In Obama’s final State of the Union, he calls attention to the propaganda that has been used to create Islamophobia in our nation. The term Islamophobia signifies the prejudice Americans have towards Muslims. This is due to lack of information or ignorance about Islam. Obama mentions how part of the propaganda ISIL uses is that the terrorists represent Islam, “one of the world’s largest religions.”
Unfortunately, this has led to hate crimes occurring across the United States that have targeted Muslims. When a pig’s head is thrown at a mosque, it makes us no better than them. Obama quotes Pope Francis to shame these types of anti-Muslim sentiments: “to imitate hatred and violence of the tyrants and murders is the best way to take their place.”
The terrorists know that America has had a long and divisive history with race. We have had slaves and segregated schools. We have had policies that ban individuals from entering the United States, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act. After Pearl Harbor, we had Japanese-American internment camps. However, we have also learned from our history and are continuing to make progress. We are able to understand how absurd it is to target an entire group of people based on the actions of ISIL who as Obama notes should be called by what they are: “killers” and “fanatics.”
However, as we continue to make progress, children are being bullied in schools based on how they look, act, or dress. Many Muslim students report being called: ISIS, Osama Bin Laden, or Taliban at school. Muslim girls wearing hijabs report having it pulled or yanked off. South Asian Americans, who come from varying religions, such as Sikhs, report being targeted based on how they look.
Unfortunately, this is a systemic problem due to lack of knowledge or misunderstanding about Islam and ISIL. It will be up to the us to make sure we address these issues with the next generation of children. We will need to build multicultural competence in our children by investing in their cultural well-being.
Hybrid parenting allows for parents to get a Cliff’s Notes version of religions around the world. It provides them with the knowledge they need to address concepts like “What is Islam?” or “What do Muslims believe and practice?” with their children. The site also provides child-friendly resources, such as children’s books for any child who wants to learn more. To combat Islamaphobia for future generations, we need to start by providing our children with the right types of knowledge and resources. We need to address their questions and their curiosity.
As Obama posits: “We live in a time of extraordinary change- change that’s reshaping that way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world.” Let’s embrace this change to make us a stronger, more united nation.
By Amita Roy Shah, Ed.D.