There are many historical misconceptions about different religions  that seem to heighten more during times of religious holidays, such as the recent Easter and Passover holidays and upcoming Ramadan.

Although currently there isn’t a designated space for prayer, there are faith clubs on campus working together to get a reflection room. It will be a space where anyone can come if they’re stressed out — to take a moment for themselves. At the moment, students are free to pray anywhere that feels comfortable to them.

Muslim Student Association members pray together near the old stables as part of one of the five daily prayers. (Maya Hood / The Poly Post)

The Poly Post reached out to members of the campus community regarding their different beliefs and religious clubs available, in an effort to learn new things about the world’s religions.

Islam

Seireth Jawaid, a fourth-year sociology-criminology major and vice president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), grew up as a Muslim but didn’t start practicing until she was in high school. She said her father’s passing during her sophomore year in high school had an impact on her wanting to heal through religious practices. 

“I guess I needed some kind of healing, and so I found healing through Islam and religion and coming to college, I started meeting people around me; I didn’t have that in middle school or high school or younger,” Jawaid said. 

She said she loves the diversity and inclusiveness on campus and how everyone is so willing to learn about different religions. 

When it comes to praying the five daily prayers, she said she tries her best to make sure to do all of them with her friends in the Cave or in the University Library.

“I know sometimes it’s hard, but I do try to pray all five prayers, and if I don’t make it in time, because you have specific times you have to pray, I’ll make it up when I get the time,” Jawaid said. 

Islamophobia has existed for a long time, Jawaid said. Since 9/11, Muslims feared that anything could happen to anyone. Jawaid added other traumatic events, such as the New Zealand shootings, that affect young Muslim students.

“Everyone I know was affected by that because that could’ve been any of us; we all grew up at the mosque or that was our second home,” Jawaid said. “So when we hear that kind of news, it’s like those are our brothers and sisters.”

Although Jawaid does not wear a hijab, she’s transparent about the anti-Muslim discrimination that women and girls face when they wear it.

“Mostly everyone who is visibly Muslim has been discriminated against,” Jawaid said.

Even though Jawaid isn’t ready to wear the hijab, she said she hopes to one day have the courage to do so.

Christianity  

Alyssa Parish, a second-year student who is still undeclared, is a community team leader for the Cru Club. She was raised Christian and said it has helped her thrive in adverse situations.

Growing up, she struggled with anxiety, and even though she still struggles with it sometimes, she said it was her religious beliefs that have helped her to slowly overcome it.

She joined Cru because she was inspired by her sister, who was involved in the club before her. 

“It’s been a really great way to create friendships [with people] that have the same mindset and goals in life,” Parish said. 

Without Christianity, Parish said she feels like she would be lost.

“I don’t know what I would be striving for if it wasn’t for being a Christian in college,” Parish said. “Having the Lord in my life has taught me to be more patient and be less expectant of people to owe me things when I’ve done things for them.” 

She said she understands being a religious student isn’t easy, but she said that if she remains faithful, she doesn’t have to worry about anything. She also makes the conscious decision to pray while she’s getting ready and meets with a disciple every week to discuss things that are going on in her life. 

Buddhism 

Kristine Vo, a second-year computer science major, doesn’t identify as being either spiritual or religious and has approached Buddhism in her own individual way. 

Vo said she feels that Buddhism requires ceremonies, and as a busy student, she doesn’t have time for that, so the way she follows Buddhism is not traditional. 

“I follow the idea of Buddhism, and like many religions, they ask you for love and kindness, so Buddhism is much like those religions,” Vo said. “The only thing you have to remember is to be kind and treat others as you would treat yourself.”

She said she believes that even though students are busy — at the very least — they can be kind to other people.

Although there aren’t any Buddhism clubs on campus, because Vo practices in her own way, she said she doesn’t feel the need for one. She also said that Buddhism practices differ in many Asian countries.

Vo said that with Buddhism, she’s learned to be respectful to others and try not to hurt others as she goes on with her life.

She said she believes that someone who doesn’t fully practice Buddhism should still be appreciated for doing his/her part as a living thing, and there shouldn’t be a price on how a person chooses to practice, as long as he or she is doing the right thing. 

“I don’t like doing everything on the basis of Buddhism, but if I had to base something on Buddhism, it would be kindness,” Vo said.

Sikhism  

Manshaan Dhir, a second-year environmental biology major, was born into a Sikh family. Throughout his childhood, he was very religious, but as he got older, his view on his personal identity with religion changed. 

In high school, he became atheist and started cutting his beard. He said he was doing a lot of drugs and alcohol during that time. 

It was the Sikh Student Association that sparked a change that helped him build his own connection with Sikhism. 

He met with the president of the club the summer before his freshman year at Cal Poly Pomona, and realized he didn’t know what Sikhism was truly about.

“With Sikhs, it’s an experience,” he said. “If you don’t experience it, you’re not going to feel close to it.” 

The main tradition in Sikhi is introspective meditation in the name of God. 

When it comes to his Sikh beliefs and the concept of God, Dhir said he understands that one is never going to find an answer for everything, which is repeated in the Sikh religion. 

“There’s no one right answer,” he said. 

Dhir explained that there’s variety within the Sikh faith, so if there’s something he isn’t sure about when it comes to his religion, there’s nothing wrong with that because there are different ways to go about practicing.

Because there’s a lot of emphasis on keeping nature clean in the Sikh religion, Dhir said he thought environmental biology would be a noble choice of major. 

“Air is the guru, the water is our father and the great Earth is our mother,” Dhir said. 

Dhir said he personally hasn’t dealt with discrimination, but he’s aware of how Sikhs in the late 2000s faced discrimination for wearing their turbans in the workplace or they would be refused jobs because of wearing it.

“That’s why there’s a workplace discrimination act regarding religious freedoms that passed in California,” he said. “Sikhs were kind of at the forefront for that because a lot of the time they would be kept in the back.”

He feels that as a Sikh in America, many people are trying to simplify the martial religion because Sikhs are ordained to keep weapons at all times.

“To try to not seem like terrorists, our outward appearance already screams like Osama Bin Laden,” Dhir said. “I think a lot of Sikhs try to shy away from that part of our history.”

Dhir said even though many people openly stare and judge because he wears a turban, he doesn’t let it bother him. 

Judaism 

Sarah Weise, a fourth-year psychology major, identifies as culturally religious. She was part of Hillel, an organization of Jewish students that helps them celebrate their Jewish identities. 

When she came back to CPP after studying abroad last year, she learned that the Hillel club no longer existed.

“I was just kind of in disbelief and a little bit sad that they decided to disband,” Weise said. 

She said the Jewish community on campus is practically nonexistent.

“Being Jewish makes me feel like I am a part of something even when I’m usually the only Jewish person in the entire room or the classroom,” Weise said. 

Judaism for Weise isn’t about believing in something higher or believing in God. For her, it’s more about identity, the holidays, traditions and the impact they have on one’s life.

She wears a hamsa necklace every day, a religious symbol that’s a visual representation of her Jewish identity, something she doesn’t shy away from. 

Weise said that because there is no obvious way to tell she’s Jewish, people often make assumptions about her religion, or lack thereof, assuming she’s “just a white girl.”

“I think if you’re proud of who you are then that’s something that you do every day,” Weise said. “I like who I am as a person and I know that definitely being Jewish has something to do with that.”

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