Stereotypes and Terrorists
American Fear of Terrorists
Post the 9/11 attacks and the ensuing war of terror, the prospects of a repeat attack by terrorists has not been far from the American consciousness. While historically, the USA had a psychological sense of safety due to its geographic location, surrounded by oceans on both sides and with friendly neighbors to the North and South, the rise of terrorist threats has mitigated this sense of security because terrorists pose asymmetric threats and do not rely on logistics that need fail-safe capability across oceans. Americans fear that terrorists can be homegrown; anyone with a sympathy to the cause could be potentially converted to the terrorist cause, thus obviating any logistical support across borders and oceans. This fear is exacerbated with the rise of the ISIS and videos of beheadings. Currently, three-fourths of Americans fear a ‘catastrophic’ terrorist attack by Islamic militants (Bedard).
Stereotypes Associated with Muslims and Arab-Americans
The prevalent fear of terrorist attacks and the perception that anyone harboring sympathy with the terrorists’ cause could be converted to a potential terrorist results in most Americans believing that Muslims and Arab-Americans are potential terrorists. This fear is stoked in the popular media. The Hollywood film ‘The Siege’ is a prominent example of feeding the stereotype, with its plot of the US military declaring martial law in the wake of increased terrorist strikes, and imprisoning Arab Americans and Muslims en masse as potential terrorists. The graphical connection between Islamic religious practices, dress and beards with terrorism remains fresh in the minds of the public, and anyone following Islamic practices and dressing according to the dictates of the religion is stereotyped as a potential terrorist. According to Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the common stereotype associated with Muslims and Arab Americans is that all Muslims are Arabs, are violent and are conducting a holy war (University of Dayton).
It is only with sustained community outreach and education that Americans would get out of their fear psychosis about terrorist threats. Stereotyping of Muslims and Arab-Americans as terrorists has the potential to fracture American society that has a proud tradition to being a melting pot of cultures and civilizations. If the USA ceases to assimilate diverse cultures without distinction, it would lose the edge that it enjoys by way of imbibing the best of cultures to remain competitive in the comity of nations.
Bedard, Paul. “American Fear: 74% See ‘Catastrophic Terrorist Attack’ Inside United States”. WashingtonExaminer.com. Jan 07, 2015. Web. July 04, 2015.