Six-year-old Mohammad says “Allah” and “boom”. The substitute teacher calls the police who question the child and then launch a terrorism investigation against the family. Child protection services also intervene for good measure.
This sounds like a sick joke on Saturday Night Live. Except it is not. This is exactly what happened in the Texan city of Pearland, about 20 miles south of Houston, last November.
Now anti-Islam attitudes are being normalised
The parents of Mohammad Suleiman told Fox 26 that he could not have uttered these words because “he doesn’t speak at all” and has “the mental capacity of a one-year-old”. He was born with Down’s Syndrome.
Fear of Islamic symbols
The rash phone call turned the family’s life upside down. We will never understand the full impact of the trauma on the child or family. Suleiman’s father said: “They claim that he’s a terrorist. This is so stupid, this is discrimination. It’s not implied discrimination, it’s 100 percent discrimination.”
Either the teacher was a bigot and acted on his bias or he was genuinely afraid and freaked out. Both scenarios don’t bode well.
Islamophobia and the fear of Islamic symbols and phrases has now become as American as apple pie. It is so insidious that the best defence Suleiman’s father could come up with was that his son does not even speak.
What if he did say those words? Would a six-year-old with a mental disability saying “Allah” and “boom” be enough to call the police? Taking it seriously and thoroughly vetting it would be understandable (and necessary), but escalating it to a full police response and investigation reveals how entrenched fear of Islam and Muslims is in American culture. It may be latent, but it’s there for sure.
Years ago, when a woman said she did not trust Obama because he was a Muslim, senator John McCain was praised when he responded, “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man…” When the correct answer, as General Colin Powell pointed out, should have been, so what if he was? That was well before there was a US president re-tweeting hate videos about Muslims.
Now anti-Islam attitudes are being normalised.
Unfortunately, some of those opposed to Muslim extremists are driven by ignorance or in some cases even prejudice and bigotry which extends to all Muslims
Yes, “Allahu Akbar” is what New York terrorist Sayfullo Saipov reportedly uttered after ploughing down innocents on the streets of New York a couple of months ago. Many other killers have done the same.