It is not accidental that America is often referred to as a “melting pot” because it embraces many cultures, religions, and traditions from various people and nations. Islam is considered to be one of those niches which are recognized in the United States because there are nearly 4 million Muslims in the country. Despite the fact that the majority of the U.S. citizens include immigrants, there is still a growing tendency of witnessing Americans who accept Islam. Indeed, the major influence of Islam on American life relates to ideological thinking, but not to the population growth. Therefore, Islam presents its major reason for existence being the result of the social creation that enjoys the good and ignores the evil, believing in God. According to Muslim ideology, a person is free to decide how to lead a life and he/she is between Earth and Heaven, suggesting the destiny to the free will shaping the current world. Although in America the human rights, freedom of expression and equality are wide-spread concepts, the US experiences and their consequences show that Islam before and after the 9/11 events could be defined as two completely opposite perceptions. What is more aggravating is that the 9/11 terror attacks played a crucial role in Trump’s modern judgment regarding immigrants’ deportation and overall hatred to the Muslim people, which creates disturbances all over the world and introduces boundaries to foreign relations.
It goes without questions that Muslims have significantly affected the development of American society. In historical terms, Muslims have presented an essential contribution to science, humanity, and arts. They had also explored North America for 300 years before the newcomers who discovered the New World. Furthermore, they also utilized the Mississippi river as the major route throughout the continent. To follow historical chronology, it is possible to present some glimpses from the history of Islam’s advent to America (Numan, 1992). To begin with, in 1310, the Muslim king of the Malian Empire Abu Bakari carried out several voyages to North America. Two years later, African Muslims arrived in the Mexican Gulf to exploit river routes for establishing trade relationships (Numan, 1992). In 1539, the Muslim from Morocco Estevanico of Azamor arrived in Florida with the expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez. The Muslims stayed in America to have become the first of three Americans who managed to cross the continent. Further, in 1856, the United States cavalry provides a Muslim with the position of raising camels in Arizona (Numan, 1992). At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Albanian Muslim built a Masjid in Maine and developed an Islamic Association. Later, they organized another association in Connecticut. These were the first organizations of Muslims in North America. In 1962, the newspaper called Muhammad Speaks was released and became the largest publication created by the minority in the country, with the readership of over 800,000 (Numan, 1992). A year later, the Muslim Students Association was established as an organization that helps Muslims to attend educational establishments in the United States. As can be seen from history, the Muslim culture has deeply impregnated into American society, developing their norms, laws, and regulations.
It should be stressed that since the Islamic world encountered the loss of sovereignty in the nineteenth century and the corresponding challenge from Western ideologies, they were unable to muster the courage and thus were more disposed to various crucial religious, social and political processes. Therefore, freedom is often confused by many Muslims with an unimpeded religious expression that naturally does not pose a threat to the shaped order. In fact, the American experience of interaction with Islam provides fresh insight into the history of the Western and Eastern worlds. The Muslim religion has many undercurrents for treating man and women’s roles, acceptance of social order, and attitude to God. As an example, before the 9/11 events, Muslim feminism was a popular phenomenon. Most Arab-American women preserved their ethnicity while promoting the religious impact of faith in culture. It was, however, often remarked that the connections that Arab women in the United Stated had with their religion and ethnicity were no more the genuine grounds for perceiving their identity. On the contrary, they were considered to be the components of several circumstances contributing to their identity creation, such as a marital or immigration status, and the relevance of Scriptures in their present-day life. Furthermore, Arab-American females could also practice Christianity, demonstrating similar attitudes as those who were loyal to Islam.
While analyzing the perceptions of Arab people and Muslims in particular in the media realm, it should be acknowledged that even before the terror attacks the image of Middle Eastern people was distorted. It can be viewed as reflected in mythmaking by media and film industries, creating stereotypes as a part of a strategy for politicians and experts who criticized and downgraded the Middle East. It is also the tension in international relations and foreign policy created by the governmental authorities and groups striving to influence the agenda. In fact, Muslims play the role of a scapegoat for the world rather than manifest the genuine reason for racial profiling or discrimination. It cannot, nevertheless, be considered rational to discriminate between the ethnic minorities and objectify the ethnic strain judging from the crimes committed by some of their representatives.
During the post-9/11 period, Americans still continued to impose and spread their prejudiced views and stereotypes on any person who matched the images depicted in media. In the course of the days of the attack, each TV or web channel showed the pictures of hijackers and presented their unreliable version of the catastrophe. In such a way, social and public media ignited prejudice and criticism toward the Muslim world as a whole. According to Jolls, Alaverdian, Adams, and Silva (2002), “the media only fueled the hatred that Americans felt towards all Arabs when it was relatively a small group of people responsible for these attacks. Since 9/11 the media has continued to depict the Middle East as ungrateful for the help that the United States has supposedly brought” (n. p.). Hence, the deceptions demonstrated on the screen have created a number of serious challenges for the entire Muslim people based on the misinterpretation of their relation to terrorism and their false involvement in it. Interestingly, Iraqis were also portrayed as threatening nations not appreciating the efforts of the Bush administration to liberate them from the terrorist power. The false kind of interpretation has distorted the genuine grounds of Eastern culture, particularly for young Middle East students in pursuit of education and the people who are currently seeking professional advancement in the United States. The U.S media fails to report the veritable facts about the military activities in Iraq. It refuses to reveal another side of the story because of the intentions of America’s media empire to take control of the larger international community.
One should not omit the evident shifts in the national security of the United States right after the 9/11 events. It has become the reason for launching the War on Terror to prevent the attacks allegedly prepared and organized by Islamic Extremists. The post-9/11 period has placed people at social war with Afghanistan and Iraq, leading to the upheaval of racial discrimination, intolerance, and hatred. U.S. citizens have become involved in the continuing cycle of aggression and violence toward the Muslim people in their country and the entire Islamic world in general.
Interestingly, the post-terrorist period of attacks was also followed by the growing converts of Americans into the Islamic religion. In fact, whit Americans’ conversion to Islamic is the outcome of dissatisfaction with the stereotypes and prejudices created around the Arab people, leading to significant hardships for the Muslim people who were never engaged in any activities which would threaten the life of U.S. citizens (Esseissah, 2011). Such an assumption also calls for reconsidering the false classification and labels placed by media reporters, especially regarding the evident connection between Arab people and the Islamic religion since not all Arab people accept this faith, and vice versa, some of the white Americans could even be involved into Muslim culture and should consequently be viewed as dangerous as well.
Despite such odd cases with the growing popularity of Islam, there is still the percentage of Americans who had not given a thought to the Islamic culture and Muslims before 9/11 and those who are more aware of the faith tradition aftermath. Their solutions varied, beginning with discrimination and hate crimes toward Muslims and ending with social action, peacemaking, and fruitful dialogues. After careful consideration of these beliefs and shifts, Smith (2013) assumes, “animosity toward Islam since 9/11 has not been driven primarily by fear of terrorism. In fact, despite feeling intensely threatened by Islamic fundamentalism immediately after 9/11, the public actually then expressed more favorable sentiment toward Islam and Muslim-Americans than at any time before or since” (pp. 1-2). Regardless of the fear, Americans react to those attacks with compassion and sympathy with Muslims who have now been unfairly judged rather than with prejudice for the entire Muslim people. Anyway, many young Middle Eastern people who know the United States as a democratic country do feel confused and under the pressure since many biases regarding the case still remain nowadays and are openly expressed by certain categories of people.
Regardless of the established boundaries, false stereotypes and prejudices, there is still a possibility to provide shifts in perceptions and recognize the fact that there are many great and outstanding Arab people who have made and are currently making significant contributions to the scientific and technological development of the country. Specifically, Ofek (2011) argues that modern Islam is not popular for its active participation in contemporary scientific projects. However, they are definitely attributed to the Golden Age of scientific and technological development, which is currently the major debate calling for reconciling and improving the relationships between Westerners and Muslims. As a proof, Obama pronounced the 2009 speech in Cairo, acknowledging the achievements of the Arab world in the sphere of science: “It was Islam that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim community that developed the order of algebra” (Obama, as cited in Ofek, 2011, n. p.). Hence, the tributes to the Muslim world and the Arab period of scientific upheaval have provided Americans and the entire world with new technological and scientific opportunities. The great era of Arab science shows that there are practically no barriers to advancement, objectivity, and tolerance in regards to the Islamic world.
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Since Trump’s recent presidential elections victory, many Muslims around the United States have been concerned with their life as immigrants. Trump took the position and conducted the new hate-Muslim campaign, creating disturbances and indignation on the part of the Islamic immigrants. It was also followed by a wave of disobedience, felonies, and serious crimes. In fact, this is the case when the American community creates a false perception of Muslim-friendly environments, such as those in Michigan and New York, which are considered most densely populated with Muslims in the United States. Civil rights groups have witnessed displays of harassment, leading to hate crimes there. However, it is difficult to identify what the exact number of Muslims is in those cities. Besides, they are spread all over the nation, adding to cultural and religious diversity (Holpuch, Pilkington, & Goyette, 2016). In response to these problems, leading democratic activists, such as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warrant, Nevada senator Harry Reid and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have pledged Trump for making the corresponding campaign to reduce the cases of hate crimes and false stereotyping. However, the incumbent President seems to ignore those requests (Holpuch et al., 2016). If Trump does not stop the current campaigns and rhetoric, there is a possibility of complicating the situation within the country and beyond.
The closest solution which is provided by Trump is the peace offering, denying the false facts regarding his prejudiced attitude to ethnic minorities. The comments calmed the groups down and gave them hope for a better future. It is also hopeful that Trump will correct the mistakes and pitfalls of the Bush administration and follow a peaceful trend in shaping international policies in the world where military activities would never stop. It should be acknowledged that since 9/11 Muslim Americans have to cope with the waves of governmental interferences, beginning with mass arrests and custody in Washington and New York following the terror attacks, the development of a special registration network for non-citizens, and ending with police department surveillance of communities and mosques in New York (Holpuch et al., 2016). There is a sort of anxiety and serious worries regarding the government’s future actions because of the ambiguous comments of the new President.
Some of Trump’s assumptions are well-grounded, but currently, the U.S. government has presented a great number of reforms directed at enhancing disturbances and misconceptions regarding the fears and concerns connected with feasible repeated terrorist attacks. On the other hand, Trump has made a sound offer by issuing the new regulation that would deport undocumented immigrants, which could contribute to crime reduction (Flores, 2016). The speech made by Trump shows that he is not concerned with the currently existing prejudices, but with liberating the nation from illegal immigrants who deprived some of the residents of the employment opportunities (Flores, 2016). According to the statistics, there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants who entered the United States illegally and most of whom are the leading criminals increasing the crime level. Instead of propagating aggression, intolerance and, violence, as it had been practiced before, now the task of the state, volunteering and non-governmental organizations is to assist refugees and homeless individuals to accommodate and adjust to the current conditions, as well as provide affordable employment opportunities.
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All these deliberations provide both negative and positive aspects of the future development of the scenario of treating Muslims in the United States. However, there are also specific concerns with the way Islamic people would react to these accusations and wrong conceptions regarding the Muslim community. Many reporters and young Muslims adversely react to the campaign and speeches of Donald Trump who is often represented as a man posing a threat to Muslims who are going to enter a new country with a new leader (Ali, 2016). It is natural that Muslim Americans could not perceive this speech objectively and took it personally. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Trump could put an end to culture confrontations and war, particularly paying attention to his conflicting speech regarding the necessity of building a strong border and a strong wall that could isolate the United States from the entire world. Such an approach is the complete opposition to the current trends in the global policy (Williams, 2016). His extremist views could even amplify the disturbances and protests, leading to multiple cases of revolts and demonstrations. To solve the issue, Trump should abandon this approach and choose an alternative path as, indeed, America has always been the home for multiple cultures and ethnicities, recognizing the diversity and ignoring intolerance and inequality.
It is rather difficult to predict what the future will hold for the Muslim community of the USA after Trump’s office. It will largely depend on the political and personal orientation of the heads of the state to come and the current for that period of time socio-economic situation around the globe, especially in the Islamic regions of it. What remains clear is that since the process of combatting terrorism is a rather slow venture, the attitudes to people sharing the same ethnical affiliation as terrorists will predominantly continue being hostile.
Islam in America takes deep roots starting from the eleventh century up to now, highlighting both contributions and controversies regarding the negative and positive contributions of Muslims. One way or another, the U.S history has been divided into two parts – Muslims before and after the 9/11 events, changing completely the outlook on the whole Islamic culture because of the role of certain Muslims in igniting and fueling revolutions, terrorism, and military activities. What is more detrimental is that Trump is still determined to be hostile to illegally residing immigrants, with the emphasis to Muslims who, as he claims, are a real threat to American safety and security. In fact, his overt speeches have created even more serious obstacles and disturbances preventing the U.S citizens from sustaining peaceful existence at an international level. Indeed, the American nation could be transformed into a hostile, intolerant society whose democratic position will be lost. Unfortunately, 9/11 terror events became the leading factor in perceiving and stereotyping all the Muslim residents in the United States, regardless of the fact that most of Arabs are peaceful citizens, with many of them being outstanding scientists and researchers who have made a significant contribution to the scientific and technological development of the country. Consequently, Trump’s America should definitely reconsider its immigrant policy to disclose a more friendly attitude toward cultural minorities because the United States has always been considered a melting pot of cultures, values, and traditions, adding to its diversity, greatness and prominent achievements.
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