New Perspectives Shed Light on Old Stereotypes

Story by Kyle August, Reporter

Increased scrutiny of Islam and Muslim culture have caused unease for both Muslims and non Muslims in America as many struggle with issues of identity and acceptance

Many American Muslims are frustrated.

The events of 9/11 and the actions of extremist groups have brought Islam and Muslim culture under fire.

Stereotypes abound, and some non Muslims seem to question whether a person can be both Muslim and a patriotic American.

During Texas Capitol Muslim Day on Jan. 29, protesters yelled insults at Muslims participating in the rally. House Rep. Molly White, left an Israeli flag on her desk and instructed her staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and proclaim allegiance to America.

“There is absolutely no conflict between being an American and a Muslim,” Fahim Idais, an Arabic and Math professor at ACC, said. “Being an American is a nationality, and I’m proud of that. Being a Muslim is a religion, and I’m proud of that. America is about freedom of religion.”

Idais said that he is disappointed with the extremes portrayed in the media and the perceptions of Muslims that result.

Psychology major Jeremy Winters said he often thinks of 9/11 before cultural tradition when he sees a woman wearing a hijab (the traditional head covering worn by Muslim women). Although cultural tradition comes to mind, Winters said he knows very little about what the hijab symbolizes.

While she has never experienced blatant discrimination, ACC Journalism major Manal El Haj said that people are often reluctant to approach her.

“It’s like they don’t know how to act around me. Maybe they think I don’t speak English.”

El Haj recently started wearing a hijab in public. She said that negative views of women who wear the hijab are based on misconception.

“They’re looked upon like they’re oppressed, when really it’s 100% their choice,” El Haj said.

She pointed out that Muslim women are not the only women to wear head coverings. Women of many religions and cultures have at one time covered their heads – the Virgin Mary included.

“Protecting my modesty makes me feel more like a woman. I am not an object,” El Haj said.

Perception is often a matter of per- spective. Maria Moreno, an early childhood education major, said that after living in Morocco for four-and- a-half years, her view of Muslims is not dictated by what she sees in the media.

“If I didn’t go to Morocco I would be prejudice,” Moreno said. “I know that wherever I go, I will find extremists, and not just Muslims. They can be Christians, Catholics — it doesn’t matter what religion.”

Explosions and violence tend to capture the media’s attention more than peaceful coexistence. The actions of groups like ISIS give the impression that Islam is a violent religion and often color public opinion.

“ISIS is a terrorist group, and honestly, I don’t even know what they represent. They do not represent Islam and they definitely do not represent me as a Muslim.” El Haj said.

“I’m a proud American, and I’m a hell of a lot bigger Texan than a lot of people here”, El Haj said. “The beautiful thing about America is that we’re a melting pot. That’s the beauty of living here.”