To view this story with audio supplements from the discussion, please click here.
Islamophobia had no place in the Kiva on Thursday, February 12 as students gathered for the Muslim Student Association (MSA)’s second Interfaith dialogue.
According to senior MSA member Kinza Sami, religious bias is prevalent in media and is counterproductive to interfaith cooperation.
“There’s definitely a media bias toward Muslim,” Sami said. “For example, just two nights ago, three Muslims were murdered—shot in the head execution-style—and…it’s being investigated as a hate crime, but the people are trying to say that it was over a parking dispute. And I find that very hard to believe. That’s a personal belief, but I think there’s a discrepancy in the way we report crimes or events that happen when the Muslim is the perpetrator and when the Muslim is a victim.”
Education such as Interfaith dialogue provides is instrumental in eliminating religious bias, Sami said. Students have the opportunity to learn about other faiths and ask questions.
“I think that the reason for that (bias) is we don’t educate ourselves about other religions and other faiths and other peoples,” Sami said. “That’s our main goal as the MSA… we want to foster these cross-cultural relationships because that is what’s going to save us…what’s going to make our world much, much easier and much better to live in.”
Fellow senior MSA member Yara Khalifa said she agreed that education encourages religious tolerance. When other students approached Khalifa after Interfaith asking for her opinion on the Chapel Hill shooting or the Paris attacks, she said she emphasized the perpetrators’ actions have nothing to do with religion.
“These are bad people committing bad crimes; they’re not bad Muslim people committing bad crimes,” Khalifa said. “I think that (having) an Interfaith dialogue and really trying to get the word out on Islam specifically—since it is under scrutiny because of the recent attacks—that just reinforces the fact that religion is not the factor that is contributing to the terror attacks.”
A plethora of students were able to hear Khalifa’s message this year; according to Sami, the dialogue had a larger and more diverse turnout than the previous year, encouraging the MSA to plan a new challenge for April.
“This is in the talks right now, but we are planning a CoverGirl challenge (in) which people, Muslims and non-Muslims, will have the opportunity to wear the hijab— which is a Muslim woman’s headscarf— for a day,” Sami said. “The next day or after school, we’ll have a discussion about how their experience went. We’re discussing this with the administration right now, but that’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
This challenge will allow students and teachers to experience a Muslim tradition which, according to Sami, will help them realize the significance of their own beliefs.
“This is not specific to just my faith, but I think that when we learn about others, we gain a very broad understanding of our world,” Sami said. “Also we become more confident in ourselves and in our faiths…and if not more confident, we become a little more interested in learning about other people. We find ourselves in learning about…each other.”