In 2006, author Dave Eggers met a couple named Abdurrahman and Kathy Zeitoun who lived in New Orleans, prior to and after Hurricane Katrina. He then writes a nonfiction book, based on the story of Abdurrahman Zeitoun aka “Zeitoun” a Syrian-American owner of a painting and contracting company who chooses to stay in the city during Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, he traveled through the flooded city in a canoe rescuing neighbors, and caring for the abandoned pets. Days after the storm the National Guard soldiers and local police officers wrongfully arrested Zeitoun and his three friends without any reason or explanation. While in prison, the four men where accused of looting and being part of the “Al Quada” “Taliban” terrorist activities. Zeitoun specifically was refused medical attention and the use of a phone to call his wife. His wife and daughters, who were staying with friends far away from the city, only knew that he had disappeared.
The semi known term of “Islamophobia” was shown to me in this book, that questions whether or not it Islamopobia existed post 9/11, and prior to Hurricane Katrina. Reading an article called “What Is Islamophobia and How Much Is There?” by Erik Blech, he states that the usable common definition of Islamophobia is “indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotions directed at Islam or Muslims”. Suspicion, rejection, and disgust are just a few ways, people shows developing hate or anger towards Muslims or Islamic culture.
Based on the nonfiction book Zeitoun, Islamophobia was present in New Orleans as a social roadblock to Muslims and the Islamic culture before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. Egger displays the main characters Zeitoun and Kathy as victims of Islamophobia and shows how they experienced the bitter consequences of misjudgment and rejection throughout the book.
Islamophobia can bee seen within Muslim-owned businesses, it can be difficult at times when you have people who will choose not to do business based on racial and religious backgrounds. Kathy would get phone calls, “every so often from prospective customers asking about where her husbands last name and origin is from. After stating that he is from Syria, those callers aren’t interested doing business with them. Eggers, on page 37 states that ‘every so often, clients would not get past Zeitoun’s last name. They would call for an estimate and ask Kathy, “Zeitoun, where is that name from? Where is He from?” Kathy would say “ Oh he’s Syrian” then after a long pause they would say “Oh, okay, never mind”. This frustration and disappointment of how America was to be known as a country where equal opportunity for success exist, yet natives sometimes lack the ability to support the others who desire to succeed.
Because of Islamophobia we learn immediately that after 9/11, it was especially tough for women who wore a hijab out in public places. As Kathy would make trips to the grocery store or mall, wearing her hijab made her feel as if she was a target to the general public, who profile Muslims. A girl even almost tried to pull hers off in a parking lot. This trend to take off anyone wearing one was started in the area, after a 10th grader got hers pulled off by her teacher. He felt threated by her because she was Iraqi descent and exclaimed “Allah” would punish her. Unfortunately his only punishment for his actions was a week suspension from the school, even after the lawsuit against him. Eggers says that the teacher ‘had called Iraq a “third-world country” had worried that the student would “bomb us” if she ever returned… While passing out tests, the teacher had pulled back the girl’s hijab and said, “I hope God punishes you. No, I’m sorry, I hope Allah punishes you.” (pg45) From the adults to even the children it was shown to be socially accepted and perpetrate these prejudice behaviors.
Knowing that Islamophobia had existed, this was the first time ever that it personally