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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Opinion

Marginalizing Muslims needs to stop


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Americans falsely believe that it’s okay to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few. | Photo courtesy of Getty images.

On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my first grade class when my teacher turned on the news and started crying. I sat there and watched as the World Trade Center collapsed on television, but couldn’t comprehend exactly how much devastation this event was bringing to our country.

After the public was informed that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack, a backlash against Muslims and Middle Eastern Americans was expected. However, 14 years later, a lot of United States citizens still view all Muslims unfavorably.

“The misleading media and biased news that is widely watched here in the United States (usually portrays) Arabs and Muslims in such a negative way,” said Omar Ibrahim, 26, an Arabic language interpreter and dental student. “Unfortunately, not all Arabs and Muslims are peace makers, but I feel it’s extremely unfair to judge 1.6 billion Muslims on the actions of the inhumane few.”

According to research by the Arab American Institute, there has been continued erosion in the favorable ratings given to both communities, posing a threat to the rights of Arab Americans and American Muslims. Favorable attitudes have continued to decline from 43 percent in 2010 to 32 percent in 2014 for Arabs and from 35 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2014 for Muslims.

In my lifetime, I never expected to see such a powerful generalized antipathy against any race or religion in the United States.

Just last week outside of the Arabic Immersion Magnet School in Houston, protesters tarnished the environment for 132 kindergarten and pre-K students by holding up signs with offensive slurs towards Muslims and Arabic speakers.

One of the signs read “Everything I ever cared to know about Islam was taught to me by Muslims on 9-11-2001.”

Considering that these students weren’t even born when 9/11 took place, this attack is ignorant and uncalled for. Also, this is an Arabic Immersion school, not a Muslim school. Not everyone who speaks Arabic is Muslim.

With these ignorant and uneducated assumptions comes a backlash of everyday issues for Muslims and Arabs.

“I was visiting a friend recently,”  Ibrahim said.  “When I arrived at their house, they introduced me to their neighbor, that was very friendly, so he joined us in their house to chat. But soon after learning that I am a Muslim, he stormed out of the house, got a baseball bat and waited next to my car, calling me unfavorable names on my way out, making racist comments, insulting Islam and Muslims and threatening to beat me if I return.”

Not even being able to go into a neighborhood without being threatened is awful. Many don’t realize what privilege they have because of their race, ethnicity or religion, because they have never experienced this personally.

But this is discrimination that cannot be ignored. This is prejudice against a religion and culture that affects millions of Americans that have families, friends and loved ones just like everyone else.

A verse in the Bible reads:  “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen,” John 4:20-21.

We need to come together to fight against those who demonize and marginalize simply because of faith or language. America should unite in order to encourage peace and equality to exercise the religious rights each one of us has.

Everyone should be able to live without having to feel like a target for bigotry and hatred.

Opinion columnist Rebekah Barquero is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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