Stopping the Stereotypes



When Omar Hindi, Muslim Student Alliance member and senior, and his family went out to the Original Pancake House for lunch a couple of weeks after school had ended last year, nothing distinguished them from other seemingly “American” customers around them. Nothing, that is, except for the hijabs, a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women, that Hindi’s mother and younger sister had on. After finishing their meal, Hindi and his family went outside to take a family photo to commemorate the luncheon when a man hastily ran out of the restaurant to address them.

“There was a bike rack behind us and we didn’t touch it or anything; even my little sister who was 6 years old (at the time) didn’t touch the bikes,” Omar said. “As we were taking the pictures, one of the owners of the bikes ran outside of the restaurant, (telling us) in a loud voice to not touch the bikes. I don’t think that would have happened if we were non-Muslims and if my mom and sister weren’t wearing their hijabs. From what I saw, it was a hateful incident because there was no reason to rush out of the restaurant and tell us to not touch the bikes.”

Although this incident may indeed  be one triggered by religious stereotypes towards the Islamic religion, it is not an anomaly in the plethora of religious discrimination cases, especially ones targeted at the Islamic community.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.47.35 AMAccording to a Pew Research survey from December 2015, the same month fighters associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed or wounded hundreds in Paris, 46 percent of Americans said Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. According to the Bridge Initiative from Georgetown University, there were 53 hate attacks targeting followers of the Islamic religion, Islamic businesses and mosques­ in the month of December following the November attacks in Paris.

Anti-Islamic sentiments have also flared after Omar Mateen allegedly claimed loyalty to ISIS and opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12. CNN and USA Today called the incident the deadliest mass shootingconducted by a single person in U.S. history.

The day after the shooting, Donald Trump delivered a speech in which he called for a ban on Muslim immigrants to the United States.

“We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer,” Trump said.

However, violence is contrary to Islamic practices and beliefs, according to Hindi. Contrary to misconceptions, the Islamic religion stresses tranquility and non violence, he said.

“The Islamic religion is the idea of peace. The laws and customs within the religion is basically to protect the Muslims from their identity and religion. There’s a quote in the Qu’ran: ‘For every death, it’s like killing a village,’ and that’s obviously something that ISIS is doing,” Hindi said. “Based on the number of killings they’ve created, that means they would have killed a lot of villages. They are not exposing the real Islam, they are exposing their own type of Islam or maybe their own type of religion because in Islam, when you commit a murder, it is unjustified. That person would be considered a non-Muslim.”

PERSONAL PRAYER: Muslim and senior Omar Hindi engages in prayer. Hindi said groups such as ISIS deviate from the peaceful principles of Islam and misrepresent the Islamic community. SHRADDHA RAMNATH//PHOTO
Muslim and senior Omar Hindi engages in prayer. Hindi said groups such as ISIS deviate from the peaceful principles of Islam and misrepresent the Islamic community. SHRADDHA RAMNATH//PHOTO

Hindi defended the Islamic religion by stating that the religion is meant to represent peace, much like many other religions. He said Islamic terrorist organizations like ISIS deviate from the teachings of the faith and are misrepresentations of the Islamic community.

According to Hindi, most of the stereotypes toward Muslims are that they are terrorists, anti-American and suicide bombers. These false beliefs serve as an explanation for the discrimination he continues to face due to his religion.

“Unfortunately, I have experienced a lot of this (discrimination) after I moved to Carmel. It really angers me, but it didn’t change my view on Americans,” he said. “Not all Americans are racist. And if you think that, then that’s the same as thinking all Muslims are terrorists.”

According to Hindi, although the continuation of stereotypes within the context of the “progressive stance” of the nation towards religious minorities is a crucial issue that needs to be addressed, religious minorities are not the only demographic who are targeted by societal stereotypes; racial minorities are also subject to discrimination.

According to both Hindi and Dr. Ronald J. Stephens, professor and director of African-American studies at Purdue University, people are often influenced by society, their peers and their families into believing in the stereotypes imposed on people of different religions or races.

“We say we are a melting pot, but we live in a segregated society,” Stephens said. “These stereotypes are manifested to teens. Racism is learned, it is not born with. It is learned from institutions. (Teens) learn it from our government, they learn it from our churches, they learn it from their families, from their homes and in their communities.”

Michael Anderson, Black Student Union (BSU) member and junior, said African-Americans are often portrayed to utilize vulgar language and wear unbecoming hairstyles. Although she said she believes these stereotypes are further enhanced by the media, Stephens said the abundance of these stereotypes is due to their engravement into present-day society.

“The first (stereotype) has to do with sexuality. The first one about black men is that they are oversexualized, lazy and illiterate. Black women talk louder than men, (are) oversexualized and immoral. There’s a long history, a long histScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.46.45 AMorical narrative about these stereotypes, they didn’t just pop out of thin air,” Stephens said. “Many of them have to do with the conditions and predicaments that people of African descent encountered as immigrants in this country during slavery, before slavery and thereafter. It really stems back to the concept of inferiority and thinking that they are un-Christian people, people who are not considered citizens of the United States. A lot of it has to do with citizenship rights.”

Stephens said he attributes discrimination in the United States to the concept of inferiority that many perceive toward the race. He said much of the rise of racial discrimination toward African-Americans stems back to conditions and predicaments they faced as forced immigrants in this country nearly 200 years ago.

“When the Constitution was first written, slaves were not considered humans. They were considered three-fifths of a human,” he said. “The rights that were articulated in the Bill of Rights and practiced in the constitution and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments did not legally consider people of African descent to even be human. They had no rights, no legal rights, no rights at all.”

The United StatScreen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.47.02 AMes saw the election of the first African-American to presidential office in 2008 with current president Barack Obama, although the nomination and results of the election were met with dismay by some groups. Stephens attributed this controversy to the desire of the general population to continue the enforcement of societal standards that are conveyed in the discrimination of the minority.

“Part of the problem is that we live in a segregated society, still. When you live in a segregated society, you are boxed in because you don’t have encounters with other cultures. People live in a homogeneous community and they make ethnocentric decisions and comments about other groups who they do not have direct encounters with,” Stephens said. “When Barack Obama became the president of the United States, there has been a lot of talk that we live in a post-racial society, because we got our first black president. At the same time, there was talk about African-Americans trying to take over the country. In reality, African Americans only make up about 12 percent of the total population (and) they own none of the institutions in the United States.”

Despite strides taken by groups here at CHS such as BSU and MSA to further the public’s perception of the two minorities they represent, respectively, the general media that the public accesses does not pursue this goal. This is a concept that disturbs Hindi.

“I don’t like it when (people identify) Islamic terrorists (as Muslim), I don’t see that happening with white men when a group commits a crime. I have seen it with a lot of different races or religions. For example, when a black man commits a crime, the news says a black man committed this crime, they don’t just say a man committed this crime. They use the idea of skin color or belief that identify a human being, which is really wrong,” Hindi said. “Also, especially in my generation there are more people who are ignorant. The reason for that is because people with ignorance usually are taught (by) and listen to their parents, because naturally, people believe a lot of what their parents believe.”