science major.