“In diverse places like New York, there’s a larger understanding of Islam and Muslim culture because there’s more exposure to Muslims.”
In diverse places like New York, there’s a larger understanding of Islam and Muslim culture
because there’s more exposure to Muslims. There isn’t much of an understanding on a larger American scale. There’s a bit of nuance to it since Islam is so diverse, there isn’t one specific Muslim culture.
When we look at the news, the most important thing when it comes to certain criminal acts is religion. Then, when you see a white man carrying out a shooting, the most important thing is not that they’re Christian or white, it’s: ‘They’re mentally ill.’ They’re given an excuse, whereas Muslims are not given the same benefit of the doubt.
If there’s a Muslim criminal it’s: ‘They’re Muslim, they’re Muslim, they’re Muslim.’ Also, on the news, they ask Muslims to apologize a lot for the acts of others within their faith; that’s something we don’t see in any other religion.
There’s definitely prejudice. I’ve had experiences in the airport where you get stopped just for your name. It’s not so much a smile on the officer’s face as ‘Where were you? What were you doing? For how long? What are you bringing back?’ just kind of an interrogation.
Post-9/11, people were trying to blend in. My mom took of the hijab, but now there’s more of a sense of safety. Muslim women are very identifiable by what they’re wearing on their heads and they can get screamed at for it.
But you also see, in New York, if there’s a Muslim woman being yelled at on the subway, someone, more often than not, will stand up and say ‘Hey, what are you doing?.’ I remember once, someone said something about me and the person next to them was like, ‘Hey, she’s just taking the subway. What’s wrong with you?’
With the current policies that are coming out, we’ve seen a lot more togetherness. After Trump announced the Muslim ban, there was a huge protest in Washington Square Park and it was largely non-Muslim. Of the people who came with me, only one was Muslim and 8 were non-Muslims who were like, ‘Hey we’re here for you.’
In some respects, it’s better, but in other aspects it’s worse because of the ‘talk’ around Muslims coming from the government and the news. We’re always being reminded that Muslims are ‘the bad people’ in the narrative of America right now.