Taylor Lonzo and Jaudai Vappie
In the United States today, muslims are often perceived as enemies. But it’s not entirely their fault. The media and hateful, ignorant politicians are partially responsible for the widespread misunderstanding of muslims and their culture in the western world. In search for an easily presentable and compelling story, the media has cast Islam, and those who practice it, as terrorists and perpetrators of evil. This interpretation of Islam is wildly mistaken. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, Islam preaches a message of peace and love, not fire and brimstone. The stigma created by the media and Islamophobic politicians has had an extremely detrimental effect on the lives of the many law abiding muslims living in communities throughout the U.S. In New Orleans, muslims face prejudice and hate as a regular part of their daily lives.
Islam is both the largest and fastest growing religion in the world. It is the most widely practiced of the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism). The number of practicing muslims in the world is expected to double between now and the year 2050. The Quran, Islam’s holy scripture, states, “there is no God but God” and that Muhammad is his last and final messenger. Although Muhammad is the most important prophet for muslims, like Christians, they recognize Jesus as a prophet of God, who they refer to by his arabic name, Allah. Contrary to what many people believe, the central message of Islam is one of peace and love.
In order to get an accurate perspective on the muslim experience in New Orleans, we interviewed, Jenny Yanez, a practicing muslim woman. According to Ms. Yanez, islamophobia is rampant (unwelcomed) in New Orleans as well as the in United States. Being a muslim in New Orleans is especially difficult because of its location in the so-called “bible belt.” Ms. Yanez explains that practicing Islam here is often challenging because “[o]ur city has about 12,000 muslims … we have less people that can teach us about Islam, less universities, not as much privilege as larger populations have.” Ms. Yanez worries, “it is so small that people may not see enough muslims so they don’t really know how big of a religion it is.” Nevertheless, she believes that if we are patient and instructive we can improve the lives of Muslims in the United states.One of the most controversial topics surrounding Islam today is the strict clothing requirements that women are required to observe. One example of this requirement is the hijab, a headscarf that muslim women wear to cover their hair and necks. Ms. Yanez says, “women cover as an act of modesty, to be treated respectfully, and looked upon as people of society, not for their beauty. She explains that whether or not to wear a hijab is actually up to women — it is not obligatory.
Although there are many common misconceptions surrounding Islam, and muslim women, specifically, the one that Ms. Yanez most wanted to resolve was that, “muslims are not to be feared.” This message is especially important in light of the recent election of an outspoken Islamophobe, Donald Trump, to the highest political office in the U.S. The most recent rumor surrounding President-elect Trump is that he may attempt to force all Muslim-Americans to sign a registry, a move that is all too similar to a law instituted by the Germans against the Jews prior to the Holocaust. It is our hope, as well as that of Ms. Yanez, that Americans are able to dispel the myths that have caused Islamophobia. Under the Constitution, all Americans are should have equal protection under the law and, for our country to be truly free, that principle must apply to muslims, as well.
One thought on “A Message of Peace”
Peace be upon you,
I was honored to be interviewed but there are some things that may have been misunderstood during the interview.
Just to clarify, Islamophobia in New Orleans is not rampant, our city is pretty diverse, however, sentiments around the country towards Muslims are changing recently.
Although our city does have many universities, I was referring to gaining knowledge of Islam. We live in a city where there are no Islamic educational institutions such as those Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, or Bayyinah Institute in Irving Texas.
Finally, hijab, the headcovering that Muslim women wear IS mandatory in Islam. However, it is not something that woman are forced to do, just like you cannot force someone to pray, or fast. To wear it shows a desire to please God and follow His commandments.
-Jenny Yanez, MSW