“With Islamophobia here in the U.S., is America really the place I want to raise my children?” Erin Tariq-Monir, an American Muslim from outside Des Moines, Iowa asked Tuesday.
It was a poignant question posed by a Muslim woman who served in the U.S. Air Forces and was sitting in the audience of the Democratic Party’s town hall meeting. Though there’s been some backlash about the questions asked to all the candidates that night and whether the questions were planted, it’s a question on the mind of many Muslim Americans — in particular those who have children.
According to a 2014 survey by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), 52 percent of Muslim students in California reported they had been targeted with verbal abuse by their non-Muslim counterparts. That number is twice the amount of bullying reports made nationally due to gender or race.
That was before the attacks in Paris and before San Bernadino. Since then, those abuses have been ratcheted up from verbal to physical threats and physical abuse. A 13-year-old boy in Ohio was allegedly threatened to be shot on the bus as he rode home from school, in addition to a barrage of disparaging comments like “towel-head,” “terrorist” and “the son of ISIS.” A 12-year-old girl from the Bronx was wearing hijab while she was allegedly punched by three boys while calling her “ISIS.” According to the Huffington Post, even CAIR received death threats.
As a matter of fact, there have been so many hate crimes against Muslims that the Huffington Post has kept a running record of the crimes being reported. At last count, since the Paris attacks there have been 80 hate crimes reported — and it was last updated on Dec. 16. In a month’s time, a time of brotherly love and the season of giving, there were 80 hate crimes reported to the Huffington Post!
Hillary Clinton’s response to her question?
“American Muslims deserve better. And now their children and they are the target of Islamophobia, of threats. I’ve met a number of parents who said their children are afraid to go to school because they are worried about how they will be treated. And we cannot tolerate this. And we must stand up and say every person in this country deserves to be treated with respect. And we must stand up against the bullying.”
She’s absolutely correct: No child should have to worry about going to school and being harassed by ignorant bigots because of their race, religion, culture, gender identity, etc. Children aren’t the only victims. Unfortunately, little ignorant bigots come from bigger ignorant bigots.
One of those incidents reported to the Huffington Post was of a woman in hijab being harassed and eventually physically threatened with a knife. She was at a carwash — washing her car — not at some ISIS rally!
As the New York Times reported last month, women have been the subject of hate-crimes and harassment simply because they are wearing hijab (Can someone please tell the public that Islam did not corner the market on headscarves?).
“It’s not only shameful and contrary to our values to say that people of a certain religion should never come to this country, or to claim that there are no real people of the Muslim faith who share our values, and to have the kind of dismissive and insulting approach. It’s not only shameful and offensive, which it is. I think it’s dangerous.”
ABC even put those discriminatory practices to a test in a social experiment on the most recent episode of “What Would You Do?”
It was a bit of a teaser, the woman in hijab versus the woman in “revealing” clothing trying to change a tire. Though I think the rest of the footage would have exposed just how Islamophobic our society is, it did demonstrate a marked difference in the way the two women were treated… and then they kind of sugar-coated it by showing those who saw a human being in distress either way.
A trip down memory lane through the history of U.S. conflicts reminds us that most of them were resolved with the help of our Muslim friends. That did not go unnoticed by the Democratic candidates, and the point was further driven home by Clinton:
Perhaps what went unnoticed by most, but stood out for me, was what she said at the very beginning of her response after she thanked Ms. Tariq-Monir for her question: “Thank you for serving in the military.”
I don’t think either one recognize the salience of that gratitude. Muslims have been defending the constitution since the American Civil War. Currently, there are almost 6,000 Muslims in the United States Military. That’s not much considering our army is comprised of more that 2 million men and women.
Clinton is right, we need “our Muslim friends and neighbors,” but I’m not sure how encouraged the Muslim youth in this country feel, when they are continuously being attacked with verbal threats and physical violence by their non-Muslim peers. How many mothers can look at their sons and daughters and encourage them to serve in the U.S. Military to defend a people that excludes them? For for years, Muslims have been part of this country’s fabric! Clinton had it right — its “shameful.”
At least the Democratic candidates get it — for all the blood, sweat and tears that Muslims poured into this country for its almost 240 year history, “American Muslims deserve better.”
Image: Screengrab from CNN Video