Islamophobia and Fear
Our mail carrier seems to have an irrational fear of dogs. It’s so bad that she stays in her truck and honks the horn until we come out to get our packages rather than get out of her vehicle and carry it past our two tail-wagging dogs to the front door. She says she never trusts dogs because she has heard too many stories of friendly dogs attacking mail carriers. She has a point. She exhibits fear based on real life events that have caused harm to peace-loving, public-serving mail carriers. I don’t fault her. Would we call this cautious mail carrier a dog-hater? How about a canineophobe?
Are those so flippantly labeled Islamophobic or any other negatively-charged label villains? Should they be ridiculed, ostracized or treated with contempt and disrespect? Should they even be smacked with a label?
Just as we can understand the mail carrier’s reluctance to leave the safety of her vehicle, so should we understand the reaction of Americans who have little-to-no personal experience with certain groups of people. These individuals are reacting with normal human caution to a perceived threat. They want to protect their families, communities, and their world from something that they believe could cause devastating harm. Why do they think this way?
It shouldn’t be difficult to understand. Reports of terrorist attacks everywhere they look. Radicals purportedly infiltrating every facet of their society, causing anxiety and fear. Reports of Muslims immigrating in droves into European countries and even Canada and the United States and insisting on changing their way of life-what they serve for lunch in their schools, how they conduct their laws, threatening the freedoms and democracy they hold so dear. Add to that a real verbal threat from Islamic leaders who call them the “Great Satan” and threaten to destroy them by any means, even martyrdom. How can they turn a blind eye to that? They see some progressives welcoming the very ones who have caused harm to their country. They don’t want to lie down and do nothing. And they definitely won’t let their best means of defense be stripped from them by those insisting on “change.” They aren’t convinced.
The mail carrier loves dogs. She has a dog of her own. She feeds him from her own hand. She trusts him. But she doesn’t blindly trust every dog she sees just because it is a dog. She is smart not to.
Those accused of being Islamophobes may well have Muslim neighbors, doctors, friends, hairdressers, fellow-students and salespeople to interact with, and be just fine with that. After all, Americans have lived with diversity since this country was founded, so that can’t be the problem. Maybe the problem is that until the threat is gone, people will act in predictable ways in order to protect what they hold dear.
There are people who spew irrational hatred and bigotry toward anyone different than themselves, who commit crimes against humanity, who use no common sense or discernment in their condemnation of others. They should be soundly dismissed by the majority. But to dispel the reasonable fears of reasonable people, one must fight the proper battle.
Rather than attacking the ones with the fear, maybe we should unite-Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, and Progressives-and fight the ones who cause the fear. Only then can we live in a peaceful society. Each group must not be so easily offended, but must look at the problems from all sides, with understanding, in order to find a solution acceptable to all. The way I see it, both sides of every modern-day issue are guilty. Both sides are fearful that their way of life will be threatened, so they react too strongly out of fear. They push hard against the other side who pushes back in equal measure. They force change to occur too quickly by the use of power-governmental power, the power of loud, angry voices, etc.-without giving dialogue a chance, without giving misperceptions time to be dispelled. Force is used, rather than diplomacy, civility, and respect. In serious, immediate matters force is sometimes called for, but it should be a measured, majority-approved decision.
Fear gets a bad rap. Fear is an emotional response induced by a perceived threat. It causes a change in brain and organ function, as well as in behavior. Without the fear response, we would be unable to protect ourselves from dangers, and we would not survive. Fear has to be admitted, accepted, and understood before it can be conquered and made to serve our purposes.
We have the opportunity like never before in history to use global communication to solve our problems. We must use non-divisive language and practice non-divisive attitudes. No one group is “the problem.” We are all the problem, and we all must be the solution.