Monday, November 28, 2011

Anti-Muslim Sentiment

One thing that really bothers me is when I hear an entire group disparaged based on the bad behavior of a few. The most recent, most public demonstration of this is the anti-Muslim sentiment, which I encounter in those who don't actually know any Muslims, but choose to believe, no matter what they're told, that because some Muslims terrorists flew some planes into some buildings, why then all Muslims must be extremists who hate anyone who isn't Muslim. This can be difficult to look at objectively if you don't know anyone who's Muslim; being objective is not always the strong suit of the masses.

I don't even know where to begin telling people what's wrong with the belief that all Muslims must be hate-filled terrorits , but it bothers me for multiple reasons, not only because I was actually in New York, living 30 miles away from Ground Zero during the September 11th attacks, but because I know quite a few Muslims, and none of them are anything but kind, caring people. 

My students are working on their final big paper for the semester, a research paper in which I require them to analyze an aspect of culture and its affects on said culture. One student wrote a rather strong anti-Muslim paper, in which he proclaimed that Muslims were terrorists, that there is a correlation between Islam and terrorism, that Islam tends to "give a fanatical feeling" about the beliefs and religion.

Of course, that could be argued of Christian and other religions as well. Any religion is subject to interpretation, and misterpretation (think Westboro Baptist Church, whose website URL encapsulates their close-minded hatred).

I encouragd my student, via comments left on his rough draft, that there is a possible distinction between certain terrorist groups and other Islam follows who may argue that there is not a correlation between Muslims and terrorists; that many Muslims are pacifists; that similar arguments can be made of some Christians, both contemporary and historically-speaking. I encouraged him to avoid maligning an entire religion because of the bad behavior of a few; I noted that while there may be some truth to certain aspects of his paper, how do other Muslims act, and how would he respond to those Muslims who denounced the Muslim terrorists?

This came up in passing in a previous class discussion, how one should be careful not to denounce all religious followers because of how some act. One student mentioned that even in the LDS church, there are those who practice polygamy, which was denounced by the LDS church over 100 years ago, although it's still practiced by fringe groups. The class made the distinction between groups in which members were being hurt, and the mainstream LDS church, which does not endorse such behavior, and similar behavior in the Muslim community. ("Those people may be terrorst, but they are not part of our group nor do they follow our beliefs.") There is a distinct separation there.

I didn't know how else to handle this rough draft, but I felt something needed to be said. I'm guessing this kid doesn't know any Muslims, and hasn't really researched the other side of the issue.

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