Don't Call My Friend a Terrorist
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Politics and Activism

Don't Call My Friend a Terrorist

A college course on Islam proved the stereotype is another kind of terrorism

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Don't Call My Friend a Terrorist

We’ve all done it-looked twice at a woman donning a hijab in the airport, flinched at the word “Allah,” and wondered what hides underneath a man’s turban. Sure, America prides itself for being the “Land of the Free” where everyone is equal under the Constitution, but this ideal does not translate into the actions of the American people.

I too am guilty of these ignorant behaviors, and not because I am consciously prejudice against people of Middle Eastern descent, but because the media trains all of us to equate Islam with evil.

After taking classes on Judaism and Christianity to fulfill my Religious Studies major requirements, this summer I completed the triangle of Abrahamic religions with Islam.

I hate to admit it, but as a Jewish American girl and supporter of Israel, I was slightly afraid that I would be in for an awkward experience with a bunch of fundamentalists. Instead I was in a classroom with only about nine other students, only about half of which were Middle Eastern, and a charismatic teacher who led open, judgment free discussion circles.

Not once did I feel awkward, but I did feel sympathy when I heard classmates’ stories of prejudice they or their families experienced.

Once-upon-a-time, Nazis blamed the Jews for their hardships in Europe, and even though the west would not escalate to Hitler’s level of extremism, it blames Muslims for political choices that their leaders make. As the granddaughter of two Jewish Holocaust survivors, learning this perspective struck very close to heart, and it is what made me the most ashamed of how Muslims are viewed in the US.

Sharing a religion does not mean that people can automatically be grouped together in every single way, especially one such as Islam that has so many sects and splinter groups.

Jihad invokes fear when mentioned on the news as the center of Islamic ideologies, but it's actually a sixth pillar for SOME Muslims after the five fundamental pillars. It literally means “struggle,” and only SOME radical Muslims interpret this as a militant struggle, and others as an internal struggle for righteousness.

The true Pillars are testifying to the oneness of God, prayer, charity, and fasting on Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca, which all instead value togetherness and prayer bring communities together as equals in the eyes of God.

The fasting of Ramadan connects participants as they prove their submission G-d by abstaining food from first light until dusk, and makes the community even more cohesive once they break the fast.

These pillars even impacted Malcolm X, for when he saw the tolerance Muslims exhibited on his pilgrimage to Mecca, he went from promoting violence to seeking peace among people of all colors. If unity can be found in God, why couldn’t unity be found in humanity as a whole?

One of the other greatest misconceptions of Islam is its inherent oppression of women. In reality, the word of God in Qur’an does not explicitly call for women’s inferiority, but rather claims women are viewed as religiously equal in the eyes of God. Patriarchy is instead a cultural factor that is justified by bias interpretations.

Islamic tradition in fact includes stories of strong female figures, including the feisty Rabi’a who directly communes with God and Khadija, the businesswoman who proposes to the prophet Muhammad. Muslim majority countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh have in fact elected women leaders, and yet the US is concerned Muslim countries would not take us seriously with a female president.

It is critical to remember that the media always has an agenda, and since violent portrayals will get the most views on a news story, militant jihad appears over and over again.

That is not to say terrorist organizations with that ideology are unimportant; they are still satanic and have no right to promote harm to other human beings. Rather, people need to be wary of the news, and remember that they only represent a miniscule portion of the population.

Most Muslims who walk amongst us in the US do not don hijabs and or weapons, but are the people in the next cubicle at work, on the treadmill at the gym, and celebrating America at the Fourth of July Parade.

People in general can be good or evil, regardless if they believe in Allah, Buddha, or no God at all.

I survived my course without being assaulted, brainwashed, or even made uncomfortable. I am still a proud Jewish American girl, and I still hate terrorists; just don't mistake my friend for one.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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