Religion will not be latest collateral damage
Column | From the Opinion Desk
I was woken up at 9 a.m. on Tuesday by a phone call from a friend.
“Amani, did you see the ad in the Targum today?”
I was still in that space between sleep and reality, rubbing my eyes and trying to reel my mind back in from whatever dream cloud it was floating on. “What are you talking about?” I muttered.
I soon knew very well what she was talking about. It was plastered everywhere my Facebook newsfeed, friends’ Instagram accounts and even on the online PDF of the newspaper. The Targum published a sensationalist ad defacing Islam. It was the very type of media attention that I, as president of the University chapter of MuslimGirl, dedicated myself to righting — and it was now being perpetuated by a publication that I work for and dedicate myself toward.
The ad from Tuesday slandered an entire religion for a political purpose — to justify both the ongoing colonization of Muslims abroad, as well as their heightening subjugation here at home.
It came as a response to Israeli Apartheid Week. The real IAW is a national campaign to draw awareness to the internationally illegal transgressions of the Israeli government — a political conflict that has nothing to do with religion.
That 9 a.m. phone call was followed by many other calls, messages and conversations throughout the day from peers that were wildly offended and rightfully distraught. Muslim and non-Muslim students alike felt that their college paper allowed a divisive and vicious attack on their student body. As a Muslim working in the paper’s editorial office — autonomous from the processes of placing ads in the paper — I felt indefensible.
A number of students from the Muslim community and I had a meeting later on that afternoon with the Rev. Douglas Shepler of the Second Reformed Church on College Avenue. After our friend Jack brought it to the church’s attention that Muslim University students had no place to pray on campus, Shepler opened his doors to us. He welcomed us to use the church for our worship and offered to accommodate our religious needs in whatever way he could. He also invited us to host our religious services in their space. For the first time, we will finally have a place to hold Friday prayers on College Avenue.
A good friend of mine once pointed out to me that Christianity is love and Islam is peace — and it’s moments like these that remind me of how formidable a combination they can be.
He told us about the history of the church and the deep Jewish ties it has threaded throughout its surfaces. As I walked through the halls, I felt surrounded by the love that flowed mutually between our parties that, in their very essence, were one. The three Abrahamic religions, after all, all came from the same source. Sometimes, due to personal interests, we forget that.
If we all truly abided by the tenets of our faiths, there would be countless more houses of worship around the world with their doors wide open, ready to be leading examples of coexistence for the rest of us.
The ad on Tuesday, however, was another timeless example of using religion as fodder for political purposes and personal gain. It did nothing to excuse Israeli transgressions like an illegal occupation, an apartheid wall and now even a new segregated bussing system that forces Palestinians to take designated buses. It’s disappointing to see that no defense of such political crimes can come without stooping to the level of attacking a religion, which has nothing to do with the political conflict in question.
While the blow of the ad still stings, I am at least comforted to know that there are people on this campus, and in this world, with hearts and minds wide open. Hatred like the kind we experienced this week has no place on our campuses, in our country or in our humanity. We prove that will not tolerate it so long as we continue to speak and act against it. Every person has the potential to create this change, whether it’s by calling an office, sending in a letter to the editor or even simply opening your doors to another human being.
You can take all the darkness in the world and place it in one room, but even just one light is enough to diminish it all.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies. She is the opinions editor of The Daily Targum, and encourages all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.