Discrimination Against Muslims and Arabs is Rising in the US
Since the tragic attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, discrimination against Muslims and Arabs in the US has skyrocketed. Data from the EEOC (The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission) show that in the months following 9/11 there was a “250% increase in the number of religion-based discrimination charges involving Muslims.” The EEOC further reports that, “between 9/11/2001 and 3/11/2012, 1,040 charges were filed that were related to the attacks by an individual who is – or is perceived to be – Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian. ”
These infringements on the civil rights of Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans have not abated as of late, although they are illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Middle East is a region of enormous cultural and racial diversity and the diverse individuals from the area have much to offer American society, not withstanding a few religious extremists that are hostile to the US. As history has repeatedly demonstrated (perhaps most recently with McCarthyism in the 1950′s), it is wrong and dangerous to demonize an entire population based on the acts of a few, or the perceived danger of their ideas.
Perhaps even more alarming than the increasing trend of employment discrimination and suspension of equal opportunity employment practices for many Muslims and Arabs (or people perceived to fall into one of those categories), is the increasing physical violence against these groups. Attacks against Muslims and Arabs have been rising and have resulted in countless deaths, including six congregants at a Sikh temple (who were likely mistaken for Muslims) being murdered this past summer and an arson in a Toledo mosque in October. As the attacks at the Sikh temple show, this violence may be discriminatory but it often is not very discriminating. Sikhs are not Muslims and many of those from the Middle East are neither Muslim or Arab. This is not to excuse violence against any group, but just to point out that the region is very large and composed of diverse individuals.
Some have tried to dismiss this escalating violence against Muslims and Arabs, but the fact is that Islamophobia seems to be less openly criticized these days than other forms of religious or racial bias. A man yelling racial slurs directed towards African-Americans is much more likely to be condemned (though not always) than if he were yelling anti-Muslim epithets. In all cases, civil rights must be upheld and racial or any type of discrimination should be roundly condemned in a society which prides itself on offering equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, culture, sex or creed.
The first step towards ending this discrimination and securing the civil rights of Muslims and Arabs (as for all groups in American society) is to loudly condemn these acts and behaviors and not to be a passive witness to it. America has always been a society of diverse individuals and cultures and it will only become more diverse in the future. We should welcome and encourage this diversity and undertake efforts to stamp out intolerance and prejudice wherever it exists.