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Visit a mosque

| Thursday, January 26, 2017

We are living in a continually polarized and tumultuous political climate here in the United States, with the recent election only furthering divides among citizens and their differing views on a variety of platforms, including religion. With a lack of facts and communication crossing the aisle from either party, all civil discourse around Islam, extremism, the Islamic State group and American Muslims has come to a halt. Ignorance stands in the way of any meaningful conversation, as fear-mongering and hate prevent all Americans from learning more about Muslims and Islam’s role both in the United States and the world. Americans have an overall distorted view of Muslims, and an Ipsos MORI study found that even though only 1 percent of people within the United States are Muslim, Americans believe the number to be 17 percent. About half of Americans think at least “some” U.S. Muslims are anti-American, which is roughly the same amount of Americans who do not personally know a Muslim. Next to not knowing a Muslim, one of the other bigger shifts in opinion on Islam is due to age — according to FiveThirtyEight, a respondent was more likely to express negative sentiments towards Muslims the older they were. There is clearly a disconnect between what we Americans think we know about Islam and the actual facts. 

So what responsibility do Notre Dame students, faculty and staff have in this matter? Well for one, as individuals working around education, we have a greater responsibility to get our facts straight, no matter which political party or ideology we may choose to support. It also means that we have the resources right at our fingertips to do so. Take a class on Islam through one of the many departments that offer it, such as Theology, Political Science or American Studies. Make sure you are getting information on Islam and its followers from reliable sources in the post-truth world in which we find ourselves living. Most importantly, no matter your beliefs, visit the Islamic Society of Michiana (ISM), a located just minutes away from campus, and experience a Friday service at the mosque firsthand. The only way to truly curb bias and ignorance on this matter is through experience. I am fortunate enough to have been able to attend the Friday services twice through class, and it was an experience that made a foreign concept that much more accessible. The individuals at the ISM, including Imam Mohammad Sirajuddin, are more than happy to answer any questions after the service, and they are used to visitors attending service to observe. So visit and expand your comfort zone; because at a time of political polarization in our country, we need to do what we can within our own power to educate ourselves and to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

You do not have to agree with me after visiting the mosque, but at the very least you will be participating in virtuous discourse rather than blind feuding. You will listen to a sermon in English that above all preaches respect and peace, you will see the little children excitedly mirroring their parent’s every movement in prayer, you will see mothers, fathers, students, professors, doctors, grandparents and everyone in between that makes up American Muslims in this country. And everyone will be humanized, which is something that all too often gets lost in the political discussion. So grab a classmate, a friend or someone with differing views on Islam in this country and experience the mosque for yourself. It is the only way to ensure that you are no longer a part of the population that does not argue within the bounds of respect and reason.

Kylie Ruscheinski is a sophomore political science major and business economics minor from Chicago living in Cavanaugh Hall. She is on the board of BridgeND, along with Model United Nations and NDVotes. She is still on a high from the Cubs winning the World Series and is now excited for another great run for the Chicago Blackhawks. She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About BridgeND

BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at [email protected] or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

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