When the first Muslims arrived in America in the 16th century, Americans were faced with something that was unknown to them: Islam. At the time, many Americans were afraid that Islam would impose its own values and ideals, thereby threatening their Protestant Christian tradition. For this reason, Islamophobia has been in America as long as Islam has been in America; it is not a new phenomenon. This fear of Islam penetrating a nation built on Protestant Christian values is still present today, but why? There are many causes of Islamophobia, but a popular explanation that every American who watches the news probably knows is jihad. Jihad has come to be perceived as “holy war” in American media and by many Americans. It sounds like a petrifying notion, but it does not carry the definitions and implications that many Americans, especially Islamophobes, claim it does. Jihad is highly misrepresented in America, thereby distorting Americans' understanding of Islam as a religion. Furthermore, the misrepresentation of jihad in American media and by Islamophobes as well as cherry-picked verses in the Qur'an and ahādīth (sayings and actions of Muhammad—the founder of Islam) contribute greatly to the construction of Islamophobia. Furthermore, these misrepresentations of jihad are used to define Islam as a whole and spread Islamophobia.
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The Qur'an 9:111 (Translated by Yusuf Ali).
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The Qur'an 85:8 (Translated by Yusuf Ali).
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Quoted in Shaheen, 2008, xx.
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