Before today’s reading, I thought I understood Islamophobia in America, including its complexities and origins; however, after today’s readings, I realize that there is a lot more history to it than I initially thought. Indeed, before tonight, I understood Islamophobia as something that arrived in America in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. I believed that George Bush’s Administration played on existing fears of Muslim people to convince the American public to go to war and submit to more draconian security measures. I also believed that a different result in the election of 2000 could have drastically changed the American response to the attacks. After today’s readings, I have come to understand this is not true.
In the Elba article, the long history of Islamophobia is explained, dispelling my understanding that the fear of Muslims in America was birthed after 9/11. As Elba explains, immigration policy systemically discriminated against Muslims long before the year 2001. Indeed, Muslims were prohibited from becoming citizens for almost 200 years because they did not exhibit whiteness. Laws like these prohibit Muslims from becoming a part of the American community and further isolated them from Americans. Additionally, Muslims in media were often stereotyped. This made it difficult for Muslims to become viewed as modern citizens and excluded a large amount of Muslims who were not Arab.
In the Zinn chapter, he explains how these seeds of Islamophobia were exacerbated after the events of 9/11. While I originally thought Al Gore would have implemented extremely different policies in the aftermath of 9/11, Zinn contends that by painting Gore as a very similar candidate to Bush (with the exception of environmental policies). Later, Zinn explains that the rampant Islamophobia encouraged by the Bush Administration should not have been justified as retaliation for an incomprehensible act. Indeed, the chapter continues to reveal that American leaders in the 90s understood that a terrorist attack from the Middle East was a likely response to US foreign policy in the reason. The proof that US officials new that an attack was likely and still encouraged Islamophobia in the aftermath is proof that the US’s reaction to 9/11 wasn’t the start of Islamophobia in the country but rather a continuation of its history.