A study released Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and the campus Center for Race and Gender suggested a four-point strategy to combat Islamophobia in the United States.
By collecting statistics from more than 25,000 news articles and more than 500 tax filings as well as by interviewing experts on Islamophobia, the researchers were able to identify the issue causing Islamophobia and offer a solution called the “Environmental Centric Strategy.”
The proposal suggested that Muslims should get more involved in communities, media and politics and that people should recognize the similarities between Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination.
“The goal (of the research) is to point out that we are living in a highly Islamophobic environment,” said Hatem Bazian, campus lecturer in the department of Near Eastern studies.
The research also concluded that 33 Islamophobic organizations received at least $205 million between 2008 and 2013 according to CAIR spokesperson Corey Saylor.
Saylor said the money was given from foundations as well as private and corporate donors to produce anti-Muslim videos and to pay people to give inaccurate information to law enforcement agents about Islam.
The study documented negative impact of Islamophobia, such as anti-Islamic bills that became laws, incidents in the U.S. that targeted mosques and two recent phenomenons — “Muslim-free” businesses and armed anti-Islam demonstrations. It aims to give people a better understanding about Islam and to spread the idea that it should be treated as equally as other faiths in American society.
According to Saylor, the study was conducted because Islamophobia was causing too many Americans to undermine the Constitution. He added that he believed Islamophobia was caused by four reasons — actions performed by violent extremists, negative media representation of Islam, statements by politicians and Islamophobic groups in the U.S.
Saylor identified Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his alleged exploitation of anti-Islamic sentiments for political gain, adding that Trump has made Islamophobia a “mainstream” topic by using it deliberately and systematically.
“He made it fashionable,” Bazian said. “He intensified and normalized Islamophobic discourse.”
Both Saylor and Bazian expressed a belief that laws targeting specific minority groups are unconstitutional. They both alleged that 10 states have passed laws that specifically target Muslims in the U.S.
“The notion that any American would feel that passing a law to vilify an entire religion is justified means that individual does not understand America’s founding ideals,” Saylor said.
Bazian said the research has so far been “greatly welcomed” and has received a positive reaction from the public. He added that the study provides educational materials on Islam and encourages people to live in a civil society.
Contact Stina Chang at [email protected].