The future of Muslim Americans
With hate crimes towards Muslims on the rise and a lack of sympathy for Syrian refugees, the presidential election of 2016 is sure to be the most consequential ever for Muslims in America
April 18, 2016
In the past five years, there has been an average of 150.8 hate crimes toward Muslim Americans yearly, according to FBI statistics from California State University professor Brian Levin. This equates to almost more than 12 attacks per month.
These numbers appear to be rising as recent statistics indicate..
Between Nov. 13, 2015 and Dec. 20, 2015 – the month directly following the Paris terrorist attacks – there were 38 suspected hate crimes, putting the rate of hate crimes against Muslim Americans at nearly 10 times the monthly rate compared to all of 2010-2014, according to Levin. These attacks range from death threats and intimidating letters, to physical attacks on people and mosques.
The Masjid Umar Al-Farooq mosque in Mountlake Terrace has never experienced any hateful acts toward its building or members. Imam Abdul Mansoor, the religious leader at the mosque, expressed his gratitude for the tolerance of others in the community.
“No, thank God there hasn’t [been any crimes toward the mosque], I appreciate Mountlake Terrace and I have [a] deep, deep love for Mountlake Terrace because I’m from here,” Mansoor said. “They know us, we know them, people here, they’re like my family, they are my family. They appreciate us, we appreciate them.”
Stereotyping Muslims as terrorists in the United States
Some of the more extreme examples of anti-Muslim sentiment include an incident that occurred in December 2015 at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Va.
According to The Washington Post, the school had to start its winter break a day early due to threats toward the world geography teacher, Cheryl LaPorte, who sent home an assignment in which students were to try and copy the Shahada, a Muslim profession of faith that is said in daily prayer.
There was no religious meaning behind LaPorte’s actions, as she said she was attempting to show her students the intricacy of Arabic calligraphy through the assignment. LaPorte received threats from parents saying it was an act of anti-Christian indoctrination, according to the Post.
Mansoor, who has a masters degree in Islamic theology, said the parents’ reaction was only going to end up hurting their children.
“I think that [LaPorte was] just doing her job. I think it’s the parents’ fault, if that’s how they are nurturing the kids at home,” he said.“They just put a huge scar on their kids’ minds that they won’t ever forget.”
Why Syrian refugees want to come to the United States
With the recent political debates in this election year, the issue of Syrian refugees entering the United States has become a widely discussed and controversial topic.
According to BBC World News, the situation in Syria has resulted from an ongoing war ever since a drought that began in 2006 and lasted until 2011. This led to Syrian citizens speaking out against their president Bashar al-Assad for not acting in their interests. Soon, this led to a rebellion. Syria has been in a civil war ever since.
Large areas of land and civilian territory in Syria have turned into volatile war zones, driving many civilians out of the country. The countries taking in refugees vary widely by how many they admit.
According to the Syria Regional Refugee Response, an inter-agency information sharing portal for the United Nations, Turkey leads the count taking in more than 2.7 million Syrians, Lebanon has more than 1 million and Jordan more than 600,000. All of these numbers have been recorded since January 2012, the start of the refugee crisis.
According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the United States has taken in an estimated 2,300 Syrian refugees. This means the United States has accepted about .08 percent of the refugees that Turkey has.
Of the roughly 2,300 refugees who have made it into the United States as of today, 93 percent are Sunni Muslims, who support the rebels of Syria, according to the website Fact Check. In addition, 67 percent of the refugees applying to come to the United States are women and children younger than 12.
These people are trying to escape the war, drought, unemployment and lack of basic needs, such as food and clean water in Syria.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 70 percent of Syrian citizens do not have access to clean water. Additionally, one third of the population have no access to basic foods, and roughly four of five people live in poverty.
If they want to come to the United States, Syrian refugees must go through a screening process. This process takes even longer than the normal 18-24 month refugee process, according to CNN. The reason for the long wait is to ensure that those being taken in are completely safe and secure to bring into the country.
According to CNN, refugees begin the process by applying for refugee status, then the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) filters that through their guidelines based off of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
If these standards apply to the applicant, the refugee will be settled in a third country and will be given a “legal resident status”. There they will eventually be able to apply for citizenship in the country they are put into.
If they’re going to be resettled into the United States, the refugee’s information is processed and is prepared for the screening process by a support for resettlement center. This process is made to help determine if the refugee is or isn’t a threat to the United States, according to CNN. The screening includes an interview, a medical evaluation and a security screening process.
According to CNN, when placed into the United States, the refugee will receive help by a resettlement agency that provides assistance in things including learning the english language and paying for housing and other necessities.
How presidential candidates are reacting to Syrian refugees
As it is an election year, presidential candidates have voiced their views about what they would do concerning the Syrian refugee crisis and their stances differ greatly.
During a Democratic debate, frontrunner Hillary Clinton said she believes President Barack Obama’s planned mark of letting in 10,000 refugees isn’t enough. She wants to let in at least 65,000 Syrian refugees into the United States if she becomes president.
In an interview he did with CNBC, Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, said he believes that Syrian refugees shouldn’t be allowed into the United States at all. His reasoning for this is over his concern for the safety of the citizens living here.
“If Obama, through his weakness, let’s [Syrian refugees] come in, I’m sending them out if I win [the election],” Trump said in the interview.
There are also members of the Muslim American community who support Syrian refugees entering the United States, including Mansoor.
“[Syrian refugees are] being tortured in their country. [The United States] could provide them a better, healthier place to be. And who knows? Out of 10,000 refugees, imagine that 500 of those children could become engineers and doctors and give back to the society. You look through that vision, that they could contribute to our society and they can,” he said. “They’re not harmful at all. They’re broke. They have no homes, they have nothing else, their country has been tortured by non-Islamic people. Whoever is killing them in their country is non-Islamic.”
Presidential candidates on Muslims’ rights
Republican Donald Trump doesn’t want to just remove Syrian refugees, he also wants to ban all Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States.
In a recent poll conducted by FOX News, Democrats, Republicans and Trump supporters alike were asked if they supported Trump’s Muslim ban. Some were asked with his name mentioned, some were asked with his name not being mentioned at all.
FOX reported that 50 percent of Trump’s supporters support the Muslim refugees ban, while 46 percent do not support the ban.
When Trump’s name was not mentioned, 45 percent of Democrats who took the poll were in favor of the ban, while only 25 percent were still for it when Trump’s name was mentioned.
On the other hand, when Republicans were asked, while Trump’s name was mentioned, 71 percent of them were in favor, while 70 percent still supported it without his name mentioned.
The candidates’ take on hate Crimes Toward Muslim Americans
In 2015, from Dec. 7-11, there were 23 hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, according to U.S. Uncut, a news site that focuses on United States Politics.
Some of those crimes included vandalizing houses and mosques, as well as arson. There were also other violent acts against individuals as well as people posting threats against Muslims on social media, according to U.S. Uncut.
FBI statistics show a rise in these types of attacks toward Muslim Americans in the United States in 2015, leading many to predict that the rates will continue to rise.
There also was a spike in hate crime rates in San Bernardino after the terrorist attack on Dec. 2, 2015.
“We expected there to be an uptick,” Robin Toma, the executive director of the Los Angeles County Commission of Human Relations, said in an interview with the Southern California NBC affiliate. “We always hope and wish that we progress as a society [and] that people are less prone to acting out without thinking and not generalizing an entire group or religion based on the acts of a few, but we know that not everyone is there yet.”
In 2014, only one hate crime toward Muslims was recorded in San Bernardino, however after the attack in 2015, there were 11 recorded hate crimes in the area against Muslims in November and December alone, according to the Southern California NBC affiliate.
In September 2015, a 14-year-old Muslim boy from Texas, Ahmed Mohamed, went to school with a homemade electric clock and was arrested under suspicion of the device being a bomb.
After Mohamed’s story was released to the press, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton posted on Twitter, “Assumptions and fear don’t keep us safe – they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building.”
Trump has not publicly commented on this incident.
In 2011 when Clinton attended the annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum, she voiced respect and admiration toward Muslim Americans.
“I am proud that this year we are recognizing the contributions of the millions of American Muslims who do so much to make this country strong. As President Obama said in Cairo, ‘Islam has always been a part of America’s story,’ and everyday American Muslims are helping write our story,” Clinton said at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum.
Trump remains avid in his disapproval toward Muslims in the United States. At one point, he had even called for a “complete shutdown” on any Muslims entering the United States.
Trump has also said he would support implementing a database of all Muslims in the country, so all Muslims would be required by law to have special identification on them, according to NBC News. Trump has even gone as far to say that the Quran has a negative impact on the Muslim community, according to CBN News.
The illogical assumption that Muslim equals terrorist
There are upwards of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, 3.3 million of whom live in the United States.
Similar to Alawa, Mansoor believes that Muslims should not be associated with terrorists. He said the Muslim faith is not a “terrorist religion,” referring to the definition of Islam, which actually means peace.
“If someone, because of their ignorance or them being illiterate, under the umbrella of Islam, they do something that’s wrong, Islam does not teach that,” he said. “It actually negates all of there things… Islam eliminates all evil from the core. [If] someone does something just because he’s Muslim, he’s not practicing Islam.”
Various leaders from different nations have also taken stances to support Muslims, including Obama, who visited a mosque in Baltimore on Feb. 3. At the mosque, he gave a televised speech, expressing his views toward the act of comparing Muslims to terrorists.
“You see, too often, people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith… And of course, recently we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country,” Obama said in his speech.
Throughout the speech, Obama said many things that pointed to the importance of the First Amendment on the issue of religious rights.
“I already mentioned [the United States] founders like [Thomas] Jefferson knew that religious liberty is essential, not only to protect religion but because religion helps strengthen our nation if it is free; if it is not an extension of the state,” Obama said. “Part of what’s happened in the Middle East and North Africa and other places, where we see sectarian violence is religion being a tool for another agenda, for power, for control.”
Along with Obama, Mansoor believes in the importance of the U.S. Constitution, especially when it relates to religious freedom and liberty.
“To change the Constitution is actually spitting in the face of our forefathers who [wrote] the Constitution. They weren’t illiterate, they knew what they were doing. They read the Quran, they read the Bible, they knew who they were dealing with. They knew that if we work together, we can move forward. That is the foundation of this country, that is how far we have come,” he said.