By Hannah Nemer
Hannah is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Hannah below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Walking through suburbia covered in a hijab, I felt the deafening silence of discomfort follow me. For the first time, I, a Jewish teen, felt a small bit of the burden of being Muslim in America.
This social experiment, designed to identify post-9/11 stereotypes of Islam, was eye opening, revealing all too many misconceptions. These perceptions only intensify as time passes, as demonstrated by the upset over the “ground-zero mosque.”
Somewhere along the way, America’s fear began to usurp the power of the First Amendment. Now, as youth, it is our obligation to stop the fear mongering in order to embrace our differences, making way for religious pluralism.
The forums for this are plentiful.
Students have a unique opportunity; rarely will we be thrown into an environment as socially and culturally diverse as our schools, nor with a group of peers as genuinely enthused about identifying problems and seeking solutions. Here, conversations are born.
The Interfaith Youth Core, a global dialogue building interfaith coalitions, has grown among these campus communities. More than a forum for discussion, the global nature of this program forges new partnerships, bridging cultural divides.
Students do not hold political power because we are future leaders, but because we are leaders. In 2006, the youth 9/11 Plus 5: A Hope Not Hate Summit proclaimed that message loud and clear. Joining forces, over 400 youth leaders took a stand for religious pluralism, calling attention to legitimate driving forces of terrorism, rather than explaining it away as “Islamic Fundamentalism.”
Conversations must commence, and tough questions must be asked. Something as simple as complimenting a Muslim woman on the color of her hijab breaks down long built barriers of silence. And that gateway conversation is one we all can begin.

I am Hannah Nemer, a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Interested in advocacy through public policy and film, I am eager to partner with Americans for Informed Democracy. Despite my love of politics, I find myself concerned over the political process which seems to breed both xenophobia and hate; but, I see hope in informed youth who speak out against both social and political injustices.

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