Mistry: Islamophobia’s deep roots

Viral Mistry, Staff Columnist

I woke up last Friday to learn that on the other side of the world a white supremacist brutally murdered 50 Muslims during a prayer service at two mosques.

I felt a lot of emotions as I read what had happened and unsuccessfully tried to comprehend why this depraved individual did what he did.

Frustration. Rage. Fear. Hopelessness. Fury. Despair.

I felt sorrow for all the souls brutally taken from us. I found strength in the outpouring of solidarity and love I saw across social media. And yet, I felt dismayed and lost with the reactions so many had, who saw this is as a freak incident of random violence and hate.

It’s not. This brutality is the result of generations of hate, violence and discrimination against Muslims around the world. This hate needs to be eradicated at its roots if we want to see an end to this injustice.

I’ve watched world leaders, public officials and political pundits all condemn the horror that unfolded last week, despite their complicity in the normalization of global Islamophobia. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke of how the attack was “not who we are,” despite campaigning in the 2017 election to slash immigration levels and forming a coalition government with the strongly anti-immigrant New Zealand First (NZ First) party, which seeks even stricter immigration laws. Ardern’s coalition agreement made the head of NZ First, Winston Peters, the Deputy Prime Minister. Peters has repeatedly ranted about Asian-Muslim immigrants being unassimilable and warned about the demographic threat they pose against white New Zealanders.

Politicians in the U.S. who repeatedly supported the FBI as it illegally surveilled U.S. mosques, who violated civil liberties with unconstitutional policies like the no-fly list which disproportionately targeted Muslims and who routinely advocated for military intervention in Muslim-majority countries suddenly realized that hate and violence against Muslims are not permissible.

Our dear leader, President Donald Trump, even extended his “warmest sympathies” to the New Zealand people, even though he infamously called for a ban on all travel from numerous Muslim-majority countries after a reactionary Islamic terrorist attack occurred. He implemented this ban on his first day in the White House and has routinely defended it in court since.

Earlier this week, Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro claimed on her show that a black Muslim refugee congresswoman would be unable to stay loyal to the U.S. Constitution because of her faith. Her colleague Tucker Carlson, one of the most watched cable TV personalities in the country, has repeatedly claimed that ethnic and religious diversity is not a good thing and has also warned of the demographic threat of immigrants turning white Americans into a minority. U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) even indirectly implied that the shooter had valid concerns about immigration in his statement condemning the shooting, something our president echoed when he remarked about an invasion of immigrants coming to the U.S.       

And it’s not just in the U.S.; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his deep shock and sadness, even though he infamously oversaw a pogrom against Muslims in 2002 in his home state of Gujarat. His party constantly trafficks in anti-Muslim sentiment to whip up support, and he rules in coalition with a party which has called for Muslims to be stripped of their right to vote and be forcibly sterilized to control the demographic threat they pose.

The demographic threat of immigrant birth rates, the fears of assimilability and integration, the discriminatory policies, the state violence. All of these things had to come together for the shooter to see believers of one of the most diverse faiths in the world as an existential threat to his community. One that he decided must be purged from existence by any means necessary.

We must absolutely condemn these acts of hate. But we must also work to dismantle the structures that lead people to believe that such acts are acceptable to commit in the first place. We need to call out this hatred when it first festers and keep it from bubbling to the point where it spills blood, or it will never end.

Hate takes many forms. Call it out whenever you see it. Stand tall with your Muslim brothers and sisters in this moment of fear and intimidation.

Never forget that injury to one is an injury to all.

Viral Mistry is a fourth-year biology and cognitive science double major who is also minoring in chemistry, history and philosophy. He wants you to remember that a better world is possible and necessary.