Islamophobia perpetuates ignorance and discrimination worldwide

The September 11 and recent Paris attacks have defined an entire religion as having an inherent relation to terrorism, inadvertently leading to the discrimination of Muslims worldwide.

On Sept. 11, 2001, four passenger planes and the acts of terrorism of 19 al-Qaeda members forever changed America. 2,976 Americans died on that fateful day, but nearly two million more Muslim, Afghan, Sikh and Pakistani people have paid for the tragedy with their lives. This particular act of terrorism committed by an extremist group labeled Islam as violent and sacrilegious.

Islamophobia is defined as “unfounded hostility towards Islam, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims”, according to the Runnymede Trust ( It is an ideology that has encroached upon the minds of millions of Americans, led to countless hate crimes directed towards Muslims, and most importantly, one that continues to exist, even today.

Recently, Islamophobia has seen a rise in popularity. In response to the ISIS attacks on Paris on Nov. 13, many people directed their grief and anger at Muslims. The vicious backlash is not expressed exclusively behind closed doors either — most social media outlets host hostile posts and threats addressed to all Muslims.

Some Dougherty students have felt this alienation through social media as well. Junior Swetha Madala, for example, had slanderous comments tweeted at her after her tweet defending Islam. Those who tweeted back at her condemned Islam as being a violent ideology that encouraged terrorism and accused all Muslims and even Madala, who does not practice Islam herself, of being guilty for the attacks.

The recent events in Paris triggered a new wave of Islamophobia that also led to numerous countries becoming reluctant to allow Syrian refugees into their country, including the U.S.

At Dougherty, many Muslim students agree that they find school to be a safe space, but continue to face discrimination outside of school. Muslim Students Association Vice President Sheerin Khan recounts that when she was two years old, the airport called the FBI because they suspected that she and her mother were terrorists.

“Two Khans traveling together — that definitely means they’re terrorists!” Khan jokingly mocked the assumption.

Various other Muslims at Dougherty report being “randomly selected” for extra security checks at airports more often than not.

Senior Nick Sawhney admits: “Every time [my family and I] travel, we end up being stopped by the TSA and end up having to be pat down.”

While Dougherty is a relatively progressive school, some schools are still intolerant of Muslims. Freshman Farida Mostafa recalls a time when she was harassed on the basis of her faith at her former school in Viejo, California. May 2, 2011 marked not only the day Osama Bin Laden died, but the day her class was shown Obama’s speech on his capture and killing. After class, Farida and her friends were playing on the playground.

“I remember hearing them giggling and then one of my friends said in between laughs: ‘your dad is dead now,’” Mostafa recounts. Upon dropping the slanderous comment, the girl also spat in her hair. “I was so embarrassed,” she stated. “I didn’t even understand why they did it because I know I’m not a terrorist and neither is my family.”

Three months ago, the arrest of Muslim student Ahmed Mohamed caused considerable outrage, as many saw the event as a clear indication of the prevalence of Islamophobia. Mohamed was convicted for bringing a homemade clock to school because his teacher assumed it was a bomb. Many people believed the teacher was Islamophobic, racist and presumptive,  and that she would not have suspected the clock was a bomb had he not been Muslim. Other records state that Mohamed had been bullied and discriminated against by students as well as teachers, who refused to allow him to pray at school.

When asked about the incident Sophomore Ayman Azizuddin expressed his confusion on the topic.

“The admin called Mohamed out as a terrorist, but they didn’t evacuate the school, so that doesn’t make sense. lf there’s a bomb at their school, then why wouldn’t they evacuate? They just arrested him without doing anything about it.”

Ultimately, most Muslims believe that Islamophobia is rooted in the ignorance of certain individuals who do not understand the true values of Islam, which are completely distinct and different from Islamic radicalists’ beliefs.

Dougherty’s MSA Advisor Sumeyye Cardakli says, “Unfortunately, ignorant people are everywhere. I feel sad for those people because they do not know how similar we are.”

Junior Nadia Rafiuddin claims that “hate crimes and such are being committed because people just make assumptions about who we are and what we believe in; if people took the time to learn about Islam, they would know that the actions of 9/11 and ISIS are not representative of Muslims.”

While it is likely that ISIS will strike again, it is important for the world to understand that the actions of such terrorist groups do not in any way reflect the values of the entire religion in order to stop the spread of Islamophobia.