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Identified By Faith And Association
Every time you are out and about, without even registering the thought, you are profiling the people you pass by, subconsciously putting them into groups based on skin colour and race. For example: White, Chinese, Black, Mexican and Muslim. That doesn’t sound right does it? Through daily interactions with people you can imagine each of these groups, and even though a Muslim is not defined by skin colour, race or appearance, you have a perceived image of what kind of person fits the bill. Being identified by faith has become more common among the Asian community, more so recently. Instead of being identified by our ethnicity such as being Pakistani, Indian or Bengali, we are referred to as Muslim. But how does that work? You can’t make the assumption by looking at someone that they are Muslim. Being a Muslim and following Islam is a religious belief and has nothing to do with where you are from and what you look like. It is true that the vast majority of Muslims are from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, but it doesn’t mean they should be generalised and profiled together. There are Pakistanis, Indians and Somalis that follow Christianity because they believe in those beliefs more and it rings truer for them. However, there are also Muslims of other races that have converted to Islam.
In my opinion, this identification was started by the media through the stories portrayed. This, coupled with the words used, has led to profiling and then spread through word of mouth. This profiling by association isn’t something that has happened recently; it’s been developing for years. Currently, we have been in the midst of terrorist attacks around the globe with some of the more recent being in the UK and France. The people identified in these attacks have been said to be Islamic extremists. The media portraying the individuals involved are not wrong in calling them so. These individuals are Muslim and are using their beliefs as reasons to carry out the attacks, but identifying them as Muslims instead of by their race, or country of origin, is instead fanning the flames, linking the two. Media is very influential, so the more individuals are associated to the religion, the more people begin to see them as the same thing. It has got to a point where people view being Muslim and Asian as the same.
The theory behind the assumption is shown through the few examples used below. An article published by the BBC relating to the 9/11 attack in the US, pointed fingers at Osama Bin Laden, known as being an Islamic Militant. Islamic Extremism is defined by the British Government as “any form of Islam that opposes the respect and tolerance for others religious beliefs”. Was there any reason behind the detail that Bin Laden was an Islamic extremist or was it used to say that Bin Laden is Muslim, he believes these ideologies, maybe the rest of the Muslim population do as well?
Another example would be the London bombings which took place on 7/7 in which suicide bombers detonated in various locations. The individuals involved were British born citizens and identified by the media as so. However, further information was also circulated. An article posted in The Telegraph six days after the attack, identified two of the attackers as “young British-born Muslims”. What’s the reason behind this provided information? All it does is show another attack being carried out by people of the same religion. These attacks happened over twelve years ago and to this day, we still associate the attackers to their religion.
The recent Manchester Arena bombing and the two London Bridge attacks identified individuals involved as being Muslim. Now, after all these attacks and the association that certain extremists are Muslim and that they carry out these acts based on what they think is their religious belief, it starts mapping the idea in the public’s mind that maybe other Muslims share the same views. If so, what does Islam teach and will there be more terror attacks because of this? This identification has become so common that even myself as a British born Pakistani, when I hear of terror attacks, my mind straight away thinks of Muslims, Pakistanis etc. It is not just non-Asians that think this.
Islamophobia was introduced as a concept in a report by The Runnymede Trust, published in 1991, in which it defined Islamophobia as the “unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslim”. Islamophobia can’t be argued or disregarded, it has been created out of fear, associating the attackers to the religion through the news we hear on extremists. As I mentioned before, this association and identification started with the media, but they didn’t come up with this by themselves. No, they heard this from extremists. Organisations like ISIS and Boko Haram claim they carry out these acts under Islam, and because these are the most news worthy reports, when something horrific happens, people see this and believe what they are being told. Instead of forming their own opinions, they go with what’s being said because it is easier than doing their own research into it. But what has all this amounted to? A 40% increase in daily hate crime in London as reported by The Guardian.
Being identified by faith is the present normality, and it will continue but not everyone sees it that way so there’s potentially a silver lining. This article has been my view on how I perceive being identified by my religion, and even though it may ring true to me, it may not be the same for you. For some it could be the complete opposite. But let me finish with a question. If people were identified by ethnicity and race rather than their religion, would there still be Islamophobia? And if so, to what extent?