Re-evaluating Stereotypes: all Muslims are Terrorists

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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On the daily, people around the world see the words “Muslim” next to words like “terrorist,” “extremist,” and “violence” in newspapers and television broadcasts. Due to stereotyping after the 9/11 attacks, the Muslim community has received the most negative image in media today. As a result of this, Muslims around the world, especially in the United States, experience the impact of these stereotypes in numerous forms. Just from women wearing hijabs and men wearing khimars or thawbs, they have experienced discrimination in schools, restaurants, airports, or even places of employment.

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Some Muslims have even experienced harassment and vicious attacks from strangers on the street just from the stereotype of being dangerous and violent for what they believe in. Stemming from these hate crimes are Muslims left wondering their belonging in the nation that is said to be the land of opportunity where everyone is equal. Assumptions made about the Islam community based on the actions of a select few and how the media perceives them can lead many Muslim individuals questioning their beliefs and identity as well as create a sense of shame about their religion and group.

After the 9/11 attacks, the relationship of trust and faith between the Muslim population and the U.S. government was shattered in addition to the dynamic and way of life completely changed for individual Muslims. On September 9th, 2001, the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and attacked monuments in the U.S. by flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center as well as flying into the Pentagon, killing over 3,000 people. The act of terrorism completely transformed the way Americans looked at the individuals who practiced the religion as they believed it only caused violence and terroristic acts. According to the Huffington Post article, “How 9/11 Changed These Muslim Americans’ Lives Forever,” many Muslim Americans they interviewed said that the day of the terrorist attack marked “the day their religion went from something others found interesting and mysterious to something viewed as sinister.” With these newfound negative viewpoints towards Islam, violence towards the religion began to increase. In a 2002 FBI Report, it was found that “Muslim Americans went from being one of the least targeted religious groups in the U.S. to seeing hate crimes against those associated with Islam jump 1,600 percent” (Huffington Post 1). Despite the fact that these acts were caused by a select few that only happen to be Muslim and practice Islam, Muslims across the United States were targeted as a suspect population by people around the world simply due to their beliefs. They have endured interrogation, random searches, acts of vandalism by strangers, and hate crimes just from the stereotype of being dangerous by believing in Islam. Singled out by both the public and the government, puts them in a spotlight and forces many to feel ashamed about their belief system as Americans around the country have pointed it out as being wrong, hateful and violent. By putting Muslims in a position where they are looked down upon as well as feared and hated, creates a sense of disgrace and humiliation towards their religion and forces them to be embarrassed of their beliefs.

The media has also highly contributed to the negative viewpoint of Muslims and their religion, as it spreads fear across the nation about the group. When a Muslim is involved in a terrorist attack against other groups, the media tends to give it much more coverage than similar incidents involving non-Muslims or attacks against the religious group itself. For example, according to “How Trump talks about attacks targeting Muslims vs. attacks by Muslims” in Washington Post, on March 15th, 2019, a white supremacist, motivated by “arcane white nationalist talking points” and President Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity,” targeted mosques in New Zealand and killed 50 people. Trump responded to the attack by attempting to “distance himself from any link to the New Zealand shooting,” instead of actually acknowledging it and being sympathetic towards the victims. The attack and media response quickly established a pattern as it can be noted that “when an apparent terrorist or hate attack has been committed by a Muslim, Trump is quick to draw attention to it,” such as the time when Trump accused a husband and wife that murdered 14 people at a Christmas party in California to be Muslims, “even before the perpetrators had been identified.” On the other hand, when the situation is reversed and an attack “targets Muslims,” his responses are slower and less sympathetic. Only when an attack is done by a single group of the Muslim religion, will the media and government jump at the chance to put spotlights on the group, which then creates negative connotations and unfair stereotypes. With Muslims constantly being cast as “un-American” because of their faith, it allows individuals of the religion to question their sense of community within the country. Being hated, judged, and given side-eye glares can make Muslims uncomfortable to show the world the real them and hide their beliefs in fear of being involved in a hate crime. Due to the actions of a few, the media has made out Muslims to be an overall suspicious community, which then contributes to the desire many Americans have to consistently and constantly watch and check Muslims, as if they could never be trusted. The lack of trust in the Islam community not only creates a divide between our society, but often leads to even more discrimination and a sense of fear in innocent Muslims.

Negative stereotyping towards Muslims leads to many forms of discrimination throughout society as well. In public spaces such as restaurants, schools, and airports, Muslims are faced with discrimination and racism due to how the media and government depicts them. Some are presented with subtle discrimination such as being thought to be illiterate and unprofessional on account to their hijab while others encounter much harsher forms such as being threatened and yelled at with insulting names. According to the BBC News article “US Muslims: Survey suggests nearly half suffer discrimination,” researchers that spoke to 1,001 U.S. Muslims over the phone stated that the most common forms of discrimination they suffered were “being treated with suspicion (32% of those the researchers spoke to), …being singled out by airport security (19%), being called offensive names (18%), being singled out by law enforcement (10%) and, [lastly] being physically threatened or attacked (6%).” For some Muslims, this is a daily way of life and can make them feel unsafe in their environment. One Muslim, researchers from BBC News interviewed, stated “[Muslims] have to take extra care scanning our surroundings, know where we are, who is around and what kind of thoughts they might hold for Islam,” as being in the religious group can often lead to hate crimes and discrimination. By constantly feeling unsafe in their environment, Muslims no longer feel welcome in this country just by the way they are treated in their day-to-day life.

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Re-evaluating Stereotypes: All Muslims are Terrorists. (2021, May 14). Retrieved from