It seems like every few weeks, something happens around the world that causes the media to label Muslims as “radical”, “unaccepting”, or “misogynistic and backwards” just to name a few. As a first generation Muslim American, these depictions of my religion are very disheartening. Way too often, I must explain to a new friend or peer that I do not hate them because they are an “infidel”. I personally don’t blame these people themselves, but rather, I think this misconception of Muslims stems from a social and political climate that has fostered fear of Muslims since 9/11. I like to think that anyone who knows me personally would learn that Muslims are far from how the media depicts.
This, along with my strong interest in others’ faiths, practices, beliefs, and spiritualities, are what pushed me to become a fellow for the CRGC. Even in just the short amount of time that I have been a fellow, I feel like I have taught others about my faith while learning and expanding my own horizons regarding others’ beliefs. One thing that I feel stands out the most when explaining facets of Islam is how similar it is to the other Abrahamic religions; even outside of the Abrahamic religions, I find my own values/religious values heavily aligning with other religions, such as Hinduism. Another thing integral to Islam is accepting your neighbor’s faith and loving them regardless of their religion.
One gesture that stood out to me personally was being invited by my fellow Jewish peers in the CRGC to UW Hillel. In the media especially, there has been a great debate dividing Jews and Muslims, which only gets intensified by politics. Before entering, I did honestly feel slightly uneasy, as I wasn’t sure if I really belonged in a Jewish student center, but moments after I entered, I was greeted by a fellow Jewish peer with a warm smile and directions on where to go—putting me at ease. Throughout the entire meeting, the Jewish members stressed how welcome we were to come back anytime. As the night progressed, I was able to learn firsthand about the Jewish holiday, Sukkot, while also being able to teach my fellow peers on my own religious holidays; together we found similarities between our celebrations.