Islamophobia- who is to blame?
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A Muslim woman was abused and her husband punched in a Palmerston North mall by a man who mistook her burqa as a sign she supported Islamic State. While Cosgrove understood not all Muslims supported Isis he thought the woman in the cafe did because of a white stripe on her burqa.
Mark Desmond Cosgrove, who abused a burqa-wearing Muslim woman in a Palmerston North mall, is not alone in his bigoted views.
In the same month (March 2015), the Islamophobic abuse of two men travelling on a Wellington bus was widely reported in the media.
Many Kiwis are understandably horrified by the narrow-mindedness of people who hold such shocking stereotypical views of others.
But, what if a young Arab-looking man sat next to you on a plane? And what if, just before take off, he took out a copy of his Quran to recite a verse from it? Would that worry you a little?
Now, what if a young white Christian man sat next to you on a plane and took out his bible? Would you feel the same?
Deep-seeded prejudices against Muslims have a long history and are closely linked to misrepresentation and demonisation of Muslims in both Western literature and Hollywood movies.
Media's persistent portrayal of Muslims as mostly the perpetrators of violence and only rarely as the victims of it, has helped shape the prejudicial views of Muslims which assume them to be more prone to violence and more likely to hold extremist views.
Despite the empirical evidence, many stereotypical and impressionistic views persist.
In April, Martin van Beynen, a senior Fairfax writer, in response to two Muslim sisters' description of their mistreatment at Brisbane airport, penned a piece for The Press titled "Airport search does not justify Muslim victimhood".
He wrote: "The Tawfeek sisters arrive with their heads mostly covered by scarves, suggesting a fairly fundamentalist approach to their religion and possibly a sympathy with the methods employed by extremists Muslims. The Muslim headdress makes a statement that will get attention in the same way as a gang patch does."
Van Beynen continued: "Security people can be forgiven, however, for thinking that if they are going to target anyone, it should be people who have some affinity, no matter how tenuous, to the terrorist movements or acts they are trying to thwart."
Reading van Beynen's words, there is no mistaking what he is suggesting: it is ok to draw a link, be it a tenuous one, between terrorists and people who look like Muslims.
Mark Desmond Cosgrove, who abused the Muslim woman in Palmerston North, obviously thought the same and took it upon himself to act as a mall security on that day.
Cosgrove got heavily fined for his actions, but our media tends to get away with spreading irresponsible prejudicial views under the guise of free speech.
Donna Mojab (Donna Miles) is a British-born, Iranian-bred, New Zealand citizen with a strong interest in human rights, justice and equality issues.
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