“Some Muslims, like in my family, don’t wear any traditional garb, or have beards, or come from a faraway place. I was born in America, and so were my parents.”
Long Island, NY
I think it’s crazy how little people know about what it means to be a Muslim.
Most people have only a fraction of an understanding of Islamic tradition and culture. Many think we all wear turbans or hijabs, have long beards and shrouded clothing, and come from a place far away from America.
While some Muslims do fit the bill for this characterization, it is by no means justification to be a generalization for all Muslims living in America.
Some Muslims, like in my family, don’t wear any traditional garb, or have beards, or come from a faraway place. I was born in America, and so were my parents. Besides my dark complexion, I look like any other ‘typical American.’ This how many Muslims in the U.S. live, and yet this is hardly what comes to mind when people think of what a typical Muslim looks like.
I think the media has played a large part in creating the generalized image of what a Muslim looks like. From what I’ve seen, the kinds of Muslims that make the news are the few that are part of radical fundamentalist groups.
Also, since many of the Muslims shown are ones from other countries, people hardly get a chance to see what an ‘American Muslim’ looks like. A typical Muslim from the Middle East looks different from the typical American Muslim.
A good way to fix this would be to see more Muslim reporters on the news. By implementing that, viewers can get a better idea of how Muslims may present themselves.
I think if there are more Muslims working in journalism and media, they can take an active part in fixing the problems themselves, as well. Hopefully, the news and other media will become more socially aware and present images of Muslims from the Middle East alongside Muslims from America for contrast.
“While I was focusing on growing in my faith, my mother just kept worrying about me marrying a terrorist.”
I am a Mexican Muslim. I converted to Islam three years ago. At first, my family wasn’t ok with my decision because I hadn’t spoken to them about it.
Instead, I just changed my whole outward appearance and decided I wanted to be Muslim. I come from a Catholic family with strong values, and to them, they believe that Islam is controlling.
They felt that I wouldn’t have rights as a Muslim woman and that I was going to become miserable. As you can see, this transition was not an easy one, to say the least.
While I was focusing on growing in my faith, my mother just kept worrying about me marrying a terrorist. My aunt even went as far as reading me Bible verses to bring me back on the ‘right path.’
Sometimes, my family still teases me about not eating pork anymore. Growing up Catholic, I use to eat pork freely but now that I don’t, I get made fun of. While it doesn’t bother me anymore, it used to hurt me to have my loved ones put down my beliefs.
Often times, the general public associates Islam with oppressiveness or violence. They misinterpret the Quran and end up fearing us because they do not understand us.
The media does not help us build a positive image either. Usually, women are portrayed in the media as slaves who are oppressed by ‘barbaric’ Muslim men.
Women like me are seen as easy targets because we chose to represent who we are through our dress. This should not be so, but it is and a lot of this hatred and confusion exists because of 9/11.
See, even though it has been 17 years since 9/11, Islamophobia still sits heavy in the hearts of many Americans. However, if people reach out to their fellow Muslim neighbors, there could be a better understanding of Muslims nationally.
“This can be a struggle within one’s soul that causes them to give into impulses and stray off of their path.”
New York, NY
A lot of people tend to associate Jihad with terrorism. But, in reality, Jihad means a struggle.
This can be a struggle within one’s soul that causes them to give into impulses and stray off of their path. This is something that I believe everyone goes through in life.
Although it is rather difficult to do, I personally try to teach people about my faith. Currently, I am the treasurer of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Pace University.
I really wanted to make MSA a big thing at Pace. But, so many people just aren’t that interested in the idea. Whenever I ask my non-Muslim friends to even come to a meeting, I usually get a ‘Are you joking?’ or ‘You’re really a part of that?’
While the lack of support is rather discouraging, it just goes to show me that people still view us in a negative light. And that the negative light they see us through can be traced back to how the media portrays us.
I think the fear of Islam stems from 9/11 and how Islam is portrayed in the media. The media never focuses on the peaceful and religious aspects of Islam. Instead, they focus on the daunting acts of terrorists from the Middle East.
My family hasn’t suffered to the extent that some other families had, but I still have heard some rough remarks. For instance, in high school, one of my closest friends said that I looked like a terrorist. Although it was just a joke, I was very offended by it.
More recently, I personally underwent an embarrassing TSA pat down at the airport last year. A security woman touched every aspect of my body. I felt humiliated.
Although there is a long road to walk before Islamophobia disappears, I do think that, recently, people have become more accepting towards us. Individuals are realizing the world could be a better place if we learnt to love each other for who we are. Therefore, I am very hopeful that more people will be accepting towards Muslims in the near future.
“I have never really felt any sort of discrimination. But, it was not until recently that I learned that my parents had not had that same luxury.”
Los Angeles, CA
Being Muslim in this country has never really been a ‘problem’ for me. Obviously, I know that I am a minority. Being Muslim is not often something that I actively think about.
I live in a very diverse area where being something other than ‘white’ is not exactly uncommon. In general, I tend to hang out with a crowd of other Muslims. So, I never really feel out of place.
I have never really felt any sort of discrimination. But, it was not until recently that I learned that my parents had not had that same luxury.
Although our religious practices in our family have become laxer as my siblings and I have aged, my mother recently confessed she made us practice religion so heavily as children because she wanted us to make friends with other Muslims.
My parents, specifically, chose to live in a more diverse area so we did not stick out from the crowd. She did not want to draw attention to us, so we could avoid as much prejudice and discrimination as possible.
I think people today are much more tolerant and accepting of Muslims than they used to be. Based on what Muslims used to face, I’m sure my parents’ fear and paranoia is justified. However, I feel that people are starting to let go of their preconceived notions.
People are beginning to learn that stereotypes are not based in truth. Once people realize that terrorism is not linked to the Muslim religion, maybe they will be less afraid.
Extremists and terrorists are not a true reflection of Islam. Once people begin to realize this, we may be one step closer to working toward peace and harmony between all people.