Discrimination, Prejudice, and Stereotypes: Maltreatment of Muslims in America

Dublin Core


Discrimination, Prejudice, and Stereotypes: Maltreatment of Muslims in America


Muslim American Society
Muslim families--United States--Social life and customs


Academic article describing maltreatment of Muslim Americans in the United States.


Koppelman, Jacob


Koppelman, Jacob




Koppelman, Jacob


Scanned 8.5 x 11 page





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Discrimination, Prejudice, and Stereotypes: Maltreatment of Muslims in America
The United States of America was founded on principles of freedom. Three main types of freedom experienced by American citizens include freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, and freedom of religion. Even though Americans are free to practice any religion they please, the government cannot stop the ridicule and maltreatment of any followers of a certain religion. Unfortunately, followers of Islam have been treated with such disdain throughout American history; such maltreatment was exacerbated as a result of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Muslim people living in America are further impacted by the American culture today. Islamic customs and beliefs are subject to alteration in order for Muslim people to conform to American society. Several aspects of their religion must be compromised and sacrificed in order to avoid ridicule. Furthermore, Muslim people are often discriminated against and treated unfairly due to their faith. This type of discrimination can be seen by prominent political figures, on the media, and in everyday life. Ultimately, acceptance and respect are catching on in the minds of the American people; unfortunately, members of the older generation continue to be discriminate against followers of Islam.
In approaching the assimilation of Muslims into American culture and its effects on their lives, it can be useful to examine socio-economic factors of the American Muslim population to determine who makes up the population. Almost half of the American Muslim population have household incomes of $50,000 or more (Lampman). According to a recent study, most are happy with their lives and fairly assimilated into US culture (Lampman). They are racially diverse: no ethnic group accounts for greater than seven percent of the American Muslim population (Lampman). These statistics reveal that following the Islamic religion is not limited to those of a certain class or racial group. This highlights the fact that one’s faith does not separate him or her from other members of society; Muslims are just like everyone else.
Though the members of the American Islamic population are statistically similar to the general population of the United States, they unfortunately face some discrimination from their American peers. In part, this discrimination was fueled by the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City on September 11th, 2001. Since the attacks were committed by terrorists from the Middle East and the predominant religion there is Islam, the American population came to associate Islam with terrorism (Halim). As a result, those who follow the Islamic faith in America face discrimination both in public and private. One such public act of discrimination is “random” checking in airport security. Due to the nature of the 2001 attacks, airport security became stricter. Racial profiling by airport security workers is a common occurrence (Halim). That is to say, those who look Middle Eastern, by attire or skin color, face an increase in stricter security searches. Due to lack of diverse cultural education, many Americans do not differentiate between Middle Easterners and Muslims. As a result of such grouping, stereotyping of both groups intersects (Halim). This makes normal actions like airport flying a cause of stress and disruption in the lives of these people.
Further, there was a significant spike in hostility toward Muslims after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. This political cartoon from www.theislamicmonthly.com poignantly displays the treatment of Muslims by American media. The cartoon shows the Muslim symbol of the crescent moon and star, appearing to be on a wall. The hand of a Caucasian person holds a can of black spray paint that is aimed at the Muslim symbol. The hand has added to the symbol, making it appear to be a bomb. The message of the cartoon is that the predominantly white American media is skewing information to the public, causing them to associate the religion of Islam with bombings and terrorist attacks. This is important because it acknowledges the fact that terrorists and Islam are two separate, unrelated groups. Indeed, white terrorists exist, as do peaceful Muslims. Additionally, the cartoon makes it seem as though the media knows that it is skewing information to the public. The media is aware that Muslims are not inherently terrorist, yet presents this information to Americans on a widespread scale.
Airport security is just one example of the many ways that American culture intercedes into the lives of Muslims due to a difference in culture. There are multiple other commonplace occurrences of stereotyping and intolerance of Muslims in America. For instance, American culture may not make the necessary daily prayers easy to accomplish due to environmental conflicts that may arise from school, work, etc. As a result of the intolerance of the Muslim faith by many Americans, Muslim people with American bosses may feel stifled and unable to freely express themselves and their faith. In turn, many Muslims compromise aspects of their faith in order to remain comfortable in their day-to-day environments. For example, many Muslim women wish to wear the hijab, a headscarf traditionally worn by women of the Islamic faith. However, many Muslim experience a heightened increase in discrimination when they wear a hijab compared with when they do not (Halim). This shows an example of Muslim Americans compromising their faith due to unfair treatment by the general American public.
Not all experiences of Muslim expression are negative, however. A 2009 study of college-age Muslim women addressed their place in between a secular society and their devotion to the Islamic faith. The study revealed that most preferred to wear their headscarves due to perceived empowerment and feelings of liberation (Gurbuz). However, that is not to say that all college Muslim women’s experiences of wearing hijabs are positive. Indeed, they still face discrimination due to their decision to wear religiously associated attire (Gurbuz). This shows that there is still work to be done. Such work does not concern changing or altering the practice of Muslim women; rather, it involves a need for an increase in acceptance and compassion across the American public. Additionally, intersectionality occurs in the discrimination of Muslim women. They are pre-judged and viewed differently due to both their religion and their gender. This shows that women of the Islamic faith face multiple obstacles in society. In the case of these college aged Muslim women, wearing a hijab helps to overcome such hindrances and feel empowered being who they are.
Not only does intersectionality exist for Muslim women; it exists for African-American Muslims as well. Out of the American Muslim society, black Muslims face the most alienation (Lampman). Since the birth of the United States, there has been widespread American prejudice against those of African-American ethnicity. Combined with the negative stereotypes against Islamic followers, black Muslims are a specific niche of hatred and discrimination for the American public. The first African-American president, Barack Obama, has been accused of being Muslim. In a 2012 study, seventeen percent of Americans believe that Obama is Muslim (Hayoun). The mere fact that the public shows such concern over the religion of their president is troubling. It shows that there is discrimination that occurs based on the religion that someone may or may not choose to practice. In a country that was founded on principles of religious freedom, the public’s preoccupation with religion points to flaws in the American culture system. Additionally, the statistical results of the study reveal the American public’s susceptibility to media. Similar to the political cartoon examined above, the media portrays certain fallacies as facts, and presents these fallacies as problems rather than acknowledging freedom of religion without discrimination.
Other politicians have spoken out about the possibility of Obama being a member of the Islamic faith. In 2011, Donald Trump claimed that Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate. He implied that if Obama does have a birth certificate, it might claim that Obama is Muslim (Moody). This is not the first or last instance of Trump publicly suggesting that Obama is Muslim. This accusation is part of a scare tactic to turn the American public against Obama in favor of Trump. Trump further utilizes these tactics to increase the intolerance and fear of Muslims in America. The sheer number of Trump supporters displays how widespread this problem is. There are many Americans who believe that Muslims are terrorists. Unfortunately, this is similar to the stereotyping of Jews, in that a religious group is targeted as society’s scapegoat for other problems.
Ultimately, the position of Muslims in America is affected by many factors. An important related event was the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. As a result, there was a spike in discrimination and hostility toward those of the Islamic faith. Though American Muslims are statistically similar to the rest of the American population, they are treated as though they are terrorists. This can be seen by increased airport security from racial profiling and by stereotyping presented in the media. Muslim women face increased discrimination when wearing their traditional hijab headscarves; however, many feel empowered and liberated by doing so. In the future, it would be ideal for Muslims to feel free to practice their faith and express themselves as is their right presented in the Constitution. It is the duty of the American population to accept their fellow Americans, regardless of skin color, gender, or religious affiliation.

Works Cited
Gurbuz, Mastafa. “Between Sacred Codes and Secular Consumer Society: The Practice of Headscarf Adoption among American College Girls.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 29.3 (2009): 387-99. Web.
Halim, Fachrizal. “Pluralism of American Muslims and the Challenge of Assimilation.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 26.2 (2006): 235-44. Web.
Hayoun, Massoud. “US Polls Show Persistence of Obama Muslim Lie.” Yahoo. 2012. Web.
Lampman, Jane. “In Many Ways, US Muslims Are in Mainstream America.” The Christian Science Monitor 2 (2007) Web.
Moody, Chris. “Donald Trump’s History of Suggesting Obama is a Muslim.” CNN.com. 2015. Web.

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Koppelman, Jacob, “Discrimination, Prejudice, and Stereotypes: Maltreatment of Muslims in America,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed June 16, 2024, https://religionatfsu.omeka.net/items/show/305.

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