Interfaith peace could save lives

By Ali Qazi

It’s important as Americans to understand the differences between various religions and cultures in order to coexist peaceably. Everyone has a desire to keep their family safe and secure. However, the feeling of safety can be extinguished by the reasonable fear of an attack.

Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris pleaded guilty Jan. 24 to five counts of attempted bombing of an Illinois abortion clinic, armed robberies and other crimes in connection to a mosque attack which took place in August in Minnesota. The mosque attack could have easily been prevented if the party who orchestrated it went to the mosque and learned about Islam. There are groups on campus for students to learn about different religions and cultures, such as InterFaith NIU.

“The person next to you is not going to have the same views as you,” McKenna Smith, graduate student of counseling, said. “You have to have the common decency to let them be themselves.”

Given the tense political climate and the fact this attack was at an abortion clinic, it’s clear there is a misunderstanding of opposing opinions. The tolerance level of these individuals is nearly non-existent, but had they educated themselves on the religion, maybe they wouldn’t have attacked.

Americans have equal rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, press and religion under the Constitution. Under no circumstances should a Muslim, or a follower of any religion, feel threatened because of their religious beliefs.

“I think it’s valuable to have other people see there are more commonalities [in religions] than differences” Johnny Dijohn, junior elementary education major and member of Interfaith NIU, said. “[This] can bring us closer together than [we are] right now.”

Across campus, there are groups of students who embrace multitudes of faiths and cultures. Through regular discussion meetings and public service, InterFaith NIU seeks to help inspire students to understand people of all backgrounds, according to HuskieLink.

Another group is the Muslim Students Association [MSA]. The MSA is an organization run by Muslim students for all students. Its primary objective is to educate people about the Islamic faith and dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam, according to their facebook page.

In order to help achieve this goal, MSA is hosting an event 9 a.m to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Holmes Student Center Lobby. There will be a speech regarding misconceptions about the hijab from Aisha Shasheen-Shaikh at 5 p.m. in the Sky Room.

“Please ask us questions; we want to be open about the hijab,” Neveen Sheikhali, senior communication organization major and vice president of MSA, said. “We want us to help you understand why we wear the hijab, and what it’s all about. Islam is such a peaceful religion, and we want to show that to them.”

Small steps toward alleviating uncomfortable interactions such as getting to know someone who looks different than oneself, help make individuals more tolerant to their fears and help them to reevaluate preconceived prejudices they may be fostering.

“A lot of people think only their view is right, and they don’t really see other perspectives; it’s not really about being right or wrong,”  Han Na Kim, a graduate student of adult and higher education, said. “You’re learning from each other.”

The moral is, everyone has a unique perspective and as a human being it is one’s responsibility to express opinions with words, not action like blowing up Mosques. Education is a key role in understanding and respecting individuals and it is something everyone should begin to take more seriously.

Go out and meet people, see the world from a different perspective and intend to see it with an open mind. Change only comes to those who are willing to change.