Words by Jailyn Menefee

 

“Aren’t you scared they’re going to blow up the school?”

That is the question I was asked when I told people in my hometown I would be moving to North Olmsted, a city known for its high Muslim population.

Islamophobia is the dislike or prejudice against the religion of Islam and its followers, especially as a political force. This feeling is usually rooted in fear or anger toward Muslims due to stereotypes formed because of situations happening around the world.

Islamophobia was on the rise in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has since become an increasingly popular term in media coverage of ISIS attacks globally today, such as the 2015 Paris terror attacks that left 130 individuals dead, according to an online CNN article.

Fear of ISIS and Muslim culture spread across the United States like wildfire as citizens stood up for Paris. Millions of Facebook users, including me, changed their profile pictures to the Paris national flag and hundreds of articles telling the tale of this tragedy appeared overnight.

Hatred and prejudice are not innate behaviors — they are learned.

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, out of the 355 mass shooting incidents in the United States during 2015, Muslims committed only three. Despite this, persecution continues within our borders, like the shooting of three American Muslim students at the University of North Carolina in February 2015.

So what are we as a nation doing to combat Islamophobia? Hatred and prejudice are not innate behaviors—they are learned. They are taught through fear and anger, and stories of destruction that stereotype a given race, religion or culture negatively.

Amanda Lamadanie, president of the Muslim Student Association, experienced this firsthand at her workplace. Lamadanie was working at a flea market in Hartville when she overheard a man telling a young child that Muslims are terrorists and are considered bad people. Though she doesn’t remember the exact words the man said, the moment stuck in her mind.

“I remember getting quite bothered by it—not in the fact that he said it about me, but in the fact that this is someone who is teaching fear, anger, distance, hate to a child,” Lamadanie says.

All 50 states and 122 countries are represented at Kent State’s eight campuses. Diversity and acceptance are key components of the university’s brand statement: “We are undeniably Kent State, where open minds lead to broken barriers.” To stay true to that mission, students, faculty, staff and the community should support Muslim students and Muslims living in the community, including their culture.

Acknowledging that Muslims are wrongfully associated with the extremists who commit these terrorists attacks can be the first step to correcting this “phobia” that has resulted in extreme racism.

Under the Constitution, Americans are granted freedom of religion, and that includes American Muslims who wish to practice Islam. Muslims should not have to worry about facing prejudice or persecution at work, school or walking down the street. Being Muslim doesn’t make someone a terrorist.

I love Indie culture, but that doesn’t mean I am a hippie. I like reading, but that doesn’t mean I’m a nerd. I buy certain brand names, but that doesn’t make me stuckup. I am a Christian, but I can still be friends with an atheist. If you wouldn’t want to be judged by the clothes you wear, your hobbies, the religion you practice, your heritage or the actions of others associated with you, why would you, in turn, stereotype a whole culture of people?