Saying insh’Allah, working out some intense math problems, or simply requesting a glass of water can get you kicked off a plane these days. That is, if you are Muslim, or appear to be. Anti-Muslim racism seems to be at it’s highest in the United States in decades. There’s simply no way to escape it as bigotry permeates American politics, society, and media.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric has played a key role in this year’s presidential race. Calls to ban Muslims, police Muslim communities, and policies that violate civil liberties of Muslims in America have been met with great support. Research demonstrates that almost half (47%) of Americans admit to prejudice against Muslims. A similar proportion (46%) believe that Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Others have encouraged litmus tests for Muslims to prove their “Americanness.”
In response to this dangerous rise in Islamophobia, a group of activists, journalists, and academics have come together to create a video campaign to combat anti-Muslim racism. Arun Kundnani serves as the co-director and executive producer of the series. He is the author of The Muslims are Coming, an in-depth research and analysis of how the security state with its policies of surveillance and use of informants under the framework of the ‘war on terror’ has impacted Muslim communities across both the US and UK.
“More people are killed in the US by right-wing terrorists than by Muslims. And yet Muslims are seen as inherently violent. This serves a purpose: without the dehumanization of Muslims, the violence of the War on Terror – from torture to drone strikes – could not be legitimized. It’s time for all of us to take a stand,” says Kundani.
The videos capture the hysteria that comes with anti-Muslim racism along with the very real fear Muslims experience. “The Ban” video released last week, involves a Muslim woman, played by leading civil rights attorney Lamis Deek, who is dragged from her home by officers in an effort to remove her from society. It calls attention to mass surveillance, deportation, interrogation and imprisonment of Muslims all in violation of their basic civil rights and liberties. Hence, the hashtag promoted by the videos #MuslimsHaveRights.
The second video, set to release later this month, seeks to showcase the absurdity of the FBI’s surveillance of Muslims. A New York Police Department document lists changing to “traditional Islamic clothing” and “growing a beard” as indicators for “radicalization.” The indicators are so broad that ordinary behaviors and choices are now viewed as potential threats, making every Muslim a suspect. These unconstitutional policies single out Muslims and Muslim communities. Instead of relying on data and proven indicators like criminal history, the FBI and even President Barack Obama believe religious behavior can predict who will become a terrorist.
Media has played a major role in shaping this narrative that Muslims are fundamentally different and therefore cannot be American. The wider public completely forgets that almost a third of slaves that were forcibly moved to this country were Muslims. The third President of this country, Thomas Jefferson, even used the Qur’an when writing the Declaration of Independence.
Muslims are a part of America’s history and social fabric. We are your teachers, lawyers, doctors, activists, students, neighbors, small business owners, actors/actresses, etc. Muslims have made immeasurable contributions in history including inventing Algebra and building the first University and hospital.
So, as the video proposes, when these policies are done targeting Muslims, who will be next? The only way to stop this cycle of structural violence and racism, is for the American public to take a stand against it. Because if you didn’t know it before, you should know now that Muslims have rights, and we’re not going to passively accept these violations.
It could be your rights that are taken away next.
Join the movement and share the videos! Be sure to use #MuslimsHaveRights.