Each anniversary of the 9/11 assaults generates debates on how one can stability safety with liberty in the United States. What is usually misplaced in the dialog is the position that race performs in constraining civil liberties for religious minorities. Today, the targets are Muslims. A century in the past, it was Jews and Catholics.
The racialisation script is the identical. First, the religious minority is vilified in the media and amongst public officers as a disloyal fifth column. Then, the faith’s followers are racialised as a menace to the (Anglo-Saxon Protestant) American approach of life. Finally, the faith is expelled from the realm of faith by relabelling it a harmful political ideology.
For the previous twenty years, Americans have been subjected to a steady stream of doomsday media portraying Muslims as terrorists. Few, if any, information tales describe how the hundreds of thousands of Muslim medical doctors, lecturers, enterprise house owners, legal professionals, and different working of us positively contribute to American society. Indeed, based on a 2018 University of Alabama research, from 2006 to 2015, terrorism dedicated by Muslims was coated 357 p.c extra instances than terrorism dedicated by non-Muslims in the US.
Politicians have legitimised the media’s vilification of Muslims by authorising large surveillance, deportation, and prosecution of Muslim communities. Whether it was the Bush administration’s particular registration by way of the National Security Entry-Exit System (NSEERS) or the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism programme, each Republican and Democratic administrations have despatched the identical message to the American individuals: Muslims are a home safety menace.
Donald Trump adopted go well with in a presidential marketing campaign platform of xenophobia and Islamophobia. In March 2016, he declared: “I think Islam hates us … [T]here is a tremendous hatred and we have to be very vigilant and we have to be very careful and we can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States and of people who are not Muslim.” Shortly after strolling into the White House in January 2017, Trump acted on his marketing campaign promise, issuing the Muslim ban.
In a society that proclaims religious freedom as a basic worth, assist for discrimination in opposition to Muslims stands as an apparent contradiction. But if the religious minority is handled as a racial group, then their mistreatment falls inside the lengthy custom of discrimination in opposition to Black Americans, Native Americans, and different racial minorities.
As I clarify in my guide The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom, bodily look shouldn’t be the solely foundation on which racism operates. Religious id will also be a set off of discrimination. To ensure, an individual’s pores and skin color, hair texture, facial options, and nationwide origin outline the place minority teams match in socially constructed racial classes. But the entanglement of whiteness with (Protestant) Christianity in the US has traditionally racialised followers of non-Protestant sects and religions. The additional away a gaggle was from whiteness and Protestantism, the much less privileges had been afforded.
So when hundreds of thousands of Southern and Eastern European immigrants arrived on US soil between 1880 and 1924, they discovered themselves in a state of racial precarity. Although white by legislation on account of their European origin, their Jewish and Catholic religious identities rendered them socially an “in-between race” – superior to Black individuals, Native Americans and Asians, however inferior to Northern European Protestants.
In the Twenties, a potent Klu Klux Klan condemned Catholics as a individuals whose parochial faculties, foreign-born clergymen, and providers in a overseas language threatened Anglo-Protestant nationwide id. Merely practising their faith attracted Protestants’ suspicion that Catholics had been secretly plotting to get rid of particular person liberties.
White nativists alleged that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church had been inconsistent with liberalism’s ideas of self-governance and thus a menace to American democracy. These conspiracy theories mirror these of the anti-Shariah campaigns that emerged after 9/11 concentrating on Muslims.
Overt anti-Semitism was additionally as mainstream then as Islamophobia is in the present day. The media in the early 1900s described Jews as clannish, separatist, parasitic, pushy, dishonest, and brokers of Bolshevism. When the Jewish inhabitants elevated to greater than three million in 1920 (principally from Eastern Europe), white Protestant nativists deployed theologically primarily based racism in claiming Jews had been Judaised Mongols and Khazars of Turkish origin.
Hyperbolic depictions in the media of Jews with bulging eyes, protruding sensual lips, hooked noses, and animal-like jaws had been frequent in the first half of the twentieth century. By 1938, the racialisation of Jews led to just about 54 p.c of Americans believing Jews had been in charge for his or her persecution in Europe.
Fast ahead eight many years to 2017 – 50 p.c of Americans imagine Islam shouldn’t be half of mainstream America and solely 48 p.c expressed heat emotions in direction of Muslims, based on a Pew Research ballot.
Muslims’ racialised id stands in stark distinction to Americans’ affiliation of Christianity with peace, civilisation, charity, and forgiveness, however a historic report of violence in its title. That Christianity is handled as regular and Islam as harmful arises from the third issue legitimising systemic discrimination in opposition to Muslims: the re-categorisation of Islam from a divinely impressed faith to a violent political ideology.
In this annual spherical of debates on safety and liberty, allow us to lastly confront how the racialisation of faith harms Muslims particularly and erodes religious freedom extra usually. Only then can we lastly put an finish to American Islamophobia.
The views expressed in this text are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.