Students speak up & clarify fallacies about respective religions

Students speak up & clarify fallacies about respective religions

In a progressive community, consideration for others’ identities is a preeminent requirement– one that most strive to uphold. And faith, while a less overt manifestation, is key to many students’ identities. Well beyond simply influencing diets and schedules, religion provides the basis for moral codes and for their very understanding of the world.

Such a crucial component of an individual’s identity tends to influence their contributions to academic and social discourse.

Junior Asad Masood, a Sunni Muslim, makes an effort to present an Islamic perspective in his classes, whenever it is relevant.

“Once in history class, for example, when we had a Harkness discussion about the Nativists and Nativist sentiment, I paralleled that with the fear mongering that [took place] against Muslims after 9/11,” Masood said.

Freshman Neeti Kulkarni notices she is sometimes expected to represent Hinduism, in part because of her Indian heritage. However, she is not concerned with the attention: “It makes me feel unique, I guess,” Kulkarni said.

For many, SPA presents an atmosphere amenable to religious expression. Masood finds that the curriculum successfully fosters religious understanding towards Islam.

“One of the first units over the course of a student’s history career here is Islam, so people go in with a more open mind than they might outside of SPA,” he said. “After the Islam unit, people will ask a lot more questions about my religion and be more open to the culture.”

Greater cultural understanding afforded by the curriculum translates into general acceptance for Islamic dietary and prayer requirements, according to Masood.

“If somebody says they need to go pray in the meditation room, it’s an accepted thing,” he said

Kulkarni similarly believes that history courses help her classmates to understand Hinduism. However, she believes that non-Hindus are less informed about more specific details of the religion: “things like the festivals, the philosophy of Hinduism, the different gods and what they represent,” Kulkarni said.

Perhaps surprisingly, the most broadly misconstrued religion at SPA appears to be Christianity, the most common faith in America. Some Christians find their religion wrongly conflated with ignorance.

“I know that the earth wasn’t created 6,000 years ago, and people have asked me why I think that [after] I told them that I am Christian,” junior Ben Pettee said.

Pettee believes that fringe groups like the Westboro Baptist Church have affected people’s perceptions of Christianity as a whole.

“It’s important to know that not all Christians are like that, and they shouldn’t be lumped together in the same group as people like the WBC,” Pettee said.

Junior Luke Bishop, a Roman Catholic, observes the same effect. He finds that recent pedophilia scandals have managed to eclipse the greater value of the Church.

“I think that people are rather poorly informed; many people have a negative image of the Catholic Church due to how the media portrays it…I just think that there are positive aspects of the Catholic Church that many people overlook due to the negatives,” Bishop said. “What I’m getting at is that non-Catholics often only see the tip of the iceberg.”

True religious tolerance entails more than a lack of animosity. Students also have an obligation to stay knowledgeable about others’ beliefs, or at least refrain from passing judgement on religions about which they are poorly informed.