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The definition ‘hate crime’ emerged in the 1980s in New York City when a Black person was murdered for making an attempt to evade violent mob of youngster shouting racial epithets in Howard Beach. Since then, the term has been used variable by media and government to refer to several incidents. However, despite its wide use, one thing stands out; that hate crimes might o might not be associated with intense animosity between the offender and the victim. Additionally, the offender and the victim might be holding grudge against one another for various reasons, regardless of belonging to a similar ethnicity or religious sect. For instance, two white males can hold hated against one another when competing for a particular opportunity such as promotion at their workplace. Hate crimes can be perceived or reflected in various fields such as discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, ethnicity, political or religious origin as well as attitudes towards a particular social class in the society such as the homeless. In this article, I examine hate expressed towards Islam and Muslim community in America, as well as its adverse impact on health of the victims.
Given that its outcomes are unhealthy; it is important to pay attention to Islamophobia. One of the most hate crimes that are deeply rooted, not only in the west, but also many parts of the world is fear and dislike of Islam (lslamophobia). Ideally, the topic revolves around holding sentiments against people professing Islam as their religion. The recent increase in Islamophobia has created significant stigmatization of Muslims in America across in schools, public places as well as health sector. Importantly, the stigmatization has adverse effects, not only to their health, but also other systems.
Apparently, Islamophobia stigmatization affects Muslims adversely in both individual and societal level. On the individual level, discrimination as a result of professing Islam results in increased stress, isolation and concealment of identity in public places (Samari). On a wide perspective, Islamophobia adversely affects social relationships and processes of socialization between members of the Muslim community and other communities.
Nevertheless, Islamophobia expressed in mainstream media and institutional policies has a negative impact on people that profess the religion. According to mainstream media, the interaction between ordinary laws and Islam regulations is like a war. Islam is associated with various current terrorism incidences such as the current Syria crisis, the attacks on San Benadin, Paris bombing and Brussels. As a result, sentiments against Muslims have risen greatly in the West.
Before and after 9/11, depiction of evils and consequently, hate of Muslims has been growing. Interestingly, after the recent bombings and attacks, the anti-Muslim hated has increased five fold that of post 9/11 bombing. Despite that the hate declined in 2014, in 2013 the hatred was significantly high. The hatred is portrayed in a form of pervasive fear and dislike of Muslims. The open portrayal of hate is evident in America. For instance, 3 Muslims were shot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2015. In the same year, Ahmed Mohammed was removed from a school because his colleagues and teaches perceived him as a ticking time bomb that could explode any time.
American Muslims originate from a variety of backgrounds, and most of them have lived in America for significantly long. However, despite their deep roots, cases of harassment of Muslims in learning institutions, vandalism and defacing of mosques, freezing of Muslim charities and assets and racial profiling cases in streets and airports are common. Islamophobia has also been expressed in other parts of the world. For example, since 1990, 15 Middle East countries experienced conflicts that led to displacement of several individuals, most of whom were Muslims. The number is significantly large, given that there are 22 counties in the region.
Islamic religion is the second largest in the world. In America alone, approximately 3.5 million people, most of who are African Americans, Asian and Arabs profess the religion. There are studies that predict that Islam will be the religion with most members in the USA by 2050(Samari).The word Islamophobia emerged in 1997 in Runnymede Trust report. The document defined the profiling as hostility, fear and dislike of Islam whose basis is unfounded. However, according to some students, the main sources of the phobia are the USA discriminatory practices enforcing, not only xenophobic, but also racial boundaries around Islam. It ahs be been used to define citizenship.
History reveals that various laws have also been created to permit open discrimination of Islam and people associated with the religion. For example, in 1944, the USA courts rejected application for citizenship Islam or possessing Muslim ancestry. The 1979 Iranian revolution media coverage about Muslims were significantly negative. In the 1980s, stereotypical images were applied to communities whose origin is the Middle East, including Sikhs and Muslims. In 1996, the enactments of Anti-terrorism and Effective Death penalty Act saw excessive investigation and deportation of American Muslims linked to terrorism. In 2001, Patriot Act gave the USA authorities powers to conduct massive surveillance, and profiling Muslim Americans and other people that look like Muslims leading to social segregation and differential treatment that limited access to resources for Muslim Americans.
Muslims are associated with terms such as radical, fanatic, terrorism and war, most which speed fear. The phobia rose sadly after the 9/11 and levelled off in the late 2000s.Howeve, the rate rose significantly after the 2010 Ground Zee mosque controversy according to government crime data, media coverage and public opinion. In the ground zero incident, people held demonstrations to oppose construction of a mosque at Ground zero, which is attributed to media portrayal of Islam.
Opposition to Muslim Americans is expressed openly. Some Muslim Youths also experience bullying in schools, which impairs their leaning process. In the health sector, Islamophobia is reflected, but health researches rarely pay attention to the stigma. Islamophobia’s adverse effects are reflected on social relationships, exacerbation of stress and reduced access to health-enhancing resources translates to adverse health impacts on Muslims.
Structural conditions such as policies of immigration that target Muslim immigrants is a form of stigma. . Ideally, stress emanates from loss of status, stereotyping and labeling as well as discrimination. Nevertheless, the feelings of unfair treatment promote stress, thereby having an impact on their health. A variety of mental and physical health outcomes associated with stigmatization as a result of being a Muslim include calcification of coronary arteries, , low birth weight infants, high blood pressure, c-creative protein and psychological distress. Nevertheless, their participation in healthcare reduces significantly.
Discrimination occurs on the basis of nativity, physical appearance and race. For example, people wearing hijab and turbans, having a particular skin tone, speaking a particular accent and having various physical markers are vulnerable of Islamophobia and its related discrimination regardless of their religion and countries of origin. Recently, in the UK, a link between religious discrimination and racism has been established. For instance, people from Bangladesh, Pakistani, India, Asia, Africa, and Saudi Arabia have a high likelihood of recoding one or more discrimination experiences.
Interaction with the healthcare system is one of the issues associated with stigmatization on the basis of being a Muslim. It is important to point out the potential effects of Islamophobia on various aspects of public health including heath equity. The relationship between Islamophobia and health cannot be underestimated in America. Despite that Islam advocates for healthcare seeking in the incidences of ailment, the discrimination alienates Muslims from healthcare system. The people are stressed, become socially isolated and reduce their level of participation in health promoting behaviors. Impaired communication between caregiver and patient might result as a result of discrimination as well as a result of discomfort with healthcare providers.
Public hostility affects their social lives adversely. The Islam believers are forced to conceal their identity in public. However, such self marginalization increases psychological disturbance that eventually translates to an increase in heart rates and a rise blood cortisol. The resulting prolonged activation of allostatic system translates to wearing out of regulatory system. Paranoia and psychological distress might result from stress as well.
Islamophobia is one of the hate crimes that seem to be accepted in present-day America. The phobia is rooted in American discriminatory rules and policies. The expression of hate and fear for Islam is not only expressed in the USA, but also many parts of the world. Media plays a significant role is demonizing the religion and its people. However, the resulting isolation and stress translate to educed interaction between medics, caregivers and Islam believers. It also limits the Islam from leading healthy lifestyles.
Goleen Samari. Islamophobia and Public Health in the United States. American Journal of Public Health: November 2016, Vol. 106, No. 11, pp. 1920-1925.