Op-Ed: Hijacked Religion Harms all Muslims


Emine Gul Demir – Special to the Southern News

 

After holding the door to Engleman Hall for a fellow classmate, I overheard a heart-breaking conversation.

“Don’t expect me to say thank you to a terrorist,” one student said to his friend as they walked past me.

Shocked and fearful, I stopped, took a deep breath and tried to process the incident.

I was the only Muslim, identifiable by my headscarf. I knew I was being referred to as a terrorist. This misconception of Islam is not acceptable.

After the recent Paris and San Bernardino terrorist acts the Muslim community, especially those who are identifiable, have a very hard time. As an American citizen after such terrorist acts I hurt for the victims, but as a Muslim I get harmed twice as much because my faith is getting blamed for.

The Muslim Student Association held a social two weeks ago emphasizing the uncomfortable environment of the campus.

Southern President, Mary A. Papazian attended the social and stated in her blog negative comments do not have a place on campus.

“The evil actions of groups of radicals should not provide an excuse to stereotype and offend individuals who are our classmates, our colleagues, our friends and neighbors,” Papazian blogged.

At the event both the president and vice president of MSA mentioned several incidents on campus, one being a female student, in the library, being told to kill herself. The president mentioned the problem was the attention drawn to Islam from the mass media.

James Smith, the President of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, said some of the best Islamic scholars mention Islam does not tolerate terrorism.

“It is the duty of journalists to specify religion.” said Smith. “When the terrorist act is committed in the name of the religion.”

People attribute the actions of a handful of people to all Muslims. From my experience at Southern the local level is shown, but this is a national issue.

In 2011, the Pew Research Center published an article regarding the population of Muslim in America. According to the article, in 2010 there were 5.3 million Muslims in America. The extreme act of only a few people whom claim they are Muslim harms all 5.3 million Muslims.

As Journalism student I am torn questioning the mass media. The duty of a journalist is to inform the public, yet in the long term the Muslim population is being denigrated. If we, journalists, are now emphasizing the religion of terrorists claiming they are Muslim then shouldn’t we emphasize the religion of other mass murderers? As a journalism major and Muslim, the answer is simple, it would be the only ethical solution. When the proper adjectives are not used when identifying these extremist groups, journalists allow the audience to feed on these stereotypes.

Who is to blame? It is easy to blame the media, but is that the actual problem? I am using this pathway to be a voice to the unheard.

I am angry and heart-broken- the only way to create a change is by thinking of a solution- Journalism is my approach to raise awareness, because a change must occur.

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