Today marks the start of Islam Awareness Month, which is a celebration of Islam as a religion and culture, as well as pushing back against stereotypes that some news outlets and politicians have been putting out for years.

At Boston University, the Islamic Society is planning many events to break stereotypes some students might have about Islam and Muslim people. On March 16, there was a public prayer held to show people they are speaking out against discrimination and for diversity, according to an article from USA Today.

“The prayer also aimed to support the Gender Advocacy and Progress Week and to raise awareness of diversity on campus,” ISBU President Taiba Zahir said in an interview with The Daily Free Press.

We live in a secular society that is only increasing in its antitheism attitudes. More Americans than ever before — 56 million — do not identify with a religion, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study. The study also shows a seven percent increase in people “who described themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular faith” jumping from 16 percent to almost 23 percent from 2007 to 2015.

While the amount of Atheist Americans are increasing and Christian Americans are decreasing, Islamic Americans are also increasing, according to Pew. This should mean this is a better time for people to educate themselves on Islam and its teachings.

Then why are many Americans comfortable with remaining ignorant on Islam and Muslim Americans?

“Your religion is not the enemy,” Senator, and former presidential candidate, Lindsey Graham said when speaking to Muslims around the world. “Leave the faith alone, go after the radicals that kill us all.”

I went to a diverse high school where white people were in the minority of my class. I’m proud of that fact because it opened up my worldview and shook any prejudices I had growing up.

Does that mean I don’t have any now? Of course not. Anyone who claims otherwise isn’t being honest. We all have prejudice, conscious or not. The best thing we can do is learn about other people. I had friends in high school who were Muslim, and guess what? They didn’t try to kill anyone or destroy Western Civilization, nor did they disrespect my Christian faith or disparage me. We got along.

“One of ISBU’s main goals was to inform the BU community about Islam as a means to combat Islamophobia,” ISBU President Zahir said in her interview.

Islam is one of the most talked about topics in the United States, yet few have actually looked into it and only repeat what they hear pundits say on MSNBC or Fox News.

Duke University also held events for Islam Awareness Month in March. Plattsburgh State should start to hold something similar to these events. It would promote diversity on campus and show everyone, especially those with preconceived notions, what Islam truly looks like. Right now PSUC offers a few courses in world religion and Middle Eastern culture, but we can do better. We should do better.

College of Engineering freshman, Needa Shaikh said in an interview: “It’s important, especially with the current presidential election, to show people what the real Islam is. You shouldn’t be afraid to practice your religion freely and openly.”

I am a Christian. A strong Christian who believes in the truth of the Holy Bible and in the divinity of Christ. However, we live in a nation that was founded on the ability to practice any religion you want, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Wicca or no religion at all.

I’d like to leave you with verses from both The Holy Bible and The Quran:

The Quran 49:10 “The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers.”

The Holy Bible, John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Email Joseph Bochichio at joseph.bochichio@cardinalpointsonline.com

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