“Islamophobia” – a fairly new word to hit headlines.
To many, it is a word that describes the dislike or prejudice against Islam and its followers.
I am sure some of your classes have discussed the recent tragedies, perhaps even the concept of Islamophobia. You mention it during light conversation, make your point and move along. But for me, the word is something far bigger than a topic discussed at the dinner table.
If you don’t already know me, I’m an American born, tax paying citizen.
I struggle to balance a mountain of homework, the stress of finals week and a hectic work schedule – just like anyone else.
I am also a practicing Muslim, so Islamophobia isn’t something I can just walk away from – it’s a reality that I am condemned to face every day.
I realize that strangers may look at me and immediately think of the words “oppression,” “foreign” or sometimes, even the t-word (terrorist).
But I’m so much more than an inaccurate facade.
Just as a little reminder: I am still the same American student I described above, and there are millions of other people just like me.
However, I’ve recently discovered that my choice to exercise my First Amendment right to practice a religion that best suits my lifestyle, as well as wearing a hijab, ironically makes me “un-American.”
I’m apparently un-American because society decided to make me the face of the media’s depiction of Islam, a diplomat forced to take the heat of any attack that may occur.
People I have never met, never heard of, suddenly become “my people,” and my responsibility, even though our belief systems couldn’t be more different.
The Islam I know, condemns the killing of any human, no matter what religion they practice.
The Islam I know, taught me to respect the beliefs of others, even if they are different.
The Islam I know, showed me the importance of charity.
In fact, Zakat, Islam’s third pillar, is a religious obligation # to those with enough wealth to share # to donate to those in need.
This concept, and my eventual discovery of my love for giving back, ultimately led me to create CharitaBull, an organization that gives students a chance to give back to the community.
Terrorist groups may have created a pillar that promotes violence in whatever twisted belief system they have concocted, but it’s not one in my religion.
Islam does not promote violence or female oppression.
I refuse to allow these groups to identify with my religion, because their actions have destroyed communities, separated families and unfairly tarnished the public image of Islam.
These radicals are using Islam as a facade –something to “justify” their actions and further their political agenda.
That being said, people still turn to me when tragedies like the Paris attacks take place, as if I’m somehow responsible.
The actions of a sick group of people do not define me, nor my religion. And I shouldn’t have to explain that.
Likewise, when mass shootings occur in schools, churches and movie theaters, I don’t expect anyone to have to justify or defend Christianity, Atheism or any other belief system.
But really, why should they be expected to carry that obligation? The actions of the minority are not representative of the majority.
Ultimately, it comes down to this – If you are a violent person, your belief system will be violent. If you are a peaceful person, your belief system will be peaceful.