Tag Archives: Islamophobia

America needs to catch up with Muslim women’s empowerment

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America needs to catch up with Muslim women’s empowerment

So there was a bit of a snafu with some posts I was waiting to have published on MissMuslim, but all is forgiven because I’ve got one up (and because I have a bit of a crush on Editor-in-Chief Jenan Matari). One of my favorite past-times is spectacularly shutting down Western misconceptions about Muslim countries and Islamic law and history. As an American, I am really disappointed that my fellow countrymen are such misogynists that they picked Cheeto Voldemort over just-as-qualified-as-she-is-corrupt Hillary Clinton. But I can’t help but be a bit… smug about the fact that White America has yet again failed to do what Muslims have been doing for years. (And yes, it was White America. Check the polls. More on that later.) There, I said it. I’m not proud of it. I don’t revel in the fact that the U.S. still hasn’t had a female head of state. I’m not really about that moral superiority life. But it’s nice to take ignoramuses down a notch.

My list comprises of eight heads of state who happen to have an extra X chromosome. (Click it. Click the pretty, red words.) Seven of these countries are Islamic states; one of the countries is not, yet the head of state in question was herself Muslim with a lot of Muslim support). One of these Muslim countries even has a female atheist head of state. Food for thought for those who enjoy putting 1.6 billion Muslims in a box without a semblance of nuance or historical context.

White American present at Boston, Paris, & Brussels attacks… and he’s not a suspect

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Having finally obtained a degree in Journalism & Media Studies (and having worked at multiple news outlets along the way), I can’t emphasize enough how manipulative news outlets can be in affecting our perceptions of current events.

While treading through late-night Twitter looking for commentary to retweet onto my woefully ignored feed, I came across a few tweets pointing out an insane double standard in coverage of the recent tragedy in Brussels. The tweets linked to an article entitled “Mormon Missionaries From Utah Among Belgian Bombing Survivors”. The article talks about three Mormon Elders who were injured in the attacks.

Here’s an excerpt about one of the missionaries, 19-year-old Mason Wells who is having surgery for damage to his foot, that makes it more interesting:

This was not Wells’ first brush with terror. He was in Boston to watch his mother run the marathon in 2013 when two Chechen immigrant brothers set off shrapnel-filled bombs that killed three and wounded scores more, his family said.

Wells was also in Paris this past November when the French capital was attacked by Belgium-based terrorists, the family said.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 2.15.06 ق.د.

Mason Wells, 19-year-old American present at Boston, Paris, & Brussels attacks.

What the hell, NBC? You get a hold of a guy who was present at three recent terror attacks that completely dominated headlines, and you choose to make the story about how three missionaries were hurt?? Talk about burying the lede!

But that’s just it. This wasn’t the lede. These two paragraphs were so nonchalantly nestled in the middle of the article that it would be easy for readers to miss them. Imagine if this man was Muslim instead of Mormon, or even just of a Middle Eastern, South Asian, Eastern European, or African background.

What would be the headline then?

Speaking as a journalist, as someone who’s studied media and criticized the hell out of it, as someone who constantly consumes it, this is the kind of story that media outlets thrive on. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, social media took to identifying suspects simply from video of the bombings (and news outlets predictably followed suit in reporting on these). These misidentifications led to multiple people fearing for their safety. Most infamous was Sunil Tripathi, an Indian-American student who had been missing for a month prior to the bombings and became a “stand out suspect” after social media users, most notably on Reddit and Twitter, posted about it. Sunil was found dead days later, and his family could have done without having to deal with these baseless accusations on top of his disappearance.

When people like Sunil and his family are subjected to the witch hunts like this, how is it that a man who was present at three different attacks is barely given notice?

I’m not saying he should be subjected to a witch hunt too (because he shouldn’t), but the difference is striking. I do see a few articles covering the story from this angle, but how is it that a major news outlet like NBC is not? A post on the front page of Imgur makes light of the situation, whereas if the man were of a non-white background, they’d be expressing suspicion instead (as with Boston). Even moving on from news outlets and social media, why isn’t any government looking into this?

I’m not being a conspiracy theorist here (although conspiracies do exist and go read a book about the CIA if you think otherwise). I assure you that, were this man not a white American, I would still say this needs to be looked into. I’m also not saying he’s definitely involved, so don’t be like the Redditors who screwed it up with the Boston bombings. I’m just saying you need to pay attention to how biased your news outlets and your governments are. And you need to demand that they change.

My mother’s first dance with bigotry as a doctor

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While indoctrinating my 10-year-old brother last night by reading him Goblet of Fire, I received a phone call from my shaken up mom, telling me something had just happened to her that she had never experienced in her 25 years of practice as a doctor.

A patient refused to see her because she’s Muslim.

Now, I’ve told plenty of people not to see my mother due to this reason. But this was often because they are also Muslim, and as a result, I know they won’t be as open with her about their habits regarding the fun stuff: drugs, sex, and alcohol. The patient in question, however, was not a Muslim nor afraid of my mother judging them for their love of getting shitfaced or stoned out of their mind. This person was simply a bigot.

Apparently, after my mother already spent time going over their charts and preparing to see them (which isn’t a minimal effort, mind you), the patient, upon meeting her, asked her about her ethnicity. After my mother replied that she is Pakistani, the patient asked her if she was Muslim. When my mother told her that she was, they told her “very respectfully” that she did not wish to be seen by a Muslim doctor.

First of all, it breaks my heart that my mother for some reason needed to tell me how respectful this person was being. Nothing about this was respectful. My mind worked quick as my mother talked. If a doctor refused to see a patient because of their religious or ethnic background, they would face severe consequences. But there isn’t any type of repercussion for a patient doing the same, other than potentially losing out on good treatment.

You can say that there will always be some awful people who act like this, but the fact that our politicians speak like this doesn’t help. Herman Cain was very vocal about not wanting to see a Muslim doctor or appointing a Muslim to his thankfully never-formed cabinet. Ben Carson has repeatedly expressed that Muslims are unfit for the presidency. I could go on. My point is that Islamophobia, Islamobigotry, anti-Muslim sentiment, whatever you want to call it (because I’ve actually heard people try to derail the conversation by saying they aren’t scared of Muslims, they just don’t like them) is on the rise. The fact that this happened to my mother just days after the attacks in Paris is not a coincidence.

It’s a sign. It’s a sign of frightening times for my Muslim brothers and sisters. So I ask you to be please be careful. The days ahead will be rough for all of us, and we need to stick together. Please reach out to each other, reach out to me, and don’t ever think you have to apologize for those who are not of us. The only thing you need to do is to keep spreading awareness of our own struggles, our own faith. May God be with us.

The Problem with #MuslimLivesMatter

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Maybe not enough people realized this during the uproar over Ferguson. Nearly everyone who uses the hashtag means well. But #AllLivesMatter is a problematic hashtag, full stop. And in the same line, so is #MuslimLivesMatter.

Hashtags matter. They’re not only a way to bring attention to a specific issue or current event, but they are now also used as political statements.

Saying #AllLivesMatter is inappropriate in that it ignores the message that #BlackLivesMatter is conveying. It’s a hashtag that is a reminder— a reminder that black lives matter, because the lives of white people are never in question. Saying “All lives matter!” assumes that everyone is equally targeted, everyone in as much need of protection.

Now, of course, Muslim lives are also very much under threat in this country. Those of us who have been hollering about Fox News, the Republican Party, Bill Maher, Zionists and co. inciting violence against Muslims have been proved horribly right. But by using the #MuslimLivesMatter hashtag, we are appropriating the black struggle, the movement against police brutality towards black men and women. That is not to say that Muslim lives don’t matter, of course. We simply need to recognize that while our struggle is similar, we do have our own and we cannot co-opts others’.

The family and friends of Yusor, Deah, and Razan have adopted the hashtag, #OurThreeWinners, taken from their Facebook page of the same name. We should show our love and support for them, and our respect for the Black Lives Matter movement, by doing the same.

I apologize if my argument isn’t making sense. I’ve been in a daze since the night it happened, a daze that has only overwhelmed me more and more since. This hits home. It hit home when I saw that it occurred in a town not far from my father’s, in a university that some of my relatives attended. It hit home when I saw a couple relatives post about knowing the victims or their families. It hit home when I spent the day with friends wearing hijabs, worry for them spinning in the back of my mind where it should never have to be. It hit home because it could have been any of us, it could become any of us. Unless we refuse to stay silent.

Our Three WinnersAlways,

Syjil

P.S. Here are a couple links to explain the problem with co-opting the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/12/whats-wrong-with-all-lives-matter/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-craven/please-stop-telling-me-th_b_6223072.html

Starting out at the Daily Targum

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I’m not going to waste your time trying to explain who I am and how I’m trying to make some sort of difference in the world or portray my own views on something… You’ll figure out all those things as (or rather, if) you follow along.  My name is Syjil Ashraf.  I’m a Pakistani-American freshman undergraduate student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey on a pre-med track with a major in Journalism & Media Studies.  No, I don’t want to do anything like Sanjay Gupta.  I just like writing and I also happen to want to be a physician.  Two separate things.

Rutgers’ college newspaper is a student-run publication that is unaffiliated with the university. My first article was published in today’s (or technically yesterday’s) issue.  Rutgers hosted a panel on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the media with speakers Jack Shaheen, Professor Emeritus of Mass Communication at Southern Illinois University and author of Reel Bad Arabs, and Kenneth Stern, defense attorney, director of anti-Semitism, extremism, and hate studies for the American Jewish Committee and author of Antisemitism, and you can find my report on the event here.

Shaheen was a very well-spoken, quite interesting man… Very passionate.  Stern, I’m sorry to say, bored me somewhat and I tried hard to write giving the anti-Semitism side of the panel fair coverage so as not to look like the typical biased Muslim.  Truth is, Shaheen just owned him.  I’m glad, he did though… To be frank, anti-Semitism really is not a problem within the media.  Islamophobia is the new plague.

Typically, the editors edited out one of my favorite lines.  During the program, Shaheen mentioned William Shirer, a war correspondent in Berlin in the mid-1930s who was aware of what was happening to the Jews, but played it down out of fear of German spies and the fact that the United States government was not willing to hear of the atrocities.  Shaheen felt this did not fall in line with true journalistic integrity.

“If you’re going to be a journalist and you’re going to be in the city, and you can’t tell the truth, what are you doing here? Lose your job, get out.  If you have integrity, tell the truth and let them fire you.”

Shaheen’s words, which I identify with as my own journalistic philosophy, called to mind the downfall of one NBC News correspondent after comments calling out American media for its unfair and pernicious targeting of a “certain demographic”… Ashleigh Banfield.

At one point, Clement Price, the moderator of the panel and apparently “the foremost authority” on black history in New Jersey as well as professor of History at RU-Newark, asked Shaheen “There’s a perception among many Americans that there are no vocal moderate Muslims. Can you speak to this?”  Shaheen straight up told him, “Well, there aren’t…The problem is that those Muslims who want to speak out and who are highly capable of speaking out are not given the opportunity to speak out.”

I guess I’m here to try and change that.

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil

If the above link doesn’t work, here is the URL for the article on the Targum website: http://www.dailytargum.com/news/university/authors-discuss-media-bias-on-middle-east/article_8f5fc42a-fa04-11e0-8b57-0019bb30f31a.html