She may not be a U.S. citizen planning to vote on Nov. 8, but Palestinian BYU student Dalia Abu Al Haj isn’t exempt from having her political opinions — especially when it comes to Islamophobia and refugees.
Dalia grew up in Ramallah, Palestine, and was interested in attending BYU when she learned 75 percent of BYU students are bilingual. But despite her initial interest, Utah and BYU have been a large culture shock for her. An even bigger culture shock? Many Americans’ unfounded and negative views of Muslims.
“It’s very wrong to just stereotype a whole faith and never interact with the people or try to block these people from living their lives without even knowing what their beliefs are or not knowing how they live their lives,” Dalia said.
Dalia, the teaching assistant in a BYU Arabic class, said many of her students say refugees are the nicest neighbors they’ve ever interacted with. She recommends speaking with others and spreading these stories when people have positive experiences with Muslims. After all, Muslims aren’t that different than the rest of us.
“We’re a people just like you and we have the right to live just like you do,” Dalia said. “And if our head scarves or our religious sayings scare you then that’s your problem not ours to change.”
The most frightening aspect of Islamophobia to Dalia is American citizens’ lack of research on the religion. She grew up in an area where speech was greatly censored.
“And I’m emphasizing on America because I don’t think that any other country has this rage and fear of Islam more than in the U.S., and it’s very disappointing because you have all the resources to research us.”