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Judge Not?

January 2005
Judge Not?


In my applications for graduate school, I had to write an essay describing the way in which my background has shaped who I am. After much reflection, I finally wrote about ?Hasty generalization': A logical fallacy that occurs when a conclusion is based on an insufficient sample. I learned about hasty generalizations in debate class; I studied them to prepare for the LSAT. However, I really came to understand hasty generalizations in my interactions with people. Many different aspects of my background have led people to make hasty generalizations about me. I lived in Tanzania for the first five years of my life. I did not know how to speak English when I entered into kindergarten. My parents are from India and Pakistan. Above all, my identity as a South East Asian female Muslim has engendered numerous hasty generalizations from my peers.

The perception that people have of Muslims and of South East Asians tend to be based on two things. First, people have limited interactions with these minorities. Second, peoples' perceptions of Muslims and of South East Asians stem from their inaccurate portrayal in popular media. Essentially, ignorance is the root cause of peoples' misconceptions. While some of my peers have been able to address questions to me, some do not care to question their perceptions. The latter concerns me.

Growing up as an immigrant, I learned the beauty of my background. From my Muslim upbringing, I have gleaned a sincere care for social justice. To me, Islam represents the sincere hope for a better world for everyone. The work of the Aga Khan, for example, represents what I see as the progressive face of Islam. My South East Asian background has taught me to value my family. The close family ties that I have developed have provided support and direction through my life. When people ask me, "Why are Muslims so violent?" or "Are you going to have an arranged marriage?" I recognize that they are sincerely misinformed. For those who ask questions, their minds are questioning the stereotypes that they have seen. The people that do not question will not get the opportunity to see another perspective. In order to avoid making hasty generalizations myself, I do not categorize this latter group as biased. I simply accept that they are not ready to question yet.

Ultimately, my experiences with peoples' generalizations and perceptions have contributed to my personal identity. I have sought to define myself in my own terms. Although my family practices Islam, I have still to develop my personal relationship with God. My identity as a female South East Asian has empowered me to push the limits of traditional social bounadries. I have questioned traditional gender roles in order to find a place for myself. My refusal to be catergorized and labeled has freed me from limitations that others have sought to place on me. Most importantly, I have tried to refrain from judging others. In order to truly understand someone, it is important to have honest interaction that is untainted by outside biases.

As South East Asians, we are often subject to peoples' stereotypes. If we do not want to be judged and stereotyped ourselves, we must be willing to refrain from judging others. Only then will hasty generalizations cease from being the norm.

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