It’s easy to fear what’s different from us.
Especially in today’s world, with news of ISIS and terrorist attacks, it sometimes feels safer to stick around those who seem familiar to us and fear those who don’t.
But in the United States — a melting pot of ethnicity and religion — we have a great opportunity to turn that natural fear into greater understanding, acceptance and love.
Tabassam Ramzan, a young Muslim woman who practices Islam, spoke to me about how times have changed in such a way that she sometimes feels unsafe:
“Before 9/11, I felt accepted [living in the USA], or at least I didn’t have a fear of going out and having people look at me differently or be rude to me. Now after 9/11 and all the recent attacks I don’t feel as accepted as I once did.”
According to the most recent study, there are roughly five million Muslims living in the United States. In the land of the free, the practice of Islam should be accepted and celebrated just as the practice of Christianity; but today’s world has us on shaky ground.
According to Ramzan, there is a great need, now more than ever, for understanding.
“I want people to know that Islam is a peaceful religion,” Ramzan said. “What you may see or read about isn’t always true. Even if there’s bad stuff going on, there’s also a lot of good that we as Americans don’t hear about.”
So what do Christians and other fellow Americans need to do in order to bring more peace to a world that has everything but?
Friendship and education, Ramzan says. That’s what it comes down to.
“I think it’s very important to be friends with people of different faiths because you can learn from each other,” she said. “If you don’t, you get closed-minded and won’t learn anything.”
Most fear and judgment comes when there is a lack of education as to what Islam is, what people of the religion believe, and the true story behind how Muslims and those who practice true and peaceful Islam actually live their lives.
“We’re normal people,” Ramzan joked. “We have jobs just like anyone with any other religion. And just because there are people who say that they practice Islam and do bad things — they are not. Islam teaches us to be good and to do good for others.”
Meeting and making friends with those who are different from us can impact every aspect of our lives in a positive way. We can become more tolerant of different opinions, gain valuable insight and lessons from those who have different lifestyles, and become more well-rounded with a wider perspective on life. What’s the value in only surrounding yourself by those who reflect your same views or faith? There’s nothing to learn and nothing to refine you.
Fear and hate won’t cure the world in any way. Only love can do that. And that starts with us, individually.
Ramzan said that despite everything going on, she loves living in the United States. There is potential to be the country we once were, and to progress to be something even better.
“This country is a big melting pot of culture,” Ramzan said. “And I love that we can meet and learn new things from people. If you make friends then you will be educating yourself, and that is something we need right now.”