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The Modern Day Witch Trials

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In 1962, hysteria and confusion took hold of the colonial Massachusetts as the Salem Witch Trials began. Many people were either hanged or jailed, even though the accusations had no definite evidence. This event leaves a dark mark in the American history and as the witch hunts of 1962 came to an end, people thought that it was over - or so they thought. In the 21st century, the “witch hunts” are still going on in America. It is not be the witch hunts of 1962, with the persecution of the “witches” though. In fact, the modern day witch hunts do not involve witches at all. The witch hunts are defined as when a group of people, not necessarily “witches,” are unfairly maligned, attacked, or rooted out for prejudicial reasons. Many issues in modern day America could be applicable to this definition of “witch hunt,” but one of the most obvious issue in America that can be considered the modern version of “witch hunt” is Muslims. On many occasions, Americans associate Muslims with terrorism, even though not all Muslims are terrorists. This misconception of the American people leads to persecution of Muslims, and therefore fits into the definition of the “witch hunt”.  Moreover, the “witch hunt” of Muslims and the Salem Witch Trials share many things in common such as the things that contributed in fueling the hunt: fear, personal differences, and scapegoatism.


Fear, as it is the most common thing that contributes to tragic events, is one of the main reasons why the witch hunt of 1962 and the “witch hunt” of Muslims started. The time period in which the witch hunt of 1962 occurred was a time of troubles where there were smallpox and constant frontier wars with the natives along with congregational strife in Salem Village (Linder). These factors all contributed in imprinting fear in the minds of those colonists living in the Salem Village and it is this fear that makes the belief of Satan’s existence more real. With no real explanation for the disasters that kept occurring and dangers that kept lurking around them, the people of the Salem Village had no choice but to fear and start the massive witch hunt. Moreover, in the more recent times, countless terrorist attacks occurred ranging from 9/11 to Nice terror attack on July 14, 2016 to Normandy church attack on July 26th, 2016 (Foster). All of these recent terrorist attacks led to fear and with this fear constantly lurking beneath the Americans’ minds, they start to target all Muslims, such as innocent immigrants who came to America for peaceful lives, not just the terrorists who happen to be Muslims. According to Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies, they found that “six months after the 9/11 tragedies, 2,652 attacks against Muslim Americans were reported” (Carmichael). This unprecedented number explicitly indicates the fact that Americans start to target and blame Muslims for all of the terrorist attacks after 9/11 event had engraved fear into them even though Muslims did nothing wrong except for coincidentally having the same religion as the terrorists. Therefore, as clearly seen above, fear has contributed to the modern day witch hunt relating to Muslims as it had done with the witch hunt of 1962.


Another thing that allowed the Salem witch hunt and the unfair persecutions of Muslims to happen is the issue regarding personal differences. Disputes, rivalries, and personal differences in the Salem Village all ultimately led to the witch hunt of 1962. Many of those who were accused of witchcraft at the time “had unsettled accounts with their accusers or were seen as a threat to the Puritan values” (History Lists). This meant that even though there was no evidence or proof that the person was a witch, the people accused anyway because they either disliked the person or just had a different opinion or mindset in doing things. Likewise, in the 21st century, the Muslims are targeted due to their differences with the majority of Americans. Muslims have a negative stereotype to them and are accused of terrorism just because they have a different religion than the most Americans who are either Christians or Jews in America. In a news article published on July 24, 2016, the title reads “Germany: Muslim migrant murders pregnant woman with machete” (Spencer). This is an example of the many occasions when someone of Muslim religion commits a crime, people state that Muslims were behind the crime. However,  if someone else who’s not Muslim commits a crime, the headline says their name, not their religion (Cooper). In short, people generally identify Muslims with their religion but not Christians or Jews or people of other religions. Identifying and judging the person by their Muslim religion instead of their behavior is not right, and this all leads back to the personal differences between Muslims and the other people living in America. Both the Salem witch hunt and the issue regarding Muslims occurred due to personal differences that were mainly created due to the conflicts in religion - Puritan in Salem witch hunt and Muslim in the Muslim “witch hunt”.


Scapegoating, or using someone or something to blame for something to get out of situations, is the final thing that contributed in setting the Salem Witch trials and the persecution of Muslims. The colonists in Salem Village used witchcraft as a scapegoat to all the bad things happening to them, such as the “little ice age” (Saxon). Temperatures began to drop, and this “little ice age” caused “economic deterioration and food shortages that led to anti-witch fervor” (Saxon). These economic hardships then led to the colonists using witchcraft as a scapegoat to explain all the economic difficulties in their lives. It is much more easier to say that witches bewitched the land so the economy is on the downfall rather than trying to explain through scientifically, with temperatures dropping and “little ice age” occurring. Also, in the modern day, Americans and Europeans uses Muslims as scapegoats for all the terrorist attacks that have been occurring recently. It is true that many who are behind all these terrorist attacks are Muslims or from Islamic state. However, people use the innocent Muslim immigrants who come to America as scapegoats and blame them for all the deaths and terrorism instead of the actual culprits of these situations (Hutchinson). This scapegoating reassures Americans as at least there are Muslims that people can blame on whenever something bad happens instead of trying to point fingers at each other without much agreement. There are many factors that fuels the terrorism, and terrorism does not just occur because the terrorists are Muslims (Hutchinson). But just to make things easier, people point fingers at Muslims, one of the minority groups in America who have little voice in American matter, instead of Christians who dominate America or guns which is a very controversial issue and also dominates America. So, as both the Salem Witch Trials and the Muslim “witch hunt” demonstrate, scapegoatism helps fuel both events.


In conclusion, fear, personal or religious differences, and scapegoatism altogether stimulates the witch hunt of 1962 and the modern day witch hunt regarding Muslims. With fear created by Satan and terrorist attacks, people from the past and the present all start doing “witch hunts” to relieve some of those fears by killing witches and persecuting Muslims. Personal and religious differences are also what spur the witch hunts of two different time periods as people clash against each other due to their disagreements. Lastly, the idea of scapegoatism of Muslims fuels the witch hunts as people need someone to blame for the economic hardships as well as the terrorist attacks. All of these three major factors combine and work together in contributing to the hysteria and confusion of the witch hunts.




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