A research was conducted to investigate how Islamophobia affected Muslim college students in American colleges (Ataie, 2019). It was a case study of university students from UC Berkeley following the 2016 controversial presidential campaign that sought to institute a Muslim ban into the US (Ataie, 2019). In the methodology, there were questions about protective mechanisms adopted by the Muslim students in their attempt to develop a sense of identity. The study provided perspectives on the challenges encountered by the students at UC Berkeley by offering a platform for them to express and process the personal experience of being a Muslim-American student at a university campus.
The research applied a case study methodology using qualitative methods; the researchers justified the choice of case study because they wanted to base it on a specific environment of UC Berkeley in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign (Ataie, 2019). The campus was necessary given the critical work they accomplished during the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s. A case study was also critical because of the potential to collect diverse data types such as observations, interviews, documents, and artifacts. Data gathered was uniquely tied to a specific event such as protests and riots that occurred in the Spring of 2017; data from these events were also analyzed (Ataie, 2019). The guiding questions for the interviews were how the upsurge of Islamophobia following the 2016 election had affected the mental well-being of the students. Another question was about ways in which the Muslim students had engaged in advocacy. The final question was about the personal and collective defense and coping factors that students had applied as they navigated their lives on campus. Twelve Muslim American undergraduate students took part in the study and were reached through direct communication via google forms posted on Facebook.
The results revealed that there was an increasing need for Muslim-American students to have alternative channels to express their identity and repel discrimination on the micro, personal level. It was revealed that UC Berkeley was a contested environment for Muslim students, and as a result, the participants were ambivalent about their experiences (Ataie, 2019). The study also showed that many Muslim students at the campus had created inclusion spaces for themselves. In contrast, others had chosen to develop alternative narratives to fight prejudices leveled against them (Ataie, 2019). Another revelation was that Muslim American students had sought refuge in Muslim spaces, including the MSA or ethnic student organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine.
Background to the Study
The Muslim population in the United States has risen considerably over the years due to a variety of reasons such as birth, immigration, and conversion. Interestingly, as the number of Muslims in the US increases, the Islamophobia rate also increases (Ataie, 2019). Islamophobia affects Muslims as a community even if the discrimination does not result in an assault. Hate crimes are defined as criminal offenses directed at a victim based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion (Ataie, 2019). Hate crimes can take the shape of physical harm but are not limited to this. They can involve such crimes as offensive notes, drawings, abusive messages, property damage, verbal insults, and harassment. As the population of Muslims in the country rises, the number of Muslims in colleges also increases (Ataie, 2019). It is, however, not easy to pinpoint the exact number of Muslims in US colleges as religion is not a category in the US census. Therefore, it is important to investigate the campus experience through the eyes of a Muslim-American student.
Weaknesses of the Study
One of the weaknesses of the study was female bias since out of the 12 participants, only 1 was male. The gender variable may have affected the results and was not corrected. This revealed that the demonization and hypervisibility of male Muslims and the association of their names with those of terrorists might have discouraged their participation. The villainization of Muslim males in the mass media may prevent them from participating in social events where they could be profiled. Another weakness of the study is the entanglement between the religious and ethnic variables; while Muslims could be grouped under the umbrella term “Muslim American,” it is possible for participants to revert to their ethnic identities. This is because of the stigma associated with the Muslim identity.
Importance of the Study
There are 1.8 billion Muslims globally; they have been heavily displaced because of political instability in their homelands. After 9/11, the fate of Muslims in America changed forever as it took the turn of fear and hostility (Ataie, 2019). Islamophobia has risen steadily since 9/11, but the culmination was achieved during the 2016 presidential elections when a presidential candidate of a major political party, Donald Trump, explicitly called for a ban against Muslim entry into the US. This was a critical study because the participants were mainly from the post-9/11 generation (Ataie, 2019). It was also significant because it analyzed Islamophobia both at the micro and the national level. It was vital documentation of the Muslim-American life and how they navigate their lives with a hyphenated identity. The study dissects the plight of the Muslim community and offers recommendations about how they can reclaim their honor.
Ataie, D. (2019). Reconciling hyphenated identities: Muslim American youth reflect on college life in the midst of Islamophobia. [Doctoral Dissertations, The University of San Francisco].