Popular films like American Sniper reduce places like Iraq to dusty war zones, devoid of any culture or history. Fears and anxiety manifest themselves in Islamophobic actions such as burning mosques or even attacking people physically.
At the heart of such fear is ignorance. A December 2015 poll found that a majority of Americans (52 percent) do not understand Islam. In this same poll, 36 percent also said that they wanted to know more about the religion. Interestingly, those under 30 years were 46 percent more likely to have a favorable view of Islam.
Donald Trump’s attack against Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star Mother of Captain Humayun Khan, and the resultant #CanYouHearUsNow hashtag campaign is still reverberating around us on social media.
But while hashtag campaigns come and go, strong, independent Muslim women in America and abroad are here to stay.
Muslim women around the country — lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers, activists, artists, mothers and students — have joined on social media to address Trump’s comments, as well as the popular notion that Islam oppresses women.
When Laila Alawa woke up on a recent morning, her phone wouldn’t stop pinging with Twitter notifications.
“You’re not American, you’re a terrorist sympathizer immigrant that nobody in America wants and for good reason,” one user tweeted.
In northern Nigeria, mounting fears of militant female suicide bombers have raised calls to ban the hijab, or the veil that covers the head, chest and, in some cases, the entire body.
Last week, four women believed to be members of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram carried out attacks in Kano, a city in northern Nigeria. Men belonging to the group have taken to wearing the hijab, too, according to reports.
On July 27, a female suicide bomber detonated a bomb outside a Roman Catholic church in Kano, killing four people and injuring 70. Around the same time, security agencies arrested two girls aged 10 and 18 with explosive belts under their hijabs.
“We have this worrying situation where the bombers are turning out to be girls dressed in the hijab,” Roman Catholic Bishop John Niyiring of Kano said.
Banning the hijab is crucial to curbing the trend, said Emmanuel Akubor, a historian at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife in western Nigeria.
“The best thing for now is to place a temporary ban on hijab, not for religious, but security reasons,” he told News Agency of Nigeria.
But Niyiring said he thinks such a ban would be resisted.
Dozens of Muslim women are competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London — several of them as the very first female athletes chosen (and allowed) to represent their countries in the Olympic games.
These women are vanguards, shattering stereotypes, subverting cultural-religious mores, and creating a legacy that will benefit female Olympians of all creeds for years to come.
As has been widely reported and celebrated (in many quarters), Saudi Arabia sent two women athletes to represent the Arabic nation for the first time at the Olympic games — 16-year-old judoka (judo competitor) Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar, 19.
Attar, who is a California-born American but holds dual-citizenship in the Arabian kingdom because her father is Saudi, trains in San Diego, not far from Pepperdine University where she is a junior art major and also runs on the university's track team.
Shahrkhani, whose father is a judo coach and an international referee in the sport, won a dispute with Olympics officials earlier this week to be allowed to compete while wearing her hijab or traditional head covering worn by many observant Muslim women.
Saudi Arabia is not the only majority Muslim country sending its first women competitors to the Olympics. Brunei and Qatar also followed suit, sending five female athletes in total. Runner Maziah Mahusin is the lone woman on Brunei's three-person Olympic team. Qatar's four women Olympians are swimmer Nada Mohammed WS Arakji, sprinter Noor Hussain Al-Malki, table tennis player Aia Mohamed, and air rifle competitor Bahia Al-Hamad.
Both Mahusin and Al-Hamad were chosen as flag bearers for their nations at the opening ceremonies in London last week. Twelve majority Muslim countries — Tajikistan, Qatar, Morocco, Indonesia, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Djibouti, Comoros, Brunei, Bahrain, and Albania — chose women as flag bearers at the opening ceremonies that were viewed by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.