PORTSIDE

Bay Port through the eyes of… a Muslim student


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“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”  -John Steinbeck, American author

Examining any foreign or relatively unknown concept is like looking through a magnifying glass and being asked, “What do you see?” This opens up an entire world of responses. Some will attempt to create the observed object into a philosophy, to make it more, to alter it. Others will accept that the object is what is lying right in front of them: it is just an object. Ranging from the vociferous Donald Trump, to radicals who claim to be Muslims, many misinterpretations of Islam, and Muslims in general, have taken place.

In her essay, “The Misunderstood and Misinterpreted Religion: Islam,” Bay Port sophomore Buruj Mohammed defines what it means to be a Muslim in the 21st century, and clearly depicts the opposing characteristics terrorists and Muslims have, when compared to each other. Through the eyes of Buruj Mohammed, it is understood that those who believe Islam to be an extreme religion that praises massacres and innocent lives lost, it is understood that they are creating Islam into something that it is not. They are overlooking the idea of observing the religion as it is, which, like most religions, is a religion with a certain set of virtuous beliefs.


It is human nature to be uninformed, and it is fine to be different, but when those differences are used as excuses to judge and make assumptions is when things start to turn for the worse. A Muslim is described as someone who practices the religion of Islam. A Muslim has to be kind, and loving, and friendly, and respectful, among other things. I can clearly tell you this because I myself am a Muslim, a very proud Muslim at that. I am not trying to apologize for my beliefs; rather inform others of what they might not know. I have been fortunate to not have faced discrimination because of my faith for the most part, but there have been some times when it has happened, which is probably something most Muslims living in a non-Islamic country have gone through at least once in their lives.

One particular event that made me realize my situation as a Muslim took place in 2012. My whole life, I had been in a safety net with my family and friends who have known me for most of their life. In both elementary and middle school, I do not think people really considered me a ‘Muslim.’ By that I mean, I was not someone foreign or someone really different from them because they have known me forever. I was just simply Buruj, or the girl next door, or the nice friend, or the one who love to read, or the respectful student.

It seemed like I was thrown into reality in 2012. My mother decided that it was time for us to go see our grandmother and our extended family, as well as to get to know what it is actually like in Africa, as opposed to the skewed images presented to us as kids of the barbaric people who lived in the wild. During this time, we lived in San Diego, and when we went to the airport, I was in awe. As I child, I had travelled a lot with my mother, but it had been many years since that time.

The entire place was bustling with people and noise. I was very excited up until we got to the security checkpoint. Once the TSA officers saw that we were Muslims, special precautions were set up immediately. We were taken to a different section for screening from where most other people had to go through, and everything we had as carryons, was checked, double checked, and checked yet again. Any substances we carried such as water, lotion, perfumes, and toothpaste were all tested for explosive material and the ‘danger’ it might pose to others.

They then proceeded to question my mom for the reason she was taking this trip. We were patted down extensively to make sure that we were not dangerous. This took a while, and even though we arrived three hours ahead from the time that we were supposed to board our flight, we almost missed it. It had to be held back, and we were the last to board the plane because of this. At the age of twelve, I understood something was wrong but did not know why we did not go through security as quickly as other people did. I had always assumed that my family and I were normal, but that was the day, I finally realized that we were far from normal–we were very different from others.

One misconception is that Muslims do not believe in the prophets in Judaism and Christianity and that they hate Jesus. Islam, a religion that started 1437 years ago, recognizes Judaism and Christianity as righteous religions that were established before Islam. Muslims do not hate Jesus; they believe that he is one of the most importants prophets of God. Many people do not understand that Allah means God, and that most religious leaders acknowledge that Muslims, Christians, and Jews worship the same God. Some try to distance themselves from Islam by attempting to make it a completely different, bizarre religion, dissimilar from Christianity and Judaism.

Another misconception is about Women’s Rights. People who do not know much about Islam believe that women are oppressed. That if very far from the truth: Muslim women wear the niqab, the veil, because they want to out of respect that they have for themselves, their bodies, and the image they show to the rest of the world. Islam sees women as gifts. When Islam became a powerful religion, it included many ideals that were new at the time, such as women’s rights.

Terrorists groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS have used Islam as a front for their malicious acts. People believe that Islam itself stands for terrorism, but that is not the case. The literal translation of Islam is: one who submits to God. Muslims are believed to be savages at war. However, there are many rules for a true Muslim army when it comes to war: do not kill women, children or elder men; do not burn trees, burn crops, or destroy buildings; and finally, do not kill any doctors or teachers. The goal of Islam is not to start war, but for Muslims to live peaceful lives practicing their religion. Even in a time of war, in no shape or form can a Muslim soldier spill the blood of a single civilian because that goes against every Islamic principle.

That then raises the question of who are these terrorists then who claim to be Muslims? The truth is, nobody really knows who they are and where they get these outrageous ideas, because Islam does not support them. These groups try to impose Islam on others which is not something that was done during the Prophet’s (صلي الله عليه وسلم) time.

Most Muslims are pious people who are trying to make the best of their life on earth so that they can reap as many good points–sort of like karma points–as they can to help them in the afterlife and eventually open up the Gates of Heaven for a life of eternal happiness and peace.

Islam is not terror, nor hatred, nor anger, nor terrorists, but a religion making its mark on the world, fulfilling the needs of its followers.  Muslims hope that others will learn more about Islam and understand that not everyone is represented by an infamous few. But most of all, they should not make any assumptions based on what they see is going on right now in the world. It is my sincere hope that one day Muslims will be able to live relatively normal lives without the constant fear of another attack occurring and they, as Muslims, being blamed for it.


 

Through this magnifying glass, we are observing just an object: a religion that has definite, non-violent beliefs, as all religions do. Viewing Islam through a clouded magnifying glass leads to the many misinterpretations and judgements people often have.

Buruj Mohammed emphasizes that it is important to pursue the questions that causes one confusion, in an open-minded manner. By allowing the fog to consume all of the potential knowledge and understanding that one could attain if they instead listened, progress towards a more accepting society can not, and will not be made.

How can we learn to greet one another with welcoming arms if we instead cross them, and block all of the voices that are attempting to be heard? How can we truly understand background information if we only observe the first site we stumble upon? The answers are simple: it begins by ignoring everyday assumptions that famous politicians or celebrities claim to be true, and instead being motivated to validate the information for oneself. It is about learning of the true story, and not adapting to the interpretations that majorities sometimes seem to believe in. It is about looking through the magnifying glass, through the eyes of someone who practices Islam, and seeing and understanding a religion.
If you have a story suggestion for this series, email Portside adviser, Mrs. Greene: krisgree@hssd.k12.wi.us.

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