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Islamophobia and the West: An Alarming Epidemic

The major media headlines debuting in the New Year have boasted that for the first time since 2010, the box office topped $1 billion in January. American Sniper brought in over $330 million, which will rank second all-time among R-rated movies behind The Passion of the Christ ($370.8 million) – which is quite telling in itself. In the article published by Al-jazeera titled “Hollywood shoots Arabs: The movie”, the authors affirm that while the film technically still classifies as art, it also serves as ammunition for the endemic and intensifying anti-Muslim sentiment in the West.

In the film, the gun-toting protagonist, Chris Kyle, targets “rag heads”- a crude term used against Arabs and Muslims alike. Every single Iraqi in the film is presumed guilty, and therefore are all equally deserving of the twisted justice Kyle is willing to repeatedly dish out. Kyle embodies utter disdain for Muslims in the film- yet unfortunately, this perception is not his view alone.

Shortly after the New Year came the emotional Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. This prompted unceasing headlines about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which flocked all popular media sources. Lamentably, a Jordanian pilot who was held hostage by the insurgent group was filmed being burned alive in a cage. Then, in response to the horrific act, the Jordanian government retaliated by hanging two of their al-Qaeda prisoners (a woman and a man) from ten years ago. These individuals, whatever their other crimes, had nothing to do with the gruesome ISIS murder- yet the state felt they had no other choice but to respond in such a manner.

Furthermore, on February 6th, an American hostage has been purportedly killed by the Islamic State extremists. Kayla Jean Mueller, who travelled to Syria to do humanitarian aid work, would be the fourth American to die while being held captive by ISIS militants. Three other Americans — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig — were also beheaded by the group. Yet we hear less about the numerous English and French aid workers, as well as countless Syrians, Iraqis, and Lebanese security officials and soldiers that have similarly been murdered by the insurgent group. American major media sources often solely emphasize the personal harm towards their nation’s victims that the extremists caused, when in reality their actions are pernicious everywhere.

The conclusion towards analyzing this horrific chain of violence seems simple to me. The only rational outlook is to put all religious convictions aside, and instead remember the fundamental truth that we are all human. The fact that we are all human beings and that no matter what, capturing, torturing and killing one another is inhumane and unacceptable. Using Islam, or any religion for that matter, as a justified motive for killing is offensive to other peaceful practitioners of said religion. Extremists are falsely using religion as a reason to hide behind their despicable acts – cowardly transferring the responsibility in the name of divine propriety. Manipulating the Quran’s verses to conduct harmful human rights violations, while simultaneously fulfilling a political agenda is despicable. However, the response from the West should not be to generalize. Despite recent outbreaks and Fox News demanding an explosive reaction, President Obama remains collected.

“It’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization…It also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they’re operating off of, it’s bankrupt. We are here to talk about how to make people healthier and make their lives better, and this organization appears only interested in death and destruction”, said the President on February 3rd.

The Islamophobia epidemic in the West, and arguably spreading throughout Europe, demonstrates a clear example of the populace’s mixed feelings in the context of an ideological conflict filled with rage and vulnerability. Applying the Quran seemingly to justify killing does not make it actually pertinent to Muslims today- that would be akin to taking the Old Testament literally for Christian fundamentalists, which explicitly condones many acts inadmissible in our society today. Ultimately, Islamophobia is being perpetuated by the actions of ISIS, and the manner in which the US interprets their actions as being representative of a greater segment of society. It is unfortunate that the latest box office hit, American Sniper adds to this phenomenon by conflating Iraqis, Arabs, Muslims, al-Qaeda and jihadists within the same broad category. We must always remember throughout this chaotic mess, that distinctions are relevant and extremely important, particularly to those being falsely labelled. 

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About Lara Gosselin

Concordia University Undergraduate student, Majoring in Political Science with a double Minor in Law & Society and Marketing. Lara has lived in Montreal for the past seven years, although remains tied to her hometown of Toronto. Her interest in U.S. politics derives from her numerous travels across the country, and second home in the southern-state of Florida. Lara joined the Political Bouillon in hopes to contribute to the active and opinionated student atmosphere of the city.

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