By ALEX BOGDANOWICZ, senior
On November 13, people all across the globe felt the repercussions of the devastating attack on Paris. With the help of social media and broadcast television, hundreds of millions of people came together in support of France and those who lost their lives. With the help of Facebook’s profile editor, many added a filter of the French flag to vocalize their outrage and express their sympathy. This unified movement is truly a testament to our humanity; love and compassion have proven to be the keys to peace and unity. It is upsetting, then, that an overwhelming number of individuals flocked to the internet to express not only their spite for terrorism, but for Islam and Islam alone. So profusely and extensively did they express their sentiments that the term Islamophobia once more came into focus as a hotly debated topic; a result, to put bluntly, of extreme ignorance.
The Paris attacks have elucidated a problem that has long existed in the United States and surged after the September 11 attacks. The persecution of American Muslims on the basis of terrorist attacks on first world countries is a futile attempt at combating an issue that does not involve these innocent individuals. This is excluding the argument that the United States and other western countries are responsible for the unstable and violent conditions of the Middle East, as ISIS is a result of this volatile environment. The Islamic State is a jihadist group aiming to implement sharia law in the form of a caliphate in the territories of Iraq and warring Syria. To ISIS, however, Muslims who do not share their sentiments are not Muslims at all, and are neither protected nor immune from terrorism and stand on the same ground as us. The majority of victims of ISIS attacks are, after all, Muslims; though in the eyes of the Islamic State no one is spared. We must therefore separate Islam from the Islamic State and its pursuits of terror. Muslims are not responsible for the actions of radicals beyond their control nor do they advocate for this misguided interpretation. Islam is a religion, and the interpretations of the Islamic State are not religious, but rather political in nature.
As if the issue were not already running rampant, it is further thrown off balance by the political pursuits of American politicians. Taking advantage of the craze, presidential candidates, mostly conservative, are racking up support through fear-mongering tactics. Last September, candidate Ben Carson bluntly admitted to “not [advocating] that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” On the topic of Syrian refugees, Carson eloquently called them “rabid dogs”; in a way, equating their religious beliefs to a disease. On the topic of national security, Donald Trump proposed “special identification” in addition to a database tracking Muslims residing in the United States, and then, notably, to entirely ban Muslims from entering the country. The rhetoric expressed by these politicians does not belong in the 21st century. Ben Carson is clearly unfamiliar with the “no religious test clause” in the Constitution, designed specifically to prevent the use of religion as a qualification for the any office. Billionaire Donald Trump, on the other hand, seems to have traveled back in time and received a few pointers from the Third Reich. The implications of his ‘solutions’ are evidently discriminatory, and it is alarming to think that this kind of policy could potentially hit the White House.
Popular arguments presented by skeptics of Islam revolve around the current state of affairs in “Muslim” nations. These critics cite Arab countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, which are Muslim-majority countries and apply their systemic lack of equality, mistreatment of women, and presence of malignant terrorist groups, to all Muslim peoples and nations. They are entirely ignorant of progressive Muslim-majority nations like Indonesia, where gender equality has existed for years now, or Turkey, where there are more female heads-of-state than there have ever been in the United States. These nations only corroborate that Islam is not the deciding factor in unequal and unjust policy, but rather it is the government and location of these nations that have the greatest impacts on their policies.
The ignorance of such base accusations on the Islamic faith is clear for students at JP Stevens. In such a diverse environment, we know firsthand that Islam does not define one’s political views and certainly does not define one’s moral compass. Islam is neither a religion of peace nor war; rather, it is a system of belief that can be influenced negatively and positively by what the individual brings to the faith. The community of Muslims in JP Stevens is no different from the communities of Hindus, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, or other religious groups.
On the night of the Paris attacks, I, along with my friends Ahmad Javed, Ibrahem Younas, and Adal Rasool, were playing soccer on the turf of Myrtle Park. On the field, we were no different. We had the same goals, primarily to score them. We may possess different beliefs, but at the end of the day, they do not impact the way we play any game. We must vocalize this simple fact. Islamophobia is an irrational fear, fueled by political figures, and a result of poor education. We should be embracing our diversity and learning from one another, for it is mentalities of fear and isolation that inhibit our society’s progress.
The Islamic State is definitely something to fear, but Islam as a belief is not. It is not a war between Islam and other religions of the world, but rather a more simple war between good and evil. Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Hindus all fight on the same side. We all play the game the same way. Regardless of our religion, we all want the same thing: an end to terrorist attacks and the advancement of world peace.
Featured image from http://www.english.fri.fr