Intolerance of Islam still manifests in US

If there’s anything we’ve learned about America post-9/11, it’s that it can heal, it can fix its own bruises. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve learned that an event like 9/11 can’t debase America’s core foundation: its ability to tolerate.

But our faith in our tolerance shakes when groups, like the New York Police Department, continue to target law-abiding Muslim civilians.

Last week, several politicians and university administrators called out the NYPD for following innocent Muslim students around the New York-state area without proper grounds. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the investigations into Muslim groups that might draw terrorist activity against the city as “legal” and “appropriate.”

For the city that’s had to deal most directly with the emotional baggage of 9/11, none of this is surprising.

Police presence was vamped up considerably after the attacks, and ethnic profiling, although not new to American law enforcement, was significantly more noticeable against Muslim and Arab groups.

But surprising or not, it’s evidence of a still-existing, false concept of what the typical Muslim or the perfect candidate for a terrorist really is. Because an individual is Muslim should not be grounds to keep track of him or her.

“If there is a lead, by all means, I totally agree that there should be an investigation,” said Mohamed El Filali, outreach director at the Islamic Center of Passaic County, during a Friday press conference in Newark. “(The) safety of our country comes first, but not at the jeopardy of our civil liberties.”

This case sheds light on how we’ve misconstrued Muslims in our society. The fear of another 9/11 leaves us cautious (and rightly so), but this doesn’t make every Muslim A) a spitting, frenzied, dark-skinned suicide bomber hoping to make a martyr of himself, B) a hijabi oppressed into forced religious attitudes or C) a romanticized Sultan Suleiman of the Ancient East of the 16th century.

That some still call for the burning of the Koran, need a TLC show called “All-American Muslim” to open our eyes to the Muslim identity, and have law enforcement specifically targeting Muslim groups for their religious affiliation speaks volumes about where we stand on tolerance.