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I was born at a peculiar time. All of us college-age young adults, born in the last years of the 20th century, were born at a peculiar time. We collectively grew up in an expanding world of technological and ideological change, and as a result have both benefited and suffered from it.

Though we may not remember where we were on 9/11, no generation has been more affected by the tragedy than ours.

We are a unique generation because we have lived our entire lives being told that Islam is not an evil religion, while also being fed the outlandish juxtaposition that Islamic terrorists are the bad guys. This paradox has been swimming around our brains and has created a very potent, and global, form of Islamophobia.

Terrorism has not slackened in the 21st century due to the emergence of religious extremist groups like ISIS. Terrorism in the 21st century has redefined what terror can mean, with each attack seemingly giving more credence to controversial presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ideologies.

Another pang of fear has recently stabbed through the world after the latest attacks in Brussels, leaving 31 people dead, prompting Sen. Ted Cruz to suggest that “law enforcement patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

Ted Cruz, who has so vehemently condemned Donald Trump and his political and ethical notions, is now suggesting an action along the same vein. This raises uncomfortable questions about the ideology of the free world: Is Islamophobia justified and is it right?

The relatively modern stereotype of the violent Muslim has been floating around for decades now — my entire life. The overdone jokes of Muslims in traditional garb in airports are universally funny in their universal sense of fear, subconscious or otherwise, and while this newest generation is the most progressively inclined in the history of the United States, we can explain our fear of Islam after a lifetime of extremist violence.

This statement, however, should not be taken as rationale to hate and persecute followers of Islam. Islamophobia may be justifiable, but it is not right and the two are not mutually exclusive.

At the core of American values is the idea of religious and ideological freedom. People can believe what they want as long as the philosophies they follow inspire actions within the laws.

In the wake of Islamic terrorist attacks, the fact that entire Muslim communities are in danger of being monitored as Sen. Cruz has suggested is inherently un-American.

It may seem easy to let our collective reserves of fear saturate our communities with unfair oppression and hate, but all of the banalities of equality are as appropriate as ever in today’s world.

We are all human. To stoop to the persecution of Muslims ourselves would be hypocritical. To preach love and acceptance is to rise above the justifiable, but cancerous, fear of Islam and to send our own peaceful ripples throughout the world.

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John Lancaster is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.

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