Campus

After Paris Attacks, Muslim Students at CSI Reflect on Perception

How Hasty Generalizations Plague the Muslim Community

By Ryan Miller

Students at CSI have a misconstrued perception of the religion according to a series of interviews with Muslim students at the college conducted by a COM 438-Newspaper Reporting class.

Over 50 interviews were conducted by student reporters assessing the experiences of Muslim students with the rest of the student body, revealing instances of prejudice and over generalization regarding the religion.

The interviews were conducted shortly after the November 13 Paris terror attacks, which were carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

The attacks resulted in the death of 130 people and 368 more were wounded.

The attacks also resulted in an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric by many presidential candidates, including GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s proposed ban on all Muslims.

“We’re not all terrorists,” said CSI Sophomore Haya Abdalaal. “People shape our religion. Like, if one person does something wrong, according to them it’s the whole religion.”

Approximately 1.6 billion of the 7.3 billion people on earth identify as Muslim, so those who condemn all of Islam for the actions of some radicals are also taking issue with about 20% of the world’s population.

Conclusions drawn about Islam from isolated incidents is a problem plaguing not just Muslims abroad, but those at CSI as well.

Abdalaal’s sentiment is echoed by other Muslim students who have been exposed to similar situations in classrooms at CSI.

“I’m a white male, so people hardly expect me to be Muslim,” said Albaocia Toci, a sophomore at CSI. “It is hard to sit back and listen to misinformed people spew negative things about my religion in class. I just wish they’d take the time to ask me or someone else about it to learn what Islam is really about.”

What is Islam really about though? While seemingly different than other religious denominations, Islam is rooted in many of the same core beliefs as Christianity and Judaism.

The Five Pillars of Islam are basic acts which all Muslims consider mandatory to be considered a devout follower, but those of other denominations may be surprised to hear the similarities between these fundamental principles and their own.

Acknowledging faith, prayer, charity, observation of holy days and pilgrimage are the pillars on which Islam was built, not dissimilar to fundamental beliefs in Christian and Jewish texts like the Ten Commandments and the Talmud.

“The Muslim religion comes from peace,” said Abdalaal. “Everyone has to respect each other. We have to respect Christianity and other religions. It’s what we’re taught.”

Despite the overtly peaceful nature of Islam and its followers, instances of prejudice against Muslims have yet to be totally eradicated from CSI’s campus.

Students for Justice in Palestine at CSI, an advocacy club with many Muslim members, told the Banner in 2013 that they experienced difficulty trying to start their organization as well as when they would organize demonstrations.

Established on-campus organizations such as the MSA (Muslim Student’s Association) are helping to change the negative stigma attached to the religion though.

Nisma Zakria, President of CSI’s MSA believes that the best way for Muslims to defend the religion is to “show people through your actions” what it means to be Muslim.

CSI Student Government President Rana Mohammed is less concerned with overall perception of Islam at the college though and worries more specifically about people on an individual basis.

“I don’t think they’re trying to be inconsiderate,” said Mohammed, referring to students at CSI. “If a see a person who’s interested, I’m willing to talk. If they’re ignorant it’s something for them to figure out.”

While the interview series reflects that CSI’s cultural climate is considered a safe and tolerant place for all religions, Muslims certainly face more ridicule than other denominations. Changing the opinions and prejudices of the entire student body is a near impossible task, but by providing them with the tools to make an informed decision and discussing the issues, Muslim students have helped create an environment conducive to learning and faith.

“Create your own perception of Islam,” said Zakria. “Don’t get your opinions from the media, get them from us. You can see Islam in a person. I want them to understand our religion through people.”

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