Muslim students in New York feel impact of Iraq crisis
'They should not judge us by the way we look'December 28, 1998
Web posted at: 6:54 p.m. EST (2354 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- With Iraq again making headlines in its latest confrontation with the United States, prejudices and taunts against Muslims are getting worse, students at New York City's only major Islamic school told CNN.
"They judge us because of the way we dress. That's not good. They should judge us according to who we are from the inside," said one student at Al-Iman school in Queens.
In particular, one student pointed out, people seem to equate "Muslim" with "terrorist."
"The Oklahoma (City) bombing: No one said, 'Oh, that was a Christian terrorist,'" Faiza Pervaiz said. "Why do they relate terrorism with a religion?"
Most students at Al-Iman agreed with 14-year-old Shari Shaft, who said that her life would be much easier if people knew more about the similarities of major world religions.
"If they just studied the religion ... it is very similar to Christianity and Judaism," she said.
That statement echoed a recent report by the Council on American-Islamic relations. The report said that religious and ethnic offenses against Muslims clearly had increased and that the main problem appeared to be misconceptions about what Islam was really about.
Just like students at public schools throughout the United States, Al-Iman students learn about the U.S. Constitution and the rights and freedoms it enshrines -- such as the freedom to worship as one chooses.
But even trying to worship in a non-Christian way can trigger discrimination, as the students indicated to CNN. And in light of their experiences they called for, above all, one thing: tolerance.
"If you don't believe in it, don't. Just respect it," Samiha Ahmed said. "You don't have to laugh at it."
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