Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Mis-Education of Islam in America

Islamophohia -- slowly its becoming the Red Scare of this generation, and while its origins shouldn't be surprising, its effects are threatening more than national security. One of my classmates, while having a discussion about the ever controversial Park 51 project, stated that he genuinely did not trust Muslims primarily because of 9/11 and unbridled terrorist activity that have transpired since then. But nonetheless, a record scratched in my head. Why are so many Americans conflating Islam with terrorism? What is it that we, Americans, can't differentiate between an extremist group and a religion? And every time I open my mouth to correct someone about it, I sense subconscious eye rolls, here goes the liberal, college-educated chick who thinks she knows everything.

Since being in the Army, the attitudes I've come across regarding other races and now other religions is baffling to say the least. Ignorance after all is something that is so easy to fight, right? Wrong. As of late I've been coming to a new conclusion, that ignorance may be deeply embedded in the cultural and personal experiences of an individual. Undoing a thread of ignorance is a delicate process, one that may in fact tear gravely into the seams of someone's foundations. When I was in college learning of injustice, whatever its adjective, I thought that was the objective, strip an individual down, are their fundamentals strong enough to pass a label of bigotry and warrant them flagrantly defiant for the sake of honor, morale, truth?

In the August 30, 2010 issue of Time magazine entitled, "Is America Islamophobic?" by Bobby Ghosh there is a photograph of protesters near Ground Zero in which one of the signs is being held up stating, "Building a Mosque at Ground Zero is Like Building a memorial to Hitler at Auschwitz." Another one of my classmates made a similar comment in which he said how would it look to erect a monument to Hitler in Israel. The first thing I have to say to this is that you have to be mindful of comparisons, or what seems like an accurate comparison. The situation is different for the simple fact that a monument to Hitler would be glorifying Hitler and a mosque is a religious temple which glorifies no one but Allah. It is itself a sacred space. The fact there are Americans who unknowingly and sometimes knowingly attack Islam because of its extremists is cruel, ignorant, and in the end only detrimental to the U.S. relations with the rest of the Middle East. The fact of the Ku Klux Klan being a Christian extremist group could reflect badly on the rest of Americans who do not hold their views, however, no one attacks Christianity. We clearly differentiate between the group and the fact of their faith being two different things. Why can't we do the same for Islam?

The problem may be that Islam is more than one of the five great religions of the world to its practitioners. To its believers it extends beyond a mere faith. Islam is an integral part of the culture it manifests in, it contributes to it and vice versa. This is evident in how liberal to conservative practice Islam such as prayer five times a day to their meticulous interpretations of the Quran. Whether an example of sincere discipline or stringent dogmatism, Islam requires a quality of faith that Americans, living in a nation of freedom of speech and religious tolerance, labor with reaching if they ever sought it. I predict that if Americans don't learn how to handle their mis-education regarding Islam, it will ultimately be the root of our downfall as nation. What is evident though is our own fear -- that terror reads on the American face every time we stand out protesting against a religion, every time we sit in front of our televisions deciphering truth in vague statements from our leaders, every time we watch our troops play pawns in someone's fatal game of chess.