Islamophobia, the new Red Scare

Doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, teachers, policemen, soldiers. These are just some of the roles American Muslims play in our society. Sometimes they blend in so easily you wouldn't know they were Muslim until they told you they won't be drinking with you tonight, or they have to slip away for a few minutes to pray one of our daily prayers. And sometimes you would know right away from the Hijab on her head. They serve our country, our communities and our society. 

The history of Islam in America goes far back to the days of slavery, when the first Muslims of America came to this nation in chains from Africa. Our Constitution was as inspired by the Quran as it was by the Bible and Torah, as Thomas Jefferson cited it in his journals as inspiration. We come to this land of opportunity with our best foot forward ready to bring our skills, determination and dedication to contribute to the melting pot just as many Americans' European ancestors did not too long ago.

But if you listen to Ben Carson or Donald Trump or Bill Maher (who stands as an example of how liberals can be just as guilty of bigotry as conservatives), you would believe that the Muslims of America are deep in the sewers plotting the conquest to turn America into Ameristan.

The reality is that this pattern of scare tactics, marginalization and irrational hyper villain-ization is as American as apple pie. From the Know Nothing Party in the 1850s who opposed immigration, particularly of Irish Catholics, to the Red Scare in the 1950s over Communism that led to the detainment of thousands of Asian Americans and numerous congressional hearings, to even modern day politicians fearing illegal immigration and the erasure of "white culture," using fear to scare voters into voting for the pseudo-leaders who hold these outrageous beliefs is a successful tactic. Scapegoating marginalized members of society has often been a tactic to reassure the public that the government is in control, often with the undertones of “the ends justify the means.” However, this success comes with consequences.

Take Ahmed, a young computer science enthusiast—who reminds me so much of my brother that my heart dropped when I saw him—who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to impress his teacher at his charter school specifically focused on technology and engineering. Or Deah Barakat and Raza and Yusur Abu-Salah, dental students who were murdered execution-style in their home for their faith in Chapel Hill this year. Or the numerous Sikh and Hindu Americans murdered and beaten every year because they are confused for Muslims. Or the numerous businesses, homes and mosques vandalized each year by criminals who defend their actions as patriotism. Or the numerous engineering students denied entry into the top graduate programs in the country due to their Iranian heritage.

While it may boost Carson’s and Trump's poll numbers and make the average American feel better that Muslim-Americans are paying the price for a war that has killed more Muslims in the past 2 decades than the Crusades and colonialism combined, public rhetoric like this costs lives, damages our credibility as a defender of democracy and freedom and leads us to support leaders who damage our standing on the world stage. It's worth noting that without such rhetoric political candidates like these would not be elected due to their incompetency in public administration. I believe this rhetoric is why Trump's supporters don’t seem concerned that his every answer to domestic affairs other than immigration is “we're looking into that.”

As Americans, we face some tough decisions moving forward. We, like many other nations, face an identity crisis in this twenty-first century. But we must remember the values we claim to hold. Two of the most important are the equality of every man in this nation and the freedom to practice whatever belief system you wish. Remember those two values next November at the polls.  

Sehar Ezez is a senior majoring in history. Her column runs biweekly.

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