RELIGIOUS: Muslim stereotypes harmful to non-Arabs
There are approximately 7 billion people on Earth; 1.6 billion of them are Muslim.
Of that 1.6 billion, 1 billion are Southeast Asian. The other 600 million are not-so-neatly divided between North Africa, the ambiguously named “Middle East,” Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Americas.
With Islam reaching across most of the Eastern Hemisphere and dotting across the Western one, the practitioners of Islam are many and well-varied. But still today, we see the image of the Muslim: an Arab man with a thick, coarse beard, a turban on his head wearing a white robe, occasionally accompanied by a woman in all black with only her eyes peeking from behind her niqab.
Invariably, these are the images that are recycled within conversations about Muslims, but these stereotypes do not capture the whole of the Muslim experience. They delineate what it is to be a Muslim, restrict our movements socially and deny muslims who do not fit the mold.
There are Muslims who do not look like “Muslims” and who do not act like “Muslims” who are Korean, Japanese, Turkish, Amazigh. Arab and Muslim are not synonymous terms, an idea that needs to have entered the post-9/11 psyche of the U.S.
There is no image of Christianity; a Christian can be a million things. But a Muslim, a Hindu, a Jew — there are collectively unconscious images of these people that feed into their self-conception.
They are the reasons my little sister does not wear a hijab to school, why my Aselham has remained in my closet for years, why people still ask me — half-joking — if I know how to make explosives or if my middle name is Osama.
And through these movements, linguistic impressions of what a Muslim life, a man is shot in his cab in Hazelwood, Texas, and another beat in his own store by an Islamophobic customer, and the grammar of these images creates the foundation for this violence.