Targeting anyone who appears to be Muslim

The current high-levels of anti-Muslim sentiment in the US have resulted in Muslims being targeted for attacks. The most visible symbols of Islam are of course the mosques and Muslim women who wear black coverings of the face and body or men who pray in groups in the distinctive prostrate position.

But a lot of the anti-Muslim zealots are not the most knowledgeable of people and anyone who wears clothing that is unfamiliar is seen as a target. Sikhs are again getting hit and are bracing themselves for more. They have been attacked on previous occasions by people who mistook the turbans that Sikhs wear as Muslim dress, such as the attack in 2012 on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin where six people died.

But even wearing different clothing may not be necessary to make you a target. One can expect to see attacks on random brown-skinned people as well. I tend not to think about such a possibility and am not frightened that I will be a victim. But I have spoken to a few Indians and Sri Lankans who wonder if they too might not become targets, irrespective of whether they are Muslim or not.

We are living at a time when inchoate anger is easily aroused and people want to simply lash out. Unfortunately, many of them have powerful weapons and can do serious damage. At such times, there will be a strong temptation to openly distance ourselves from Muslims by word or deed so as to signal that we should not be targeted. That would be wrong. Muslims in the US are already feeling beleaguered and isolated. To have the rest of us deliberately dissociate ourselves with them would be to compound the problem.


  1. badgersdaughter says

    I live in Ireland and will be visiting the UK for the Christmas break. If you are a Sikh or Muslim or brown in a way that someone suspicious might think of as “Islamic” despite the fact that Islam is a religion and not a skin color or fashion ffs… I just want to say that the frustration and discomfort and possibly slightly forced smile on my face is not because you are who you are, but because I’m a Yank expat very sad and angry for the way my countrymen treat people who look like you, and I’m afraid I am not good at hiding my embarrassment.

  2. says

    Some of these herd behaviors are so targeted, it almost seems like a deliberate tactic. E.g. by targeting any brownskinned person, you encourage them to say “I’m not a Muslim”, which tacitly endorses the idea that Muslims are valid targets. So, people are forced to choose between suffering abuse or endorsing bigotry; win-win for the assholes.

  3. says

    The ignorant are rarely inclined to learn or notice the difference between one group or another. We’ve already seen at least one violent attack (several, IIRC) upon Sikhs solely based on their headwear. A few weeks ago in Minnesota, human rights lawyer Deepinder Mayell (no head wear and shorter hair than Mano Singham), was verbally confronted by a bigots at a Vikings football game, asking if he were a “refugee”. (How, exactly, did he afford the ticket and why would he watch helmet and pads football?) The stadium staff refused to take any action against the aggressor nor protect Mr. Mayell.

    I would wager most Americans think Naveen Andrews (the Iraqi soldier from “Lost”) is a muslim in real life. He’s not, he’s a Brit of Indian descent. If Andrews is the point of reference for most bigots (How many other examples do they have?), unprovoked violence is a real possibility.

    LykeX (#4) -- Not to go godwin, but that possibility reeks of World War II Germany and people saying, “No, I’m not a jew.” It’s not just the violent mobs that are a problem. Those being asked if they are the “other” might be tempted to join in and persecute. It happens with bullying in schools, so it could happen in general society.

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