When Osama bin Laden was pronounced dead in early May, the entire country erupted into one big frat party celebrating the demise of the United States' number one enemy. Progressive publications reminded everyone that the death of a man was no reason to celebrate, while others pointed out this may bring a sense of peace to 9/11's victims. One line in President Obama's nine-minute speech sought to distance the al Qaeda leader from the rest of the Islamic world: "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims." Optimists hoped that Bin Laden's death was not just the culmination of a decade-long witch hunt, but also the end of some people's irrational prejudice toward Muslims.
It turns out that was wishful thinking. A new survey conducted by several scholars found that Americans' fear and distrust of Muslims has significantly climbed.
If you think these people are just conservatives becoming right-wing zealots, think again. The survey found that m
The authors of the survey surmised that the increased media coverage of Bin Laden's death reminded people of 9/11 and dredged up old fears. But it's not just about a traumatic memory of one particular event. Racial and religious profiling has been integral to the function of the Department of Homeland Security. One in five people think Obama is a Muslim. Can you blame people for being scared? Bin Laden's death wouldn't have been such an affirming event if these ingrained policies and public attitudes weren't already in place. Some young Americans didn't even know who Bin Laden was at the time of his death—but they sure picked up on our celebration of the event.
This survey is a sober reminder that Bin Laden's death hardly signals a win against Islamophobia. Rather, our collective response affirms just how much work we still need to do to fight it.