Written by: Zaina Salem
“Mommy, what’s wrong with her head?”
Pointing directly at my best friend, who wears a headscarf, was a confused and curious little boy. As the boy’s mother tried unsuccessfully to hush her son, my friend and I broke into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
Although it was quite amusing — from our perspective — to hear that innocently blunt question, I couldn’t help but feel concerned. The scant and inaccurate knowledge of Islam is alarming. It was then that I started to wonder why Americans are so ignorant about my religion.
The way in which the media portrays Islam makes it easy for stereotypes to form and assumptions to be made. There are endless headlines that read “radical” and “terrorist” next to “Islam” and “Muslim.”
I have never been called a terrorist — although I have been asked ridiculous questions — but some of my close Muslim friends have, and it strikes me as illogical. That’s about as justified as linking all whites with the KKK.
Americans seem to have forgotten about their history or simply don’t know enough about the very place in which they are living. Hostility has been present in almost every ethnic group.
Jim Crow laws and Japanese internment camps, among many other examples, are virtually impossible to dismiss from memory. Still, many Americans are oblivious to the clear repetition of history and refuse to consider anything that doesn’t fit their narrow view. After Sept. 11, “Islamophobia” reached its peak. All across America today, innocent Muslims are victims of physical and verbal assaults, arson attacks and even murders.
The problem with this is obvious: two wrongs don’t make a right. The attacks on the Twin Towers were carried out by extremists, just as Hitler attempted to wipe out all Jews from the face of the planet.
Also, many fail to realize that many Muslims died on Sept. 11. There were even Muslim firefighters who served on that day. Muslims mourn on the anniversary of Sept. 11 along with the rest of America, because we are Americans too.
Recent surveys by Time Magazine and the Washington Post found that more than half of all Americans think that Islam, more than any other religion, supports terrorists.
What’s upsetting about this is that most of these people don’t know a single Muslim, and know practically nothing about Islam.
Do the actions of priests sexually harassing little children accurately reflect Catholicism? Of course not. So why do people connect terrorism with Islam?
Nevertheless, as the Time Magazine finding confirms, many people don’t realize that Muslims are active in American society. According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Council on America Islamic Relations, 89 percent of American Muslim voters said they vote regularly, 86 percent said they celebrate the Fourth of July, and 64 percent said they fly the U.S. flag. Now, if that isn’t patriotism, then I don’t know what is.
Although Islam is the fastest growing religion, it seems as if there is a growing number of people who are uneducated about it.
The ones who make generalizations about Islam are the ones who have never even attempted to read the Quran. I can guarantee that most of these probably don’t know that Muslims greet one another with the words “Peace be upon you,” or that in Arabic“Allah” simply translates to “God.” And just as Christians follow Jesus, Muslims follow the Prophet Muhammad. As surprising as it may seem, the religion has very similar aspects to other religions — but I’ll leave that explanation up to the ones who care to do their research.
Just the slightest amount of understanding can correct many misconceptions. Once this process of obtaining knowledge has begun, the world will finally see a brighter day.