I am certain that the majority of Americans are able to remember where they were when they received the news that the World Trade Center had fallen on September 11, 2001. I was at lunch in the cafeteria of Middletown Middle School when an announcement came over the loud speaker saying that all of the Schools in Frederick County were to be placed under “lockdown” for security reasons. What this meant was unknown to us and would remain so until we arrived home and were able to speak with our parents. I remember coming home and placing my backpack down in the living room, and looking at the stunned faces of my parents sitting in front of the television, watching smoke roll from the skyline of New York City.
Up until that time, I had had no experience with Islam or Arab culture and I would wager that many of my classmates and their families hadn’t either. What we were not able to realize at that moment was that the information and images of this culture that we were about to receive, wouldn’t be accurate of Arab culture or the religion of Islam. It seems that whenever an offence is committed against a nation, the sometimes-ugly face of nationalism is revealed in the quest to find a villain whom we can demonize. Clearly, we hadn’t learned from the similar mistakes in our history (such as the United State’s placing Japanese Americans in internment camps, etc.) but rather repeated this action: pinning the blame for our one of our greatest tragedies on one cultural group whom we associated with Islam.
Since that time, Islamaphobia has been on the rise and shows no signs of slowing. Indeed now, a conservative presidential front-runner seems to be gaining popularity by spreading a xenophobic message, demonizing Muslims. Since the start of what was often called the Iraq War, a message has been conveyed saying that America is waging a war in defense of Judeo-Christian values, thus uniting Christian Americans in a religious struggle against “the enemy”. This denied Americans of the knowledge that not only are Muslims the brothers and sisters of Christianity, but Arabs are our brothers and sisters in humanity.
I would like to use the information in this class in order gain a stronger understanding of Arab culture and Islamic culture. I feel as though education is the first line of defense against toxic ideologies such as xenophobia and racism. I have some experience studying Islam due to my personal interest in world religions but I am looking forward to learning the finer details of the culture. Also, among the things I have learned is that it was Arab scholars who preserved the writings of the Greek philosophers who began Western philosophical discourse. In my attempt to find out more about the rich history of philosophy, it seems right that I should pay homage to these thinkers while finding other ways in which Arab culture has contributed to the world as I know it. Perhaps if more people were to understand the daily lives of other cultures they might be apt to understand that we are all simply members of the human race, who have similar hopes, dreams and fears. The chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks says that he feels as though God has placed human beings of different races and cultures on this planet so that we may know one another. I am inclined to agree with such a beautiful idea.