I sat down in my usual spot in my Philosophy class ready for another meditation by Marcus Aurelius. As I sat there with my daily journal ready to hand in for grading, my teacher came into the classroom and confronted me with my peers staring from their assigned seats. He turned and told me coldly that Jesus was not Muslim and Arab-culture was backwards with oppressed and imprisoned women. This comment had sent an awkward silence throughout the room as everyone sat in the classroom accepting what had just been said by their teacher. In reflecting on this experience from years ago I ask myself why the discourse on Muslims in America has not changed with the influx of Muslims becoming apart of this nation’s identity.
Many of the individuals that I meet on a daily-basis have basic knowledge on the tenants of Islam. They have mastered the knowledge of knowing the five pillars of Islam due to documentaries, courses in school, and books on Islam. Sadly, the conversation on Islam hasn't penetrated any deeper than this. My teacher’s discourse on Muslims went no further than his thoughts on what he had perceived to be Islamic. The media has presented a discourse on Muslims and Islam, thus creating a perception that is lingering in our society. Many institutions of education have dedicated time to hold conferences of lectures dealing with discussions on Islamic-law. These discussions are becoming repetitive and redundant. The way in which Islam is perceived can’t be generated by current trends within the media or by discussions on what it means to be a Muslim. Our conversations must deepen and become of real substance. Perceptions can only be changed by the implementations of Islamic teachings by Muslims.
In changing the perception of Muslims in America it becomes imperative to look beyond conferences discussing basic tenants of Islam. The prophet Muhammad was a great example for the world in how Islam can benefit a society and its people. He shaped and created a discourse on what it meant to be a Muslim and to serve one’s society for its betterment. Many individuals came into Islam due to how the prophet Muhammad had dealt with them. He was a man of justice and mercy. He came for no other reason than to perfect mannerisms. He lived and interacted with people from different faiths and lifestyles. Nonetheless, he dealt with them in a way that showed them the benefit of being Muslim and implementing the teachings of Islam. He worked within a framework that included individuals that were against Islam and the message he was trying to convey, but he didn't stop. Redefining the discourse or the conversation about Muslims in America will not be easy. Nevertheless, the old saying will always ring true that actions speaks louder than words. Actions will be the first step in reconstructing the discourse on Muslims in America.
Taking action in this mode of redefining the discourse on who we are and what we represent is essential to the place many of us calls our home. Islam is a way of life that benefits everyone, so why aren't we changing the narrative by utilizing our Islam? When we interact with individuals according to Islamic-mannerisms then the narrative will gradually change due to the positive impact we have made within our society. When we leave our homes we become the face of Islam. In my area there is a clinic owned by Muslims servicing medical-care to everyone, thus providing benefit for general society. Once we take our religion and way of life seriously and apply the teachings of Islam then the lectures and discussions about the basic beliefs of Muslims will not become a pentacle point for our conversations. Our actions will become self-evident of what we represent in this diverse society. Muslims in America are apart of the American-experience and the narrative will never change for Muslims unless we change it for ourselves. We must set the standard on what it means to be Muslim how Islam can truly benefit a society and its people.
The obstacles in front of us should not deter us from implementing the knowledge we have gained from Islam. Our faith goes beyond the veil and the five pillars. Our experiences as Muslim can be of benefit for the society we live in. This is how the conversation changes. This is how the discourse on Islam will turn away from the basics. This is how other’s knowledge on Islam will deepen and become more profound. The discourse on Muslims will not change until we change the discourse. This is the beginning of transforming perceptions and showing Islam from a viewpoint that can only negate the current trends within media-outlets. In implementing the teachings of Islam it will become a way in which our society can see the beauty of Islam.