Melona Clark, a student at Hampton, converted to Islam while attending the college. This change involved her wearing a hijab, which is the traditional covering for the hair and neck that is worn by Muslim women.
This change in appearance required her to take a new identification picture. However, she was refused until she could get approval within the department to wear the hijab.
Hampton’s policy received attention not because of the details of the story but because of the taboo discussion of Islamic culture in America.
This unspoken taboo began long before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Before the attacks, an attempt was made in 1993 to bring down the World Trade Center.
The attack failed but succeeded in toppling Americans’ feelings of national security. Several other terrorist attacks around the world in Europe, South America and northern Africa occurred between the 1993 World Trade Center attack and the more infamous 9/11 attacks.
These attacks created fear within the American public and began the association of terrorism with the Islamic faith. This association has led to numerous hate crimes, including an attack last year in the Chicago area where a man with cruel intentions attacked a Chicago-area mosque. Attacks such as this exemplify the attitude in America toward Muslim people.
By identifying a group of people with one quality or practice, Americans are participating in a form of profiling. Some argue that Islamic people deserve these generalizations because a majority of publicized terror attacks involve people associated with the Islamic faith.
This reasoning also created the stereotypes that all African-Americans love watermelon and are never on time. Muslims are going through a similar plight African-Americans had to face. They are trying to be defined by more than one thing – skin color for African-Americans and faith for Islamic people. Judging a group of people by the actions of a few begins a cycle of ignorance that hinders our understanding of an entire people.