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Student discusses Islamophobia

| Monday, September 21, 2015

The past week’s installment of Justice Friday at Saint Mary’s focused on disproving myths about Islam and highlighted ways to combat Islamophobia in the Saint Mary’s community.

The lecture was led by junior Caylin McCallick, who spent the summer at Saint Mary’s learning from international students through a program, Study of the United States and Islam for Women’s Leadership (SUSI). She said she hoped to shine some light on the similarities between Islam and Christianity and dispel some of the stereotypes about Islam.

“Islamophobia is the dislike or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force,” McCallick said.  “This ignorance of Islam is ritualized in our society today. For example, a child was arrested just this week for building a supposed bomb that was a clock he brought into class to show his teachers.”

McCallick said this hatred is both baseless and senseless, especially because of the similarities between Islam and Christianity.

“Muslims are monotheistic and worship the same God as Christians,” she said. “They believe in the teachings of a single prophet and preach peace and love in their holy book, the Qur’an.”

She argued that the acts of a few radicals do not align with what the religion teaches or believes.

“Islam comes from an Arabic word that means peace,” McCallick said. “It is a peaceful religion and most jihads are wars that you fight within yourself … Islamic extremists are not acting within the faith.”

McCallick said the definition of jihad is deeper than common belief.

“A jihad is the battle over your soul; it is the fight within oneself against sin. It is often translated as Holy War in America, which is a strong misconception,” McCallick said. “While there is such a thing as military jihad, one has to remember that Catholics and Christians have just war theory as well, and just like Christians, there has to be by a certain authority that approves the war for specific reasons and there are certain rules as to how that war can take place.”

The lecturer said she feels offended by the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims post 9/11.

“It hurts me that these ideas are still present in our culture today,” McCallick said. “This is such a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of a faith that is beautiful.”

After explaining Islamophobia in America, McCallick opened the room up for discussion.

Junior Miranda Pennington said being Muslim and American are not mutually exclusive.

“Someone could be Muslim but it doesn’t contradict with them being American,” Pennington said.

Sophomore Vanessa Odom said the fear is baseless and Muslims are misunderstood.

“I don’t think that it is a fear of Muslims or Islam, it is a misguided fear of extremism,” Odom said. “It is an extremism phobia above anything else.”

McCallick provided specific tips on how to combat Islamophobia.

“We need to watch the language we use when talking about extremism,” McCallick said. “These acts are inspired not by truth but by a small group of people. … We shouldn’t throw around terms like Islamic or Muslim.”

“Its better to ask questions in a respectful way than to assume things are the way they are,” she said.

McCallick said we need to see people as related by the human race and as fellow humans first before seeing them as a religious group.

The Justice Friday lecture series takes place every Friday from 12 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. in Conference Room A and B of the Student Center.

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