Muslims kicked off planes – Islamophobia at a peak?
Ding-dong the witch is dead – but the spell it cast is still causing chills. The fear of Islam and Muslims in the post-Osama era is alive and kicking.
“There is this stigma, there is this bias, conscious and unconscious, about Muslims, and xenophobia is at its height in the United States. Muslims are definitely targeted, just because of who they are,” said Aisha al-Adawiya, founder and chair of Women in Islam.
One of the latest targets of discrimination is a 61-year-old Imam.
Amin Abdul Latif was recently pulled off an airplane together with his son – also an Imam. Despite having passed through all the security checks the pair was yanked from their flight without explanation.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that before – that level of humiliation and disrespect. Never in my life! As an American citizen, you expect more,” said the Imam.
The irony – the Brooklyn mosque leader was headed to a conference on Islamophobia.
“The whole idea of freedom of religion – that’s what we pride ourselves over. As Americans, we pride ourselves! Now, we can’t take pride no more. You single out a group of people because they have a different faith than you. This is just horrible,” said Imam Al Amin Abdul Latif.
While some say airport authorities can do all it takes in the name of security, others are done looking for excuses – and recognize religious profiling when they see it.
Amin Abdul Latif was one of 4 Imams headed to the anti-prejudice conference that day ejected from their flights.
“There was no security issue, there was no safety issue, case and point – it was discrimination based on their race and their religion, and that’s unacceptable,” said attorney Mo Idlibi in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As some Americans celebrated the death of bin Laden, the Muslim community in the US hoped for an end to the fear and distrust directed at them, as well as the pressure on Muslims to prove themselves as loyal and patriotic Americans.
“We don’t need to prove ourselves. There are more than 8,000 Muslims in the armed forces. And Muslims have been contributing a lot to this society. And this is my country,” said Zaheer Uddin, Executive Director of the Islamic Leadership Council in New York.
Some say until those in power re-define the war on terror, the bias against Muslims will remain.
“That’s not going to stop until we have some policy shift, so that Muslims are not targeted, and Islam is not the bogeyman of the 21st century, and with the war on terror it has no end in sight,” said al-Adawiya.
Others blame conservative media for fueling the hostilities.
“FOX TV is in the forefront to mobilize these bigots and Islamophobia, basically,” said Zaheer Uddin.
The media’s message seems to be reaching the policy makers in more than 15 states across America where laws banning Sharia – the legal code of Islam that some observant Muslims choose to follow – is being pushed through.
“If you are practicing any form of Sunni Sslam and obeying its religious laws, and doing it not just alone but with a partner, that means that you are forming a Sharia organization, and therefore it can be prosecuted, and pay a fine and spend up to fifteen years in jail,” said journalist Ali Gharib in Washington DC.
All this, many say, is based on ignorance and a fear of the unknown.
“Americans need to gradually meet Muslims. They need to have some kind of contact with this culture,” said contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine, investigative journalist and author Matt Taibbi.
About 7 million Muslims live in the US, making up a significant part of a country still impacted by the number one terrorist even after his death. As the poster boy of evil post 9/11 is gone, Islamophobia remains and could be well on its way to becoming a permanent stain on the United States human rights record.
Imam Abdul Ali Musa, the director of Masjid Al-Islam Mosque in Washington, DC said incidents of discrimination are a sign that anti-Muslim sentiment remains and may be increasing across America.
He explained the Imams stopped on the plane are very moderate Imams, more moderate than Musa himself.
“Every time I get on a plane I have ‘SSSS’ on my ticket,” he said. “Pulled aside, searched when I go through the machine and special screening. Then after you get to the gate there’s another.”
The global Islamic movement has grown and developed. As it expanded, even peacefully, enemies of Islam have used every excuse to target Islam.
“I believe the Muslims today are treated the same way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany,” Musa said. “This country right now, to Muslims, is what we said it was 15 years ago, a constitutional dictatorship.”