Smalewitz: Ending religious stereotypes — our differences should unite, not divide

Tamra Smalewitz

Growing up in Orange County, California I was exposed to various diversity’s and different religions. I had friends of every religion you can think of and friends who did not believe in any religion. I felt that as long as someone is a good person, they are the kind of friend I want to be around.

When I was in seventh grade, a Muslim kid in my class came up to me and said “It is your people’s fault we are in a war in the middle east.” He was blaming the Jews for the war, when in fact he had no right to do that. He had one cousin whom I also had class with, and I never encountered problems with her. I was perplexed, how could I be friends with one, while the other was so rude to me? The answer is that she was a good person and we were both understanding of each others religion.

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I have been noticing in the media that not only are Jews being targeted on their college campus for no reason and so are the Muslim students. Even more the Muslim students are being targeted as terrorists by their peers. It is not right to associate a group of people to acts committed by people who may or may not share religious views with them.

Ask someone you know to tell you what a Terrorist is or what Terrorism means? Some will respond saying “Someone or an organization against that country who are threatening the safety of another country.” Others will respond saying “A terrorist is someone who believes in the Qur’an or practices Islam.” (My friend came up with the first one and the second one is something I have heard on campus or in the news before) 

Did you know there is more than one type of Terrorism? The main definition I wanted to focus on was International terrorism, since that seems to be where everyone puts blame on others. The FBI describes terrorism as

“International terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

  • Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
  • Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.*”

Does it say anywhere in this definition the word Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Buddhist, or atheist? No it does not, meaning we cannot call all Muslim’s terrorists.

With this being said, it is time for us to stop calling all Muslims terrorists. Anyone from any religion or no religion can be a terrorist. A person’s character determines whether or not they are good, not their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.

I recently spoke with Israa Eldeiry, who is a practicing Muslim woman. I asked her about Burkas and Hijabs, why she wears a Hijab and what are the differences between the two.

“The Burka is not an obligatory part of the religion. The Burka is the full covering that women wear on their face while the hijab covers the hair and the whole face can show. Most people wear just hijab and do not go to the full extent of wearing a burka…Some women believe that it brings them closer to their faith. In some places it is also forced upon women, but this has nothing to do with the religion,” she explained. 

She also told me about her views of Jews and what she thinks about Jews vs. Muslims.

“There is usually hatred and violence when you hear about Muslim and Jew in the same sentence… I know that we share a lot of similar beliefs and I know that we have a lot more in common and that the foundations of our religions are based on the same thing… one of my best Friends is Jewish, and conflict is not the first thing that comes to my mind.”

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Israa and I have no problem getting along with one another, others need to stop making assumptions about us because of our different religions. Assumptions make you look ignorant and hateful in front of others. Our religions are one small part of who we are as human beings, how we act and treat others is what makes us good people. Israa and I can get along and be friends, because we are both good people who treat others nicely. Think before you speak and call someone a terrorist because of what they are wearing or because of their religion.

How would you like it if one day some came up to you and said “You are a terrorist, get out of my country?”

Collegian Columnist Tamra Smalewitz can be reached at hmcgill@collegian.com or on Twitter @tamrasmalewitz.