Re-evaluating Stereotypes: All Muslims Are Terrorists

On the daily, people around the world see the words “Muslim” next to words like “terrorist,” “extremist,” and “violence” in newspapers and television broadcasts. Due to stereotyping after the 9/11 attacks, the Muslim community has received the most negative image in media today. As a result of this, Muslims around the world, especially in the United States, experience the impact of these stereotypes in numerous forms. Just from women wearing hijabs and men wearing khimars or thawbs, they have experienced discrimination in schools, restaurants, airports, or even places of employment. Some Muslims have even experienced harassment and vicious attacks from strangers on the street just from the stereotype of being dangerous and violent for what they believe in. Stemming from these hate crimes are Muslims left wondering their belonging in the nation that is said to be the land of opportunity where everyone is equal. Assumptions made about the Islam community based on the actions of a select few and how the media perceives them can lead many Muslim individuals questioning their beliefs and identity as well as create a sense of shame about their religion and group.

After the 9/11 attacks, the relationship of trust and faith between the Muslim population and the U.S. government was shattered in addition to the dynamic and way of life completely changed for individual Muslims. On September 9th, 2001, the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and attacked monuments in the U.S. by flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center as well as flying into the Pentagon, killing over 3,000 people. The act of terrorism completely transformed the way Americans looked at the individuals who practiced the religion as they believed it only caused violence and terroristic acts. According to the Huffington Post article, “How 9/11 Changed These Muslim Americans’ Lives Forever,” many Muslim Americans they interviewed said that the day of the terrorist attack marked “the day their religion went from something others found interesting and mysterious to something viewed as sinister.” With these newfound negative viewpoints towards Islam, violence towards the religion began to increase. In a 2002 FBI Report, it was found that “Muslim Americans went from being one of the least targeted religious groups in the U.S. to seeing hate crimes against those associated with Islam jump 1,600 percent” (Huffington Post 1). Despite the fact that these acts were caused by a select few that only happen to be Muslim and practice Islam, Muslims across the United States were targeted as a suspect population by people around the world simply due to their beliefs. They have endured interrogation, random searches, acts of vandalism by strangers, and hate crimes just from the stereotype of being dangerous by believing in Islam. Singled out by both the public and the government, puts them in a spotlight and forces many to feel ashamed about their belief system as Americans around the country have pointed it out as being wrong, hateful and violent. By putting Muslims in a position where they are looked down upon as well as feared and hated, creates a sense of disgrace and humiliation towards their religion and forces them to be embarrassed of their beliefs.

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The media has also highly contributed to the negative viewpoint of Muslims and their religion, as it spreads fear across the nation about the group. When a Muslim is involved in a terrorist attack against other groups, the media tends to give it much more coverage than similar incidents involving non-Muslims or attacks against the religious group itself. For example, according to “How Trump talks about attacks targeting Muslims vs. attacks by Muslims” in Washington Post, on March 15th, 2019, a white supremacist, motivated by “arcane white nationalist talking points” and President Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity,” targeted mosques in New Zealand and killed 50 people. Trump responded to the attack by attempting to “distance himself from any link to the New Zealand shooting,” instead of actually acknowledging it and being sympathetic towards the victims. The attack and media response quickly established a pattern as it can be noted that “when an apparent terrorist or hate attack has been committed by a Muslim, Trump is quick to draw attention to it,” such as the time when Trump accused a husband and wife that murdered 14 people at a Christmas party in California to be Muslims, “even before the perpetrators had been identified.” On the other hand, when the situation is reversed and an attack “targets Muslims,” his responses are slower and less sympathetic. Only when an attack is done by a single group of the Muslim religion, will the media and government jump at the chance to put spotlights on the group, which then creates negative connotations and unfair stereotypes. With Muslims constantly being cast as “un-American” because of their faith, it allows individuals of the religion to question their sense of community within the country. Being hated, judged, and given side-eye glares can make Muslims uncomfortable to show the world the real them and hide their beliefs in fear of being involved in a hate crime. Due to the actions of a few, the media has made out Muslims to be an overall suspicious community, which then contributes to the desire many Americans have to consistently and constantly watch and check Muslims, as if they could never be trusted. The lack of trust in the Islam community not only creates a divide between our society, but often leads to even more discrimination and a sense of fear in innocent Muslims.

Negative stereotyping towards Muslims leads to many forms of discrimination throughout society as well. In public spaces such as restaurants, schools, and airports, Muslims are faced with discrimination and racism due to how the media and government depicts them. Some are presented with subtle discrimination such as being thought to be illiterate and unprofessional on account to their hijab while others encounter much harsher forms such as being threatened and yelled at with insulting names. According to the BBC News article “US Muslims: Survey suggests nearly half suffer discrimination,” researchers that spoke to 1,001 U.S. Muslims over the phone stated that the most common forms of discrimination they suffered were “being treated with suspicion (32% of those the researchers spoke to), …being singled out by airport security (19%), being called offensive names (18%), being singled out by law enforcement (10%) and, [lastly] being physically threatened or attacked (6%).” For some Muslims, this is a daily way of life and can make them feel unsafe in their environment. One Muslim, researchers from BBC News interviewed, stated “[Muslims] have to take extra care scanning our surroundings, know where we are, who is around and what kind of thoughts they might hold for Islam,” as being in the religious group can often lead to hate crimes and discrimination. By constantly feeling unsafe in their environment, Muslims no longer feel welcome in this country just by the way they are treated in their day-to-day life.

Feminist Theory And Multicultural Issue

The theory I chosen is feminist theory. The multicultural issue is typically gender. Some other cultural issues are ethnicity, language, age, sexual orientation, religion, and socioeconomic status. Empowerment is the main goal for feminist therapy. Feminist focuses on psychological motives that creates problems for individuals. Sociological impacts like gender roles and diverse backgrounds all have an effect on an individual. “Feminist therapy theory views healthy and unhealthy development as inseparable from an individual’s sociocultural context” (Conlin, 2017, p. 78). Feminist therapy is helpful for everyone as in children, men, and women. They focus on gender roles development at different times of life spans. Gender has provided a way of viewing power between individuals as well identify the impact on the relationship between the individuals. For example, gender roles can be identified at home, work, dating life, or education settings.

The relationship is equal and open between the client and therapist. Most feminist therapists combine other theories to other approaches for assessments. The approaches related to feminist therapy helps identify social motives that effect individuals and provide the individual with support to make the individual more effective to deal with the social order. Enns stated the following “Rather than being a specific set of theories or techniques for working with clients, feminist therapy can be described as a superordinate structure or framework that orients a practitioner’s worldview and assumptions about what matters in competent and empowering practice with individuals, especially those persons whose experiences have often been marginalized within the culture” (p.929). Intersectionality also can play a part of an individual life like he/she may experience social labels that deliberate oppression or may experience deliberate privilege. To a degree everyone experiences advantages and disadvantages which is modified by one’s social setting.

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History of Feminist Therapy

The history behind feminist therapy is the symbol of the work and determination of many women with a diversity academic backgrounds who shared the same view that women are valuable and social modification to benefit women is important. Feminists and therapists in past started working to together bring change by working in consciousness-raising groups, by acting on observations they observed from the past and present social history issues of the treatment of women. The CR groups were perilous of psychotherapy, as well they were practiced by male therapists with female clients. Enns stated the following “Consciousness raising groups provided a forum for women to make the link between their personal experiences and the political and social context in which these experiences were constructed.” (p. 930)

Over time feminist therapists started to input morals and practices of CR groups unbiases and nonracist treatment systems. Later in the 1960s, the feminist therapists revealed majority of the existing research, diagnostic approaches, and theories were established by privileged men viewed as normative, consequential in women’s experiences or views of existence seen as less superior in comparison to men. Some other concerns were the overall error of women from the understanding base of psychology. Many health specialists for women inclined to neglect their self-reported experience. There was a practice blaming and holding women responsible for their experience of sexual and physical violence. As well, there were a practice overmedicalizing women with psychological problems, which included diagnosing their concerns in minor terms or overprescribing with medications. Eventually, concerns outgrew and the feminist therapists started redefining the psychotherapy in equal ways by focusing more on the client’s strengths and resilience. The feminist therapists focused less on seeing the client as an individual who needed to be cured.

Goals of Feminist Therapy

The goals of therapy from a feminist therapist’s belief that it must not only consist of changes in one’s individual life but also in change social society. The first goal is “therapy for change, not adjustment” which is the feminist therapy basic goal (Sharf p.521). This goal means change is only for improvement where a new skill is gained. For example, my little brother is currently having stomachaches due to the stress of my parent’s custody battle. A feminist therapist will most likely treat the issue by helping him find effective ways to cope with the separation and avoid prescribing medication. The second goal is “self-nurturance and self-esteem. This goal defines taking care of yourself and making sure your needs are met. In order to take care of yourself you must have an understanding of “what are your needs”. As well, you must focus on you and not what others think. For example, in my past relationship I struggled with being myself and focused more on being what my ex-boyfriend wanted in a girl. My ex-boyfriend was older than me by two years, that was not too much a big difference but only seemed that way in high school while he was in college. He used to try to force me to act older than my age because he cared about what others think. His control was like my clothing, hair styles, and behavior. During that time, his opinion matters the most to me.

Once I went off to college and met other peers, I was able to find myself. I realized he was putting off his own insecurities onto me. The third goal was “balancing instrumental and relational strengths” this means the client has become independent and have taken control of their own lives as well building healthy relationships with others. The healthy relationships with others are not at the expense of one’s individual needs. The fourth goal was “body image and sensuality” defines how the media and men perceive women. Society as a whole makes women physical appearance defines a woman. Feminist therapists helps the client gain confidence and acceptance of their body and sensuality. As well, feminist therapists help the individual to ignore social standards to criticize their physical characteristics. The fifth goal is “affirming diversity” defines the ability to accept and value cultural differences of a client. A feminist therapist must be able to accept multiple identities as in gender, sexuality, religion, and ethnicity. For instance, for a better understanding the therapist may begin to learn about the individual cultural norms. For example, the client may be an African American and Muslim male. The client may be having a hard time accepting his religion due to his family background connection to Christianity. The sixth goal is “empowerment and social action” defines the expression “the person is political”. This goal defines the need for women to be aware social injustice due to gender-role labeling, racism, and sexism. The therapist advocates for the client and helps the client to be able distinguish discrimination or help the client defer from self-blame from the effect of sexual abuse trauma. The overall goal is for this goal no gender, race, religion, or sexuality, etc. have dominance over the opposite identity.


The beginning of feminist therapy was design to fix biases responses to women as well help empower women. The feminist therapy is a blend of many other theories. Feminists and feminist therapists help change the world by coming together to redesign and modify social society to help accept women not as the second gender to men. Feminist therapy works great with multiple identities, they help you accept your identities as well help change society.


  1. Conlin, S. E. (2017). Feminist therapy: A brief integrative review of theory, empirical support, and call for new directions. Womens Studies International Forum,62, 78-82. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2017.04.002
  2. Draganovi?, S. (2012). Approaches to Feminist Therapy: A Case Study Illustration. Epiphany,4(1). doi:10.21533/epiphany.v4i1.34
  3. Enns, C. (2016). Feminist Psychotherapy. Encyclopedia of Mental Health,240-244. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-397045-9.00025-2
  4. Hahna, N. D. (2013). Towards an emancipatory practice: Incorporating feminist pedagogy in the creative arts therapies. The Arts in Psychotherapy,40(4), 436-440. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2013.05.002
  5. Sharf, R. S. (2015). Theories of psychotherapy and counseling: Concepts and cases. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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