Understanding Islam: GV Muslims looking for understanding and acceptance

**Names and school title have been changed for anonymity**
 

                GV’s population is made up of students with many different religious beliefs ranging from typical popular Christian faiths to the Jewish student organization. However, there is a very small percentage of students on campus that identify as Muslims, or followers of the Islamic faith.

                Islam is a monotheistic religion just like Judaism and Christianity. It believes in the same prophets as Christians with one exception being the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe Muhammad was a prophet and a messenger, like Moses and Jesus, who spread the word of God through scripture. Two key differences between Christianity and Islam is Islam believes God has no sons and their book is the Holy Quran.

                “Muslims don’t worship a different God than Christians or Jews worship. It’s the same deity, however in Islam you’ll hear God being referred to as Allah, which is literally the Arabic translation of the term God,” Amoon, leader of the GVSU Student Muslim Association said.

                Amoon takes her religion very seriously and considers it her way of life.

                “One of the most importantly daily lessons is the importance of serving God in everything you do,” Amoon said. “When we pray we serve God; when we do charity we serve God; when we are kind to others it’s also a form of service to god.”

                Three members of the Muslim Students Association have all had incidents with bullying and discrimination because of their religion and all three believe that the media gives their religion a bad reputation. This group doesn’t only get together to pray and discuss their religion but also in hopes to clear the negative stereotypes that go along with Islam.

                “Often times the religion of Islam is portrayed very negatively in the media so it leaves very little room for question and a lot of room for anger and fear,” Amoon said.

                Because of the negative portrayal Muslims are given in the media in America, Amoon has faced blatant discrimination while wearing her hijab (headscarf).

                “I have had a professor who stated that he believes Muslims are uneducated and extreme terrorists,” Amoon said. “The one thing I wish people knew about Islam is that they probably have more similarities with Muslims than they think they do.”

                Amoon isn’t the only Muslim on campus to deal with discrimination. Sokina has also dealt with it but she has her own way of fighting back.

                “In the media I have read about people who are hateful towards Islam and Muslims, deeming us to be incompetent, oppressed and ignorant and this only made me love my religion more,” Sokina said. “After that I began wearing the hijab to show I’m a Muslim. I wear it to show that I’m an educated Muslim woman who is not oppressed, who’s capable of making her own decisions, and who isn’t violent. I wear it to be a living, breathing example of Islam.”

                Zaineb, another member of the Student Muslim Association, also wishes outsiders and the media wouldn’t judge them for their religion.

                “I used to have a bully whose parents rotted his brain into thinking that all Muslims and Arabs were terrorists,” Zaineb said. “But now that he’s older and more educated about the people and the religion he’s actually a good friend of mine.”

                Despite being judged for her religion Zaineb still embraces it daily.

                “Whatever decisions I make during my day, I think ‘God is watching, is this something I should be doing?’” Zaineb said. “Islam gives me boundaries to live within because of that and comfort when I need it. It’s a peaceful religion, contrary to what the media has portrayed it.” 

Valentine’s day dilemma

Valentine’s day is an awful holiday regardless of your relationship status. Single folks hate it because they’re made to feel more lonely than usual. With the increase in commercials and Valentine’s related items in stores, it’s hard not to. The holiday is awful for couples, too, because they’re made to feel pressured into doing or giving things to their significant other. There’s a lot of pressure from society telling us to either find a significant other or to spoil the one we do have. It has never made any sense to me. 

A Christian Saint named Valentinus was imprisoned and he sent a letter to a female on the day of his death signed “from your Valentine.” Thus Valentine’s day was born. It didn’t become associated with romantic love until the middle ages, when Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle began expressing love by presenting others with flowers, candies, and greetings cards, which they called “valentines.” I always blamed Hallmark for the holiday, but I guess now I can blame Chaucer. 

I’ve spent the holiday both ways before and I can vouch for those feelings. On the years I spent it without a significant other I didn’t feel included or up to society’s standards. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how stupid that really was. When I was in a relationship, I always felt like I’d be an awful girlfriend for not making the day ridiculously special for my significant other, and that may just be equally stupid. 

Why does there need to be a day to let our significant others know we care about them? I think that’s what confuses me the most. If you have a significant other they should already know they’re loved and cared about. They should be reminded verbally and by your actions daily. If you don’t have a significant other, there are still people you can let know you care about them, be it your mother, father, or best friend. Unfortunately, though, society can’t make money off of that. 

Nobody loves Valentine’s day more than Hallmark, Hershey’s and flower businesses. I guess I can’t solely blame Chaucer. If they weren’t shoving the holiday down our throats for their own profit, telling us we need to buy mushy cards, tons of sweets, and bouquets of flowers, maybe we could admit how superficial the holiday actually is and forget it even exits.