The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Like any freedom, college is a test of good judgment. With choices come tough decisions, like what classes to skip when in dire need of sleep, how much to procrastinate, how much money to waste. With choices galore and influences abounding, there are a number of ways to exercise bad judgment.

And the most significant test of our judgment is how we view people.

It’s not only airports that profile. You know what it’s like: that furtive glance that quickly sizes up your socioeconomic status, ethnic background, sexual orientation, “coolness” and any other particularly out-of-the-ordinary feature you may possess. Then, depending on your views, you decide from the very first impression how intimate of a relationship you desire with that person.

It’s possibly hate at first sight. And much of what we discern is warped by preconceived notions that we subconsciously adopt from the media.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m Muslim. There are Islamophobic maniacs that call us a variety of vicious things, while the other side claims, “They’re just like us!” Which is somehow worse — it just sounds like they’re trying too hard.

And of course you’ve heard about the great mosque controversy — there’s no avoiding it. The whole country has been vacuumed into discussing over and over again every frivolous detail about this community center and its backers. In The Daily Tar Heel, there have been many letters about whether the controversy is because of Islam and whether allowing the mosque to be built near Ground Zero is the “American” thing to do.

In all honesty, I don’t care much about the mosque. If the country comes to the consensus that building a mosque in the vicinity of that tragedy that happened eight years ago would be an affront to those who were killed, I respect that. If not, that’s cool too. That’s not what the controversy is actually about. The real shocker is gauging just how much hatred and misunderstanding there is towards Muslims.

And don’t get me started on a Floridian man starving for attention and his Quran-burning.

Muslims in the United States are going through an initiation process — Islamophobia is hazing, if you will. Stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination are as American as apple pie, as far as assimilation is concerned. Every significant minority group before us that came to these shores had to face the hate, too. Alienation is a weapon used to dehumanize and distance the enemy, so why do we wield it against our fellow citizens?

Good judgment. We tend to think about it in terms of the choices we make in our own lives, but we forget that it can also affect the choices we make in how we view other people. The controversy might be a rite of passage for Muslims and other minorities, just as perceiving freshmen as “second-best” is for us, or maintaining preconceived notions about any people you meet for the first time that are different from you is for strangers.

But maybe, with a little good judgment, we can obliterate these obstacles that stand in the way of togetherness. Let’s learn to embrace our differences so we can put them behind us and emerge from this stagnant stage where we’re stuck.

Saffa Khan is the Freshman Perspective columnist for The Daily Tar Heel. She is a freshman undecided major from Chapel Hill, NC. E-mail her at

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