Muslims battle stereotypes, even in Singapore

“We are operating in an atmosphere of hysteria and fear. I have never seen it like this, not even after 9/11,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Since the recent string of terrorist attacks in Paris, Baghdad, and the U.S., the global atmosphere has been brimming with palpable fear, anger, and distrust. For the most part, these emotional responses have been channeled towards heightening national security and combatting the group responsible for the attacks – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or otherwise known as ISIS.

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A Muslim man overlooking Montmarte, in Paris. Creative Commons License.

At the same time however, these enraged responses have also been aimed towards another group of people who are undeserving of blame: the entire Muslim community.

The hours following the Paris attacks on Nov. 13. saw an immediate outburst of blame directed towards numerous Muslim communities across the globe, from public verbal harassment in France to bombings of mosques in Canada. Since then, Muslims worldwide have had to face repercussions of crimes they took no part in committing.

Even in Singapore, hundreds of miles away from the attacks, there have been instances of physical and verbal harassment aimed towards the Muslim population.

“There has definitely been an increase in hostility [towards] Muslims [here in Singapore],” said Ariani “Annie” Adam, a Muslim and the Media Lab Assistant at SAS. A lot of anger has been shared on the Internet as Muslims across Singapore tweeted and blogged about their experiences of harassment.

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The already inflammatory situation has only been made worse by high-profile public individuals such as Donald Trump, who have continued to promote this false image of Islam. The Republican frontrunner of the U.S. presidential elections recently made a statement calling for an end to all Muslim immigration to America. “Until [the] country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” he stated that no Muslim, a potential threat in his eyes, should be allowed into the country.

These attacks against Islam and its followers have not been taken lightly by the Muslim population. Almost as if this backlash of discrimination was anticipated, many Muslims swiftly took to social media to defend themselves and their religion. Even before the Paris attacks were linked to ISIS, two phrases had trended on Twitter – “Terrorism has no religion,” and “Muslims are not terrorists.”

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Videos of various movements were also created, denouncing the stereotypes associated with Muslims. One video by Buzzfeed was titled, “I’m Muslim, but I’m Not…”

Philistine Ayad, a Muslim feminist involved in these movements on social media, told CNN that she hoped there soon would be “an understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims” about the differences between Islam and ISIS. At the same time, she hoped that there would be “a sense of communal sympathy for the victims of terrorists, but not descending into Islamophobia.”

Again and again, Muslims worldwide are found reiterating the distinction between their beliefs and the warped extremist ideologies of ISIS. They continue to stress Islam’s values of peace, tolerance, equality, and love, condemning the image-twisting terrorist attacks and those responsible for them. Using social media as a platform, Muslims are constantly combatting ISIS, who claims to represent the name of Allah and the religion of Islam in each of the attacks they carry out.

Yet it is precisely because of these attacks that ISIS should not be a representation of Islam in the eyes of the world. What ISIS proclaims to be a part Muslim faith should not be confused with Islam’s true teachings.

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A Muslim woman in Canterbury, New Zealand. Creative Commons License.

However, in the eyes of many, ISIS is equated to Islam. To those who are outraged, grieving the lost lives of loved ones, and looking for someone to blame, Islam is a religion of hate, violence, and terror. It may be an easy generalization to make, but it is unjustifiable.

This twisted view of Islam, and the outright hostility many Muslims are treated with today, must be put to an end. Not only are these attitudes and actions completely misguided, but they are also the precise ammunition ISIS needs to continue being a global threat.

Now, more than ever, it is essential for our society to remain united. In an atmosphere already ridden with strife, such feelings of hostility, and hurtful generalizations will only hinder nations from ultimately attaining the goals that every world leader shares: to put an end to these destructive acts of terrorism and to finally be at peace. Only once the world, as a whole, realizes the significant difference between religion and extremism will we be able to do so.

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