By Gurnam Singh | OPINION |
Hate crimes against visible minorities are on the rise across the world and as the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic unfold things are likely to get much worse. A cursory examination of historical data shows that disruptive events, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, major acts of violence such as the 9/11 terror attacks in the US and severe economic recessions leading to mass unemployment, are the kinds of threatening events that can trigger racist and discriminatory behaviour.
Among the complex social, economic and political factors is the question of stereotyping and negative media portrayals. There is a strong body of evidence that connects inaccurate negative stereotyping with an increase in xenophobia, or hostility towards those perceived as ‘outsiders’ or ‘other’, with race hate crimes.
All communities have their fair share of ‘bad apples’, but it does appear that the Muslim community is demonised to an extent where anti-Muslim sentiment has become normalised. Most worryingly, whilst one may expect this from white supremacist groups and their sympathisers, we see amongst some minority groups disturbing evidence of anti-Muslim hate.
Yes, some Muslims do commit all kinds of terrible crimes and they should be subject to the full force of the law, but no one community has a monopoly in this regard, but to label all Muslims with the same brush is both wrong and dangerous.
When some small-minded people from other minority groups jump on the anti-Muslim hate bandwagon, they do not realise that in fact, they are probably fuelling general anti-migrant white racist backlash which is likely to engulf them. Indeed, there is strong evidence that Sikhs are just as likely to be subject to Islamophobic hate as Muslims.
One of the things that negative stereotyping does is to put people into pigeon holes where, for instance, all Asians are views as shopkeepers or doctors, Blacks are drug dealers, or nurses, Muslims are groomers and terrorists, Asian women are totally controlled, Sikhs as dangerous, etc.
Thankfully, we now also have some positive stereotyping which may offset the negative and distorted views. However, generally speaking, all stereotyping about national, racial, ethnic or cultural characteristics and behaviors is wrong.
To overcome this we need to break out of our segregated living which creates segregated mindsets. The truth is that Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Indians, Pakistanis, Panjabis, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Black People, etc, come in a wide variety of backgrounds.
The above graphic focusing on Muslims is an illustration of this diversity. Remember, what makes us all human is that we are all at one level unique individuals in terms of our biology and psychology, but at another level, we are identical or the same. So we should avoid stereotyping by celebrating our immense uniqueness and immense similarity.
[Gurnam Singh is an academic activist dedicated to human rights, liberty, equality, social and environmental justice. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Warwick, UK. He can be contacted at Gurnam.email@example.com]
* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
An American Muslim imam’s letter to the American Sikh community – RNS (Asia Samachar, 23 Nov 2019)
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