There’s definitely some type of understanding of both within America.
Whether or not it’s correct is another issue. Generally, people understand it’s a religion with morals like Christianity and Muslims are followers of the religion.
The closest thing the majority of the U.S. understands as ‘cultural’ is the hijab. The understanding of the hijab is tainted with misguided concepts of oppression.
People are afraid of Islam because they don’t understand it. They’ve been brainwashed to remember only excerpts of the Quran without any context and claim Islam is dangerous.
They’re afraid of ‘Sharia law’ because they don’t understand its basis nor do they understand part of Sharia law is actually following the law of the land.
Since 9/11, Americans have been wary of anything that has to do with Islam or Arabic, because many believe it was encouraged by the religion.
This flawed belief is what causes many people to see extremists as the only representation of Islam when extremists aren’t even close to an appropriate representation.
There’s prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in America. My mother has faced bigots commenting on her hijab to have control over her.
Luckily, we live in Southern California, one of the most liberal areas of the U.S., but while traveling, it’s easy to spot discrimination.
When my sister, wearing her hijab, and I were flying she was ‘randomly selected’ for extra inspection each time we went through security. While it’s a relatively minor form of discrimination, it hurts to feel less trusted by your own country and to feel less of an American, especially when we were born within the States and have lived here all our lives.
Islamophobia has gotten slightly better with time as most Americans have gotten over the initial shock. However, a negative viewpoint of Muslims has remained stagnant. Many have a misguided discomfort when it comes to accepting Muslims and treating them like any other American.
With the rise of Trump, many have become more comfortable expressing racism. For every step forwards, we take three backwards. This is especially evident in media.
If a tragedy like a shooting occurs and if the suspect is Muslim, they’re a ‘terrorist.’ If they’re white, they’re ‘mentally ill.’
The fact that this is still common 17 years post-9/11 says something about Islamophobia currently.
With the media’s obsession with clickbait, many Americans will continue to be brainwashed to not grasp Islam’s beauty or treat Muslims appropriately.
I hope over time, we see America’s first Muslim president – better yet, female Muslim president – that will challenge Americans to reconsider how they define Muslim, urge them to look into the true Islam, and drop incorrect assumptions.
By leading by example and working to unite our nation and prove that we are as American as our neighbors, we’ll show the world a beautiful reality where all humans are truly equal.