What it’s like to be Muslim in the US, especially in military: Islamophobia report
It is estimated that over 3.3 million Muslims reside in the United States as of 2015 and that the number is predicted to double by 2050, according to the Pew Research Center (PRC).
As per recent reports, there are an estimated 5,900 U.S. service members in the military today who self-identify as Muslims, making up 0.27 percent of both the reserve and active components of the military.
Therefore, in most cases, Muslim service members find themselves being single digit representatives of their religion in their various platoons, left alone to answer basic queries regarding Islam.
Marine reservist 1st Sgt. Jamal Baadani, aged 45, explains that before 9/11, being Muslim in the military was not an issue at all. However, since the attack, Islamophobia in the army and the wider U.S. spiked, creating a major divide. This has only been made worse over the years and particularly this year after ISIS attacks in San Bernardino and Paris.
The experiences of Muslim soldiers who joined after 9/11 have however been different. For Ahmed Shama, he experienced quite a notable amount of discrimination and alienation. At some point, he reports that a drill instructor referred to him as ‘al-Qaida terrorist,’ and the instructor has later issued a warning, World Religion News reported.
These levels of Islamophobia have been seen even in other areas. A while back, there were reports of soldiers at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba shredding the Holy Islamic Book the Qur’an.
In a video published last week by Cut, “On Being Muslim in the US Military,” Muslim veterans are interviewed about their experiences in the military. When asked if he had ever been asked to do something that goes against his faith, one man responded, “Yeah, um, killing. That’s in conflict with my belief. Going against people of my same religion is conflict in my faith.” When asked if Islam is under attack in America, a woman responded “I try not to let people’s negativity absorb into my heart. I try every day to make sure I go to bed with a clean heart, purified of all negative energy, all negative talk, thoughts, all that.”
Another man said “I do not think that Islam is really directly under attack. The more I learn about America, even now, and the more I learn about Americans, the more respect I have for America and Americans. And more respect I have for my even own religion.”
According to Shadi Hamid, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, the increased hate was recently confirmed when in the just concluded presidential elections, GOP presidential front-runner, and current president-elect Donald Trump called for the barring Muslims from entering the United States, a stance which surprisingly received a lot of support.
Hamid thinks that this hardline response from Republican politicians was as a result of President Obama’s stance on how ISIS “had nothing to do with the religion of Islam.”
Baadani who is also the president and founder of the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military says that there have however been great strides by Pentagon over time to be inclusive of the Muslim military community.
These range from the introduction of Muslim prayer rooms at the military academies followed by invitations for imams to serve in the academies to the observation of Islamic holidays like Ramadan Iftar which saw 140 people in attendance at the Pentagon.
These efforts by military leaders have been very deliberate in a bid to attract and keep Muslims and Arab-Americans, a very practical and strategic move particularly due to the ongoing wars in the Middle East.
For many non-Muslims, separating extremism from Islam has been a hard concept. If not addressed, this is bound to cause an even greater problem in the years to come.
Criminal hate crime incidents reported to police increased 6.8 percent in the United States in 2015, according to official FBI data released recently
There were 5,850 incidents in 2015, compared to 5479 reported in 2014, the widely anticipated report showed, Huffington Post reported.
In a period of heightened anti-Islamic prejudice, increased terror attacks, and political vitriol, hate crimes against Muslims surged 67 percent from 154 in 2014 to 257 in 2015, the second highest number on record since national reporting commenced in 1992.
In 2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks anti-Muslim hate crime peaked at 481 and had been in a range of 105 to 160, until 2015’s breakout. Anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015 showed a significant increase in the proportion of hate crimes from the previous year as well. Anti-Muslim hate crimes accounted for 4.4 percent of all hate crimes in 2015, up from 2.8 percent for 2014.
The FBI anti-Muslim hate crime numbers for 2015 were right in line with original estimates released in September by California State University San Bernardino’s Center for the study of hate and extremism and reported in the New York Times, “The new study from Levin’s nonpartisan group, based on official police reports in 20 states, estimated that there were about 260 hate crimes against Muslims nationwide in 2015.”
In the September study 4.5 percent of all hate crimes were directed against Muslims, again very close to the FBI numbers for the whole nation
Over half of all hate crime, 3,310 or 56.6 percent, was committed on the basis of race, 52.7 percent of which was anti-black and 18.5 percent anti-white. African Americans comprise 13 percent of the US population.
Religiously motivated hate crime totaled 1,244 and comprised 21.3 percent of all hate crime, of which 53.3 percent was anti-Jewish, 20.7 percent was anti-Muslim and 4.3 percent anti-Catholic. Less than two percent of the population is Jewish, and about one percent are Muslim. There were 299 anti-Latino hate crimes in 2015.
On the other side, Muslim women in America are too afraid to wear their hijab, as the Muslim community expressed fear and shock after Republican Trump was confirmed as President of the U.S., after months of anti-Islamic stands. Many of them are taking to Twitter, Khaleej Times Newspaper reported
Some Muslims feel worries about their children as they may experience bullying at school because Trump’s victory validated the mainstreaming of Islamophobia. Some women are afraid to wear their headscarves in public in case this invites physical or verbal assault.” Other Muslims said they feared that Trump would install anti-Muslim activists, whose work he has promoted, in powerful roles at the Justice Department and other agencies.
It is noteworthy that the national office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, from its side, has noted a spike in incidents targeting American Muslims and other minority groups since the November 8 presidential election. More than 100 anti-Muslim incidents have occurred across the country, according to CAIR.