This blog post was written by Emily Ansusinha, President of Interfaith in Action. Follow her here.
I don’t mean to brag (too much), but I probably have the coolest brother in the world. You know what? I’m adding my mom to that statement too. I’ll tell you why in just a bit.
I had two main reasons for choosing Islam as my area of focus within the Religious Studies major: 1) I would have a reason to take Arabic classes, and more importantly, 2) I didn’t know anything about Islam. Over the span of my college career, I’ve had the pleasure of taking courses such as Intro to Islam, Islamic Law and Salvation in Islamic Thought among other Religious Studies classes. I believe Islam to be a beautiful religion, even though I myself am not a practitioner.
During my sophomore year, I received a forwarded email from my mom with the subject title “Joys of Muslim Women”. The only thing my mom added to the forward was “Emily, what do you think of this?”. As I read through the forward I became increasingly angry; it contained claims that Muslim men were marrying infants or that they treat their wives like sexual toys. It also warns against the dangers of Islamic law saying, “It is amazing and alarming how many of our sisters and daughters attending American Universities are now marrying Muslim men and submitting themselves and their children unsuspectingly to the Shariah law.” The email concluded by asking everyone to forward the email to all their contacts, because if they didn’t, then the United States may have a Muslim president within the next twenty years. I replied to my mom with a long rant about how it was all wrong and completely ignorant. To summarize her reply, “Well, duh. I just wanted to know what you thought.”
A month later, I received another forward email from my mom entitled “Ft Hood Muslims”. This time her preface sentence said, “I know this will make you sick… Sorry, I’m just forwarding it to you, not believing it”. This email posed the question, “Can a Muslim make a good American?” According to whoever wrote this email, the answer is no on all counts. Here are a few examples:
“Theologically – no. Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon god of Arabia.
Geographically – no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca , to which he turns in prayer five times a day.
Socially – no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.
Philosophically – no. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.”
There is so much that is wrong with these statements that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. When I went home for winter break a few weeks later, my mom told me that she had replied to her friend saying that she no longer wanted to receive these hateful forwards. I was so proud of my mom.
That was over a year ago, but today I have reason to be proud of another family member of mine. Reading Christopher Stedman’s blog, I was made aware of an anti-Muslim rally that took place on February 13th in Yorba Linda, Orange County, California. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Relief was holding a benefit dinner to raise money for local women’s shelters. While entering and exiting the event, Muslim attendees were being harassed by protesters flinging insults of “terrorist”, “molester” and “traitor”.
I was absolutely horrified while watching this video; I cried. How can anyone accuse the attendees of being rapists and abusers when the very event they are attending is raising money for battered women? How can anyone tell someone to “go back home” when their home is America? How can any person be so completely disrespectful and hateful to another human being? The organizer of the protest, Steven Amundson, said, “It’s not right for terrorism to come to Yorba Linda. I always stress the need to be peaceful and positive.” Well, I have news for you Steven. Firstly, Muslim does not equal terrorist. Secondly, while your protest may have been “peaceful” because there was no physical violence, the verbal attacks were vicious and spreading hate is in no way “positive”.
Filmmaker and advocate, Valarie Kaur, posted a link through her Twitter to the Common Ground Campaign – “a coalition of young people standing against hate speech and violence against Muslim Americans”. You can sign a charter pledging to overcome fear and find common ground. Only an hour after I posted both the Orange County protest video and a link to the CG Campaign on Facebook, my little brother, Alec, commented saying that the Director of Student Life at Bard College at Simon’s Rock had given him permission to host a dialogue/movie screening and that he would have people sign the charter. Not going to lie, I cried again.
Of all the things I expected to come from posting a link on Facbook, my brother planning an interfaith event was not one of them, but I am so, SO proud of him, and glad to see that he’s growing up to be a compassionate and thoughtful young man. Love you, Alco, and can’t wait to see you over spring break!
Is your family Better Together? Mine definitely is.