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Muslim In America

Muslim in America – Voices

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“It’s difficult to come across a news story about Muslims doing something unsensational which limits the way the American public sees people who practice Islam.”
Newton, MA
The people I engage with and the news that I seek out on social media are largely what I have chosen and are more likely to validate my values. In those circles, I don’t see a lot of Islamophobia for that reason. On the other hand, when I sit down to watch the evening news on network television, the news about Islam and Muslims seems to be in this distressing binary of harmful terrorist or unfortunate victim.

It is difficult to come across a news story about Muslims doing something unsensational which limits the way the American public sees people who practice Islam. I don’t feel comfortable talking about my opinions with some of my conservative, non-Muslim friends because they’ve been so indoctrinated by the media that it doesn’t even feel productive.

I am lucky to have avoided expressions of prejudice, such as racism, because my appearance is fairly nondescript and ‘American.’ Sometimes I feel guilty because I am allowed to avoid the scrutiny that my friends who were the hijab and look Middle Eastern cannot. At the same time, I feel pressure from those people to be even more upfront about my beliefs and give up the privilege I have because of my appearance.

I think a common misunderstanding of Muslim culture, and I do think this is particularly post September 11th, is that all Muslims harbor a deep and intense hatred of Western, modern, liberal thought and behavior. I regularly disagree with people of different faiths about religion, but we all use cell-phones.

Those two things might seem unrelated, but it’s crazy to me how convoluted aspects of Islam are in the media. I’ve interacted a lot with Muslims who come from the Middle East to America and even those who pray five times a day are thrilled to buy an iPhone.

The Qur’an commands that people, no matter their faith, do not judge each other. This is not always easy, but it is one of the core lessons in the holy book. We are all human beings, even if we believe in different things.

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Muslim In America

Muslim in America – Voices

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“While I was focusing on growing in my faith, my mother just kept worrying about me marrying a terrorist.”
Charlotte, NC
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.

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Muslim In America

Muslim in America – Voices

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“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.

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Muslim In America

Muslim in America – Voices

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“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.

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