Dumb blonde, unintelligent, lazy, not as smart as a man, unsuccessful; I could be put into any of these categories simply because of what I look like.
The above descriptions includes stereotypes created by society, and I’m not alone. Many groups are faced with oversimplified ideas about themselves.
Islam is a religion that is often stereotyped.
I associated the word Islam with the friends I had made last year in the MiPlace program. I was an American leader with a group of six men and one woman from Saudi Arabia. At first, they were a little shy, but as the time went on, they opened up about their life, including their religion of Islam.
Growing up in a small town, I never knew any Muslims. I was very curious about Islam and by meeting these people, I had the opportunity to learn about their religion. I was full of questions, and they provided many answers.
There are many stereotypes affiliated with Islam, including all Muslims are Arabs, Muslim women lack freedom and Muslims are terrorists. Although I knew very little about the religion, never once did I believe these stereotypes to be true.
When I was younger I realized no single group is all good or all bad. In every group there are those who are bad and those who are good. Unfortunately, many stereotypes about Islam started after 9/11, which led many Americans to view Islam and Muslims in a negative light.
Last Thursday I attended “Islam: What everyone should know,” presented by Dr. Khalil. In this presentation, Islam was dissected, piece by piece. I learned 13 to 20 percent of the total population of Muslims are Arab, which broke the first stereotype.
I also learned Muslim women have more rights than many people realize. Throughout history, women have continued to fight for their rights, which breaks down the second stereotype.
The final stereotype was reaffirmed by the public. When certain questions were posed on how Dr. Khalil could justify some negative actions committed by Muslims, he simply couldn’t.
It’s impossible justify the bad behavior of any person in any “group.” Regardless of any race, religion, gender or ethnicity, there will always be people who will make a positive difference as well as those who make negative decisions that impact society.