There is no doubt in my mind that we are all trying our best to be accepting of others. As a student at a fairly liberal college campus, I can honestly vouch for this.
I have seen, in the name of commitment to tolerance: a University funded "Islam awareness week" where every day of that week non-Muslim girls can try on decorative hijabs to their choosing; a decision to disregard a notion to hold a campus-wide moment of recognition for the fallen victims of the 9/11 attacks, citing that such a memorial would only serve to incite Islamophobia and racism; an Israeli Scholar heckled out of his own lecture by a student group because of where he comes from, with University Officials refusing to penalize the student group.
In short, I have seen our well intended commitment to tolerance go horribly awry.
Let's take a closer look.
When the University promotes Islam Awareness Week- in itself a beautiful and necessary concept given everything that is occurring globally today, to address lingering confusion or fear that may be felt by the student body, it makes the claim that it is accurately representing Islam.
Well, why so many hijabs then?
The hijab, literally translated as "curtain", is the headscarf that has become synonymous with the Muslim woman today. It is eponymous with the idea of modesty, and to show solidarity with the Muslim community, many today don the item regardless of religious affiliation.
These misguided attempts at showing support are dangerous.
When we accept the hijab as routine to a Muslim woman's attire, we actually encourage one perspective of Islam and are perpetuating stereotypes instead of portraying Islam as the globally diverse, far reaching faith that it is. Muslim women in many countries with large Muslim populations, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Indonesia typically do not even wear hijabs.
When a Christian blogger in Ohio stated that she wouldn't wear leggings because her personal faith required modesty and fidelity to her husband, she was widely condemned as portraying women only as sex objects, responsible for male lust. Many disregarded her thoughts as backwards and fundamentalist.
And yet, we continue to celebrate the hijab.
Wearing the hijab, just like avowing to not wearing yoga pants, is a personal decision. When we equate the hijab as a fundamental tenet of Islam, we disregard Muslim women who do not wish to wear the veil or Muslim women from parts of the world that do not typically wear the veil, implying they are not the real face of Islam and do not deserve our support.
When we vote down a ruling to hold a campus-wide moment of recognition for the victims of the horrible 9/11 attacks because it is allegedly Islamophobic, we disregard the Muslim community as well.
On September 11th of 2001, Americans were attacked; I want to make this clear- Muslim Americans share our grief, because they are Americans. We were all assaulted on that day.
Honoring our fallen does not incite Islamophobia.
Claiming that honoring our victims is dangerous to the Muslim community, however, certainly can. Are we to pretend that the attacks never happened? Do we pretend that Pearl Harbor was never attacked so as not to anger Japanese Americans, or incite racism against them? Do we discredit the notion of the Cold War, so that Americans from the former Soviet Union do not feel any anti American sentiment? Do we pretend that the Ku Klux Klan does not exist, just to make sure that no one assumes all white people in the US are white supremacists?
Why do we act as though we are stepping on eggshells around the Muslim community? Isn't that a little Islamophobic?
When we do not hold the Muslim community to the same standards as we do every other community, even if it is done out of a desire to be inclusive, we perpetuate a dangerous lack of assimilation.
In fact, when we do not hold any group to the same standards as other groups, we do everyone a huge disservice.
When a visiting Professor comes to give a lecture at my college campus, he ought to be able to give his lecture freely. The country of his birth should not prevent him from doing so.
And yet, because the renowned NYU Law Professor Moshe Halbertal happened to be from Israel, students involved in the campus group "Students for Justice in Palestine" felt no qualms about heckling, shouting, interrupting, and insulting both Halbertal personally and his country of origin for over half an hour. The material he intended to present, it should be noted, had nothing to do with Israel or Palestine.
The student group remains unapologetic, defending the actions of its members on Twitter and Facebook.
We are trying to be accepting.
As a woman, of color, who does not subscribe to the most widely practiced faith in our country, I am deeply thankful for our commitment to tolerance.
But as an American, I earnestly beg for all of us to hold everyone to the same standards. To not do so, is a slap in the face to those we treat differently, because we are merely strengthening the bigoted assumption that the different community is a bad one.