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The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

Sharp Rise in Islamophobia

Sharp+Rise+in+Islamophobia

What’s going on?

  On October 7, growing tensions between Palestinians and the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government came to a head, devolving into an outright war. Hamas, alongside a coalition of various militant resistance groups, carried out an unprecedented assault killing over 1200 Israelis. In response, Israel has launched a severe bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip which has killed over 15,000 Palestinians, about a third of which are children (Al Jazeera). The bombing has also destroyed or severely damaged over 60 percent of all homes in Gaza according to the United Nations, displacing over a million people. The war has sparked an international outcry at the barbarity and scale of the violence leveled against civilians. Protesters around the world are calling for an immediate ceasefire, fearing that every day the war rages on will inflict more and more innocent casualties. 

 

Islamophobia

  Since October 7, the United States has seen an alarming spike in hate crimes against its Arab and Muslim communities. The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported at least 1283 incidents of discrimination perpetrated against Muslims in just one month after October 7. For context, CAIR only received 63 complaints in the entire month of August this year. The organization also stated that the actual number of incidents is likely much higher, as hate crimes against Muslims are chronically underreported. After 9/11 and the War on Terror, Arabs and Muslims have been the subject of harassment, brutalization, detainment and mass surveillance by the police and the FBI, so they are understandably reluctant to report anything to law enforcement.

  One particularly hideous instance of anti-Palestinian bigotry that garnered national attention was the tragic murder of Wadea Al Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy living in Chicago. According to CAIR, on October 14, one week after war was declared, Wadea’s landlord entered their home and stabbed the innocent Palestinian boy 26 times, killing him. The landlord also attacked Wadea’s 32-year-old mother, Haanan Shahin, stabbing her over a dozen times while yelling, “You Muslims must die.” Local authorities and relatives of the attacker say he targeted the family because of their religion and the ongoing war in Gaza.

  Spikes in Islamophobia after major events like the war in Gaza are nothing new. After 9/11, a ferocious wave of hate crimes against people or institutions perceived as Arab or Muslim swept the country. According to Human Rights Watch, anti-Muslim hate crimes increased seventeenfold from 2000 to 2001. Across the nation, hundreds of people of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent were assaulted and at least 7 were murdered. Mobs attacked people worshiping in mosques and on multiple occasions set mosques on fire. Or more recently, the Trump administration’s travel ban for 7 majority-Muslim countries, dubbed the “Muslim Ban,” sparked another wave of Islamophobic vigilante violence. 

  

Media Reporting

  The murder of Wadea and similar acts of terror are the result of decades of passive Islamophobia in media reporting. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, wall-to-wall coverage of groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, justifying US military aggression in the Middle East, has served to permanently associate all Arabs or Muslims with terrorism in the public’s collective imagination. The media also gives a disproportionate amount of coverage to incidents of violent Islamic extremism compared to other kinds of extremism, further adding fuel to the fire. According to a study conducted by Georgia State University in 2019, jihadist terror attacks receive, on average, 357 percent more coverage than any other terror attacks carried out by other groups, even though jihadist attacks only make up 12.5 percent of all attacks. 

  Media reporting on the war in Gaza has been no different. Every major publication and television channel has been hyper focused on the actions of Hamas. If all people see when they turn on the TV are the words “Palestine,” “Hamas” and “terrorism,” then they will subconsciously begin to associate these words to mean the same thing. Thus, media reporting in this fashion serves only to conflate all Palestinians with terrorism, which is a dangerous line to be towing. 

  Another common tactic used by the media that has reared its ugly head in the last couple of weeks is the use of atrocity propaganda: the dissemination of information about crimes committed by the enemy, which may be true but often contains deliberate fabrications and exaggerations. Incendiary reports of babies being beheaded by Hamas militants received massive attention from all major publications in the first few days after the attack, even being mentioned by President Biden. This claim has since been retracted after they were never confirmed by the IDF, and no evidence gathered suggested that such events took place, but the damage had already been done. The media’s reckless reporting on a claim that hadn’t even been substantiated makes Palestinians look like bloodthirsty animals who simply cannot contain themselves, a centuries-old colonialist trope. This kind of imagery only gives more ammo to hatred against Arabs and Muslims. 

  Choosing to report in such an inflammatory manner not only demonizes Palestinians but Arabs and Muslims in general and is bound to inspire some to act violently toward them. This is called stochastic terrorism: political or media figures publicly demonizing a person or group in such a way that it inspires supporters of the figures to commit a violent act against the target of the speech. The media’s rhetoric stereotypes Palestinians as terrorists, baby killers and savages. According to senior and Palestinian-American Stella Myers, this is guaranteed to motivate some to commit heinous acts like killing a 6-year-old boy. 

  “People [see the news] and they’re like ‘oh, this person said it’ or ‘my parents believed it so I’m not going to do any further research,’ and then it just [leads to] hate crimes,” Myers said.  

  It is exceedingly irresponsible for mainstream media outlets to be reporting in such a way to such a large audience.

 

Conclusion

  The current situation bears a frightening resemblance to the disgraceful treatment of Arabs and Muslims after the 9/11 attacks and should unsettle everyone regardless of stance on the war. Left unchecked, the United States could very easily backslide into a country where anybody even remotely Middle Eastern is afraid to leave their home; a country where Muslim communities are torn apart by informants and mass surveillance; a country where Muslims are reluctant to go to Mosque for fear that it might be lit on fire. We cannot let history repeat itself, and turning a blind eye to hatred is what allows it to thrive. The ignorance and prejudice preached to us by media institutions and our politicians has given hatred new life. It is our duty as human beings to push back against it by verifying information and seeking multiple sources before spreading it. Innocent people should never be made to suffer for simply

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About the Contributor
Sebastian Cabeza, Staff Writer
Sebastian Cabeza is a senior entering his first year on staff as a writer for the News department. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar, painting, and listening to Ken Carson. Contact him at [email protected].

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