Do you see these women, cloaked in fabric and anonymity? Who do you think they worship? These women are Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, and all three of their religions are founded on the ideals of love and acceptance.
On May 25th, 2015, Samantha Elauf got the news that the Supreme Court was ruling in her favor in her lawsuit against the popular clothing brand Abercrombie&Fitch. The legal proceedings began in 2008 when Samantha was 17, and she sued the brand for religious discrimination, claiming the company refused to hire her because her religious hijab “clashed with their dress code.” After a 7 year struggle, Samantha finally won her case; she had proven that hiring decisions based on religion ARE a form of discrimination.
Samantha is one of the lucky ones however. Our country is deep in the middle of a social crisis, and it’s time that the students of Penn State get involved in fixing it.
Religious discrimination is as rampant in the world as it was in the 40s, it just takes a different form. Antisemitism and islamophobia are words that have become all too common in the news, often accompanied by horror stories of violence and prejudice. In recent years we’ve seen an increase of destruction to synagogues and mosques, let alone the toll taken on human life. Even on our campus, I have heard people making hateful slurs, dehumanizing those who worship a different way. Their words come from ignorance and fear of what they don’t understand. This is unacceptable, and it has to stop.
The first step in combating discrimination is to know what our resources are. The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Development provides us our starting point here. The Pasquerilla Center (next to the Forum if any of you are wondering) offers students a place to practice faith of every kind; services for eleven different religions including atheism are held in the same building. This is an incredible opportunity for us to learn about different religions and create an interfaith student network that opposes religious discrimination.
Aside from the opportunities we are offered by the school, we can create our own movement. WE ARE Penn State, and WE ARE capable of making a difference. When we overhear somebody making hateful slurs in the HUB, it’s our job to intervene and point out prejudice. I know I would be nervous standing up to somebody in public like that, but the good that speaking out can do for our community will more than make up for our hesitation to rock the boat.
Penn State is an incredible institution that is dedicated to helping its students thrive; we need to be students that are committed to helping each other survive. We need to be the Samantha Elaufs and challenge the opinion that believes religion determines personal value. WE ARE stronger than fear, and WE CAN make a difference.