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Racial and religious differences Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2019


Since the 9/11 attacks, America has increasingly become sensitive to racial and religious differences (Lansford 78). Particularly, racial profiling has dominated how law enforcement officers manage terrorism threats.

Public perceptions of different religious groups have also changed as more people have become hateful and biased towards certain religious groups (Lansford 78). This paper claims that after the 9/11 attacks, Americans became increasingly biased towards Muslims and minorities from South Asia.

Despite the illegality of racial profiling, this paper argues that Asian minorities continue to be victims of hate crime and racial profiling because of their religious affiliation, dressing, and culture.

Religious Profiling

Some sections of the American society have targeted South Asian minorities as potential terrorist suspects because of their religious affiliation.

For example, some Americans have alienated Muslim women because of their dressing. Particularly Tarlo (103) says the society has alienated Muslim women because they wear the Jilbab (a long garment) and the Niqab (a veil covering the face).

While this dressing is normal for Muslim women, after 9/11, Islamic dressing has portrayed Muslims as potential “enemies” or “threats” to security (Tarlo 103). Symbolically, western media have used the Jilbab and the Niqab to explain how Muslims are different from other people.

Notably, the media have used Islamic dressing to portray how the “enemy” looks like. Unfortunately, this representation does not have any significance to the characters or the motives of the people who wear them. Tarlo (103) says the use of Islamic dressing to portray Muslims as “alien,” or the “enemy,” creates a narrow perception of the faith and its followers.

Notably, this representation conveys the belief that all Muslims are the same. Therefore, it is difficult to see the difference between ordinary Muslims and “enemies” who profess the same faith. This representation has played a significant role in creating animosity and hostilities towards South Asians (Women of South Asian Descent Collective 352).

This representation has also created public intolerance for Islamic diversity in the society. For example, Tarlo (104) explains an incident where a British school denied a 13-year old Bengali girl the right to wear her Jilbab. The family of the young girl protested this decision and went to court to seek redress.

They claimed the school denied the girl the right to express her religious views (Tarlo 104). The court ruled that the girl could wear the Jilbab (Tarlo 104). This decision was controversial because the school refused to accept it.

Nonetheless, without delving further into the details of this case, it is crucial to understand the intolerance that exists within western society regarding Islamic practices in a post-9/11 world. For example, the main concern for the school was the symbolic association of the Jilbab with Islamic radical groups.

This perception exists in most western societies because, albeit symbolically, people have associated Islamic practices and lifestyles with the “enemy” (Tarlo 103).

The above analysis shows that religious profiling has permeated through many facets of the American society. For example, Jamal and Naber (211) say there were several instances where passengers refused to board the same plane with South Asians because they are Muslims.

In many incidents, airline companies have removed the “suspected passengers” from their airplanes. Jamal and Naber (211) particularly draw our attention to an incident where South West Airlines removed a Muslim man, in New Jersey, because he made other passengers “uncomfortable.”

Similarly, Jamal and Naber (211) explain an incident where a pilot removed a secret service agent of Arab descent from an American Airlines flight because he made other passengers uncomfortable. Such incidents are many. Overall, they show that South Asians have become increasingly alienated in a post-9/11 society.

Racial Profiling

In a post-9/11 society, Americans have become increasingly critical about the nationalities, origins, and citizenship of South Asians. In fact, according to Lansford (78), law enforcement officers profile South Asians as potential terrorist suspects because of race and ethnicity.

Consequently, many South Asians have become easy targets for arrest and detention. Lansford (78) says in the post-9/11 period, the American Justice Department has detained more than 1,200 Muslims (mostly from South Asia).

The Women of South Asian Descent Collective (352) say a broader analysis of this trend highlights the lack of acceptance that South Asians have experienced in America. For example, they say the society excludes many South Asian minorities (socially) because of racial prejudice (Women of South Asian Descent Collective 352).

For example, the Women of South Asian Descent Collective (352) say some Americans believe South Asians have a different home, other than America (they are not American citizens). This perception exists even for second generation and third generation South Asian who are American citizens by birth.

In fact, some of these people have never visited Asia, but the society regards them as “aliens” in America (Women of South Asian Descent Collective 352). This prejudice mainly exists in the American education system where the society regards South Asian students as “foreign students.”

The Women of South Asian Descent Collective (352) also say this situation is worse for female South Asian students because the society regards them as “irrelevant.”

A British movie, Brick Lane, shows how social prejudice creates a divided society, as seen in a post-9/11 period. Produced in 2007, the film focuses on the life of a young Asian girl, Nazneen, who marries a man twice her age (against her will).

She lives in a small Asian community – British Bangladeshi community, which is predominantly Muslim. Living in a largely Christian country, the South Asian Muslim community, experiences racial and religious alienation from the rest of the society (Brick Lane). This alienation makes Nazneen nostalgic about her rural home.

She finds it difficult to accept London as her home because her community lives as “aliens” in London. Furthermore, she has to contend with the negative stereotypes that face the Muslim community she belonged to (Brick Lane).

The extent of her anguish mirrored her mother’s life because the hardships that faced her mother as a South Asian woman living in London forced her to commit suicide (Brick Lane). Overall, Brick Lane shows how religious and ethnic prejudices affect the perception of South Asian minorities in many western societies.


The racial profiling of South Asian minorities in America is a worrisome situation. This paper shows that South Asian Muslims living in America have become increasingly alienated for their religion and race. This prejudice is often unfounded because religion and race do not have any correlation with the characters or the identities of the victims.

From a legal standpoint, law enforcement agencies are losing the opportunity to gather reliable intelligence from communities that continue to be victims of racial and religious profiling.

This way, racial profiling in America is a zero-sum game. Moreover, racial profiling continues to deny legal American citizens of South Asian descent the right to enjoy their freedoms, as other American citizens do.

Works Cited

Brick Lane. Ex. Prod. Sarah Gavron. London, UK: Sony. 2007. DVD.

Jamal, Amaney, and N. Naber. Nadine Race and Arab Americans Before and After 9/11: From Invisible Citizens to Visible Subjects, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2008. Print.

Lansford, Tom. 9/11 and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Chronology and Reference Guide, New York, NY: ABC-CLIO, 2011. Print.

Tarlo, Emma. Visibly Muslim Fashion Politics Faith, New York, NY: Oxford, 2010. Print.

Women of South Asian Descent Collective. Our Feet Walk the Sky: Women of the South Asian Diaspora, San Fransisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books, 1993. Print.

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