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Islamophobia in the United States: Attack on a Muslim Preacher

Islamophobia is still very much alive in the United States. In a cowardly Islamophobic attack, a well-known Muslim scholar was attacked. Shaikh Uthman ibn Farooq, a well known Islamic preacher, was in downtown San Diego when a man began verbally attacking him. Later on, when Shaikh Uthman pulled into a gas station, the man followed him. This is when Shaikh Uthman started recording with his mobile phone. The man begins attacking him verbally once again claiming that he has seen the Shaikh’s videos and then begins yelling obscenities at him. 

At this point, in an act of unrelenting bravery, Shaikh Uthman gets out of the car to confront the man. This is when the man pulls out a knife and attempts to stab him. He was injured in the altercation and had to seek medical treatment. It is worth noting that the suspect escaped the scene. 

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CAIR (The Council on American – Islamic Relations) San Diego condemned the attack and asked for people with more information to come forward. The organization issued a statement saying: 

“We condemn this apparently bias-motivated attack on Sheikh Uthman and pray for his full recovery,” the organization said in a statement. “Hate rhetoric can quickly turn into a hate crime causing harm to life and property. We call on members of the public to offer any information they have about this attack and for city officials to take immediate action to ensure public safety for all minority communities.” (The San Diego Tribune)

Media Coverage

Other than a brief article in a local newspaper, this incident did not receive adequate media coverage. The fact that a person peacefully practicing his right to free speech can be verbally and physically attacked was not deemed important to the American media. But, as is the usual case, if the preacher in this case was the perpetrator of the attack, the media coverage could have been widely covered on a national or even international level. 

Also Read: Islamophobia: Global Consequences

Regular discourse of politicians, sensational news media coverage and entertainment helps to fuel discrimination, and provides a legitimate platform for anti-Muslim fear-mongering and Islamophobia. According to CAIR, Islam is the most oft-mentioned religion in news coverage, and a substantial portion of that coverage is negative (2016) (FN quod article)

Journal of Muslim Mental Health

It is worth noting that this was not the first attack on Shaikh Uthman, as he was recently attacked 2 months ago in January 2022. 

It is abhorrent that in the year 2022, more than 11 years after the September 11 attacks, ignorance continues to prevail and Muslims are still targeted in the United States. The fact that a man peacefully preaching a message of faith can be attacked multiple times clearly shows that the seeds of hate and ignorance spread by western media have been strongly rooted within some groups and individuals.

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white supremacists and other right-wing ideologues pose a serious threat. Yet this threat will be missed if all attention is focused on Muslims. Various studies on terrorist attacks in the United States found that Muslims are not responsible for most of them. One study that analyzed the information from the Global Terrorism Database found that of the eighty-nine attacks in the United States that occurred from 2011 to 2015, Muslims were responsible for eleven attacks, or 12 percent

Fordham Law Review

While Muslims know that not everyone must accept their teachings of Islam, they believe that it is their duty to ensure that they have made a collective effort to preach that message. Not accepting the message is a personal choice for each person to whom it is conveyed. It is one thing to reject a message, but to violently attack the preacher of that message is a repulsive act of terrorism. It is ironic in the case of Shaikh Uthman that the man called him a terrorist while he was the one wielding a weapon.

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Despite the hatred and attacks, Islam and Muslims continue to grow in size in the United States. Pew Research Center estimates that Muslims make up about 1% of the population and that the number of Muslims will most likely double by 2050. (FN Pew article) . 

So as Muslims continue to grow and make up a significant portion of the American population, they must continue to advocate against Islamophobia and educate others on the reality of the Divine Message of Islam on both a local and national level.  

Also Read: UN International Day to Combat Islamophobia: A Recognition to Hardships for the Muslims

Education is the Most Fitting Response

Only a couple of days following the attack, Shaikh Uthman posted an update on social media directly from the scene of the attack that he was well and was ready to continue preaching Islam in the streets of San Diego once again. 

The fact that a person is brave enough to continue preaching a faith regardless of the dangers involved is highly admirable. The fact that the main point of focus was the goal and that it was not turned into an opportunity for attention and fame is evidence to the truthful nature of the Message being advocated.  It clearly shows that the commitment of some Muslims to their faith is bound by a strong belief that Islam is the source of salvation that must be spread in the correct manner among the masses. 

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Similar to the efforts of American media in their continuous efforts to portray Islam in a negative light, Muslims exert even more effort to ensure that the correct understanding of the Religion is taught far and wide. 

Educating people about Islam, answering their questions and dispelling misconceptions is the perfect approach to confronting Islamophobia. It is true that this may not necessarily be the most pleasing approach to others and there will be some consequences. But a quick glance at some of the achievements shows the wide range of people who have found a response to their queries on Islam.