By Joan Magtibay –
Arizona State University Club 2B1 held its first event on campus Tuesday to educate students about bringing communities together through recognition of similarities among peers.
“We want to bring people together from different faiths and show them that they are not really that different,” said Erin Higgins, a 22-year-old ASU student and member of 2B1.
According to Samer Naseredden, a 2B1 representative for the Muslim community, the goal of this event was to “build bridges across lines of difference.”
2B1 was created in January by an ASU communications class, “Countering Violent Extremism,” which completed research on Islamic State (Daesh) growth and tactics. The club aims to bring awareness to ASU students to “dismantle Daesh deception” and end the growth of violent extremism through a social media campaign, Steven Bain, 2B1 project manager, said.
The deception formed by Daesh includes justifying violence and propaganda with the supposed war between the West and Islam, Bain said.
“There is a serious effort to antagonize Muslims in the Muslim community and to portray a narrative that Islam is at war with the West which is absolutely false,” said Naseredden.
According to Nafisa Thorpe, a 19-year-old ASU student and member of the Muslim Students Association, events that allow students of different faiths to interact are beneficial for diverse campuses because people have many misconceptions of different faiths. “We need a place where we can have diversity,” Thorpe added.
“Being on a campus that has a lot of Muslims and a lot of other faiths, it is important for us to get together,” Thorpe said.
Bain said there were “three weapons” to fight extremism at the event; a group activity, a survey and a photo booth.
The group activity asked students to answer questions about their opinion on a range of topics, while also requiring them to listen to their peers’ answers, to highlight similarities among the participants.
In addition, surveys were completed by students to evaluate attitudes toward different faiths. Participants completed two surveys, one before and one after the group activity, to see if their attitudes changed after hearing responses from other students.
Participants took pictures at the photo booth to post on social media and help further 2B1’s campaign by “trying to create some social proof that the West is not at war with Islam,” Bain said.
“We’re promoting the contact with Islam to reduce uncertainty between identities between Muslim and non-Muslim people,” Bain said. “We’ve found that people who are insecure in their identities tend to gravitate towards structured organizations with authoritarian leaders, much like ISIS and Al Qaeda.”
Naseredden said due to how hate tactics are portrayed in the media, “people have different fear and angst when it comes to Islam or Muslims.”
He noted the club’s goal is to push back against the “War on Islam” narrative that Daesh is trying to create to legitimize their tactics, adding, “We’re going to push back against that hate with love.”
“We’re writing our own narrative together and not letting extremists write our narrative for us,” said Bain.