Is History Repeating Itself in 2015?

Opinion | Student Voice

Is History Repeating Itself in 2015?

By Lillian Rida     Dec 15, 2015

Is History Repeating Itself in 2015?

I am a 16 year old Syrian Muslim. I was born and raised in America. Even though I have never been to Syria before I feel extremely connected to my country. I feel as though no one is too young or too old to change the world. This is why I write.

In school we are taught about historical events such as discrimination or segregation. We become educated about the mistakes of our past and say we do not want history to repeat itself.

We learn that the Holocaust did not happen overnight. It took years of manipulation and propaganda to get the average person to turn a blind eye. We learn about the segregation and terrorizing of African Americans—how leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and Nelson Mandela used nonviolent means to help their countries and people.

We learn to not listen to propaganda and to look deeply into sources before we trust them or we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of history.

Yet somehow, in spite of what we learn, we forget. History threatens to repeat itself once more.

In the same way as African Americans were discriminated against for their color in history, Syrians, Middle Easterners and Muslims are being stereotyped and harassed.

This has happened before.

When boats came to America with Jewish refugees in 1939, the United States denied entry to over 900 Jewish refugees sailing from Hamburg, Germany. America said, “Leave. We don’t have room for these refugees.” They were sent back to their death.

Now in 2015, we are about to do it again.

America is thinking about closing its borders and not allowing Syrian refugees in. According to Slate magazine, there are more terrorists coming from certain United States states than from refugees. It’s important to keep America safe, but let’s look at the facts. Syrian refugees are not terrorists.

Still, some people want to register Muslims.

If we used the same logic as the American government has in the past with situations like Japanese-American internment, we’d need to screen, label, catalog and process people from all over the world because Islam is a religion. There are extremists everywhere from every background—we do not even realize it.

I understand Americans are nervous that out of all the refugees there might be one terrorist, and even that is too big a risk. But families fleeing poverty, abuse, and oppression aren’t a risk—they’re the fabric on which America has been built, from Colonial times to today. Immigrants founded this nation; they built this nation; they make it what it is today.

There are Syrians sitting on the border waiting to escape genocide and start a new life just like our Founding Fathers need to escape nearly three hundred years ago.

My family has lived in America for 20 years now.

The first time we felt Islamophobia was when terrorists knocked down the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. I was too young to understand why every time this was discussed, the entire class would stare at me.

I started to feel embarrassed to be a Syrian Muslim.

But ever since ISIS formed, I make sure people know who I am and where I come from. I am not a religious person, but I do love my culture. I love listening to chapters from our Holy book. I love going to the Friday prayer. I love telling stories about my culture to other people. I love fasting and celebrating our holidays. I feel as though I would not be who I am if my heritage was taken away. A year or two ago, I would have been embarrassed to say this, but not anymore. I feel proud to say I am Syrian and I follow Islam.

Terrorists do not kill because the “Muslim God” told them to kill. In fact, the “Muslim God” is the same God as the Christian God, Jewish God… it is God. Harming people is not okay in any religion.

As a student working for peace, I want the world to see me, my accomplishments, and the things I bring to the world—not stare at me whenever terrorism is mentioned on the news.

I want to post pictures of my day and share with my friends without seeing “Middle Easterners should be rounded up and shot,” on my Facebook feed again.

History is all about exploring different perspectives—how you choose to look at things. Respect, though, is so much more. Before you read this essay, you may have feared Muslims without knowing who Muslims really are. You may have even had a negative opinion about me, even though we never met. Now, I hope you you see life from my perspective. I am a teenage Muslim. I am no different from a teenage Christian or teenage Jew. I am an American.

I am the same as you.

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