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Misconceptions of Islam

I was in biology class when a classmate looked over and asked, “So, are you a terrorist too?”

I was thinking about the Muslim Student Association and Al-Madinah Cultural Center’s Islamic Awareness Week that takes place on campus this week. You may have seen the clever black and white flier posted everywhere stating “Unpatriotic Religion?”

This got me thinking about stereotypes and misconceptions that have been bestowed upon the Islam religion.

Muslims and Islam, in general, have been a target for hate and stereotypes in our community, as well as the media.

Even I, a Muslim-American, born and raised down the freeway in Eden Prairie, caused some speculation as far as my intentions.

True story: A few weeks after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the only thing anyone could talk about was that. Well deserving, it was a horrifying occurrence.

I was in my high school biology class when one of my classmates looked over at me and asked, “So, are you a terrorist too?”

Am I a terrorist? There’s no way this kid’s serious, no way, I thought.

He asked me again.

He knew me. Everyone knew me. I had been in the same classes with these guys since preschool. We have had the same teacher, been on the same field trips and even played during recess together. Now I am some sort of threat?

Because Sept. 11, 2001, happened, terrorist all of the sudden was plastered on my forehead. Worse, the fact that I am Muslim changed everything.

Since then, Muslims have found themselves constantly trying to defend themselves and our faith.

A bomb in one hand and worshipping at night is one of the general stereotypes.

The media might have encouraged the stereotype, but it is mainstream-American people that have allowed it to be culturally acceptable, even if it is just a joke.

In reality, people do believe this, to a certain degree.

Whenever pictures of Islam are exposed in the media, the two types of pictures that most often are published are ones of Muslims holding weapons and Muslims praying.

The percentage of “violent extremists” does not even compare to the rest of the Islamic population. Just like there are extremists in Islam, there are extremists in every other culture and religion.

As far as worship, praying five times a day is a pillar of Islam. It takes about five minutes for each prayer. So, it is about 25 minutes a day to remember and show our gratitude to God.

For this act of gratitude, not only do Muslims get stereotyped, they get feared as well.

Because Islam is thought to be a religion of violence, Muslims now are attached to that violent image.

On the contrary, Islam is the exact opposite of that. Islam is a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness.

It is not acceptable that Muslims have to pay for a few bad eggs. Whether it’s on a bus ride, airport security or even watching TV in the comfort of their homes, Muslims constantly are discriminated against.

Many believe acts of hatred toward the Islamic faith are very scarce, if not nonexistent. This is very untrue. Just as it’s happening around the world, it’s happening around here as well.

A couple of weeks ago a librarian from Roseville Area High School threw the Quran in a garbage can, creatively covered in construction paper symbolizing flames.

The act was a presentation on censorship. He claimed that the Quran was a pro-terrorist book.

Let’s give the librarian the benefit of the doubt and say he did not mean to be offensive, although I believe he did.

Was that respectful? Was it necessary?

Just like the Danish cartoonist, the librarian must have known his acts would not be taken lightly.

You don’t have to agree with Islam if you don’t want to. It is just really important to love and respect thy neighbor.

America is great. It is a melting pot; it is the land of the free and it is the opportunity for acceptance.

America is built on so many different cultures, races and ethnicities. It is important to respect one another’s perspectives and understand who they are.

We, as Americans, have the freedom and the unique opportunity to accept one another and grow stronger.

Take advantage of great opportunities like Islamic Awareness Week to learn about Islam and hopefully dispel some of the biases and stereotypes that you might believe. Muslim Student Association and Al-Madinah have handed you a chance on a silver platter to interact with Muslims and ask questions.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it will not kill you. Check it out; you might actually learn the truth of Islam.

Thank you to all the members of Al-Madinah and the Muslim Student Association that were so eager to talk and had so much insight on the topic.

Maggie Habashy welcomes comments at [email protected].

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