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Op-ed | Ignorance breeds hatred: I am not a terrorist

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012 07:11

 

My name is Alexandra Marie Minter. I was born in Madison, Wisconsin in October of 1992, and I am not a terrorist.

I forgot to mention the most important precedent to me not being a terrorist. As of January 2012, I am Muslim. Yes, I am a Muslim convert. Being Muslim to me is not just a religion, but also a lifestyle. However, my lifestyle does not directly affect others, or force others to change for me. Apart from these facts, I am very similar to other students on campus: I go to class, I go to work, I participate in groups on campus, I eat, I get stressed, and so on. 

Yet, on the night of Nov. 20, around 5:20 p.m., I heard a passerby in front of Houston Hall call me a terrorist. After I heard this, I kept walking. Many people questioned my reaction after I had made a Facebook post about the incident. Some told me things like, “Oh my God, why didn’t you call the police?” or “You didn’t yell or punch them? Why?”

I’m here to answer the question of why I didn’t react to this in the moment, my friends. I didn’t react because I believe that ignorance breeds hatred. Due to the fact that ignorance is the result of a lack of education, I am going to take this “op-ed” as an opportunity to educate. 

I am no sheikh, but I can tell you a few things about Islam, as a Muslim, and by reading facts off of Wikipedia. Islam is the second largest religion in the world, making up about a fourth of the world’s population. It has five main “pillars” of faith: believing in one God and that Muhammad is His messenger, charity, prayer, pilgrimage once in your life to Mecca if you are able to, and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. None of these pillars of faith includes things such as suicide bombings, killing or hating people of other religions, becoming part of a terrorist organization, and so on. Suicide is actually condemned in Islam, and religious tolerance is praised, as stated in Surah al-Kafiroon: “For you is your religion and for me in my religion.” Along with religious tolerance, there is no required compulsion in Islam, meaning it is not the duty of Muslims to try and convert people. 

Yet American media is much to blame for these misconceptions, sadly. The media depicts suicide bombers as angry Muslims yelling things such as “down with America,” and “oppressed” women in niqabs. Let me dispel some of these misconceptions. Like many political parties and religions (which are very different entities, but show similarities in some aspects), there are extremists in Islam, and then there is everyone else. These extremists, like so many others in history, have been brainwashed by hatred and should not be taken as the majority voice of Muslims.

It is also important to distinguish the difference between an extremist and being conservatively religious. “Extremism,” defined by Merriam-Webster, is “1. The quality or state of being extreme,” or “2. advocacy of extreme measures or views,” whereas “conservative” is defined as “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.” Extremism is defined by publicly supporting and defending extreme or radical views. Conservative is defined by something — or in this case, someone — tending to maintain existing views. This differentiation is important to the heart of this cause, because I may be conservatively religious to some, but I am not a supporter of extremism, due to the fact that I don’t publicly advocate extreme views of my religion. This should be said for many Muslims across the world who are outwardly religious (by which I mean that a person publicly displays their religiosity, for example by wearing some sort of clothing that many people would associate with one religion or another). Western media has done a wonderful job with confusing these two terms and ideologies. A headscarf does not signify anything more than modesty, along with religiosity, in many cases.

Yet I still was called a terrorist on my own college campus by a stranger, solely because I choose to wear a piece of cloth wrapped around my head out of modesty. I was called a terrorist because I am different, and therefore am feared, because people don’t understand this difference. Well, here is my public announcement: If you have any questions, concerns, or fears that stem from a lack of knowledge, or maybe misconceptions that you have been fed from one source or another, I strongly advise you to become knowledgeable. If you are reading this article, you probably have more sources available to you than you can count. Use Google or be proactive and ask questions and talk to someone who does have the knowledge you lack and seek. Take 10 or 15 minutes to type “Islam” in your Google toolbar and click the Wikipedia link. Inquire, question and learn. Whether it is about Islam or some other topic you lack knowledge of, learn and teach, because the only way to fight ignorance is through education. Any other method only creates more conflict and stereotypes. 

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Alexandra Minter is a sophomore majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Alexandra.Minter@tufts.edu.

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