New Year, Worldwide

Happy New Year! Since it is the beginning of 2018 I thought it would be interesting to look at New Year’s traditions around the world.

 

Here in America we drink champagne and give each other kisses at midnight, but many countries have very different ideas of ringing in the new year. For example, in Spain it is customary to eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each chime of the clock, to bring luck. In certain parts of Scotland, people swing large fireballs over their heads in a tradition that is said to ward off evil spirits. In Denmark, broken glass is meant to be a sign of good fortune so people smash china and drop it on friends’ doorsteps to bring them good luck in the new year. People in Colombia and Ecuador make and burn puppets or scarecrows to symbolize leaving bad people or things in the past. Joya no kane is the traditional ceremony of bell-ringing in Japan that dates back to Buddhist beliefs, where the bells are rung 108 times to represent each of the worldly desires or sins. In Greece, hanging an onion in your front doorway signifies rebirth and regrowth. And on New Year’s in Germany, people eat filled donuts as part of their “Silvester” celebrations.

 

So as you can see, there are many different ways of celebrating the new year. Whether you were stuffing your mouth with grapes, breaking plates, toasting, or getting a New Year’s kiss, I hope you had a fun night and have a prosperous 2018.

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Pasko Sa Nayon

Last week, to support one of my friends, I attended the Filipino Student Association’s Cultural Night called Pasko Sa Nayon. The phrase means “Christmas in the village” in Filipino, and the event was a celebration of the Filipino culture through food, songs, and a really interesting traditional dance called tinikling.

Tinikling is one of the oldest and most popular folk dances originating in the Philippines, and is recognized as the Philippine national dance. It means “bamboo dance” in English, and is performed with two large bamboo poles that are clapped together rhythmically as dancers hop and maneuver between them. There are various stories as to the origin of the dance, one of which being that the Leyte people did it as an imitation of the tikling bird’s unique movements as it hops and walks between grass stems and tree branches, and that the dance’s name came from the name of the bird. Another story tells of the Philippine people working in the fields under the Spaniards. According to LIHKA.org, when workers were slow, they would be sent out of the paddies for punishment. They were forced to stand between two bamboo poles cut from the grove, sometimes with thorns sticking from their segments. The poles were then clapped together to beat the natives’ feet. By jumping when the bamboo sticks were apart, the natives tried to escape this cruel form of punishment. From there it is said that tinikling evolved into the art form that it is today.

It is a really cool and fun-looking dance, and is very clearly a source of pride and unique part of the Filipino culture. I’ll attach a link below to a video of the dance; the OU students who did it during Culture Night were not quite as talented as these people, but it was still quite impressive.

I am very glad I attended Pasko Sa Nayon; I really enjoyed seeing a new facet of the Filipino culture, and definitely want to try tinikling now. Maybe with bubble wrap around my ankles, just in case…

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ISIS/The Islamic State: Some Thoughts on What’s Happening Now

The rise and spread of ISIS* has made international news for more than three years now. This brutal, militant form of Sunni extremism quickly conquered large pieces of Iraq and Syria, and regional forces, with support from a coalition of 68 countries around the world, have been fighting to take back the territory ever since. Meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for horrific terror attacks committed all over Europe and bleeding into the United States.

ISIS attracted many young people into its ranks both in the Middle East and in western countries. Surprisingly to many, ISIS actually attracted many well-educated, economically well-off youth in addition to more traditionally disenfranchised people. As its numbers and territory grew and its terror attacks became more frequent, ISIS inspired a great deal of fear throughout the world. Within areas controlled by ISIS, native people suffered greatly, and in the West, people feared more terror attacks and the organization spreading further.

For years, at least to me, it’s felt as though the international community has made little progress in taking ISIS down. ISIS would lose territory and then gain it back, all while continuing to commit terror attacks. However, there has been a recent turn of good fortune – the leaders of both Iraq and Iran have declared that ISIS has been militarily defeated in both Iraq and Syria. I am honestly skeptical of this; the news is new and in fights such as this, victories are seldom so clear-cut. However, ISIS’s loss of Mosul in July signaled the beginning of significant territorial losses for them, and for once, ISIS really does appear to be losing ground.

I am incredibly pleased that ISIS is retreating and that native Iraqis and Syrians are beginning to get their countries back. However, based on all of the research I’ve done this semester, I think it’s incredibly important that western powers who’ve been assisting regional forces in Iraq and Syria militarily to attempt to solve the root causes of terrorism, rather than just the symptoms. Military victory is fantastic, but because ISIS is just as much an ideology and a rallying cry for many who feel disenfranchised, I fear that military victories will be temporary. Western responses to terrorism often treat the symptoms of terrorism but fail to tackle the larger roots: economic inequality, ineffective and ill-thought-out foreign policy, and social unrest, to name a few. Admittedly, these issues will be significantly more difficult to tackle, but I think this makes them all the more important. Yes, we need to fight back against ISIS with military strength, but I think that we also need to fight back with ideas.

Obviously, I am but an undergraduate biology major with an interest in foreign policy. I fully recognize that my statements above are an oversimplification of these complex, multifaceted international events and issues. I by no means claim to be an authority here; I would simply like to start a conversation about these issues. I think that terrorism has many root causes, and work on tackling those, rather than fighting the fires that emerge as a result, has the potential to affect real, lasting change. The difficulty, of course, lies in figuring out how exactly to go about fighting those root causes.

*There are many names for this organization, and what is most widely accepted continues to change. Throughout this post, I’ve chosen to use ISIS for simplicity and because this term is widely recognizable to the American public.

International Organization Update

This semester has been a little bit of a disappointment in terms of my involvement in international organizations on campus. I am still a member of Spanish Club and OU Cousins like I was last year, but Spanish Club meetings happen to fall on the same night as ASL Club meetings (and I’m the vice president of ASL Club so I’m kind of obligated to be there) so I haven’t been able to go. I also was unable to be matched with a new OU Cousin this semester because of the disproportionate amount of American students wanting to be involved.

But fear not, dear reader, because I have been able to reconnect with Anita (my old OU Cousin) and have a status update on her life since going back to Taiwan. This is what she sent me in her email:

“I graduated from university this June in Taiwan. I went to Spain to visit my bf in July for the entire month. And I started working since September, which makes my life a hectic. I work in a electronics company as an international salesperson. It’s an okay job but the time difference makes my job kind of difficult because sometimes I need to make phone calls out of my business hour to reach customers.”

She also said she misses her time in the US and being a student (except for dead week), and I definitely miss having her here. However, thanks to the miracle that is modern technology, there is a silver lining: even though she’s not here anymore and is now off working in the real world we can still stay in touch. I’m hoping that in the spring I will be able to get matched with a new Cousin; I had such a good experience and learned so much from Anita, and now have a friend 7,600 miles away and a place to stay when I visit Taiwan.

I’m pretty sure spring semester will be better for me and my international organizations because OU Cousins generally has a more even ratio of international to American students in the spring, and ASL Club meetings will be moving to Tuesday nights to accommodate the change in ASL class scheduling so I will be free Wednesdays to actually attend Spanish Club meetings. In the meantime though, I still have Anita to keep my connection to OU Cousins and my Spanish class to keep me connected to the world of hispanohablantes.

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Mentoring the Next Generation of GEFs

This semester, I have had the immense pleasure of getting to mentor another new class of Global Engagement Fellows. In meeting new fellows this semester, I was struck by the feeling that I am getting old (okay, I may be just shy of 22, but in the context of the average age of college students, that’s not young). I am a senior this year. At many points over the course of this semester, I’ve found myself thinking “this is my last September in Norman,” “this is my last homecoming as an undergrad,” and, most recently, “this is my last Halloween as an OU student.” To me, these are sobering thoughts – I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at this wonderful university for the past three and a half years, and Norman has come to be my home. I’ve built up a close community of friends, and don’t feel ready at all for that community to split up and scatter across the country. Similarly, I don’t feel ready to leave behind my peaceful afternoons on campus, reading in a lounge in Farzaneh or writing a lab report in the Great Reading Room of the Bizz. Fortunately, I still have several more months of doing all of these things, but in speaking with new fellows, I’m reminded of how much of my time at OU has already passed.

One of my favorite things to talk about with new fellows is their study abroad goals. I love hearing about all of the places that they want to go and the things that they want to do. Once again, I’m frequently saddened that my time studying abroad is over (I’ve said before and I’ll say it again – studying abroad was by far the best decision I’ve made in college), but I love getting to hear about all of the adventures that my mentees will get to go on.

It’s also awesome to get to share some of the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years with the new fellows. After navigating the harrowing waters of trying to find housing for half a year and avoiding paying for the other half, I’ve gained some key insights that I’ve gotten to share. I love knowing that I can hopefully help eliminate some of the only negative parts of studying abroad for new fellows by telling them my cautionary tales.

This program has a habit of attracting very bright and talented individuals, and, truth be told, none of my mentees need much mentoring at all. They are all incredibly capable and driven young women, and I could not be more excited to see where this program takes them. Even so, it still feels good to be a resource for them, and it’s nice to have new explorers that I can live vicariously through.

To sum up, I am absolutely loving getting to be a peer mentor in this program. The Global Engagement Fellowship, and the studying abroad that came with it, has been one of the highlights of my college career, and getting to share my passion for this program with new members is always a treat!

The Portrayal of Muslims and the Iraq War in U.S. Media

This week, I got to go to my first round table discussion of the semester. I always enjoy these talks immensely because I appreciate hearing from experts in different fields related to international current events. Try as I might to keep up with these events on my own, the knowledge that I glean from the news cannot match what I gain from hearing from the experts themselves.

This talk was somewhat different because it related not to a specific current event but to the portrayal of Muslims and the Iraq War in U.S. media over the course of several years. Given my honors research this semester on the fear of Islam in the U.S. and the factors that perpetuate it, this talk was particularly interesting to me. In this discussion, Dr, Kristian Petersen, a professor of religious studies at the University of Nebraska, discussed two movies, American Sniper and the Hurt Locker, to highlight common American portrayals of Muslims and the Iraq war. He discussed both specific events from each movie and the ways in which these movies tie in to the predominant media narratives about both Muslims and this war.

The common theme between both movies was a tendency toward a simplistic portrayal of Muslims. Muslims in these films are depicted as a homogenous group, very different from mainstream Americans, predisposed toward violence and radicalism. Dr. Petersen stated that this portrayal, found in movies, TV shows, and the news, creates an atmosphere of mistrust of Muslims and normalizes the mistreatment of members of this faith group. This position is backed up by a great deal of survey data; consistently, surveys show that Americans trust Muslims least of any religious group in the country, and in 2014, 42% of Americans supported the profiling of Muslims. Many Americans view ISIS as what a true Islamic society looks like, rather than an extremist offshoot. As further proof of this mistrust and fear of Islam, hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. quintupled following 9/11, and continue to spike following any terror attacks at home or abroad, regardless of whether or not these attacks are perpetrated by Muslims.

Both movies that Dr. Petersen focused on play directly into this fear of Islam that so many Americans already felt before the movies’ releases. They each depict Muslims as distrustful and uncivilized, and both contain dramatic and stereotypical imagery. These films contribute to the conflation between ethnicity and religion and to the view that all Muslims are extremists who hold radically different views than most Americans. In American Sniper, Arab children are depicted as inherently violent, Muslim homes are depicted as war zones, and Muslim women are dismissed with misogynistic slurs. The film fails to distinguish between Arab and Muslim extremists and between the Arab and Muslim public, contributing to existing American issues making these distinctions.The Hurt Locker employs the same tired tropes; it implies that Muslims are inherently violent and that it is impossible to tell which among them are terrorists and which are peaceful.

This is not to say that there is no violence or extremism in the Arab world today; certainly, these problems exist, and certainly, some Muslims participate in this violence. Dr. Petersen’s claim is that these two films are somewhat problematic because they contribute to the failure of the American public to distinguish between extremism and between the rest of Islam, between terrorists and peaceful citizens, and between Arabs who are Muslims and Arabs who are not. Homogenous depictions of Muslim and Arab society, like those featured in these two films, play into and build upon problems that already exist within American society. They perpetuate negative stereotypes and contribute to the rising Islamophobia within the U.S.

I thought that this talk was extremely interesting because I rarely think about the ways in which depictions of societies outside of my own can contribute to negative stereotypes. Something as innocent as a movie can have widespread societal consequences as it contributes to the collective opinion of a nation that is already afraid. I have no doubt that there is much more nuance to this situation than I have described above; my thoughts here are by no means meant to attack these movies, or to say that they are not valid viewpoints of the Iraq War. I simply seek, like Dr. Petersen does, to shed light on a depiction of a people that may be more problematic than some Americans initially realize.

Summer-y Summary and Starting the Sophomore Slump

Well this post was supposed to happen a couple months back, but life has a funny way of ruining all of my carefully crafted plans and timelines.

This past weekend marked the end of my midterms this semester, and I am finding new levels of mental exhaustion. I am loving my classes for the most part, but hating Organic Chemistry with a fire that burns brighter than a thousand suns. It is through no fault of my professor, who is truly a nice guy and clearly loves what he is doing. I just do not harbor the same sentiment that he does towards any aspect of chemistry.

I know I said I would try to give a summer update sometime during the actual summer, but by the time anything interesting happened I was already having to change gears and prep for this semester. So I hope you will forgive me, but I want to use this post to go back and talk about my experiences this summer- specifically my trip OUT OF THE COUNTRY. FINALLY.

In July my family took a trip up north and visited Buffalo, New York; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Bruce Peninsula (a few hours north of Toronto). It was a really awesome vacation and we saw so many different things. We saw Niagara Falls from the US and Canada sides, which was an amazing experience; I would 100% recommend a trip there at least once in your lifetime. Then we spent some time in Toronto visiting the zoo, the aquarium, the CN tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, St. Lawrence Market, the Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, and a few other cool sights while exploring the city. We also drove up to Bruce Peninsula for a few days, and it was breathtaking. The views were amazing and the weather was perfect and I honestly just love hiking and being outdoors so it was a really fun excursion.

Since my dad’s family is from North Dakota and we spend quite a bit of time up there, a lot of Toronto just felt kind of like the northern US. There were definitely some notable cultural differences though. Some of the most prominent to me were:

Language: Canada is a bilingual country- its two official languages being French and English- so you are as likely to see things written in French as in English, even in the cities and near the border.

Money: The Canadian dollar is worth about 78 cents US. They have color coded bills, which makes them easier to differentiate, and they honestly just look much cooler than our boring green money. Instead of having $1 and $2 bills, Canadians use coins called loonies and toonies. Most places accept debit/credit, and in border towns or more touristy areas American dollars are pretty widely accepted as well, so currency exchange isn’t too much of a hassle.

Government: Canada is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II, is the formal head of state represented in Canada by the Governor General (currently David Johnston). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is head of government, and in each province the Queen is represented by a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the PM. There are three levels to their system of governance: federal, provincial, and municipal (local). I am far from an expert on Canada’s government, but this site has a lot of information about the parts that make up the whole and is pretty interesting for the curious mind.

https://www.canada.ca/en/government/system/structure.html

Health care: This topic provides as much controversy for Canada as it does for the US. Currently, Canada has a publicly funded health care system in which all citizens qualify for health coverage regardless of income, medical history, or standard of living. It is a mostly free single-payer system that is funded by the public and carried out by private doctors (not the government). If you look up “Canada health care” online, many articles pop up with very conflicting opinions on the topic. There are proponents of privatization who say it would cut down on the outrageous wait time for non-emergency visits and fix many of the perceived issues with the current healthcare plan while creating a more sustainable system, and others who strongly back the current system and believe privatization would be very detrimental to the country. It’s a really interesting topic, and many of the arguments parallel the health care debates that we are currently having in the United States.

National pride: Canadians on the whole seem to be much more proud to be Canadian than we are of being American. Almost every house we drove by had some form of the Canadian flag outside and we could tell when we talked to people that they were content with defining Canada as their home. Canadians possess a strong sense of uniquely Canadian identity, and are proud of their diversity and heritage. And a lot of these sentiments were heightened this year, since it marked Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Hockey: This one doesn’t really need a ton of explanation. Hockey is to Canada as football is to the US. Every kid grows up playing it, watching it, and living it, and every city has a team.

Tim Hortons: Like our northern neighbors’ version of a Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks with the popularity of Chick-Fil-A on a college campus, they serve coffee and pastries and specialize in Timbits, their version of donut holes that come in many different flavors. Especially maple.

…and bagged milk. Which I still don’t quite understand. Sounds to me like a recipe for milk spilled everywhere, but it’s also more ecologically friendly and cost effective, so good on you Canada.

Overall, my trip to Canada was a lot of fun and I would definitely go back. I feel like it has definitely helped me broaden my horizons at least a little bit, and I’m more than ready to take my travels further.

Above: one of our MANY Tim Horton’s runs, a painted building we walked past downtown, and me in front of Casa Loma

 

Above: the view of the falls from one of our hotel rooms, my mom and I at Bruce Peninsula, and a rainbow over Horseshoe Falls (the Canada side of Niagara Falls)

 

 

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A is for Arab: Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture

Hi all,

Once again, it’s been a while since my last post! I had a wonderful summer interning as a business analyst with Capital One in Plano, and I’ve taken this first half of the semester to dive right into a very interesting, if hectic, start to senior year.

It’s a little crazy for me to think that this is the fourth year I’ve been keeping this blog! Time definitely flies by, and I’m having trouble believing that it will soon be time for me to leave the bubble that is college and make my way into the real world.

Fortunately, I still have some time left to enjoy OU, and part of what has made my time here great is attending various international events through this Global Engagement fellowship. My favorite events are often the lunchtime talks with different experts on various current events and areas of the world, but sadly, my class schedule this semester conflicts with all of these and I’ve had to get a little more creative.

The first event I attended this semester is a fantastic traveling exhibit in OU’s library called A is for Arab: Stereotypes in U.S. Popular Culture. This exhibit consists of a series of large displays with some photos of various negative representations of Arab people that have littered American popular culture for generations. Each large display is in the style of a children’s alphabet book, for, as the first display details, American stereotyping of Arabs can be found everywhere, including sources as seemingly-innocent as children’s books.

The exhibit strove to emphasize that even though anti-Arab and anti-Islamic sentiments have been on the rise post-9/11, these ideas are far from novel in American culture. Comics from Archie to Tarzan to Dennis the Menace have included negative Arab stereotypes, and American movies and novels have utilized such stereotypes for generations. Several of the displays detailed specific pervasive stereotypes that American culture has had a difficult time shaking.

One panel, entitled H is for Harem, outlines the ways in which the American portrayal of Arabic women is often seriously flawed and marginalizing. Arab women are rarely portrayed in American media, and when they are, they are often either hyper-sexualized or depicted as flat victims of violent oppression. There is very little accuracy in the way American media views Arab women, and this is incredibly damaging because many Americans draw their views on foreign cultures and people directly from the media. By allowing these negative (and false) stereotypes to be perpetuated, American culture perpetuates misinformation and ignorance that are extremely harmful to both race relations within the United States and the relationship that our country has with others.

In a similarly harmful vein, another of the panels in this exhibit is entitled V is for Villain, and it outlines the ways in which Arab men are so often portrayed as violent, dangerous villains, rather than as actual people. Much of American media paints Arab men with the same broad brush that in paints the women, but the men are made out to be evil, greedy, and dangerous. This is concerning for the same reason that all negative stereotypes are concerning; it breeds ignorance and mistrust, and it counteracts any hope the United States has of pursuing truly productive international relationships with Arab countries. Within our own borders, the ignorance fueled by these stereotypes makes it difficult for Arab people to assimilate into our culture, and it reinforces the idea that American prejudice against and fear of Arab people is okay.

Hopefully by now I have made it clear that I think this prejudice and fear is far from acceptable. The United States needs to work much more on eliminating stereotypes and instead viewing Arab culture and Arab people with the complexity that they possess. Broad brushstrokes are damaging and unproductive. We as a society have painted Arabs as the “other” for years, and it is time to turn the page.

It is reassuring to see exhibits such as this one focusing on educating people to this issue. Shamefully, before viewing this exhibit, I had not realized just how pervasive the negative stereotypes of Arab people were in U.S. culture, though I’m sure that any Arab-American is painfully aware. Hopefully, this exhibit can combine with an increasing number of positive, realistic portrayals of Arabs in American media to produce a positive change in American society. I know that we can rise above this hatred and fear that we have allowed to brew for so long; what we need now is to start taking our first steps.

The themes of this exhibit have significant overlaps with my honors research this semester, in which I am looking into the roots and rise of Islamophobia in the U.S. It is important to note that not all Arabs are Muslim and that not all Muslims are Arabs; these groups are far from homogenous, but we very often fail to treat them accordingly. This semester, I have been doing a lot of reading and writing over the origins of Islamophobia and their modern manifestations, and I look forward to sharing much of this in another blog post!

The Roots and Rise of Islamophobia in the West

This semester, I have had the immense pleasure of doing honors research on the roots and rise of Islamophobia in the West under Dr. Charles Kimball. The semester is far from over, and I learn new things every day, but my research has many parallels to current events both in the United States and abroad, and I want to make a quick post sharing some of the things I’ve learned so far. This is a quick summary of my thoughts on what I’ve read so far.

Islam is the world’s second-largest religion and the fastest growing religion in the world. It was founded in 622 by a man named Muhammad, who Muslims believe is the messenger of God. The Quran, the central Islamic religious text, is believed to be God’s final revelation, a purification of the Torah and the Bible that came before it.

Islam shares many doctrinal similarities with Judaism and Christianity, and it even looks up to many of the same holy figures (the Quran mentions Jesus and Moses many more times than it mentions Muhammad). Yet, despite these similarities, many, many Americans and Europeans who are not Muslim view Islam to be a religion of violence and oppression, something far removed from so-called “Western values.” Post-9/11, both anti-terrorism efforts and anti-Islamic sentiments have been on the rise in the United States, but these prejudiced views of Islam are far from new. Rather, they date back to the earliest interactions between Islam and Christianity, and Western society has largely been unable to shake these biases that it formed so long ago.

When Islam first arrived on the scene, it definitely shook the status quo for the Christians at the time. Islam gained followers, power, and knowledge incredibly quickly, making the Western countries appear backwards by comparison. Thus, the first impressions that the West formed of Islam were formed in fear; Islam was the greatest threat to Christianity that Christians had ever seen, and in their fear, their initial assessment of Islam was incredibly inaccurate. They painted Muslims as godless villains and relied much more on their own imaginations than on research into what Islam is really like to form their first impressions. (Source: Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages, R.W. Southern)

Over the years, when Islam ceased to be as much of a military threat, Western scholars began to conduct more accurate research on Islam, but an anti-Islamic sentiment still persisted throughout much of the Western world. Negative caricatures of the prophet Muhammad and damaging misunderstandings of Islamic law and practices were pervasive. Even as Western society as a whole gained more understanding of the actual text of the Quran and of the actual religious practices observed by many Muslims, the prejudice generated in the Middle Ages remained ingrained in their societies. Events like the Crusades underscored the fact that Islam was treated as the enemy, and though some in the Western world, most notably St. Francis, sought peace and interfaith dialogues between Christians and Muslims, this attitude was the exception, not the rule. (Sources: Islam and the West: The Making of an Image, Norman Daniel, and The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, Paul Moses).

European colonialism threw yet another wrinkle into Islamic-Western relations. European powers dominated many majority-Muslim countries for many years, and when they left, propped up oppressive authoritarian regimes, choosing their own economic interests over the implementation of the democracy that they claimed to value. These actions led to many political tensions in Africa and the Middle East that have yet to evaporate, as well as, understandably, mistrust of Western powers in the eyes of many Muslims. Western countries left terrible governments in their wake and claimed to support democracy but failed to do this in practice. As a result, many Muslims looked to Islam as a framework that could guide their political lives in addition to their private religious ones. Many majority Muslim countries have sought to implement Islam in some way into their governments, and this is an uncomfortable idea to many European countries, and to America, who pride themselves on the separation of church and state. (Sources: Islam: The Straight Path, John Esposito, and The Future of Islam, John Esposito).

Some in Muslim countries have felt so oppressed by the West that they’ve lashed out in terror attacks. Many non-Muslims in the West are quick to equate these attacks with all Muslims, when in reality, many of these attacks are politically-motivated, using Islam to justify violence but born from fear of Western political and military intervention rather than from fear of Christianity. (Sources: Islam: The Straight Path, John Esposito, and The Future of Islam, John Esposito).

What all of this boils down to is that there is a great deal of fear and mistrust on both sides of this divide, and these emotions and sentiments are far from novel. The challenge now comes in cutting through the fear and focusing more on our similarities and less on our differences. I know that sounds incredibly idealistic, but it is an ideal that I would like to strive for in my life moving forward.

At this point in my semester, I’m turning my attention to the specific case studies of the United States and Great Britain, looking at the historical roots of Islamophobia in each country and the modern manifestations of it. So far, it seems to me that much of the problem arises with an inability for many non-Muslims to imagine Muslim society complexly. Many have difficulty distinguishing between Muslims and Arabs, and equate all Muslims with the violence and extremism demonstrated by only a few. With my research, I hope to shed even a little bit of light onto this complex issue, as well as to champion the idea that we can and should see Muslims as the diverse, multifaceted group that they are. The enemy of ignorance is knowledge, and I hope to share a bit of that with my community with this semester’s research.

That’s a Wrap, Freshman Year Edition

Well, I did it. I survived a year of dorm life, gen eds (chemistry, I’m looking at you), late nights and 5 AMs, procrastination on an Olympic level, and learning all sorts of new things. I talked to strangers, learned to row, got my car towed, j’ai appris un peu de français, and had more campus food than I could have ever wanted. Final grades haven’t come out yet, but I’m crossing my fingers for all As and have moved on to trying to figure out plans for this summer. I’m hoping to volunteer at one of the clinics in OKC and maybe use a little of my Spanish knowledge there, as well as getting a summer job with an actual income. I’ve finally got housing lined up for next semester along with 18 hours of classes that I’m equal parts excited about and terrified for. I’m still keeping my head above water and I honestly don’t think I would be happier anyplace else. So here’s to a somewhat successful first year (and hopefully 3 more to follow). I’ll try to update at least once or twice this summer when I get my plans figured out and get started working and/or if my mom follows through on her (semi-joking, I think) plans to whisk me away on vacation somewhere for a week or two because my dad “never takes her anywhere”. So good luck with wherever you are in your life, and thanks for catching a little glimpse of where I’m at in mine. ?

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