Ever since the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, America has had a growing fear of the Islamic faith and those who practice it. We have completely associated Muslims with terrorists. I had only seen this fear in movies and TV shows though, so I didn’t actually think this fear was real, just an exaggeration of a few racist’s fears blown out of proportion by the media. I thought this, until about last week. We had just finished the Byzantine unit in my World Civilization class, now it was time for the Islam unit. We had basically studied every major religion except for Islam, so I kind of thought I knew what was coming, just a simple PowerPoint with the founders, some basic beliefs and traditions, and maybe some pictures of modern day mosques. That was not the case, and I knew it wouldn’t be when my teacher paused and took a look at the classroom after the opening slide of the presentation was up. She seemed to be thinking carefully as to what she was going to say. Finally she took a deep breath and asked a simple, but striking question, “How many of you have had or have negative thoughts about Islam or Muslims in general?”
I looked around the room and saw that a girl sitting behind me had raised her hand. It was a girl that I knew came from an extremely conservative, Roman Catholic background. My teacher thanked the girl for being honest and then called for the rest of the class to be just as honest as this one girl. About ten to fifteen other people raised their hands. This surprised me. A lot. While the first girl that raised her hand had come from that extremely conservative background and had gone to a private school from ages five to fourteen, the rest of these people I had known for a long time and had even gone to elementary school with some of them. I know that they were not taught to fear Muslims at school, so it must have originated in the home.
I also noticed that most of the people that had raised their hands were predominantly republican. Now I’m not saying that all republicans hate or fear Muslims, that’s most likely not the case. I’m also not saying that all democrats are completely accepting of them either. I know some people that consider themselves democrats definitely have some prejudice against Muslims, but it seems that it has always been the majority of republicans that have had this prejudice. At least in this past decade.
Take the incident with the “mosque” in New York for example. Back in 2010 news surfaced about a proposed Islamic community center that would be built two blocks away from Ground Zero. The news wouldn’t have really been news if a few conservative bloggers named Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer hadn’t twisted the story to sound like the community center would be a mosque built on top of Ground Zero. These bloggers were also coincidently founders of the group “Stop the Islamization of America”.
What is wrong with the latter part of that paragraph? Certain Americans are twisting news stories and creating movements all based on fear and hate, to try and get more people to be fearful and hateful. And what did I want to achieve by writing this? Well I don’t really have a big purpose for writing this. All I wanted to do was to expose the fear and prejudice that America has for a religion all because of a few extremists. I also wanted to get you, the reader, to recognize any prejudices that you have. We all have them, they may not be about Muslims, they could be about Christians. I know I have some. I view a lot of them as people that think they know whats best for everyone morally. But I know that’s certainly not true about everyone. Not even close.
So next time when you hear a word in a sentence and you immediately have that snap judgement reaction, try to catch yourself. Try to think twice. This can make us all more friendly.