Patriot Perspective: Islam deserves understanding

Across the nation, Muslims suffer ignorance and prejudice from those who unfairly blame them for the acts of terrorists.

Freshman Sehrish Shaukat walks through the security checkpoint in the airport wearing her hijab. As she gets checked and x-rayed for the second time, people stare and give her glares. A security officer pats her down one final time, “just to be sure” and lets her pass through.

According to Shaukat, this is an everyday experience for her. Because she wears the hijab, which is a headscarf worn by Muslim women, it makes her an easy target for verbal attacks in grocery stores and other public places. “People tell my mom and me to go back to our country, [and] that we don’t belong [here] all the time,” Shaukat said. “I remember one time a guy walked over to me and asked me if my parents were part of ISIS.”

Unfortunately, Shaukat’s experience is not unusual or rare. Across the country, Muslims, as well as Sikhs and Middle Easterners, are targeted out of fear and ignorance because of the ghastly things committed by others in the name of Allah. The important thing to consider when contemplating these atrocities is that not all Muslims view their religion in the same way.

The root of the problem is that people do not reach this perspective without education. The solution to the hatred and bigotry towards Muslims in America is education. People need to be taught about Islam so that they can understand it, instead of fearing it. Ignorance has always bred fear and hatred towards other groups of people, which is still true now as it has always been.

This education must begin by realizing that only a minority of the 1.73 billion Muslims in the world are dangerous extremists. Despite this, all Muslims are labeled as dangerous because the average Muslim does not make the headlines, only the terrorists do.

This creates a false face for the Islamic religion as a whole. “Terrorists are taking our religion to a whole new level which really isn’t what it’s about,” sophomore Natasha Multani said. Multani, a practicing Muslim, is a prime example of a person who may be labeled as dangerous or violent because she is grouped together with the extremists that people are used to seeing in the media.

Although people like Multani and the extremists are both Muslim, read the Quran, and follow after the prophet Muhammad, the way the religion is actually practiced differs immensely. “They [the terrorists] think they’re doing it in the name of God, but that’s not the case because in our religion, God never said to kill innocent people,” Multani said.

It is not fair to label every Muslim as violent or insane just because of the extremists they are unfortunately associated with by society.  Labeling every Muslim with the same characteristics would be just like labeling every Christian with the same characteristics. No one is persecuting Christians for the beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church, so why is every Muslim held personally responsible for the actions of a few?

In fact, the Quran is similar to the Bible in that it contains passages advocating for peace, as well as passages which seem barbaric in modern times.

Holy Quran: 2, 208 reads, “O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace. Do not follow in the footsteps of satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” This passage is almost identical in meaning to Psalm 85: 8, “I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints– but let them not return to folly.”

In fact they are so similar that if shown the first, many Christians could mistake it for actually being a biblical passage. The importance of these readings cannot be overstated. The religions are so similar in message that it is absurd for the distrust between the members to continue.

Even though the two religions are similar, Muslims tend to be the most common victim of terror attacks. From 2004-2008, almost 85 percent of the victims of Al-Qaida’s attacks were Muslims, according to the Islamic Civil Society of America. Also, after 9/11, almost 80 percent of Muslims reported having experienced violence and abuse as a result of racism.

These Muslims were not a part of terror attacks, and their role in any terrorist plot is the same as any Christian and Buddhist: innocent bystanders or victims. Moderate Muslims are the same as any other moderate Americans, and they do not support the actions of extremists.

Although problems deeply rooted in society cannot be fixed in a day, the community can do its part. In an effort to educate the students, the administration could bring back the World Religions class. This class devoted time to all 12 major religions and encouraged students to be open minded and inclusive to people of all races, creeds, and religions.

Even just a community block dedicated to understanding Islam would go a long way in shaping a society built around inclusiveness and understanding. That is the power of education, in which JC can do its part: mold a better society.