Column: Fighting Islamophobia starts with dispelling ignorance

Education is the answer when it comes to fighting this bigoted fear.

The famous author H.P. Lovecraft once stated, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

The Sept. 11 attacks sparked many long-lasting reactions in the U.S. and the world. Sadly, one of those reactions was the worsening of an already present fear, Islamophobia. Islamophobia is the dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims. When the World Trade Center fell, Islamophobia swept the U.S. This irrational fear of Muslims stems from ignorance and lack of understanding. Hatred and fear of an entire religion — a peaceful one, at that — based on an act of terrorism committed by an isolated group is irrational and unacceptable. Saying that the actions of ISIS or al-Qaeda entirely represent Islam is like saying the Ku Klux Klan or the Westboro Baptist Church entirely represents Christianity.

Many people justify this fear by stating Islam inherently teaches its followers to be terrorists. Some of these people, such as aspiring GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, have even gone so far as to suggest the U.S. completely ban all Muslims from entering the country.

Another example of Islamophobia can be seen in the deadly shooting of four immigrants by a man named Larme Price, who said he killed them as revenge for 9/11. With the reaction to recent events of ISIS and the attacks on Paris, Islamophobia is still strong in this country.

The suicide bombing and the massacre of innocent civilians are far from being supported by the Quran. Islam is not obsessed with war and being a jihad is not one of its five “pillars,” or essential practices.

In reality, the word jihad, as described by the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad(s), has many meanings. It can refer to internal and external efforts to be a good Muslim or believer. Jihad can also be characterized by working to inform people about the faith of Islam. Therefore, military action is only one very rare method of Islam. Jihad can be performed using any legal, diplomatic or economic means. If there is no peaceful alternative, Islam does allow the use of force, but under very strict rules of engagement (i.e. women and children must never be harmed and any peaceful proposals from the enemy must be accepted). To highlight this, the Prophet Mohammed once said, “This day we have returned from the minor jihad to the major jihad,” which meant returning from war to the peaceful battle for self-control and advancement.

These peaceful practices can be seen in the modern world. On Dec. 22, a bus in Kenya was hijacked by Somali militants. They demanded that the Muslims separate from the other passengers so that the extremists could kill the non-Muslims onboard. Rather than saving their own lives, the Muslims stayed on board and helped protect the others, giving the others their religious attire to wear so they were not easily identified.

Islamophobia is a fear that spurts from ignorance. Thankfully, it is a fear that can be combated with knowledge. At MU, we are lucky to have a community of Muslim students on campus. We can learn from these students and have discussions with them. Only by talking with them can we realize just how far the views of these radical terrorist groups are from the truth. MU also offers courses on Islam and the Qu’ran. In reality, education not only works to combat Islamophobia, but it is the best way to fight any prejudice.

Our strongest emotion is fear and our strongest fear is fear of the unknown. The only way to combat this is to make the unknown known.

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