Posted by on January 07, 2015 in Blog

With 2015 now underway Arab Americans and American Muslims are hoping that this year will be better for them than 2014. Throughout most of 2014, reports of hate crimes against Arab Americans and American Muslims across the country were frequent and seen on both the micro and macro level. Just last month, a Somali taxi driver was beaten unconscious by three men who accused the driver of being a “terrorist”. This past November the state of Alabama overwhelmingly passed an anti-Islam amendment that was marketed to voters as a ban on “foreign and international laws”. This is not the first time that a state has tried to pass a discriminatory state amendment. The amendment was sponsored by State Senator Gerald Allen who had tried to sponsor and pass similar bills in the past. The New York Police Department reported a 50% spike in hate crimes toward Muslim and Arab communities in New York City after the rise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

These sentiments are not a new trend in the United States. November 2014 polling from the Arab American Institute shows a rise in Anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab sentiments over the past two years. 45% of respondents said they had an unfavorable attitude towards American Muslims and 39% said the same about Arab Americans. The percentage of people who have unfavorable attitudes toward Arab Americans and American Muslims has grown but even more shocking is that the percentage of people who view both groups favorably has  gone down by more than 10% for each group in the last two years.

The main reason for this discrimination stems from ignorance. The same polling shows that from the people who reported unfavorable attitudes toward Arab Americans and American Muslims 49% and 44%, respectively, did not know anyone who is Arab or Muslim. The survey found that those who know and Arab or a Muslim are much more likely to view the groups favorably.

However, 2014 was not all bad as we saw many profound examples of interfaith activities and events. For the first time ever, the Washington National Cathedral hosted a Friday prayer this past November which received a positive reception from many people. The event was hosted by several Islamic groups in the Washington DC area, was a historic moment for the cathedral. The cathedral, which is known for hosting burial services for national heroes and presidents, held a Friday prayer service which included sermons from both Christian and Muslim speakers about the importance of tolerance. During the recent Sydney Siege in Australia, the world on social media joined together in solidarity with the hashtag #I’llRideWithYou. The hashtag was meant to show support for a Muslim women who removed her headscarf because she felt threatened or uncomfortable by the events that were unfolding. The message went viral globally as stories of people standing together with Muslims across the world were displayed online. Hopefully 2015 will see more stories of solidarity, and less of hate directed towards Arabs and Muslims around the world, and especially in the United States.