For those who stubbornly insist that Islamophobia is nothing but a figment of the Muslim imagination (read this: Islamophobia Part-1: It Exists), ABC News has pretty much proved you wrong. Islamophobia is very real and does indeed exist in this very country.
On the Tuesday night (2/26/08), ABC aired its primetime series entitled What Would You Do? (video below sleeve), in which a controversial scenario is staged with hidden cameras to see how the public would react to such a situation. Last Tuesday’s episode included a scenario in a popular bakery with one actor playing a female Muslim customer wearing hijab and another playing a bigoted store clerk who refused to serve her based on her being Muslim and insulted her with all kinds of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab discriminatory remarks.
The reaction of the public was disturbing to say the least, but unfortunately, not surprising. According to ABC News, the majority of bystanders witnessed the incident yet chose not to get involved, largely due to approval of the clerk’s actions. A minority did speak up… some in defense of the Muslim customer (expressing their disgust to the clerk and threatening to boycott the bakery). While others, unfortunately, actually spoke up in support of the bigoted clerk’s actions. The ABC News article states:
Even though people seemed to have strong opinions on either side, more than half of the bystanders did or said absolutely nothing. This is a familiar reaction for many Muslims such as Javed, [a Muslim-American woman]. “I was shocked because when these things happen to me in real life … I never see what happens after I walk out of that store,” she said. “I would try to justify … that they probably didn’t hear it … when I watched it, I realized, no, they hear it and they see it and they’re okay with it.”
The broadcast seems to point out that, while there are some good hearted Americans out there who did stand up for the rights of the Muslim customer, the majority of the public are still quite indoctrinated with Islamophobia. So much so that they are OK with a store refusing to serve a customer based on religion albeit illegal according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to ABC News, one customer said afterwards, “I really think that a person who owns his own business should be able to say who they sell to.”
Perhaps this isn’t the most accurate sampling of the American people, as this experiment occurred in Waco, Texas, where one might expect to find perhaps a bit more racism and Islamophobia, but in any case, the outcome paints quite a depressing picture. So, to all the Islamophobes out there reading this… guess what, ABC News just proved your existence, so stop living in denial! Accept that Islamophobia DOES exist and it is destroying the moral fibers of the very society we live in!
I urge all our Muslim readers to write to ABC News and thank them for running this special on Islamophobia. You can comment on the website of the article, or better yet, write to ABC News directly thanking them for this service.
Also, our MM staff writer, Sr. Ruth, has written on her chron.com blog about her perspective on this special, so be sure to check that out as well.