Diversion and interaction paper
After the 9/11 attacks, Muslims became people of interest in the west. Prior to the attack, Muslims lived in peace among their neighbors but dynamics shifted after the attack. Muslims were now viewed as suspect and targeted as terrorists. After 9/11 it became harder to be a Muslim in the US. Being an Islam student is not easy in the West. For my diverse activity I became a Muslim. I even changed my attire to fully grasp the life of a Muslim student in the West.
I found that the campus was full of Islam unfriendly activities. According to their religion, Muslims are not allowed to take alcohol (Seddon and Ahmad 2011). Most college social activities involve the taking of alcohol. The Muslim students could not fit in such activities thus preventing them to socialize normally like other students. As a result, Muslim students end up socializing with fellow Muslim students in the college. This means that they miss out on diversifying. Like their Muslim parents, Muslim students are discriminated against. In the Multi-religious society of America, most people are Christians. Muslims and other religions are therefore minorities. Muslim youths face discrimination from other religious groups. One Muslim student told me that any time they refused to join an activity because their religion prohibited the activity; they were termed as extremists by youths from other religions.
There is the misconception that all Muslims are terrorists or ‘wannabes’. Their religion is associated with misconceptions about Jihad. In my Islam attire I got suspicious looks in the public area. People looked at me like I was a traitor among patriots. While my patriotism had not changed, my attire had and it was a heavy cross to bear. I realized that Muslim students are treated like second class citizens. All the Muslims I associated with abhorred ISIS but here they are treated like ISIS empathizers. Muslims are viewed as potential terrorists with the ability to be violent when provoked. This is not the case as I interacted with many kind and humble Muslim students. I realized that while my religion allows me to walk freely in this country, their religion has made them targets. They are prone to more checks at the airport than I am.
Some of the Muslim students have taken to hiding their religion in public-especially the young men. Some do not don hats and have decided to completely assimilate to the Western culture of dressing. They feel that this takes the mark off their back even for just a little while. You would have to look at them twice to tell that they are Muslims. If this trend of Muslims discrimination continues, the coming generations of Muslims will have lost pieces of their culture. Indigenous Muslim culture will have been lost. Unlike their parents who are die hard Muslims, 2nd, 3rd, and forth generations of current Muslim are slowly losing norms and practices of their religion in a bid to fit in a country that does not treat their kind well (Seddon and Ahmad 2011). It is the if-you-cannot-beat-them-join-them mentality.
Islam prohibits businesses that deal with selling alcohol and banks that take interests. Such businesses are deemed as illegal by the Muslim community. As a result Muslim students cannot take part in such activities. The job market has several jobs to offer business students and I feel that prohibiting them to work in interest-taking banks limits the options of these young men and women. Their religion should be flexible enough to allow career exploration and diversification. But in prohibiting the taking of selling alcohol, Muslims lead by example. If you disagree with something you should not engage or promote it, right? This is a good moral back bone that Christians and other religions can embrace. Muslims are discriminated for their religion but I feel that their religion has more moral lessons that people can borrow from.
The Muslim students I interacted with claimed that they lacked basic Muslim education. According to them, Islam education was only offered to them at the mosques and by their parents back at home. In Muslim countries, Islam is give priority and not only to theology students. In America Protestants can read about their faith in history such as the manifest destiny while Islam history is only offered to theology students. The Muslim students in the West are therefore missing out on important aspects of their religion because the education system in college is not diversified enough. Muslims also feel that Islam religious studies should be introduced in the system so as to enlighten non-Muslims about their religious beliefs and eliminate any misconceptions about their religion. If Islamic religion was to be offered to non-Muslims, I feel that it would eliminate any stereotypes associated with the practice. While most of the Muslims we see on television are using religion to justify their acts of violence, there is another group of Muslims who live the normal lives we do-those who have families and instill good morals in their children. Those are the unheard of Muslims. A look in to the Islam religion only taught me one thing-that Muslims are committed in their faith that other religions. There are few Christians who pray five times a day.
The Christian Christmas holiday is followed and adhered to the letter in the West. Schools are closed for this holiday and families are allowed to celebrate the same. The celebration of the birth of Christ allows Christians to celebrate their faith. Young people are also allowed to practice their religious belief in freedom as they are at home during the holiday. On the other hand, Muslims are not allowed the same freedoms (Seddon and Ahmad 2011). At the end of the Month of Ramada, Muslims celebrate with a three-day feast known as Eid al Fitr However, Eid al Fitr is not given the same priority as Christmas. Muslim students explained how they had to celebrate in a hurry because their fellow students were going on with studies. Their religion is not celebrated the same way Christians are allowed to celebrate their religion. The state, their schools and their fellow students do not acknowledge their religious celebration/holiday. Those who are citizens that as citizens, the least the country can do is acknowledging their religious holiday especially for those in school. They feel that the education system should allow them some time to indulge in their religious celebrations.
Being a Muslim enlightened about the plight of Muslims in the west. Without my Muslim attire, I can walk freely on the streets without attracting suspicious looks. That in my usual clothes I can ride a train or bus without the person seated next to me sending me suspicious glances. I realized how lucky I was because I was born into a different religion. I realize now that I need to treat my fellow Muslim students with respect because they endure more in their everyday lives than I could take in a day. I changed my attire for a day and the people who would have been ready to lend me a helping hand the previous day were now casting me suspicious looks. I felt that I had to be careful of my every move. I had to smile at strangers to look friendly and not like a terrorist in their eyes. I was not allowed to be aggressive or react with violence even if I had been attacked. I was supposed to play nice so that the others could accommodate me. While there was so much negativity associated with my new persona, I grew a certain pride for Islam religion. Muslims are firm believers who have to pray five times a day and do not take alcohol. This was a different perception from the angry Jihadist we see on television. The media should show this type of Muslim to shift the negativity from their religion.
The media is mostly responsible for the stereotypes associated with the Islamic religion. Everyday there are news of Muslims bombing different parts of the world. In movies, Muslims are always portrayed as violent terrorists or as people who do not respect their women. This portrayal of Muslims has largely contributed to the poor perception of Muslims in our society. As a professional, I would lobby for better portrayal of Muslims in the Media. That way, our children will grow up associating Muslims with better things other than terrorism and violence.
Seddon, M. S., & Ahmad, F. (2011). Muslim youth: Challenges, opportunities and expectations. London: Continuum International Pub. Group.