But the image of Islam hurts
In the aftermath of beheadings and battles with the Islamic State, one would expect a backlash against Muslims, but here at Webster students say nothing has changed.
“I am personally not affected but the turbulence that the IS created has hit the image of all Muslims in general,” says Ahmed Ahmed, a business student who has lived in Vienna for a decade.
The Islamic State is an extremist group aiming to establish a caliphate in Iraq and the Levant, seeking to force their radical interpretation of Islam on Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide. The IS started off as a former subgroup of the al-Qaeda, but was dismissed for being too violent in its actions.
Yet, Islam shows no evidence of such radical brutal ambitions, especially with focus on the Quran and the Five Pillars of Islam, five primary obligations each Muslim should fulfill in their lifetime.
“The Quran is a coherent system that must be implied as a whole, and picking out individual ideas can be problematic, like in the case of the IS,” says Ahmed. “The IS, however, modifies and implements ideas and beliefs that are not supported by all Muslims.”
So far the IS has executed, crucified and mass murdered dozens of people, recruited child soldiers and implemented ethnic cleansing while taking large areas of land in Iraq and Syria. According to a CIA spokesperson, the IS consists of about 30, 000 supporters of which roughly 2400 are westerners mostly influenced by propaganda spread in social media.
While there does seem to be a backlash against Muslims on social media, giving the impression that Muslims are being pigeonholed with the IS, Muslim students studying at Webster say they haven’t experienced any change in the past year.
One way some people do it is on Twitter, where two different campaigns have been started by Muslim activist using the hashtag#notinmyname and #muslimapologies to send out a message that hate and violence does not represent their religion.
Still, Motazedi says she wants to see more positive reporting about Islam. This could include more background information and quoting Muslims as sources in stories that aren’t about war or terror. It would show the public that Muslims can also be economists, lawyers and artists.
In the end though, students believe they haven’t experienced any adverse reactions from IS because of the nature of the school.
“I believe Webster University being that international is more resistant to such issues like stereotyping than regular universities,” says Ahmed.