Politicians and media perpetuate offensive beliefs about Muslims
The first result on a Google search of “Islamophobia” is this: “Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.” However, many politicians and media personalities today would assert that their views of Muslims aren’t prejudice, they’re just fact.
From the GOP campaign trail, to a Texas high school, the U.S. seems to be obsessed with talking about Islam, but at the same time wants nothing to do with it. For example, on Sept. 17 in a town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire, a Donald Trump supporter said, “We have a problem in this country and it’s called Muslims.” He then went on to ask, “When can we get rid of them?” Trump answered with, “We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.”
The U.S. Constitution clearly states there can be no religious test for public office. However, in a Sept. 20 interview on Meet the Press, Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson said Islam is incompatible with the Constitution. Carson also said on Meet the Press, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Trump and Carson are virtually tied for the GOP presidential primary nomination, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Sept. 20-24.
There seem to be low expectations of tolerance when it comes to what is being spewed from the mouths of these people vying to be the next leader of the U.S. and candidates seem to be engaging with those who hold false opinions about Islam. The man who made the comment to Trump in New Hampshire about the problem in the U.S. being Muslims, went on to say, “Our current president is one.”
Sen. John McCain faced a similar situation in 2008 during his run for President when a woman said about then-candidate Barack Obama over a microphone, “…he’s an Arab.” However, unlike Trump, who didn’t bother to correct his supporters’ ignorant comment, McCain retook the microphone from the woman and replied, “No, ma’am. He’s not [an Arab].” Just seven years later, it appears the voices of Islamophobia have not become quieter, they’ve grown in volume.
Islamophobia is not just a problem in the world of politics, but also in the media. Bill Maher is a well-known atheist, liberal and comedian. Since 2003 he’s had his own show on HBO, Real Time with Bill Maher. It’s no secret that he’s comfortable voicing his own opinion, but his less than liberal view on Islam has gotten him some less than positive attention.
Back in 2014, Maher and actor Ben Affleck engaged in a heated debate about Islam. During his panel segment, Maher stated Islam is “the only religion that acts like the mafia that will kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.” Affleck immediately challenged Maher on his comments.
“Some of them do bad things and you’re painting the whole religion with that broad brush,” Affleck said.
At the end of the show, Maher’s audience gave him a giant round of applause, overwhelming Affleck’s opposition.
In early 2015, Maher continued his callous views of Islam with an insensitive joke about Muslims. In a web-only segment, Maher brought up the then-recent departure of musician Zain “Zayn” Malik, who is open about his Muslim faith, from the popular British boy band One Direction. After dismissing Malik’s career move, Maher placed a photo of the pop singer alongside an image of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and asked, “Where were you during the Boston marathon?” This joke received harsh criticism on Twitter, but that didn’t cause Maher to rethink his rhetoric.
Recently, the media has focused on the story of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Muslim boy who made a clock that supposedly looked like a bomb. Ahmed brought in the homemade invention to his Texas high school to show it to his engineering teacher. His English teacher, however, saw the device and confiscated it. Later, Ahmed was called to the principal’s office, placed in handcuffs and taken into custody. He was accused of bringing a device to school that looked like a homemade bomb.
In addition to being placed in a juvenile detention center, the teen was suspended from school for three days. Since the ordeal, Ahmed has gained momentous support on social media and even from President Obama. However, Maher had some choice words for Ahmed. Maher was annoyed with Ahmed’s title as a young inventor, arguing the teen did nothing more than remove parts from a digital clock radio and stuff them in a pencil box.
One of the panelists on the show, Ron Reagan, did not believe what Ahmed made looked like a bomb.
“It looked like a clock,” Reagan said.
Maher was quick to contradict Reagan, exclaiming, “It looked exactly like a bomb!” Maher went on to cite recent instances of Islamic violence, but made no mention of, or comparison to, the myriad of Muslims worldwide who don’t engage in violence.
Larger than the actual problem of the apparent acceptance and ubiquity of these biased views of Islam is that there is no examination of why we as a society are so biased. Maher firmly believes that Mohamed’s clocked looked exactly like a bomb. He and his panelists could argue all day about what the invention really looked like. However, to make some real ground, it would be better to examine why anyone would jump to the extreme, irrational, fear-based conclusion that a 14-year-old boy in Texas built a bomb under the guise of a science fair assignment.
The hysteria surrounding Islam can only begin to be quelled when influential people like politicians and media personalities are held accountable for the ignorant comments they make.
Olivia Blees is a junior Television-Radio major with a concentration in religious watch-doggery. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.