When “Muslim” Became an Insult
22 Dec 2011 04:41 GMT
The presidency of Barack Obama is coming to a close and the United States is now on the brink of another presidential election cycle. Barack Obama will be probably seeking a second term, which in terms of policies may be good news for Muslims. This is because the right in the United States has taken an increasingly Islamophobic stance which has bordered on the ridiculous in the last decade. What may not be such good news for Muslims in the United States is that it is quite likely that Barack Obama's political opponents will resort to Islam-bashing and hateful speech in an effort to discredit Barack Obama before an increasingly xenophobic population.

In the 2008 election, the right wing latched on to the notion that Barack Obama is a Muslim due to his Arab middle name, Hussein. When it became clear that Barack Obama is a christian, they went on to denounce him as a “secret Muslim.” As the campaign went on it was clear that the smearing of Islam had gone too far. At one point the McCain campaign tried to step back a little from all the disparaging remarks, but the damage had already been done; Muslim is an insult in the United States, little more than a racial slur for many people. A typical example of this happened one time involving senator McCain himself. On one occasion a woman approached senator McCain claiming that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Senator McCain responded by saying that Barack Obama was not a Muslim, but rather a decent family man. The implications of this, that somehow Muslims are indecent and against families is staggering in what it means to the status of Muslims in modern American society.

While traditionally calling someone a “Jew” or “Gay” implying the negative stereotypes associated with these terms is extremely frowned upon in American society, this standard does not exist for Islam. Calling someone a “Muslim” as an insult, referencing negative stereotypes about Arabs, is perfectly acceptable and done every day in the media and in public discourse. This goes even further than it does in Western Europe.

While in Western Europe the recent widespread Islam-bashing has its basis in fear of immigrants coming into their countries, in the United States this sentiment against Muslims carries a darker and more violent connotation. The sentiment in Europe against Muslims is quite similar to the typical attitude of Americans in regards to Mexican and Central American immigrants. The American attitude against Muslims, however, must be placed into a context that makes it much more worrying. After all, the United States has been carrying out military actions simultaneously in three countries that are predominantly Muslim: Iraq, Afghanistan, and most recently Libya. While these wars can be justified as being fought to topple totalitarian regimes and actual threats to the American people, the view of the American public is somewhat different. In the eyes of mainstream America, the wars are being fought against the Muslims in those foreign places. In that sense, the use of “Muslim” as an insult is more similar to the use of “Jap” or “Kraut” during the Second World War, both completely unacceptable terms in today's society. It's worrying to consider that today Muslims are considered the enemy.

-- Al Arabiya Digital

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