Editor, the Gauntlet,
On the "Peace Against Terrorism" discussion panel last week, representatives from the Muslim, Sikh and Christian communities discussed the need for critical examination of recent events. In particular, they discussed the U.S. attacks, the Afghanistan bombings, and called for peace and understanding as well as an end to all acts of racism and racial violence. This dialogue is important because it is obvious the dominant culture in North America--white people--just don't get it.
Many North Americans claim their society is not racist and do not discriminate based on race, sex, religion, etc. This is obviously not the case because victimized communities still call for an end to racially-motivated acts of violence. It still needs to be hammered through the head of Anglo-North America that the actions of certain members of a very large and diverse group of people (i.e. the terrorists) do not represent the thoughts, ideals or sentiments of other members of the group. This is especially true when geography, culture, and time separate members of the group.
But, even on campus there are people who are making dangerous and ignorant sweeping generalizations. While it is true that many do not fully understand Islam, other world religions or international politics, it does not mean that our inquiry into these ideas should not be thoughtful and cautious.
At the "Peace Amidst Terrorism" talk, a student asked what can be expected from the Muslim community in light of the bombings in Afghanistan. He said there is concern on campus because Muslims put their faith in Mohammed, who himself committed acts of violence. It seemed this student was implying that faith in a man who may have committed certain acts means his believers will automatically take these same measures. It also seemed he was implying that violence is fundamental to Islam and Muslims follow this tenet. This may have been an innocent question, but I don't think so entirely. Do all Christians make animal sacrifices because it was done in the Old Testament? The logic doesn't follow.
The student's question was raised at the end of the panel discussion where all the speakers called for peace, expressed deep sorrow and regret for the events in New York, and explained that members of their communities and that people of all religions and races strive to co-exist harmoniously with each other. This question was raised after a month of various religious groups on campus and across the country denouncing the attacks and stating that the terrorists in no way represent them or their cultural groups.
How much more is it going to take?
Members of the dominant culture in North America need to be proactive in the fight racism and all other forms of discrimination. We can educate ourselves, ask questions that are not overly generalized or discriminatory in nature, and we can speak out against those who make these hurtful comments or commit discriminatory acts of violence. We may not realize it, but white people are have the privilege of not being oppressed by these things and we need to give up this privilege in order to work towards equality.