The University of Iowa

Islamophobia, Study Abroad Blog Post

December 7th, 2015

By Claire Jacobson*

For about a month, a group of international students and I planned on going to Marseille for a weekend trip. In light of recent events in France right now, some had to drop out. One of my friends, a wonderful American Muslim girl, decided not to go because she wears a hijab, and she was afraid of how people there will treat her. She already has trouble going through airports under normal circumstances, but now she's worried that even people on the streets in France will harass her, like they have many others. France doesn't have a history of dealing well with different religions and cultures, and Muslims in particular.

photo of mosque

The mosque at the center of Al Akhawayn's campus. I see it numerous times every day on my way to class or meals. It's a normal part of the landscape.

This makes me angry. Not at her – in all honesty, I would probably make the same decision if I were in her shoes. No, I’m angry because we live in a world in which any human being, and in this case a friend of mine, must be afraid of how other human beings will treat her because of how she chooses to follow her religion.

A world in which islamophobia is somehow okay.

On my Facebook feed, I see updates from friends all over the map ideologically. On any given day I might see an article detailing exactly why Obama is the Antichrist right below a status blaming all of the world's problems on Bush's foreign policy, and everything in between. All that to say, I've discovered I have more than one friend who has closeted crazy anti-Muslim prejudices, and that is really upsetting to me. I am not sure that some of these people have even met a Muslim before, and yet they feel obligated to inflict their uninformed opinion on the world.

When people insult or complain about Muslims, I don't picture terrorists. I don't picture the Hollywood villains that so many Americans are accustomed to envisioning. I picture individual faces. I see Aliyah, or Aleena, or Batoul, or Zeineb, or Seima, or Amina, or Belqesa, or a dozen others. Some of these friends I’ve known for a short time, others longer than I can remember (or at least through my awkward elementary school years). I see their faces, imagine them being personally insulted, and I almost feel insulted on their behalf.

I have not met anyone in my life who hates ISIS and their ilk more than my Muslim friends, at home and here in Morocco. Not only are these terrorists misusing Islam to justify their crimes, but they are killing even more Muslims than they are people from other religious groups– and yet, all Muslims are forced to bear the brunt of public opinion against them. I try to imagine how I would feel if an army of self-proclaimed Christians went on a killing spree “in the name of God.”

Oh wait, that’s already happened. The feeling that my friends have is the same kind that I have when people talk about the Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition, or the KKK, only this is happening right now. Murder in the name of God is still murder, and claiming that God condones it doesn’t mean that he does– and it certainly doesn't mean that anyone who wears a hijab (or just looks vaguely Middle Eastern) can be held responsible for it.

I don't understand why people are behaving like this, and I'm not sure I want to. I don't want to live in a world in which people can turn away people in need because of their religion. I don't want to understand the views of someone who thinks all Muslims should be registered and mosques monitored. I don't want to live in a country in which politicians can issue blanket racist statements regarding people I care about and still be taken seriously. The actions of the "Islamic" State require a response– but not like this.

This is not justice.

*Claire Jacobson is a 2018 sophomore from Iowa City, Iowa, majoring in French and Arabic with a certificate in writing at the University of Iowa. She is studying abroad this semester on the ISEP Al Akhawayn University program in Ifrane, Morocco.