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The Cycle of Prejudice Persists

Protesters rally in support of Palestinians in Gaza on the steps of the state capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn. Photo by Mark Vancleave/AP Photo.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, an intense wave of nationalism gripped the United States. This led to an earnest “us or them” mindset throughout the country.

Any criticism of America at the time, regardless of the validity, was seen as vehemently anti-American. Six days after the attack, popular late-night host Bill Maher got his show canceled due to his response to President George Bush referring to the terrorists as cowards. Maher said “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away, that’s cowardly.”

Unfortunately, it was not only pretentious late-night hosts who were negatively affected by the “pro-America or the highway” approach; cultural and political Islamophobia became rampant. People of Middle Eastern descent, Muslims, Arabs and South Asians were the subjects of broad racial profiling practices from the United States government. Muslims were not portrayed favorably whatsoever in American pop culture during this time either. Hollywood often reinforced many of the stereotypes surrounding Muslims at this time by portraying them with racist tropes.

You’ve seen them before — from people yelling on airplanes, to depicting Muslim women as needing to be “liberated” from their seemingly oppressive symbols of their Muslimness such as their headscarves, to only depicting muslims as terrorists. These stereotypes and policies have had disastrous consequences for American Muslims. Anti-Muslim hate crimes increased dramatically after 9/11 and has remained a persistent force in daily life today.

So, why did I tell you all of this? In the wake of the Israel-Hamas War, that same Islamophobia that was constant throughout the United States post-9/11 is beginning to rear its ugly head yet again.


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