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Friday, April 1, 2016

On Books and Fear

The subject of how should America treat its Muslim population has been manipulated not only by the bigoted Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but also by the media. Either way, in that discussion it is easy to forget that that particular segment of the rich multicultural mix that makes the American population – Muslims, whether American born or naturalized citizens – is composed mostly of ordinary human beings. They leave home for work to support the families they raise and return at the end of the day to live their ordinary lives and dream their ordinary dreams about their children’s education, their health, and their success if life.

Surely, among them there are those few, overtaken by an extremist ideology and posing a threat to other Americans, including members of their own religious and ethnic groups. Surely, most terrorist acts in many parts of the world originate in the Islamic Middle East. Surely, the U.S. and the world have to deal with the scourge of Islamic terrorism and fascism.

But we also have to look into the eyes of ordinary Muslims and tell them that we recognize their fear living in a society that stereotypes them and often blames them for the loud, cruel and unacceptable deeds of the few amongst them.

In my classes at college I have numerous Muslim students, some of whom are too shy or too uneasy to share their anxiety with their fellow students. Others are willing to engage in an open discussion on what bothers them about being singled out in the election campaign.

When I asked them in a class on the Middle East whether they mind to share their feelings about Ted Cruz’s idea to monitor Muslim neighborhoods, some were eager to talk.

“My mother threw this book in the garbage, the minute she saw it,” one student told us, referring to a book on ISIS, “she was scramming and howling.”
 “Mom, I need it for class,” the student told us she had told her mother when she retrieved the book from the garbage can.

“I don’t care. I don’t want it here. Get read of it.”

The mother was too scared to have the book at home, lest her family will be “caught” and blamed for being sympathetic to ISIS, or worse.  

Once what concerned me when I chose books for my courses was their high cost. Never did it enter my mind that a student may be fearful to own one.

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