Cultural curiosity enriching, not offensive

The University of Miami student body is a mosaic of nationalities, faiths and life experiences.

While the diversity can be enriching, it can also be intimidating to face for students coming from more homogeneous backgrounds.

Intuitively, we feel comfortable being around people who appear to look and think like ourselves. It requires deliberate effort to branch out and learn about others who seem different.

However, reaching out to make that connection can be rewarding and educational. In a campus as diverse as ours, we will inevitably encounter concepts that seem foreign or odd to us.

Rather than making automatic assumptions and judgments about those concepts, it is healthier to simply ask.

Students have the ability to act as ambassadors for their particular backgrounds and cultures, but this is only if others take the initiative to be curious. Those wearing religious garbs, for example, discuss in this issue how outsiders may make assumptions about their religious or cultural identity without truly understanding the significance of a piece of clothing.

Curiosity and coexistence should not exclude each other. Aggressive or presumptuous questions can alienate people. However, we should not be afraid of making respectful and candid inquiries to learn more about others.

We also cannot take these learning opportunities for granted.

In other places, the very ability to appreciate differences within a community is subdued.

France, for example, has passed laws claimed to promote security and secularity that limit religious garbs.

A law passed in 2004 bans wearing any “conspicuous religious symbols” to public schools, including veils, turbans and head scarves, and another passed in 2010 bans face coverings in public spaces, including burqas.

As a result, constructive inquiries about these religious and cultural customs are quieted.

It is better to make room for genuine inquiry and increase understanding than to stifle natural curiosities and harbor inaccurate assumptions. Within people’s differences one may find something more familiar than expected.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.