From cage fight to courtroom: the glaring injustice of Islamophobia

The recent UFC match between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor – arguably one of the most anticipated events in contemporary popular culture – has struck a chord with many people, especially Muslims. While most certainly do not condone Nurmagomedov’s behavior after the fight, the blatant double standards on display have resonated more deeply than the lapse in judgment on Khabib’s part. The larger issues at play are the explicit racism and the imbalance of consequences expected to be meted out to the opponents.

This is nothing new, of course.

Islamophobia seeps into the daily lives of Muslims from the classroom to the courtroom, and in Nurmagomedov’s case, both in and out of the ring.

Muslims have faced discrimination and experienced double standards on a routine basis. They are more likely to be subjected to heightened scrutiny, banned from airplanes, denied government benefits, have their bank accounts closed, or even be prosecuted for crimes they did not commit. Many Muslims try to be vigilant in toeing the line, dotting their ‘i’s and crossing their ‘t’s’ – conscious of risking consequences greater than those faced by others. Nurmagomedov’s experience demonstrated that even one mistake can wipe out a clean record and risk stricter punishment.

Unfortunately, the scales of justice are skewed, and not in favor of Muslims – or any minority for that matter.

When Muslims find themselves targeted by law enforcement and affected by policies on the basis of their faith, understanding what is at stake and where to get help is the first hurdle. For others, affording a lawyer to navigate the system can be a daunting feat during an already stressful situation. They may then face another round of Islamophobia that can influence juries, judges, and ultimately, outcomes.

They will have to fight longer and harder to see justice done.

The number of Muslims fighting against the forces of Islamophobia infiltrating our government, our policies, and our courtrooms, is only rising. So too, will the need for more lawyers able and willing to take on their fights.

The Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America was created to fill this need. Funded through a grant from the Muslim Legal Fund of America, the Law Center takes on cases that have potential impact on the constitutional rights for Muslims in America. They work to ensure that cases brought against Muslims are defended against bias and grounded in the law. Their clients are represented pro-bono by experts in the fields of immigration, civil, and criminal law at the Federal level.

Their cases represent more than just individual fights – they represent the Muslim community’s response to being unfairly targeted, profiled, and intimidated. They send the message that if a Muslim is targeted on the basis of their faith, they are prepared to respond, because they have some of the nation’s top lawyers – and the Constitution – on their side.

Organizations like the Muslim Legal Fund of America are crucial in demonstrating that as Americans we believe in the American dream, and as Muslims we are bound by the call for justice. We will not let these racist and Islamophobic elements of our society dictate when and if justice applies to Muslims.

Policies come and go, administrations rise and fall, but the Constitution is the foundation on which this country was built. Until discrimination is rooted out of this country, every minority group will face challenges. The Muslim Legal Fund of America funds the work that makes justice possible. The strongest safeguard we have against injustice in the court of law is our Constitution. That is why we need to invest in those that understand it, value it, and fight back.

For us, the round is not over, until justice prevails.