Since August 2019 I've been studying Psychology with criminology, a pre-university level course which has given me a well-rounded education in Social Sciences. My Sociology class has been extremely interesting and I've learnt that my mind already works in a way that Sociologist evaluate society. I've spent years observing and seeking why certain behaviours occur in society. I finally find the niche my curious mind fits into.
Recently we were introduced to the Labelling Theory. a concept I was familiar with but had not realised was rooted in Sociology.
Labelling theory is about the effect of the terms used to describe or classify individuals has on determining or influencing an individual’s behaviour or their self-identity.
I had to write a short essay giving an example, my Photography college friends and our shared conversations immediately came to mind. So I chose my example.
The effect of Muslims being labelled terrorists.
During my Photography Journey, I became close with two like-minded Photographers who are Muslim. Fascinated by their culture and how their culture is integrated into western society, over time I was invited to ask questions. One of them did a Photo essay on their southern relatives living in a predominantly white area, how over time they became part of the neighbourhood and adapted to the “cultural isolation”. This caught my attention and I continued to ask questions and engage in conversations about the ethnic origins and how it affects them.
Since the 9/11 attacks, I noticed an increase in westerns societies hatred and labelling of Muslims as terrorists. As someone who often has more friends from other cultures than my own, I’ve had the opportunity of getting to know the individuals that society brands terrorists and how it affects them personally.
The most predominant story that comes to mind is when I got the opportunity to do a Photoshoot with the two fellow photographer friends based on their Pakistan fashion and placing them around the murals of Glasgow.
The idea was to challenge society’s misconceptions.
My Photographer friend was extremely nervous walking from place to place in her traditional clothing. I felt angry for her that she would feel this way. When she explained why I couldn’t help but be furious and ashamed of western society. She had been stalked going home one day, just because she is Muslim, it had frightened her. The attitudes of societies presumption that all Muslims are terrorists has caused a huge increase in hate crimes resulting in Muslims living in fear in their own homes and home towns. They are afraid to do anything or wear anything that would bring attention to their ethnic origins.
My Photographer friend often talked about what her clothes mean to her, how comfortable she is in them and how she looks forward to visiting Pakistan so she can freely wear these clothes. Occasionally I’ve had the opportunity to see her in her traditional clothing, including her hijab.
She wears these clothes because she chooses to for her own reason not because she is forced to. Which is another misconception that all Muslim women are “forced” to “cover-up” it isn’t the case! This misconception affects them as they worry about the judgement or wrong attention that wearing their ethnic clothing will get. Deciding what she will wear and where she wears it has become a process of over-thinking and evaluating the risk that western society's attitudes has forced upon her.
From a general perspective in the United Kingdom, there has been a recorded increase in anti-muslim attacks and incidents. The highest number of victims being Muslim Woman. A charity called Tell Mama that was set up to support these victims, reported a 26% increase in these reports from 2016 to 2017. Experts explain that it is due to the increase in terrorist incidents in London and Manchester as well as a shift in far-right politics.
The “war on terror” which is predominantly targeted at Muslims, directly responsible for the increase in hate crimes, has had a direct impact on Muslims. It makes no difference whether they moved to the country or are British born, some for many generations. Their lives are being impacted by this labelling from the moment they are born. Throughout every aspect of their lives, from schools, colleges, universities, mosques, community centres, workplaces, their home and their public spaces.
The Problem with the increasing hatred towards Muslims is that it is playing directly into the hands of terrorists claiming that western society is the enemy. Victims of these hate crimes then become targets for these minority terrorist groups to recruit. Which puts them under attack from two fronts. The increased escalations of violence and war only feed the cycle, causing innocent Muslims and non-Muslims from the same ethnic background to become caught up in this cross-fire. They live in an era where they are afraid simply because of their ancestry.