Since 9/11 and the initiation of the War on Terror, Muslims have become easy targets for discrimination in Western society. This is especially true for Muslim women who are easily identified as Muslim by their headscarf, known as a hijab, worn by certain practitioners.
Despite what many people think, Muslim is not a race of people, but rather a name for practitioners of the religion of Islam.
Tensions in America have increased over the last decade and a half since that infamous day. This pressure has worsened in recent months due to questionable comments made by the president-elect and some of his supporters during the campaign season.
An important distinction should be made that former president George W. Bush declared a war on terrorism, not the Islamic religion. It is equally as important to keep in mind that only a small percent of Muslims are extremists seeking to destroy Western values, just as only a small percent of Christians are Ku Klux Klan supporters.
The tension stems from ignorance of the Islamic religion and of the perceived differences between Western and Middle Eastern societies. The very fact that people think that it is okay to harass others because of religious or racial differences is appalling and certainly un-American.
Matters become even more egregious when the harassment happens in schools or in the workplace. When the harassment happens among friends and family, often the offender feels that they can backtrack or write off the hateful language as a joke. The real joke is when free speech is exercised to spread hateful, false messages.
Even if someone thinks of harassment of different people to be harmless, it isn’t. Harassment is rarely harmless. Despite the old adage about sticks and stones, words can hurt. If you see someone being harassed, speak up. Staying silent is the same as saying that it’s okay for someone to say prejudiced comments to another person.
When intimidation is allowed to pass by without a word against it, it then becomes normalized. This can increase instances of repeat offenses as more and more people believe it’s okay to treat others however they wish.
This isn’t an issue of sensitivity, just common decency and adhering to the democracy we live by. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for a freedom of religion and the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens.
We must respect the laws that protect our Muslim, Jewish, Christian, neighbors, as well as treat all other faiths and non-believers equally. A college campus is supposed to be a safe place for learning and growth, let’s work together to ensure that happens.