HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
September 18, 2006, Herald Journal

Do stereotypes lead to terror?


We’ve been laughing a lot recently about a photo that has been making the rounds on the Internet. It says at the top “How you can tell if there are terrorists at the airport.” The photo shows a camel kneeling in the middle of a parking lot full of cars.

This photo wouldn’t be funny if most terrorism wasn’t committed by men from the Middle East, where the camels are. Our society also has developed a stereotype about terrorists being Muslims because the majority are from the Middle East, where Islam is the majority religion.

Hammasa Kohistani is the first Muslim to be crowned Miss England last year. The 19-year-old made a strange statement about this stereotype to the “Daily Mail” Aug. 31. She said the stereotype of a terrorist being a Muslim is causing Muslims to become terrorists.

“Even moderate Muslims are turning to terrorism to prove themselves. They think they might as well support it because they are stereotyped anyway,” Kohistani said.

Let’s look at that reasoning.

Because Muslims are stereotyped as terrorists, they are turning to terrorism and proving that the stereotype is true?

If even moderate Muslims are turning into terrorists, does that mean we can’t trust moderate Muslims anymore than extremist Muslims?

Granted Kohistani is not a Muslim leader nor does she make policies for a government. It’s worrisome, though, that this might be the way moderate Muslims think, being stereotyped is justification for committing terrorist acts.

I can think of many stereotypes that apply to me.

I’m a gray-haired grandma so I must be retired.

I’m a reporter so I must be nosey.

I’m Republican so I must be rich.

I’m a Christian so I must be Roman Catholic.

None of these stereotypes is true, and none of these can be an excuse for me to make them true.

What Kohistani is really trying to say is many so-called moderate Muslims probably support terrorism. They just don’t want to admit it.