Blurred Lines: The Dangers of Confusing Race & Religion After 9/11


Simran Jeet Singh is not Muslim; he’s Sikh. But he’s all too familiar with Islamophobia. During his post-9/11 childhood, other kids nicknamed him “Saddam” and “sand n*gger.” His experience, and those of other Sikhs and Arabs who are not Muslim but who were the target of anti-Muslim attacks, is a reminder that Islamophobia has huge consequences for those outside the Muslim community too.

In a September 9, 2014 piece in the Guardian, entitled “9/11-era ignorance of Islam is infecting the age of ISIS. We should know better,” he wrote:

In the nearly 13 years since 9/11 … a new de facto racial category has crystallized: “the apparent Muslim.” The “apparent Muslim” has physical features supposedly similar to those associated with terrorism – brown skin, facial hair, turbans…”

These hateful attacks are horrific on their own, but they are compounded by another harmful reality: Westerner’s ignorance about the diversity of unfamiliar communities and cultures. This ignorance, Singh says, leads up to “lump together people from entire parts of the world..and people who practice entirely different religions…We also fail to understand that not all Muslims interpret Islam the same way.”

Singh believes that the media deserves much of the blame:

The lack of nuance in our understandings of global cultures reflects the overly simplistic rhetoric of our media sources that feed us this information. Reporters are constantly skimming the surface to give us macro-level views, and while this broad-based approach has its advantages, it leads to misunderstanding serious issues, from white supremacy and domestic terrorism to Boko Haram and Isis.

Read more from Singh at the Guardian, where he recounts the stereotypes his father faced during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

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