Dispelling the myths about Islam

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Thousands gather around the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. Adherents face the Kaaba during daily prayer no matter where in the world they are located. Despite being a major world religion, Islam is still not repected in America, especially after the 9/

Gisela Lagos

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The fight against Islamophobia comes to Mesa College as Edgar Hopida, the director of public relations for the Council on Islam-American Relations (CAIR), and three current Mesa students speak out to squelch the myths surrounding the Muslim faith.

Hopida, joined by Huda Doski, Noorsaba Bahramzi and Ayan Mohamed came together to dispel the misconceptions about their faith. Be it on campus or off, bias against the Muslim spiritual path has fueled hate crimes, ignorance and stereotypes.

While “Islamophobia” seems to be more rampant since 9/11, it actually rooted in a much earlier time. Ever since the European Crusades in the Middle East there has been anti-Muslim propaganda. It started with small tabloid-like news stories and developed into anti-Muslim books, movies and comic strips that each took a part in creating the current fear of Islam. Originally it wasn’t the differences to Christianity that fueled the dislike, but the many similarities to the Christian and Jewish beliefs. All three religions are based on the Abrahamic Law and are very similar.

A common misconception is that all Islamic extremists and Muslims think the same. In fact, out of the many Muslims in the world only a small percentage believe in the religion’s radical ideology. Muslim-Americans are active in speaking out against extremism and do what they can both in the United States and overseas to fight against misconceptions.

Hopida brought up the various gatherings, written messages, studies and rallies that work towards not only dispelling Islamophobia but also towards speaking out against fundamentalists and terrorist organizations.

“We’ve done the work, the problem is no one is listening,” Hopida said regarding the lack of news coverage for their events.

Questions about the panelists’ dress, violence against women and even their marriage practices were brought up during the presentation. Taking turns answering the various questions, they explained their religious beliefs, the culture they were raised in and their personal choices.

Each of the three women on the panel wore their traditional Muslim headscarf, or hijab, which as they explained is a personal choice and a garment that they wear with pride. Each had a slightly different answer when asked about their choice to wear the headscarf.

Doski explained that none of her family members requested that she wear the scarf. She took it upon herself to find out more about the tradition and made a personal choice to wear the hijab.

“It’s a form of modesty,” said Doski as she explained her views on wearing the hijab.

Mohamed spoke to the “attitude” surrounding someone who wears a hijab, “You can’t wear the scarf and go clubbing.” She explained that a person who wears a hijab has to be completely committed to what it represents.

Bahramzi pointed out that they are not forced to wear the headscarf and, in fact, to force a fellow Muslim to do so goes against the teachings of the faith.

A student asked how strict the panel members’ parents are with them and if the parents chose who they are able to date. Hopida responded by reinforcing the idea that the way a parent raises his or her child is very much a family and cultural choice. Hopida himself, being of Filipino decent, was raised by very strict Catholic parents.

The way a parent rears their children, while it can be influenced by religion, is not dictated by the religion. A Muslim parent can be just as strict as a Christian or Jewish parent. Parents who influence their sons’ or daughters’ choices, be it marital or other, do so because of cultural tradition or social beliefs, but it is not mandated by the Muslim faith.

“If my parents told me who to marry I think I would die,” said Doski as she made light of the question.

While racism has been a global epidemic, sexism has actually been around much longer. The border towns of Mexico are littered with female oppression and exploitation. Female oppression can be traced back for thousands of years, but not because of religion. Religion is merely a tool used by the people in power as an excuse to justify the operation of others. Cultural influences, fears and ignorance each fuel the incorrect mindset of sexism, operations and exploitation as foundations of the Islamic faith.

There is a clear difference from the picture the media is painting about Islam and what the Muslim faith actually represents. Scripture from the Qur’an, Bible or Torah when taken out of context can all be construed as sexist, oppressive, or violent. An interest in religion is not required to fully appreciate the underlying meaning of love that is represented by the Qur’an, the Bible and the Torah. Instead of feeding the media driven fear and hate, an informed person can stand up against the true root of oppression.

If you witness any anti-Islamic activities, please contact CAIR either by phone at 858-278-4547 or by e-mail at info@sandiego.cair.com.

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