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Simran Jeet Singh: Islamophobia, Sikhophobia and Media Profiling

12 July 2012 Huffington Post 8 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Islamophobia, Sikhophobia and Media Profiling

On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks shook the American nation to its core. Nineteen individuals associated with al Qaeda coordinated to hijack four passenger jets and use them as weapons of mass destruction. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 claimed approximately 3,000 lives, including all 256 passengers on the four planes, 125 people at the Pentagon and more than 2,600 people at the World Trade Center.

The global community watched the destruction and devastation with horror. Law enforcement agencies focused attention on detecting and preventing further terrorism on American soil, while news media scrambled to collect, synthesize and present an enormous amount of information in a remarkably short period of time. Photos and videos of the destruction flooded the news media, and these representations characterized the terrorists responsible for the attacks as fitting a Muslim, Arab or Middle Eastern profile. As a result, Islamophobia began to sweep across the nation.

Reports and studies demonstrate that an increasing mistrust of Muslims fueled a violent post-9/11 backlash throughout the U.S. Within a week of the terrorist attacks, Arabs, Muslims and South Asians registered more than 1,000 incidents of criminal discrimination, including murder, assault, vandalism and verbal harassment. According to crime statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. increased by 1,600 percent between 2000 and 2001. Furthermore, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that approximately 75 percent of hate crimes are not reported in official FBI statistics.

It is also important to note that Islamophobic violence is not a thing of the past, and unfortunately, we don’t have to look far to find a tragic example. A couple of months ago, five children in San Diego lost their mother in a hate-crime. Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi-American, was brutally beaten to death in her own home. Her daughter found her corpse in the living room, along with a note that read: “go back to your country, you’re a terrorist.”

In August of 2010, Time Magazine ran an article about the controversy surrounding the construction of an Islamic center near Ground-Zero, and the cover of that particular issue asked the question: “Is America Islamophobic?”

The national attention on President Obama’s religious background, the scandal related to NYPD surveillance of local Muslims, Quran burning displays in Florida — these are all recent examples of how Islamophobia operates within our society.

Strikingly, Muslims have not been the only targets of Islamophobic violence. A number of different American communities have been impacted by Islamophobia, and practitioners of the Sikh religion make up one of the most adversely affected minority groups. The distinctive physical appearance of typical Sikh males in particular — brown skin, turban, beard — correlates with the stereotypical images of terrorists projected in western media. Scholars have recently described this perceived relationship as a racialization of religious identity. This process has led to a conflation of Sikhs and Muslims, and therefore, has produced a corollary to Islamophobia — Sikhophobia.

In fact, the first casualty of a hate crime in post-9/11 America was a Sikh-American named Balbir Singh Sodhi. According to official reports, his murderer said he killed Sodhi because “he was dark-skinned, bearded, and wore a turban.”

In other words, Sodhi fit the profile of “the Islamic other.”

With law enforcement and news media fanning the flames, the increasing sense of Islamophobia has led Sikh-Americans to be publicly profiled as suspicious and threatening. For instance, the day after the 9/11 attacks, a turbaned Sikh male named Sher Singh was traveling from Boston to New York on an Amtrak train when it stopped in Providence, R.I. The FBI had sent federal agents, local police and bomb-sniffing dogs to arrest him. Officers rushed to the platform, pointed rifles at Singh and shouted “Get your f— hands up.” The officers removed him from the train at gunpoint and handcuffed him. According to a report by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, bystanders gathered around Sher Singh during the time of his arrest and began shouting obscenities and hate-speech, such as: “Kill him!” “Burn in Hell!” and “You killed my brother!” Strikingly, Sher Singh reported that one of the arresting officers joined in the vitriol by asking, “How’s Osama bin Laden?”

Neha Singh Gohil and Dawinder S. Sidhu have pointed out that the arrest of this Sikh-American male, as well as its widespread publicization, wrought major damage to the image of Sikhs in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

“News stations replayed the video of his arrest in connection with its coverage of the attacks, thus associating Singh and other turbaned Sikhs with the planners of the attacks. … Thus any connection between terrorists and a turbaned male with a long flowing beard was further embedded in the hearts and minds of emotional Americans. On the contrary, no media coverage followed news of Sher Singh’s release, just three hours later. There was no reason — beyond the turban and long beard — for the public or law enforcement personnel to be concerned about his presence on a train. In other words, he did nothing to arouse suspicion, aside from looking the way he did in a public space.”

Despite his innocence and relatively quick release, news stations continued to replay the arrest and detention of Sher Singh for the next three days, and this continuous loop helped shape and perpetuate basic stereotypes of “the Islamic other.” Moreover, the mutually reinforcing actions of racial profiling by the federal government and news media offered the general public with a sort of sanctioning of Islamophobia and Sikhophobia.

The consequences of these attitudes have been severe and costly. Since 9/11, tens of thousands of Americans have been alienated and victimized. The overly simplistic profile of “the Islamic other” has done more harm than good, and it has negatively affected Muslims and non-Muslims alike. From job discrimination and school bullying to racial profiling and police surveillance, the various manifestations of Islamophobia continue to divide the nation and increase tensions.
It’s time to leave behind our Islamophobic, Sikhophobic and other-phobic tendencies and look at one another as fellow human beings.

We can’t afford to produce more examples like Sher Singh, Shaima Alawadi and Balbir Singh Sodhi.

Follow Simran Jeet Singh on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@SimranColumbia
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8 Comments »

  1. “A couple of months ago, five children in San Diego lost their mother in a hate-crime. Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi-American, was brutally beaten to death in her own home. Her daughter found her corpse in the living room, along with a note that read: “go back to your country, you’re a terrorist.”” REALLY????????? the lies never end. TERRIBLE LIE. wait, wait. i guess that technically not a lie. muslim spin cracks me up. ya’ll are true politicians.

    http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/04/shaima-alawadis-murder-less-likely-to-be-a-hate-crime/

    mr. bennet,

    9/11 was ten years ago. so was this guy’s murder. of course this “newspaper” trys to make it “new” by tying it to a recent incident which it even knows is not true. well at least the loons at loonwatch know it. suprised they didn’t throw in the woman shot 6 times in NY, “for being muslim” oh shit that case is closed, the husband confessed to having set that up in like a day or two. shit can’t throw that out to the sheep like the “rate of enrty”?

    dongo,

    yet i’m a dirty fucking liar. lmfao. and still yet to see any proof of my lies. despite i write so much that my brain is fried. yet no one can post a single lie.

  2. Yes Mike, I did and if you do not see with your fried brain, because when brain in fried, you will see nothing with your eyes. Please try to contact an Artificial Intellignce specialist service company who may help in this regard. If you can’t see your own fault and pretend to see when someone tells you but you continue to deny, that is your own fault and none else’.

    Those who are asleep and awake at the same time, none can awake them or take them to sleep. That is very much applicable for you.

  3. csbsf,

    “Yes Mike, I did”, so please repeat it for me. i don’t recall. of all the “lies” i’m accused of posting, post one.

    “If you can’t see your own fault and pretend to see when someone tells you but you continue to deny, that is your own fault and none else’.” i have many faults, but lying isn’t one of them.

  4. Mike,

    Friend, surely I will repeat it for you. I won’t misquote/part-quote anyone just like you do. See for yourself.

    FBI investigates possible arson at Missouri mosque:

    You want evidence? Well, when you ask where you have distorted my/others’ posts, is not that enough? I wrote “In Russia, Islam is older that Orthodox Christianity.” You omitted “In Russia” and quoted me as if I said Islam is older that Orthodox Christianity. Does that suffice?
    //dongo

    16 July 2012 at 12:58 am

    Even this does not please you, I may refer you to another of your statements. You claimed to be a simpleton. Does a simpleton misquote/part-quote others, or does s/he use selective verses, references, examples, statements, actions from some people of a particular faith to smear the whole community/faith? You also said where you misquoted/part-quoted me. I think you need to check your writings.

  5. dongo,

    i tried to post the link. didnt take. anyways here is the majority of our exchange.

    Mike,

    Thanks for your post about the Tampa Bay Muslim swine. You see, the US authorities arrested him. But friend, you just posted the source, without mentioning in your post that this swine had already been declared as an outcast by two mosques. Let that swine rot in jail.

    And I request you not to select from anyone’s post and try to answer partially. You have many information at your disposal and I think you do not have face load-sheddin in US. So, why do you do that?

    //Dongo
    12 June 2012 at 11:18 pm dongo,

    i love ya man, no homo. anon already threw me with her AAs? so is CCP, cut, copy, paste? if so that’s not really acurate. u either cut or copy. funny if i’m right but my mind set, from your mention of the soviets, was CCCP, as in the uniuon of the soviet socialistic republic (ussr), but in russian of course. plus my dad was a rocket scientist and i once drew him a rocket… well it’s a long story. well back to my CCP.

    “Yes the US indeed helped the Muslims of E. Europe but you can see in ample instances that US assistance be it humanitarian/logistic/politico-military/religious, are never without vested interests” duh, we where worried about the destabilization of europe. one of our biggest trading partners. wasn’t you who pointed out the assasination attempt on the archduke ferdinand.

    “US turned a blind eye to that.” yes of course. what? you wanted a nuclear war? we turned a blind eye to tibet too. sometimes descretion is the better part of valor.

    you hold the west to too high of standard. of course we act in our best interest, just like you said “Of course, there are very few on earth who assist without motives” who know more history then i do. but check out the lincoln brigade. there are examples on both sides. america acts on the side of right sometimes and we sit nilly-willy sometimes.

    “US plus Europe had been dilly-dallying over Serb massacre of Muslims and Croats.” so where were the muslim nations? where was allah? how about sending some angels? like in the battle of badr? come on dude. don’t compare american foriegn policy to divine writ.

    “US and Europe had also been silent when the Saudi baseborne massacred 430 Iranian pilgrims inside the Mosque compound at Mecca.” agian where is the god of mecca?

    “If you judge the history” clearly you know much more history than i. history is fun, and those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. but can’t we move beyond these old grudges.

    “Islam is much older than Orthodox Christianity.” again your history is strong. is that a referance to the great schism of 1066? but seriouly what does that matter?

    “Yet, I am ready to counter him” cool. you have a good one. i got a bit more vodka to drink and then it’s bedtime. it’s 12:24pm here, or maybe that is 00:24 to you? either way if i don’t hear from you tonite, have a good one.

    //mike
    12 June 2012 at 11:27 pm You are both right and wrong, Mike. The CCP I used was to refer all. See, you did that I told. The CCCP is SSSR in Russian which means Soyuz Sovetskykh Sozialystycheskykh Respublika which is English stands for USSR.

    The God of Mecca did not help even during the battle of Tours. Why should He help where Muslims are massacring each other?

    I think we need to know history because the presetn/ongoing rivalry between Muslims has its roots in the past and the present will decide the future to a very large extent.

    No. I did not and do not want nuke wars. But when the Caucasus conflict erupted in 2008, the US and the West did not care for a nuke war while aiding Georgia.

    The Kosovars had an arms embargo on them. What could the Muslim nations do without their Daddy West’s consent except OIC-eeing? I did not say Islam to be much older than Orthodox Christianity, I said Islam was much older in Russia than Orthodox Christianity. And yes, Russia destroyed the Muslims in Caucasus and Siberia settling the Slavs therein.

    //Dongo

    so i say ““Islam is much older than Orthodox Christianity.” again your history is strong. is that a referance to the great schism of 1066? but seriouly what does that matter?” how is that a lie. even if i’m historically wrong, it doesn’t matter. like i say. but seriously what does it matter. plus despite your strong history i guess you never heard of saint andrew?

  6. Mike,

    I know of that holy soul. He is the patron saint of Scotlandm, Ukraine, Romania, Grrece, Russia. Why should not I be informed of this great human being?

    Whatever you say, try to remain fair, not by your skin and hair colous but by your deeds too. Why don’t you see that you are a liar? Your howling may rock the Almighty’s throne but even then you will remain the lousy liar you have always been.

  7. Mike,

    I know no schism of 1066. That year had one important event I know which is the Norman conquest of England. You may know better.

    The reason I keep repeating Russian examples is that the Russians destroyed the entire Muslim communities in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Now these lands (save Eastern Europe to a large extent) are very largely slavic occupied. I think if those lands were available, Muslims would probably give second thoughts before migrating to non-Muslim lands as the earlier lands are pretty resource rich and big in size. Thus they should not be creating so much of problems they are in non-Muslim lands now.

    You are now referring many of my posts but think again what you did before. You mis/part-quoted many others including mine, yet kept denying; so, why are you now asking me where you lied?

  8. Both the Russians and Chinese destroyed amazing numbers of their own people, thru genocide and mismanagement. So were the communists scriptures to blame, or was it just them?

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