Middle East studies in the News
Professors Talk Islamophobia [incl. Brian Levin and Ahlam Muhtaseb]
by Josh Adamson
Suspicion towards Islam and anti-Muslim hate crimes are increasing across the US.
Such actions were recently seen in the arrest of three men who allegedly planned to use a weapon of mass destruction to target Somali immigrants in western Kansas.
"Social surveys indicate we are experiencing the highest level of anti-Muslim prejudice in recent history, with Muslims representing the most disdained religious faith in the United States," stated Brian Levin, director of the CSUSB Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
Hate crimes against Muslims rose by 89 percent in 2015, according to an article by Levin in The Huffington Post.
Levin anticipates that around 280 anti-Muslim crimes will occur in 2016.
This hate crime increase coincides with several recent developments.
"These include elevated levels of prejudice and fear directed against Muslims domestically, highly publicized terror attacks and bigoted pronouncements by violent Salafist Jihadist extremists directed at Americans and Europeans, and the coalescence of populist sociopolitical movements in the West that lean toward Euro-Nationalist identity and away from greater international engagement in such things as existing trade agreements to immigration," added Levin.
More than fifteen anti-Muslim crimes occurred in the two weeks after the December 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attacks, according to Levin.
The attacks were followed by a proposal from Donald Trump to institute a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Other professors were critical of the media's role in spreading Islamophobia.
"Old media tropes about Islam and Muslims are being recycled in our mainstream media, creating only one or two media images of Muslims and Islam," stated Communication Studies Professor and Interim Director of the Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Ahlam Muhtaseb.
The media frequently associate Islam and Muslims with oppressed women or terrorism, among other images, added Muhtaseb.
Although Muhtaseb was critical of Trump, she argued that Islamophobia is already present in US institutions.
"Trump just brought [Islamophobia] to the surface along with other forms of racism [and] sexism," added Muhtaseb.
Both professors agreed that there are many ways for students to decrease Islamophobic biases.
"Reach out to Muslim students and communities in an effort to get to know them and dispel the myths about them," stated Muhtaseb.
Individuals should also avoid media like "24" and "Homeland "that include stereotypes of Muslims and Islam, added Muhtaseb.
Opportunities at the university may also be beneficial.
"Students can read more about different faiths and interact with different adherents, as well as take advantage of some of the excellent classes we have on campus," stated Levin. "Furthermore, [students] should be aware that there is an industry devoted not to legitimate analysis and critique of religions, but rather to defaming them with prejudice and stereotyping."
The need to be open-minded about Islam was expressed by students as well.
"I feel that students in general should be more open-minded by listening to people with different religious beliefs and not contradicting their beliefs," stated student Marlen Covarrubias.
"Not knowing the backgrounds of such people can lead to fear," added Covarrubias.
Current circumstances in the country may preclude Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes from decreasing for some time to come.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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