I asked a few of my non-Muslim peers, Drew Lobley and Jack Hilker, about Islamophobia through a platform supplied by a program within my school. What I anticipated would be an extremely rudimentary conversation amongst individuals unaware of the cultural disconnect between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States turned out to be one of the most insightful discourses that I have experienced.
The nuanced issues that were divulged were addressed in a respectful, yet constructive manner that enabled both parties to articulate their stances on problems that ranged from unequal representation in media to the normalization of microaggressions in contemporary culture. While my friends were not particularly versed in the world of Islam prior to this interview – they were arguably misinformed to a slight degree – through a meaningful exchange of dialogue, we effectively communicated some of the nation’s most pressing dilemmas regarding Islamophobia. I’ve chosen to relay the contents of the podcast to the readers of this editorial because I believe that this method of communication should take precedence in how we combat religious prejudice.
With an existing taboo surrounding the topic of religion, the only way to implement change is by starting a conversation.
I posed the inquiry: “Do you believe you are sufficiently educated on the religion of Islam?” in an attempt to gauge my caucasian friends’ understanding of the matter at hand.
Lobley and Hilker acquiesced in the fact that their grasp of the religion was elementary. Though, they vehemently protested that the limited knowledge they possessed about the subject was not their fault, but instead a misdeed of the public education system for failing to inform our youth. They’re right. Considering the grave complexity of religious discrimination, it’s more convenient to delegate the blame of the issue to individuals undeserving of it. When in actuality, it is the government that should be held accountable for providing resolution to this matter, not citizens.
This notion was further validated as I continued the interview with my peers, prompting them with the question: “Do you think that your perception of Islam was wrongfully contorted by stereotypes and other damaging stigmas?”
Lobley answered honestly, noting that a considerable amount of the information he received regarding Islam was biased in some capacity; his understanding of the religion has always been unjustly tainted. Unfortunately, this sentiment is representative of a larger demographic of American society. Most often, citizens are simply uneducated or misinformed about the intricacies of Islamophobia–they do not actively harbor resentment for Muslims. Yet, this air of disregard is still deeply detrimental to the image of progress. The only remedy to this fundamental problem is through the education of the public and acts of unity that diffuse underlying tensions between these respective communities.
How To Move Forward
Through this experience, I was able to better comprehend the source of dissension between non-Muslim and Muslims, receiving feedback directly from friends with their own enlightening perspectives. My peers, previously unacquainted with the realm of religious discrimination, exhibited an earnest desire to become informed. In a single sitting, their awareness of the topic was significantly transformed as their understanding deepened. Simple, seemingly inconsequential conversations can make a momentous difference in the battle against modern inequality. If meaningful discourse is encouraged, it will also promote a greater solidarity between groups of people who are more similar in thought than they realize.