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Panelists warn of risks in rampant Islamophobia

By Luqman Patino –

A group of panelists discussed misconceptions about the faith of Islam and its association with acts of terrorism at a recent event hosted by the Muslim Student Association of Arizona State University in Tempe. Substantial discussion revolved around the risk of making broad assumptions about a diverse faith-based group.

The Muslim community abroad, and in the United States, has seen well-documented backlash from coverage of conflict that has focused largely on religion over political, economic and even geographic issues, which are historically more common motives for acts of terrorism.

The panelists discussed how rampant Islamophobia can contribute to the perception that Muslims, regardless of circumstance, are extremist and that it is simply a matter of time before they become violent.

Liban Yousef, a representative from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), used the French government’s response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks as an example of how blanket statements about Muslims contribute to an already hostile perception of faith. A recent French campaign suggested that if a person stops watching television and movies and listening to music, and if a man grows a beard or a woman starts to wear the hijab, they are more likely to become radicalized.

This generalization of the French government may contribute to the growing misconceptions about Islam and suggest that even the basic practices of millions of Muslims across the globe are to be feared. Growing a beard or dressing modestly is a small part of the Islamic faith that many practicing Muslims observe.

The panelists discussed how the practical application of such a campaign would be fruitless. The resources that are used to investigate potential terrorists are often costly. If the general notion in the public is that every Muslim who practices their religion, even in the most common ways, could be a potential terrorist, then these resources may not be used properly, leading to more wasteful spending.

For a government to justify this degree of spending, results are expected. This can lead to entrapment by law enforcement. Yousef, who is also a practicing lawyer, said, “I’ve met people here within the Arizona Muslim community who are approached by the FBI to be informants. I’ve seen the money they’re offering. It’s a huge amount of money. They’re going out and they’re trying to pressure people into admitting radical ideas and are offering the tools to go and commit these acts of violence.”

This type of policy within law enforcement may lead to mistrust between Muslims and government officials. Similar cases across the country have created a dialogue on the legality of such actions and civil rights.

Hasana Abdul-Quadir, President of the Arizona State University Chapter of the Muslim Student Association, commented on the U.S. government’s approach to dealing with potential terrorists. “It’s sad but I’m hopeful that we as American-born Muslims can try and build relationships with law enforcement by knowing our own rights and by helping bring social justice to those in need,” said Abdul-Quadir.

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