In recent polls, one out of five Americans said the civil liberties of Muslims should be restricted for security reasons.
In 2004, there were more than 1,500 civil rights complaints from Muslims, and from 2005-06, there was a 25.1 percent increase in complaints, said Afsheen Shamsi, the director for Community Relations at the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. The council is the largest Islamic civil rights group in the nation with 33 chapters across American and Canada.
"Terrorism: The Manipulation of Fear and the Emergence of Islamophobia," was presented by University group Ubuntu, in association with the Islamic Society of Rutgers University, SALAM, the Muslim Student Association at Rutgers and Hillel, last night in the Multipurpose Room of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus.
A panel of speakers presented issues concerning acts of terrorism, the stereotyping of Islam and of fear perpetuated by American media to a crowd of about 75 students, faculty and staff.
Panelist Hamid Abdejaber, former chief of the Middle East Radio Unit at the News and Media Division of the Department of Public Information at the United Nations, said the root causes of terrorism are frustration, extremism and despair. Abdejaber said when people are stricken with poverty, famine, a lack of education and a lack of health care, some are willing to commit violent acts.
Shamsi focused on the rising trend of Islamophobia, which is the phenomenon of prejudice against and fear of Muslims.
Experts say negative attitudes about Islam come from media and political figures calling Muslims "crazed fanatics" and calling Islam a terror organization, Shamsi said. Elected officials and presidential candidates all too often pair the term Islam with the word radical. This creates bias and discrimination that have now become the accepted form of institutionalized racism, she said.
American Mosques were chemically bombed and Islam centers were vandalized following the anti-Muslim words in political speeches, Shamsi said.