By Guest Contributor Jehanzeb, originally posted at Muslim Reverie
Last Thursday, I attended an event hosted by the Muslim Student Association as part of their peace and coexistence week. The event was about raising awareness and appreciation for the various cultures within the Muslim community. Muslims read their poems, played music, sang, and gave presentations on Sufism/Islamic spirituality. There were many non-Muslims in attendance and it was great to hear how previous events during the week had excellent turnouts as well. As I drove home, I felt like all of us made a huge difference.
When I checked my e-mail that night, a news report about a man opening fire at a military base appeared on the Yahoo homepage. I prayed, as many Muslim-Americans did, that the shooter wasn’t a Muslim. The last thing we needed the media to get hyped up about was a Muslim-American murdering fellow Americans in the armed forces. When the man’s Muslim affiliation was revealed, I was devastated.
My thoughts and prayers went out to the victims and their friends and families. Simultaneously, as details slowly unfolded and as CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) released immediate condemnations of the incident, I felt like we took one step forward, but then two steps backward. I am still worried about a backlash on the Muslim community. Muslim-Americans have been suffering from hate crimes, discriminatory acts, prejudice, and media stereotyping/propaganda since the atrocity on 9/11, and although many Muslim-Americans have been speaking out, polls and surveys have found that negative attitudes and perceptions of Islam and Muslims have been on the increase.
I am not surprised by the Islamophobia that has resulted from this. It has been going on since September of 2001; what else is new? In typical Islamophobic fashion, Senator Joe Lieberman called the incident an “act of Islamist extremism.” Despite warnings not to jump to conclusions from Army officials and the President himself, Lieberman concluded: “There are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act,” Lieberman.
In other words, “terrorism” is a term reserved only for Muslims. Yeah, we’ve been through this lesson before (see my post, “‘Terrorist’ Means ‘Muslim’”).