If you're having trouble reconciling what you hear about Islam on this campus with what you see Muslims doing on the news every night, I don't blame you.
I don't intend to tell you what you already know: that much of the mainstream media distorts Islam, that only a microscopic Muslim minority is featured in the headlines and that Islam is a religion of peace. I know you've heard it all before because I've heard it all before. If you're anything like me, you're tired of it.
Those who seek the easiest explanations wrap themselves in rhetoric that clouds a deeper understanding of Islam. Islam is a complex subject, just like Christianity, Judaism, political science or any other subject worthy of study. As members of the Georgetown community, it is incumbent upon us to look past attempts to simplify a faith that is central to 1.3 billion followers around the world.
I encourage you to listen to the neoconservative Daniel Pipes and to the outspoken Bill O'Reilly, but I also encourage you to listen to American Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf, the Muslim Public Affairs Council's Ahmed Younus, the Islamic Society of North America's Ingrid Matteson and Georgetown's own Imam Yahya Hendi.
Above all, never settle for one person's point of view. Don't even take what I've written here as the truth; find out for yourself. As students of this institution, we should expect nothing less of ourselves and of one another.
Georgetown University is unique not only because we are playing host to the 20th annual International Prayer for Peace, but also because members of our community, from the administration to the undergraduate population, pride themselves on fostering an atmosphere of dialogue and understanding.
The theme of the event is appropriately entitled "Religions and Cultures: The Courage of Dialogue" because meeting the challenge of dialogue is nothing short of courageous. It takes valor to raise one's hand and ask for answers to unpopular questions. Broadening horizons and appreciating diversity only requires the start of a conversation.
The Muslims on this campus are very fortunate to have fellow students who do ask the important questions. Thus, I ask that we not limit these questions to the classroom setting; we must engage other people when we encounter them. Not asking questions only perpetuates ignorance.
If you're curious about Islam, go right to the source. If for whatever reason you can't find a Muslim on campus (there are more than 250 of us), come to the Muslim prayer room in Copley Basement and you'll find us every night at 10:15 praying the fifth of the five daily prayers. Come share a meal with us this fall as we break our fast during the holy month of Ramadan. If these options don't work for you, I'd be glad to share a meal with you at our always-overcrowded dining hall.
Popular discussion on Islam seems to be in black-and-white, without an appreciation of the gray areas. And yet, nuance and subtlety are what make Islam and all other faiths so beautiful. Without understanding Islam and the Muslim world, especially when one in every handful of human beings is Muslim, the stereotypes and myths will only linger.
Many still fail to make the distinction between an Arab and a Muslim; not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. Such knowledge breeds empowerment and overcomes ignorance. It is important to discover why Islam has been the fastest-growing religion in the world.
There is no single way to define Muslims because Islam as a universal faith is inherently committed to diversity. This diversity is evident when one looks at the Executive Board of the Muslim Students Association.
Last weekend, at its annual Commitment to Diversity Awards, the Center for Minority Educational Affairs awarded the MSA Outstanding Organization for 2006. We will continue to work our hardest to foster an environment of understanding. There are no time-outs for Muslims in America, and there shouldn't be. We are soon to be the largest minority religion in America — but we are set on becoming more than just a statistic.
The challenge for all of us has been presented in very clear terms: In March, a Washington Post-ABC News poll stated that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. Our collective future as students of this campus demands we each play a more important part in meeting the challenge of mutual understanding.
Abed Z. Bhuyan is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and is the President of the Muslim Students Association.