Quick judgement, stereotypes causes hatred

Autumn Kunkel and Autumn Kunkel

In the U.S., Islam isn’t exactly a favored religion.

In fact, according to a recent Gallup Poll, Americans have a more negative attitude towards that religion than any other practiced in the country, with 22 percent of Americans reporting that Islam is “not too favorable,” and another 31 percent reporting that the religion is “not favorable at all.”

This makes up a whopping 53 percent of Americans who have a less than desirable attitude towards Islam itself, with a slightly smaller number reporting feelings of prejudice towards actual Muslims. So, what’s the cause of this phenomenon? To me, the answer is quite simple: ignorance, negative stereotypes and fear, a fatal combination.

According to the data cited above, most Americans know little-to-nothing about the religion. More specifically, 40 percent say they have “very little knowledge” of the religion while 23 percent say they have “none at all.”

This ignorance alone is detrimental to Muslims in American society, as it aids in creating an exclusive environment, one in which the minority is subject to hate and discrimination. But when negative stereotypes are added to the mix, this travesty is made considerably worse.

One example that demonstrates this notion is a story that recently surfaced about a 10-year-old Muslim boy who was kicked off a bus for saying an Arabic prayer. According to various news sources, the bus driver apparently called the child a “terrorist” and told him to “get off” the bus.

Now, initially, one might claim that the bus driver was merely uncomfortable with the act of public prayer, but the last part of the story, the part in which he calls the boy a “terrorist,” essentially puts that notion to rest.

That last biting remark and the blatant discrimination demonstrates that this was not the product of mere discomfort rather than sheer hostility and misunderstanding.

“Terrorist,” of course, is the main stereotype that many Americans attach to Islam and Muslims, which has been heightened and fervently held to especially since 9/11.

The fact that the driver jumped to such a conclusion only exemplifies the deep-seated ignorance, fear and prejudice Americans have in regards to the religion as well as its practicing counterparts.

Media representations, or perhaps more fittingly misrepresentations, of Islam only feed into the negative stereotypes and perceptions associated with Islam.

As mentioned above, negative stereotypes are a driving force behind unfavorable attitudes towards the religion and the people who follow it and media outlets almost always give in to these general misconceptions.

Take the coverage of any threat or act of terrorism, for example. The media is quick to cover a story and identify the culprit if it involves a Muslim, but how often does one hear about their non-Muslim American counterparts and the acts of terrorism they commit?

All over the country, mosques are threatened, defaced and even destroyed by citizens, but very rarely is it ever thoroughly addressed.

With the constant media coverage of extreme Muslims and the crimes they commit, and the lack of similar coverage of their non-Muslim American counterparts, it’s no wonder that most Americans hold to their unfavorable attitudes towards Islam and Muslims on the whole.

Hostility and contempt for Islam and Muslims is only brought about due to ignorance, negative stereotypes and fear. Most Americans don’t realize that most Muslims are peaceful and simply want to be treated as equally as their non-Muslim American counterparts.

Perhaps if more people were educated on the matter, the fear and hatred would disappear, and society as a whole might be more accepting.

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