Despite Minnesota’s strong legislation safeguarding civil rights, discrimination is still a problem. An unsettling amount of Muslim Americans in Minnesota face prejudice from employers, teachers, law enforcement, and peers.
Islamophobia is the fear or hatred of Islam and Muslims. It facilitates and stimulates negative stereotyping, discrimination, and harassment. In its Legislating Fear 2013 Report, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) outlines common themes of Islamophobia including: Islam is not a religion, all Muslims are violent extremists, and Muslims want to destroy America.
A 2011 Gallup survey reveals that 48% of Muslim Americans personally experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year, more than any other major faith group in the US.
Minnesota is not an exception. Amber Michel, a representative of the CAIR-Minnesota chapter, describes the impacts of Islamophobia on Minnesotans. “The bulk (approximately 41%) of the cases we see involve some kind of workplace discrimination,” says Michel. Reported incidences include harrassment, unjust termination, and employers refusing accommodations for religious practices like prayer time or religious attire.
Additionally, resistance against building new mosques is extensive throughout Minnesota. Since 2012, 100% of proposed mosques in the state encountered organized opposition, according to CAIR-MN.
Discriminatory acts are illegal, but they happen anyway. A major obstacle in the efficacy of Minnesota’s civil rights policies is a lack of knowledge. Michel explains, “Many people targeted by discrimination are unaware of the laws that exist to provide a process for seeking justice.”
Minnesotans must understand their civil rights in order to advocate for themselves and others. Employers and government officials are responsible for obeying the laws, but workers and communities are responsible for creating a foundation for persistent, informed protection.
In addition to the need for more non-biased, quality education about Islam and other religions, many Minnesotan schools, communities, and businesses lack comprehensive training on civil rights. With a deeper understanding of policies and the value behind them, Minnesotans can effectively challenge and defeat Islamophobia.