Southern California Muslims Battle Islamophobia in a Post 9/11 World

(Note: This piece was published on Huffington Post today! Hooray!  I’d like to say that I am not Muslim, however I honor and respect all religions. I believe that we all should.)


Terrorism. Terrorists. Since the planes flew into the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001, these words have become almost synonymous with Islam and being a Muslim. For many Islamic believers in Southern California, the aftermath of September 11 didn’t result in physical harm or even personal attacks, although there were some incidents. Muslims in Southern California express a different pain — the hurt of having their religion constantly associated with terrorism and violence.

From the front page of the daily newspaper to the broadcast channels on television, Southland Muslims said they feel the effects of this post 9/11 characterization of the religion that they care for and believe in deeply. For many, the Islam depicted in the media rarely resembles the one they practice.

“This event had a lot of effects on everybody, especially Muslims,” said Idris Traina, the President of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Center of Hawthorne, California. “The media associated this event with Islam, not a group of people who were terrorists. That’s the problem. That’s the stigma that happened with 9/11, and it has had a large effect on Muslims here and everywhere.”

Traina, who is also a member of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California estimates there are more than a half a million Muslims in the Southland. He admitted there isn’t an official census of the Muslim community, but used the figure given by the Islamic Shura Council that compiles this information. The Council, which started in 1995, is an umbrella organization of Southern California mosques and Muslims organizations.

The Islamic leaders and Muslims of Southern California expressed a consistent response concerning their present life after September. Essentially, they think their lives are plagued with a persistent misunderstanding of their religion due to Islam’s repeated association with terrorism. And many Southern California Muslims think America has developed an anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia, which can be seen in the mainstream media.

“Too many Americans associate Islam with terrorism and extremism,” said Malik El-Amin, a 33-year old African American Muslim. “The American public is much more aware of Islam now than before 9/11, but the awareness derives almost entirely from negative stories, stereotypes and misconceptions.”

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey in 2007 found that “public attitudes about Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.” Thirty-five percent of Americans polled expressed a negative view of Muslims in 2007, up from 32 percent in 2004 and 29 percent in 2002.

In addition to negative impressions, “twice as many people use negative words as positive words to describe their impressions of the Muslim religion (30% versus 15%),” according to the 2007 Pew Report. The survey also found that “fanatic”, “radical” and “terror” were the most frequently used words to describe Islam.

The American association of the Muslim religion with words like “fanatic” and “terror” serve as examples to what many people now call Islamophobia, which has become a recognized form of intolerance alongside Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism since the 2001 “Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance.”


CB’s Green Report: Science and Politics


How about politics played in the name of science and the environment? The environmental group, Greenpeace, recently led a coalition that bought the land designated for the expansion of London’s Heathrow airport. The group, which included actress Emma Thompson, owns the land that was allocated for Heathrow’s third runway. The director of Greenpeace, John Sauven, told the Associated Press that the new owners would never sell the land to the airport or government. The environmental group is concerned about the increase in greenhouse gases from the increased air traffic. They’ve written: Our Climate, Our Land on the property. The disagreement has ended up in the British Cabinet, which “appears divided over the issue, which pits environmental concerns — and Britain’s commitment to controlling climate change by reducing carbon emissions — against economic growth and job creation.”

Not politics as usual for the environment? During Lisa P. Jackson’s (Obama’s nominee) recent confirmation hearing to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.), she promised that scientists would not take the back seat to political decisions. Jackson vowed that the environment and science would come first under her leadership. Both Jackson and Senator Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, claim the Bush Administration let politics interfere with sound environmental policy.

“Science must be the backbone of what E.P.A. does,” Ms. Jackson said in her prepared opening statement according to the New York Times. “If I am confirmed, I will administer with science as my guide.”

We wish you the best Ms. Jackson, but somehow politics always rears its head – for better or for worse.


And in animal news…. In the eleventh hour, the Bush Administration recently announced its plans to remove the gray wolves in the western Great Lakes and northern Rocky Mountain regions from the federal endangered species list. However, the gray wolves in Wyoming will remain on the list because the state hasn’t provided adequate protections for the species. Although some scientists claim the wolf populations have rebounded, environmentalists and animal rights groups think this plan could be a last ditch effort to remove federal protections.

And now that you’ve started on your green resolutions for 2009, how about a detox? We all had a lot of fun during the holidays. We probably drank and ate too much. Some of you may be interested in getting those toxins (like excessive alcohol, smoking, caffeine, etc.) out of your system. Well, Planet Green offers 5 ways to detox your mind and body, which may “help you lose weight, think clearly and feel good.” The site suggests cutting out processed foods, caffeine, alcohol; breaking a sweat; and even doing yoga. Maybe one of those detoxification methods would work for you!

Caramel Bella in the Big Easy

If you read my site regularly, you may have noticed that my posts have been pretty slow this week (read: hardly any). It is because yours truly is in New Orleans for a reporting project on race, religion and politics. I hope you have been following my twitters on the site because they should have kept you up-to-date on my Big Easy adventures. Although I’ve enjoyed my stay immensely in New Orleans, I must say it has been an emotional rollercoaster. For me, seeing the Hurricane Katrina devastation has been very sad and depressing but it’s been balanced by the beauty and warmth of the N.O. people. And the food and partying is beyond compare. Thank you New Orleans for giving a me a lifetime of wonderful memories and allowing me to experience your wonderful city. Stay tuned for more posts and tweets from N.O.L.A.

Smooches (especially to New Orleans),

The Caramel Bella

Zoe Kravitz’ “We are the Ones” video for Obama

Check out Zoe Kravitz’ song for Obama called “We are the Ones”. Almost every major celebrity is in the video.

The Caramel Bella

Pastors take politics into their own hands

I thought we had a separation of church and state in the United States. Apparently, some ministers overlooked that memo.

This past Sunday, Christian ministers across the country took the laws into their own hands by telling their congregations to vote for John McCain.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, at least 33 ministers knew they were breaking the federal tax law but chose to do so anyway in protest.

“As Christians it’s clear we should vote for John McCain,” said Rev. Fran Pulto of Calvary Chapel in Philadelphia in a Wall Street Journal. “He is the only candidate I believe a Christian can vote for.”

For these pastors, pushing conservative social values like anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage were worth the IRS investigation.

Caramel Bella is talking about religion

Well, you all know that I can’t sit still and talk about only one topic. Even though lately, politics has been filling up my brain and consequently this blog. So, I took a slight detour on the pure politics play and wrote a piece about religion and…. politics.

Check out my recent piece entitled “Obama’s New Message for a Faith Tour” posted on the USC Knight Chair Media and Religion site. I’m excited they actually put my little ‘ole thoughts up! So check out the site and keep checking it.

The Caramel Bella

Reality TV Star, Omarosa, talks presidential politics with the Caramel Bella

She’s no Sarah Palin, but in the reality television world Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth can also be described as tough, dogged and a fearsome competitor. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Omarosa, who first appeared on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” show. Some of you may remember her from season one, in which many viewers felt she stabbed fellow African-American competitor, Kwame Jackson, in the back during the final round. Omarosa, who has appeared on two seasons of “The Apprentice,” VH1’s “Surreal Life” and on “I Love New York” was very clear with me about the three most important issues to consider in this presidential election. Let’s listen to her dish.

Interview: Brooke-Sidney Gavins
Multimedia Producer: Sharifa Johka
Video editing: Brooke-Sidney Gavins

Caramel Bella @ the DNC: Caramel Bella Talks Politics with the RZA

Check out my interview with the RZA of WuTang posted online at…

Who knew Wu-Tang’s The RZA was such a pundit? We caught up with him last night in the press line at Creative Coalition’s celebration of African-American leadership. In just five minutes, RZA dished on Denver, Obama, McCain, the election, and African-American youth culture. He was earnest and insightful, sharing honest thoughts without pretending to be an authority.

Like Bobby Digital, the RZA is yet another example of the strong African-American presence throughout Denver. Being here, you can feel the level of energy and rallying behind Obama’s candidacy that is both electric and very palpable. It’s one thing to hear the talking heads espouse about the excitement behind the campaign, it’s another thing to actually see and feel the historic nature of this candidacy first-hand.

Interview: Brooke-Sidney Gavins
Multimedia Producer: Sharifa Johka
Video editing: Chris Nelson

John Edwards had an affair

I’m shocked, but perhaps I shouldn’t be. The rumors that John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate, had an extramarital affair are true. Former Senator Edwards admitted today that he did have an affair with Rielle Hunter, a novice filmmaker, who was hired to produce campaign website documentaries.

Shocking! I guess his shot at being Obama’s VP is done?! Check out the full story on

Keeping you politically up-to-speed,

The Caramel Bella

Paris Hilton responds to McCain ad..with her own!

Is the best energy policy coming from Paris Hilton? Hilton has responded to her unauthorized appearance in John McCain’s recent attack ad against Obama, which featured her and Britney Spears. In the ad, McCain calls Obama a celebrity and questions his ability to lead.


Hilton, upset about being featured in the tv ad, decided to craft her own response. She might possibly have the best energy plan out there – drilling, alternative energy development and nuclear power.  Take a listen. Hilton for VP, anyone?


The Caramel Bella



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my luvs

My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

Things that work my nerves

Bad drivers, cranky and moody people, lack of sleep, crime, filth

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.



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