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Religion: Not A Substitute For Science

Religion: Not A Substitute For Science

According to the standard secular story that’s been repeatedly told to us for the past century or so, just a few short decades after the start of modernity, science was able to defeat religion with its sheer brilliance and power to explain. We’ve been led to believe that for centuries religion had been doing some extremely bad science. It tried to tell us how the universe began, how old the earth is, where the sun sets each night, or why rainbows exist. But such lamentable attempts were finally put to bed when science came along and investigated reality with reason and evidence, thereby driving religion into near oblivion. As such, and as a result, we can put our worries aside, rest comfortably and enjoy the fruits of science and all the astonishing tech it spawns. At least, that’s what we are meant to believe.

As seductive as the story is, and as triumphant as it sounds, the story isn’t quite true. It intentionally and cleverly misrepresents the actual purpose of religion, by first setting it up as something whose chief aim has been to do pretty much what science does: understand the natural world as well as the cosmic order, and then pointing out that it has done so very badly. Whereas science proceeded with its telescopes, microscopes, pipettes and equations, religion tried to interpret the workings of the physical universe with just an ancient holy book.

In truth, however, religion was never really interested in doing the things modern science does. It might have pointed out the odd fact or two about some aspect of science. It might have occasionally hinted at other facts. Its focus, though, was not really about explanations of the physical world or the physical workings of the cosmos. Its care and focus is altogether very different and more profound: guidance, self-knowledge, and salvation; and the ways to actualize our core humanity and inner life. The framing of religion as a flawed, draft version of science needs to be seen for the myth that it actually is.

Limits of Scientific and Rational Proofs

Now, this might seem something of a party pooper to some, but there is nothing in the logic of the created order that can irrefutably point to beyond itself. Be it scientific observations, philosophical arguments, mathematical equations, or rational proofs – they cannot point to beyond themselves. They are part of the material world. It’s one of the greatest blunders in religion to think we can come up with a watertight, rational argument that proves Theism irrefutably, beyond any shadow of a doubt. That’s just not possible. Materialist arguments can prove material things. It’s a closed system. The physical cannot encompass the metaphysical, but the metaphysical can encompass what is physical.

The Holy Qur’an says,

Vision encompasses Him not, but He encompasses all things.” [Surah Al-An’am:6;103]

That is, our fallible physical perception (basr) cannot encompass Him, nor can our fallible rational argument (nazr). Why? Because they are from the created order. What they can do, however, is cogently ‘point to’ Theism, rather than irrefutably ‘prove’ Theism.

What you can do with scientific proofs, cosmological observations, or rational arguments, is point to the coherence of Theism and demonstrate how it best fits the evidence: how it’s by far the best available explanation. This is what rational theology in Islam has sought to do for over a millennium.

And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows best.

[This article was first published here]

 

Related reading:

A Problem of Interpreting Quran by Science

A Problem of Interpreting Quran by Science

Bint al-Shati’ on the Qur’an and Science

Bint al-Shati’ on the Qur’an and Science

The post Religion: Not A Substitute For Science appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Source: Muslim Matters

From The MuslimMatters Bookshelf: Our January Picks

From The MuslimMatters Bookshelf: Our January Picks

From the MuslimMatters Bookshelf is a monthly column from MM staff members on their latest reads – the good, the bad, the intriguing, and the Islamic. Let these book reviews guide you to adding new titles to your own reading list!

Here are our January picks:

 – Minaret by Leila Aboulela (Genre: Adult fiction)

I love that this book is more than just another novel about a tough-as-nails Muslim woman with something to prove. Instead, Najwa is soft and broken and complicated – the daughter of a Sudanese politician, exiled to London upon a political coup and her father’s death. A”modern girl” who finds herself working as a maid and walking into the masjid… and unexpectedly, falls in love with a zealous teenage boy she can never truly be with.

Najwa’s story is filled with different types of heartache and longing, but filled with tenderness and faith and so much more. Islam plays a powerful role in her development as a character and the trajectory of her life choices; it is her faith that guides her towards an inner strength that gently but firmly determines her ultimate destiny.

What makes this book even more impressive is that it was published in 2005 – long before Muslim representation in fiction was something most of us were actively looking for – and yet, it is such a rich and beautiful example of Muslim representation. There is no pandering to the non-Muslim gaze, and does not fall into any of the common tropes found within contemporary Muslamic fiction.

 – Islam: The Empowering of Women by Aisha Bewley (Genre: Islamic non-fiction)

“Islam: The Empowering of Women” by Shaykha Aisha Bewley is an old but gold gem – written in 1998, though this is the first time I’ve ever read it. It is a very short book, divided between a preface and 3 chapters: The Scholarly Woman, The Political Woman, and The Spiritual Woman.

The book is impressive from page one: Ustadha Aisha immediately calls out the obsession with “Islam and women” books that fixate on how Islam doesn’t oppress women, but at the same time endlessly go on about Muslim women’s inferiority in comparison to men. She calls out how early Islamic history is filled with stories of powerful Muslim women, and how this dramatically changed later on in Muslim history. The author critiques obsessions with Muslim women’s dress code at the expense of considering Muslim women holistically, while grounding the entire discussion firmly within an Islamic framework. The entire preface demonstrates a powerful awareness of inter-Muslim gendered issues, and was clearly ahead of its time.

The Scholarly Woman and The Political Woman are excellent chapters, detailing examples of female Islamic scholarship and politically influential Muslim women in history. She references the biographies of incredible female scholars, starting with A’ishah bint Abi Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and including eminent individuals such as Shaykha Nafeesa bint al-Hasan (best known as Imam ash-Shafi’i’s teacher), Fatimah bint Khalil (a teacher of Imam Ibn Hajar), Nana Asma’u, and others. In her discussion of political women, Ustadha Aisha sets her paradigm for political involvement, and encompasses examples of Sahabiyyaat (female Companions), as well as later individuals such as Razia Sultana, Shajarat ad-Durr, and numerous others.

Unfortunately, Chapter 3, The Spiritual Woman, takes a wild turn by arguing the necessity and superiority of Sufism, slamming Salafiyyah, and recounting wild stories about Rabia al-Adawiyya and her magic carpet (yes, it is that bizarre). I have chosen to completely ignore this chapter in favor of the rest of the book.

 – Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil by Dr. Katherine Bullock (Genre: academic)

Dr. Katherine Bullock’s book “Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes” is an amazing resource for hijab-related discourse, specifically countering Western Orientalist/ secular feminist propaganda of hijab and Muslim women. She is a convert, and her dedication towards defending the deen is clear in her work.

She delves into historical takes on hijab/ forced de-hijabing (Algeria, Iran)/ re-veiling around the world; experiences of Muslim women in Canada putting on hijab; in-depth critique of Western propaganda about hijab/ Islam/ Muslim women; perceptions of hijab from Muslim women themselves. Most valuable to me is her brilliant and detailed rebuttal of Fatima Mernissi’s garbage takes on hijab.

While this was published in the early 2000s, almost all of it remains extremely relevant…and far better done than your usual Muslamic hijab talks/ discussions. An updated version would have to include the emergence of hijabista fashion trends and how they have been responsible for projecting sexualized beauty standards even onto hijabi fashion, but those are already discussions that have been had in many other areas of academia, the Muslim community, and the Internet overall.

Dr. Bullock’s work is a must-have resource for anyone involved in da’wah, for its critical engagement and analysis of secular propaganda, as well as its recognition of non-utopian realities amongst Muslims.

Do you have any book recommendations or suggestions for our staff to pick up and review? Leave your comments below!

 

Related reading:

From The MuslimMatters Bookshelf: Our December Picks

From The MuslimMatters Bookshelf: Our December Picks

Navigating Muslim Representation In Books: The Good, The Flawed, And The Ugly

Navigating Muslim Representation In Books: The Good, The Flawed, And The Ugly

The post From The MuslimMatters Bookshelf: Our January Picks appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Source: Muslim Matters

From Boys To Men: Addressing The Masculinity Crisis

From Boys To Men: Addressing The Masculinity Crisis

It happens too often these days. A parent calls me complaining about her child who is immature and refuses to grow up. The age of the child: 25-30. The problem: he has no goal in life, and refuses to move out, get married, start a career, or get off the couch. Stuck in perpetual childhood, the problem of the man-child has grown into a pandemic in the modern era.

The crisis is not limited to the Muslim community. Many authors and researchers have tackled this issue from a variety of perspectives, like The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Warren Farrell and Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax. In this article, I will analyze the problem from an Islamic lens and propose some practical solutions.

Manhood in Islamic Scripture and History

In Islam, a boy becomes a man upon hitting puberty. Historically, boys were raised to embrace manhood upon the onset of puberty. By age fifteen, most men were already working, married, and contributing to society. The expectations of men were clear and well known. A man needed to provide, protect, and lead.

To fulfill this role, he needed to be brave, strong, hard-working, just, and religious. Societies provided boys with many functions to learn how to fulfill these responsibilities like the futuwwah guilds of the sufis that trained boys in work skills, social skills, and chivalry. (Futuwwah, Dawud Walid, pp. 35-37)

Modern society functions very differently. Boys are told that they are children until they complete their education or reach a specific age (sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one) but are rarely taught what societal expectations of a man in the modern world are. Left to their own devices, many boys see no reason to grow up, and so drift along into a state of perpetual boyhood long past puberty.

Symptoms of the Masculinity Crisis

In my video “Is there a masculinity crisis?”, I discuss some of the signs today that boys are experiencing a masculinity crisis. The fact that many boys never grow up and have no concept of what a man should be is proof enough of the crisis. There are multiple signs in a young man’s life that he is experiencing a delayed onset of adulthood and is drifting through an extended childhood.

If a young man in his twenties shows no signs of taking ownership of his own life, taking on responsibilities, starting a career, or working towards some long-term vision, then this is a sign that he is not mentally mature yet. Additionally, if he shows no inclination towards women and marriage, spends most of his time in his room engaged in frivolous entertainment, and exhibits boy-like mannerism, these are all causes of concern.

By age twenty, a man should have an idea of what he wants to do with his life. He should have an internal drive and motivation to work hard, start a family, and make something of his life. He should have a vision, mentors, goals, and a strong work ethic. If all this is still missing by his mid-twenties, then something has gone very wrong.

Soft Times Create Weak Men

“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times.” (G. Michael Hopf, Those Who Remain)

There is a theory in sociology that men are affected by the era they grow up in. The theory states that boys become men due to necessity. The trials and horrors of life are what cause a boy to man up and take charge of his life. Forged by trials, a boy becomes a man when he faces his challenges head on. But if a society lacks trials, and is designed entirely for comfort, a boy has no reason to ever grow up. Life as a boy is comfortable, so why embrace the responsibilities of manhood?

Yet society suffers without strong men to lead families. In the absence of strong righteous men, evil men take control and society falls apart. Anarchy and the breakdown of civilization occur, creating hard times which in return creates strong men. The cycle begins again.

The modern world, especially in upper-middle class communities and higher, has made life very convenient for young boys. Video games, streaming services, and especially pornography have given young men access to instant gratification in every aspect of life. Spoiled by instant gratification, these boys lose the desire to work hard and accomplish anything. Life becomes a hedonistic pursuit of instant pleasures, bereft of any long-term goals.

The solution though would not be to make life purposely difficult for men. Society has developed various forms of ease for our benefit. Some like pornography are pure evil and must be shunned completely. Others like halal entertainment and the convenience of modern technology can still be used for good. The solution would be to raise boys with an awareness of the dangers of overindulgence.

From a young age, boys need controlled exposure to difficult situations (think youth camps, competitions, hobby clubs) so that they can experience the real triumph of hard work and develop their masculinity. These boys also need to learn how to navigate the conveniences of the modern world in a balanced manner. Moderation in entertainment and balancing that with hard work and deep thinking need to be taught from a young age. The key is not a rejection of modern comforts, but learning to utilize these for a greater purpose, instead of hedonistic pleasure.

Developing a Life Vision

An alternative path to manhood is to develop a life vision. Boys from disadvantaged backgrounds become men faster due to necessity. Boys from privileged backgrounds lack the desperate situations that force boys into manhood, and so their path to manhood needs to be different. From a young age, these boys should be made aware of the privilege they experience from having wealth and stability, and taught that it is their responsibility to use their privilege for a higher cause. Their growth, therefore, is linked directly to their life vision.

Mehmet II is a great example of this. As an Ottoman prince, he was raised with every type of luxury and privilege. Yet he was mentored well and developed a vision of conquering Constantinople at a very young age. He eventually conquered the city in his early twenties. This showcases how a boy from a privileged background can become a man early if they have good mentoring and a strong vision.

If a boy is struggling to find his place and purpose in this world, begin with working on a life vision. Figure out what you want to dedicate your life to, and work on a plan to make that a reality. A vision should take into consideration your strengths and skills and be of benefit to others. Once a strong vision is developed, he should work on goals along the path of making that vision a reality. When a boy becomes clear about his purpose and vision, he grows up overnight, and becomes a hardworking man dedicated to making his vision a reality.

Addictions Holding Them Down

A primary caused of delayed manhood is addiction. This could be an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but it could even be a pornography addiction, or something seemingly lighter like video game addiction. Addictions consume a person’s mind and becomes their primary concern. When a person is addicted, they have no concern for anything in life that does not fuel their addiction. Work, studies, family, or any sense of responsibility becomes a burden in the way of achieving their instant pleasure.

Addiction is closing linked to the desire for instant gratification. Pornography, for example, gives men the feeling of instant sexual gratification without having to work for it or face rejection. It gets men accustomed to quick selfish pleasure whenever they want it. The dangers of pornography are many but linked to our topic are the following: decrease in testosterone, decrease in desire to work, and decrease in desire for physical intimacy, as well as destroying his ability to physically please a woman. Pornography addiction kills masculinity and prevents a boy from thinking clearly or pursuing real world goals and relationships.

Video game addiction is less harmful but still dangerous for personal growth. Video games are permissible in moderation and can be beneficial if enjoyed moderately. The problem here is not the activity itself but the addiction. Video games are designed to give people a virtual sense of achievement without any real-world consequences. The illusion of success, along with a similar dopamine hit, cloud a boy’s mind, and distract him from the real world. Real world success takes decades of hard work, while a video game can give the same (but fake) sense of achievement without any real work.

The result is a lack of interest in the real world, which feels too hard. To hide their sense of failure, many boys dive deeper into video games and their addiction can consume them and become the only thing in their life that brings them any happiness. From a young age, boys must be warned about the dangers of video game addiction while trained to prioritize real-world success and hard work. Video games are fine as a pastime after work hours to re-stress or relax, but they should never be prioritized over more important things like work, family, and religion.

The Need for Mentors and Father Figures

Another cause of the boy crisis is a lack of role models and mentors. More than ever today, we have boys raised by single moms without any father figure in their lives. Boys need father figures to mirror so they can see what a man and aspire to be like the male heroes in their life.

The solution to this would be to link boys with male mentors, be it local scholars, community leaders or members of their extended family. Especially during the teenage years, boys need to spend a lot of time around good male models so that they can witness masculinity and learn it through modelling. They also need men in their lives whom they can have open discussions with on topics like sex, women, and gender roles. Boys find it easier to learn these thinks from a male mentor than a female family member. Attaching young boys to male mentors is crucial for their personal development.

Mixed Messages about Masculinity

Another cause of confusion for young men is the mixed messages they receive from society. They are told to man up, while also hearing about toxic masculinity. They hear that all men are trash, but also that they need to provide for and protect women. From a young age, they are shamed for being male, and given confusing messages about what a man is and what the role of a man should be in modern society. Confused and alone, without anyone to answer their questions, they either hide away and refuse to grow up, or turn outward towards extreme groups to learn masculinity.

We must open the conversation of masculinity for our youth. They need spaces in which they can ask their questions, deal with their doubts, and learn about masculinity in a healthy manner. This is linked to having strong mentors who are willing to have the difficult conversations needed to work through these problems. Our boys need to hear from a young age that being a Muslim man is a good thing and something they should look forward to.

Long-term Solutions

The problem of the man-child will only get worse if we ignore it or continue to contribute to it. In the long-term, we need to focus on developing communities in which boys can grow into men that are assets to the community. To solve this, we need to rethink our education system to one that helps people attain maturity at a younger age.

We need spaces where boys can learn about Islamic masculinity from the right role models. We need to set up events where boys can meet role models and grow into men in a controlled environment. We need dedicated centers that can help solve the addiction problems, and we need to parent our boys with more awareness of how our parenting styles are shaping their futures.

All is not lost. People have realized that we have a problem and discussions have started on brainstorming a solution. Together, we can work towards a future in which our boys and girls grow into amazing young men and women who benefit this ummah together, living up to the Qur’anic description of the ideal society:

“The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They call for goodness, forbid evil, perform the prayers, practice charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. These, Allah will have mercy on them. Allah is Perfectly Noble and All Wise.” [Surah al-Tawbah 9:71]

 

Related reading:

Why Fathers Matter

Why Fathers Matter

Podcast: Pornography Addiction and the Muslim Community | Abida Minhas

Podcast: Pornography Addiction and the Muslim Community | Abida Minhas

The post From Boys To Men: Addressing The Masculinity Crisis appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Source: Muslim Matters

Podcast: The Coddling of the Muslim Mind with Dr. Jonathan Brown

The MuslimMatters Podcast isn’t afraid to cover tough topics, and this is one of them! Are Muslim students on campus oversensitive? This episode reflects on the Hamline University controversy and whether Muslim students are crying Islamophobia, or justified in their outrage. Dr. Jonathan Brown tackles the question of artistic portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in Muslim history, Islamophobia, and the sacred and the secular on campus.

Dr. Jonathan AC Brown, who is the Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Dr. Brown is a Muslim academic with a rich list of publications, including the books “Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenges and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy,” “Slavery and Islam,” and “Islam and Blackness.” He has published articles in the fields of Hadith, Islamic law, Salafism, Sufism, Arabic lexical theory and Pre-Islamic poetry and is the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law, and is also the Director of Research at the Yaqeen Institute.

Related:

Muslim Activists Should Stop Defending Pam Geller’s Right to Mock Prophet Muhammad

The post Podcast: The Coddling of the Muslim Mind with Dr. Jonathan Brown appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

Source: Muslim Matters

Recognizing The Personal Perspectives Of Muslim Student Experiences

Recognizing The Personal Perspectives Of Muslim Student Experiences

Introduction

The Muslim community within the United States is diverse, consisting of many different racial and ethnic groups in which no racial or ethnic group makes up a majority of Muslim American adults. While the Muslim community is diverse, there is a direct and pertinent relationship between race and religion as it relates to Muslims who account for both a racial minority and a religious minority within the United States. By making up both a racial and religious minority, Muslims fall under the category of a double minority in which the term is used to describe “the psychological state created when two devalued identities interact to influence the individual in a way that is greater than the sum of the independent effects of those identities” (Gonzalez et al. 2002, p. 659). As a result, Muslims are likely to experience an increase in racism and discrimination due to their identity. This increase in racism and discrimination towards Muslims is termed Islamophobia: a form of hatred, whether hostile or violent, that has targeted Muslim individuals and individuals who are mistaken to be Muslim.

Muslims in Western countries consist of youth who make up 50% of the Muslim population in which 90% of them attend public schools (Niyozov & Pluim, 2009). As a double minority, it is important to consider the ways in which Muslim students are susceptible to Islamophobia in the school setting, especially when they are seen as “different” and are “othered” by their peers. The experiences of Muslim students within educational settings can be understood by challenging the dominant narrative about Muslim students as such narratives continue to affect their experiences in education due to the consistent Islamophobic rhetoric, racial stereotyping, and discrimination that occurs.

Muslims in the United States

As previously mentioned, Muslims consist of a diverse religious group in which no one racial or ethnic group makes up a majority of Muslim Americans. In 2017, the Pew Research Center estimated that Muslims are a diverse and growing population that make up 1.1% of the United States population in which there are 3.45 million Muslims in the United States, including 2.15 million adults and 1.35 million children. Within this number, 41% are White (including those who describe their race as Arab, Middle Eastern, or Persian), 28% are Asian, 20% are Black, 8% are Hispanic, and an additional 3% identify with another race or with multiple races (Pew Research Center, 2017). While Muslims in America are a religious minority, most individuals within the faith are a racial minority as well.

Islamophobia

As a double minority, Muslim students may be susceptible to specific forms of racism such as Islamophobia and racial stereotyping. Islamophobia can be considered a form of racism as it targets Muslims and those who are perceived to be Muslim, causing them to suffer from discrimination and animosity due to their religious identity or perceived religious identity. Green (2019) identifies Islamophobia as “the fear of and hostility toward Muslims and Islam that is rooted in racism and that results in individual and systemic discrimination, exclusion, and violence targeting Muslims and those perceived as Muslim” (p. 38). Although racism has traditionally been conceptualized as prejudice towards a specific race, the definition has come to include any discriminatory behaviors against a community due to their appearance and religious beliefs.

The intersection of religion and race leads to what Green (2019) explains as cultural racism due to the way racism incites hatred and hostility based on religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and ethnic backgrounds. As an example of cultural racism presenting itself, Muslim women who wear the hijab are easily identified as Muslim due to the head covering they wear. Additionally, other women of Color are being mistaken as Muslim and are experiencing the same type of violence. Alim (2016) mentions that “violence against Muslims (and other People of Color mistaken for Muslims, such as Sikhs and Indian women who wear headscarves) tripled”​ (p. 26). A few years later, a 2018 report documented three hundred hate-related incidents against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities following Donald Trump’s election (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018). Those who experience hostility due to their outward appearance are experiencing a form of racism that manifests beyond race as it may also include religion as a factor.

In another definition, Beydoun (2018) explains Islamophobia as “the presumption that Islam is inherently violent, alien, and unassimilable, a presumption driven by the belief that expressions of Muslim identity correlate with a propensity for terrorism” (p. 28). While forms of Islamophobia have always been present, there was a clear increase after 9/11 and during Trump’s campaign for presidency (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018) which presented itself through Islamophobic rhetoric and bullying in schools. Both of these instances led to the dominant narrative that Islam is a religion of terror, which immediately harmed Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim. In combination, these definitions defining Islamophobia can be used to better understand the dominant narrative discourses that plague the United States by harming and marginalizing Muslims.

Racialization and Religion

muslim studentsAs mentioned earlier, Muslims in America make up a double minority in that both their race and religion influence their experiences as individuals. They are susceptible to experiencing racism for their racial background and discrimination for their religious background. While Muslims feel that they are integrated into American society, many Muslims continue to feel that they stand out in America. Pew Research Center (2017) noted:

“Four-in-ten say there is something distinctive about their appearance, voice or clothing that people might associate with being Muslim. This includes most women who regularly wear hijab, but also one-in-four women who do not wear hijab regularly and about a quarter of men who also say there is something distinctively Muslim about their appearance” (Section 2, paragraph 3).

Muslims are going to experience the world in a different way as their racialization and religion makes up a minority of the American population, making them vulnerable to forms of discrimination such as Islamophobia.

To better understand how Islamophobia presents itself, it would be useful to ponder on whether race and religion impact racist ideologies the same way since Islamophobia encompasses an intersection of both. When considering this, it depends on the intersection of race and religion. For example, an Arab Christian’s race would have a larger impact than their religion. This is because being Arab makes them a racial minority, but being Christian makes them a religious majority within the United States. For an Arab Muslim, their religion may have a larger impact than their race. This is because their race and religion make them a minority within the United States, but Muslims in general have been targeted at increasing rates. At the same time, it is important to mention that an Arab Muslim who passes as the dominant race within the United States would not experience the same type of discrimination as an Arab Muslim who is easily identified by their hijab or ethnic name. Individuals who are more easily identified as Muslim may experience more racism and discrimination in school. Unfortunately, racist ideologies are difficult to unpack and solve due to the deeply ingrained prejudices they encompass.

Dominant Narrative

Dominant narratives are damaging and have a dissemination effect, especially when they are structural. Dominant narratives are harmful and include racism’s intersection with other forms of subordination. What creates the dominant narrative is the way race and racism implicitly and explicitly shape social structures, practices, and discourses and the way race creates dominance of one group over another (Yosso, 2006). Dominant narratives stem from a lack of education on Islam and assumptions based on Muslims. In respect to Islamophobia, dominant narratives are:

“Propagated by law and perpetuated by policy, policy that fluidly communicates damaging stereotypes and misrepresentations about Muslims to the broader polity, which has the effect of endorsing popular views and misconceptions, and at the extreme, emboldening hate and violence directed at Muslims and individuals incorrectly perceived as Muslims” (Beydoun, 2018, p. 28).

Islamophobia in the United States has become widespread and is funded by groups whose primary purpose is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims (Saylor, 2004). According to the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), “the inner core of America’s Islamophobia network enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011” (Saylor, 2004, p. 100). When this funding is worth millions of dollars and seeks to promote Islamophobia, it is not surprising that Muslims and those perceived as Muslim suffer from discrimination and animosity that is stimulated through harmful media resources. It is therefore inevitable that such views begin to present themselves within educational settings as well.

Islamophobia in the Media

The media is a strong communication force that plays a significant role in defining society’s views. When looking at the way Western media has portrayed Muslims in the past, there is clear evidence that stereotypes are the most overpowering narratives relating to the Muslim community. Whether it is through historical media or current media, mass media has contributed to further discriminating and oppressing Muslim students. Zaal (2012) explains the way “Muslims in the U.S., and Arabs specifically, have been vilified in images, cartoons, film, and television for many decades” leading to the “demonized and dehumanizing images…[that] have served to desensitize the U.S. populace and to legitimize fear and hatred against Muslims and Islam” (p. 556). These dominant narratives and discourses are then presented in schools and classrooms where students and teachers make sense of the world and reinforce such curriculum in textbooks and state standards (Zaal, 2012) by relying on mainstream media through images, texts, and narratives. Ahmad and Szpara (2003) mention how little effort has been made to present a positive image of Muslims in the media and textbooks.

Islamophobia has seen an increase in certain years and the media has had an impact on how it is presented in schools. While Islamophobia has been present in the United States for decades, there were steady increases after 9/11 and during Trump’s campaign for presidency that were perpetuated through the media and presented in schools. After 9/11, many Muslim students felt unsafe in school settings and felt the effects of heavy surveillance that could potentially lead to violence and discrimination. During and after Trump’s campaign for presidency, students felt unsafe and unwelcome both in schools and outside educational settings. Addressing what is seen in the media is an important step as it has detrimentally led to hatred presented through racism and discrimination. Beydoun (2018) mentions how this hatred is especially dominant given the heightening degree of Islamophobia coming from the media and other sources.

Islamophobia Post 9/11

After 9/11, Islamophobia increased and affected both Muslims and non-Muslims who were incorrectly perceived to be Muslim. Islamophobia led to more targeting, hatred, and surveillance where many students felt that their classrooms were not safe spaces. It is important to note that when Muslim communities are criminalized and targeted by the police state, Muslims are also subject to increasing threats of violence and discrimination (Ali, 2018) which is more likely to be experienced within schools. A concern many students began to acquire was the surveillance and policing of Muslim students, both on and off campus (Ali, 2018) that strips Muslims from having academic spaces as safe environments. While this concern had to do with students being treated as suspects on their college campuses, wariness towards Muslims became common across hundreds of schools in the United States. Due to the surveillance and policing that may happen within schools, it is understandable that Muslim students would be concerned that their perspectives would be misread. When there is mistrust like this, students are going to be affected by the misperceptions and negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims as it affects their experiences within educational settings.

Islamophobia during the Trump Presidency

Unfortunately, racism is a type of prejudice that continues to be a component of society. During the election period in which Donald Trump was running for president, the United States saw an increase in hateful speech towards minorities and a new increase in Islamophobia. Trump’s presidential campaign led to “an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color” and an “inflaming [of] racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom” (Costello, 2016, p. 4). As someone who was running for president, a position of great power in the United States, Trump’s rhetoric was exceptionally harmful and left many minorities feeling vulnerable. When a presidential candidate openly spews hatred, it is not surprising that students are exposed to the same form of hatred in an educational setting.

Anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobic rhetoric has risen steadily since Trump’s campaign for presidency in 2016 as it began to present itself within schools. In the data collected, Costello (2016) found that more than one-third of participants had observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in schools that had high concentrations of minority children. By being in a position of power and getting away with this type of behavior, Trump opened the door for others to behave in the same malicious way. Students who experienced what was happening understood that the behavior on display was not acceptable and many were confused as to how certain campaigns have been allowed to promote racism, violence, and hate (Costello, 2016). Costello (2016) mentions how “some [used] the word Trump as a taunt or as a chant as they gang up on others. Muslim children are being called terrorist or ISIS or bomber” (p. 5). Within schools, this type of behavior is often ignored or dismissed, and this type of response from schools is what contributes to Muslim students feeling a lack of trust towards teachers and school administrators.

Muslim Student Perspectives

Understanding the experiences and perspectives of marginalized individuals can raise consciousness about the injustices they face by challenging the dominant narratives that misrepresent the realities of minority communities. This approach can be used to “challenge mainstream society’s denial of the ongoing significance of race and racism” by additionally “offering a critical reflection on the lived experiences and histories of People of Color” (Yosso, 2005, p. 10). While Islamophobia is not a new form of discrimination and it has increased in recent decades, there continues to be a lack of research focusing on what Muslim students have had to endure in the United States. For example, Seward and Khan (2016) found that there is a lack of empirical studies that highlight the voices of Muslim adolescents in which their schooling experiences are shared from their personal perspectives. Hearing Muslim students speak about their experiences in school can give more insight on what it is they go through and what it is they need to ensure they are in an environment that furthers their academic achievement while also promoting a comfortable environment.

Addressing Challenges 

There continue to be many challenges that need to be addressed to make sure students receive a positive educational experience. Prejudices about Muslims can harm educational opportunities as it may unconsciously limit the amount of time, attention, and feedback teachers give to their Muslim students (Sabry & Bruna, 2007). While it is hard to determine where to begin in addressing the challenges that come with racism and discrimination towards Muslim students, there is a need for a critical pedagogy approach that addresses the manifestation of Islamophobia in the classroom (Zaal, 2012), there is a need for inclusion of teachers in dialogue regarding the education of Muslim students as they play a central role in the discourse on Muslim education (Niyozov & Pluim, 2009), there is a need to deconstruct stereotypes and create anti-oppressive classrooms which allows for dialogue in a responsible way (Zaal, 2012), there is a need to increase teacher sensitivity to and awareness of the problems encountered by minority students (Ahmad & Szpara, 2003), and there is a need for understanding what Muslim students experience based on their personal perspectives. To address the challenges that affect Muslim students, we need to communicate with Muslim students to ensure their needs are accommodated for and they feel that their presence within educational settings is accounted for.

In addition, the Muslim community needs to acknowledge the experiences Muslim students encounter within schools in order to alleviate the challenges they face. As a community, we need to respond to such challenges in view of the fact that we have a responsibility to ensure Muslim students are cared for and that they receive proper education. This can be done by first advocating for Muslim students and working with educators to build a relationship that focuses on the well-being of Muslim students. When this is achieved, Muslim students are able to obtain an education that benefits them and does not harm them through the Islamophobic rhetoric, racial stereotyping, or discrimination that occurs within schools. In all, it is important to raise awareness about the experiences Muslim students are exposed to, especially when striving to create a school environment that is safe and welcoming.

Conclusion

In conclusion, due to the diversity presented within the Muslim population in the United States, acknowledging the various ways Islamophobia presents itself can be used to better understand the experiences of Muslim students within educational settings. As double minorities who often account for both a racial and religious minority, the personal perspectives of Muslim students is an essential tool when sharing their experiences. Islam is a widely misunderstood religion within the United States and many Muslims experience Islamophobia that is rooted in racism as a result. This leads to individual and systemic discrimination, exclusion, and violence targeting Muslims and those perceived as Muslim. By considering the experiences of Muslim students and those who have been targets of Islamophobic rhetoric, racial stereotyping, or discrimination within schools, educators can increase their consciousness about the injustices students face by challenging the dominant narratives that misrepresent the realities of minority communities. The lack of research regarding Muslim students should first be addressed in the classroom, a place that students deserve to consider a comfortable environment. Muslim students carry a heavy burden as they feel the need to answer for all Muslims, but by listening to the personal perspectives of Muslim students, we can better understand their experiences which will then help us better understand how we can support them within educational settings.

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