Dr. Michelle Fine, a professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and social psychologist, begins her discussion on Islamophobia by introducing the notion that the surge of stereotypes against Muslims started after September 11, 2001. In a crowded room full of students, she goes into detail about how her friend, Sirin, asked her to help him interview Muslim Americans in New Jersey about their experiences post 9/11. There she learns that many Muslim Americans felt conflicted after 9/11 and lived in fear because of how society viewed them. She asked a couple of them to draw pictures of how they felt and most of the men drew pictures where they were conflicted in choosing to be Muslim or American. The idea of “hyphenated identity”, which was having two identities, came into play.
Dr. Fine made many important points some of which were intriguing. For example, she discussed the theory that Muslims and Americans are a “clash of civilization”. This means that you can’t be a good Muslim while trying to be American or a good American while being Muslim, but that you had to pick one or the other. Also, it meant that the more you feel Muslim, the less American you become. What was peculiar about this theory is that Muslims didn’t start feeling this way until they encountered Islamophobia. Another great important point that she made was that America is a country that is promiscuous about hatred, that it has at different times targeted different groups to hate. She also discussed the data that she found in people who faced discrimination. She said that the more discrimination a person experiences, the more angry and discriminatory he becomes. This caused both psychological and physical consequences. Some of the psychological consequences were problems with self-worth, self-identity, depression and being anti-social. Some of the physical were health issues such as diabetes, high-cholesterol and stress.
All of these points made me more aware of the world around me, in the aspect of being more understanding and accepting of others. It sadden me greatly to know the of the situation that these people had to go through and are still going through it. Unfortunately, these Muslims and other groups that are being targeted don’t having great coping skills and chose to ignore it or let the anger consume them.
Queensborough Community College should think about bringing more programs or classes where these issues can be discussed. There should be a group where people who are being targeted can feel comfortable talking about it and find healthier methods to cope with the challenges. Also, we should have programs or classes where we can learn about other people’s culture and how to be respectful about it. Overall, it was a great lecture to attend and I walked out with great knowledge and more empathy for the groups of people who are suffering right now.