By Tong Niu:
As technological advancements propel the world into a more international age, cultural diversity becomes a common phenomenon…and a growing issue. Rather than an increasing tolerance for our culturally different neighbors, we have leaned more towards judgment and stereotyping. In part due to the recent rise of terrorist groups and suicide bombings, once cohesive communities, communities with different cultures and races, have begun turning on each other. Under pressure, we have begun to separate ourselves by religion, by nationality, by race, rather than joining together against the real enemy.
One example of growing cultural divide is the treatment of Muslims after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, located in New York City, the supposed “melting pot” of cultures. The anger and hatred felt by Americans towards the Muslim terrorists are understandable. But channeling this pain and directing it at the Muslim population of New York is wrong. The cultural profiling and discrimination against South Asian communities in New York City continued two years after the attack. Over one thousand reports of discrimination were filed, with some respondents filing more than one report, according to a 2003 census done by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Of the reports filed, 37% were bias-related harassment or violence and 26% were employment related discrimination. With over two hundred thousand Arabs and South Asians in New York City, this cultural intolerance can create tensions within local communities, pass down to future generations and teach children to become judgmental adults.
Looking across the Atlantic Ocean, similar cultural clashes occurred in London after the July subway bombings in 2005. The bombing of London public transit systems killed over 50 people and wounded over 700. This traumatic event can certainly cause tension between cultural groups, but it does not excuse one from being unable to distinguish who the real enemies are. In an ICM poll conducted on July 20, 2005, 20% of Muslims felt that they or their family had experienced hostility and violence because of their religion. Cases of discrimination in the workplace and at schools have continued into the following year. When we continue to allow cultural profiling, we are actively pushing away others, separating into isolated groups that battle one another as opposed to battling the common terrorist enemies.
“Islamaphobia,” or prejudice against Islamic or Muslim groups, have developed since terrorist attacks on western nations. It development can be attributed to the paranoia that has developed against the Muslim culture. We have misdirected our anger at innocent people. Instead of learning and appreciating foreign cultures, we have begun to judge and isolate them. We need to calm down, wipe the intolerance away from our eyes and look at foreign cultures in with a more open, accepting mind. Before we start passing around blame, we need to analyze the root of the problem. So long as we continue to divide ourselves amongst cultural or ethnical boundaries, terrorism will continue to gain headway.