Last Wednesday I opened my e-mail and read, “The Islamic Society of Santa Barbara is providing an escort service for Muslims to the grocery store.” I was disgusted by this e-mail because it forced me to realize that Muslims in America have been robbed of their basic human rights to practice their own beliefs.

This e-mail was sent out due to a hate crime that occurred two weeks ago to a Saudi student attending Santa Barbara City College. He was beaten by an angry, ignorant individual who had been conditioned by our media to think that Muslims or people of Arab descent caused the tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11.

A day after that e-mail I read that four Muslims were taken off Northwest Airlines because they were dressed in traditional Islamic attire.

I think it is absurd that my six- and eight-year-old cousins could not attend their Islamic school in Chicago for two weeks because of bomb and death threats, and that my 20-year-old cousin attending North Carolina State University was spit upon because she was wearing a hijab (a scarf that covers her hair). It is also absurd that my Indian friend has taken her scarf off because she fears what might happen to her.

I have heard and keep hearing many stories like this about the hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims that is arising in American neighborhoods. I watch the news and read newspaper articles, and they all enforce this idea of unifying America. But I ask the media, who is it that should unite? If they are calling for unification, then why is it that my cousins, those four passengers, that Saudi and all other Muslims like myself cannot unite with their fellow American citizens and take part in a resistance movement?

We cannot unite because American media has ingrained the image of Islam as equivalent to terrorism, and that has built up hatred against the Islamic community. What happened two weeks ago was a crime of hate, but let’s not get angry at the ones who are innocent, and let’s not blame Muslims or Arabs for the tragedy that happened. If we want to unite, then we have to first learn to love without any boundaries. If we want peace and justice, then we have to love and show this love and not turn our heads at certain groups in America. We need to teach our ignorant friends, foes and family members, who are not just in another country, but in our own backyard, about the two simple words – love and peace.

We have already declared war on an innocent country, so let’s not make another mistake in making war with our neighbors. If you want to get involved, there will be a march for peace and justice on Saturday, September 29, at noon, on De La Guerra Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

I leave you with this quote:

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war. That until there are no longer first and second class citizens of any nation, everywhere is war. Until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes, it is war. That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regards to race or religion, it is a war.” – Bob Marley

Aneesa Motala is a graduating senior in sociology.