The Boiling Point of Bigotry

France was forever changed when a series of shootings and bombings took place on Friday, November 13. The deadly acts were committed by members of the terrorist group, ISIS, two of whom snuck into Europe by posing as Syrian refugees. This incident has sparked international alarm about terrorism and the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as a new wave of fear toward Muslims.

Islamophobia is a national trend. For instance, according to “The New York Times,” Donald Trump’s poll numbers increased after he revealed his opposition to the general Muslim population following the terrorist assaults in Paris. Worse, many Andover students appear to be uneducated about the refugee crisis. We have seen debates rage on social media in which Andover students make unsubstantiated claims about how terrorism and Muslim refugees go hand in hand.

It is impossible to have a productive conversation when students are uninformed about the issue at hand, leaving room for brash judgments and opinions without facts or reason to support them. More fuel is added to the fire of ignorant conversations when students who are not well-informed about Islam and terrorist attacks use social media to express their views. While social media can be a useful place to learn more about a certain topic, it is sometimes unproductive to have a serious conversation about important issues on social media when it turns into a toxic environment. People, shielded by their computer screens, are more likely to post hurtful remarks that they would not say in person or hastily feign understanding about a situation.

We have no right to make judgments about situations we do not understand. We have an obligation to actively educate ourselves about the reality of the refugee crisis and to seek out an unbiased and fair understanding of it. While our campus currently does not have any students from Syria and has only a small population of Muslim students, this does not lessen the need for us to have productive conversations about an issue this significant.

To understand the refugee crisis, we must first recognize that, contrary to popular belief, Islam and terrorism are not inextricably tied. Islam is a peaceful religion. Although terrorism can be committed in the name of Islam, the actions of terrorists by no means accurately depict the values and moral standards of Islam. It is unfair and unfounded to label all Muslims as terrorists, and even more so to label all refugees as terrorists.

The negative response to Syrian refugees is a blatant and often overlooked form of racism. Many people seem to hide behind the excuse that their concerns are founded on statistics and threats, but oftentimes information on Muslims and Islam is misrepresented. For instance, verses from the Quran are frequently taken out of context and accused of promoting violence. Furthermore, even with legitimate statistics, one cannot make a generalization about Islam and Muslims based on inflated or isolated incidents.

Islamophobia is a form of bigotry and racism, but does not often seem to be confronted as such. If these refugees were, for example, white and Christian, they would be treated well by many Europeans and U.S. citizens because the refugees share the same religion and race with them. A white, Christian refugee is perceived as an ally and therefore welcomed. The Muslim refugees from Syria, however, are to perceived to present a threat to the Western norm since their race and religion make them different.

Linking acts of terrorism to a whole religion solely based on the actions of a small portion of its believers creates an unnecessary and uninformed bias that is harming millions of Syrians. These refugees seek to escape the harsh circumstances of their homes, searching for asylum in Europe and bordering countries, but they are being turned away based on unfair generalizations and irrational fears. If we do not become more accepting of the Syrians who are trying to escape this unjustifiable oppression, then we truly need to reevaluate our nation’s, and Andover’s, values.