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Muslim In America

Muslim in America – Voices

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“What little is known are specific incidents of violence and terror that do not represent the majority.”
Colorado
Being Muslim has never prevented me from achieving my dreams. My faith honors me with the choice to pursue a career in service for the people, to enjoy my hobbies, etc.

It’s the people, both Muslims who equal cultural ills with Islam and non-Muslims who assume it is a hindrance to my autonomy and force their perspective on me, who become the bulwark to success on both a spiritual and worldly level.

I cope with it by making it a point to be in the company of those who push me to do my best, and trying to pinpoint where the misunderstanding comes from. Even though I dislike public speaking, I’m often held responsible to speak for the few – and my actions reflect on the whole community – so I try to do what’s in my power to allay those fears.

The unknown naturally accompanies fear. What little is known are specific incidents of violence and terror that do not represent the majority.

Whether it’s true news, the primary source of information about Islam is not coming from people themselves, but of reports about them. Most Americans have never met a Muslim.

I live in a city that isn’t diverse, but emphasizes diversity in ideologies. I haven’t been a victim of discrimination on the level others have, but I have had incidents crop up that remind me that regardless of what I do, there will always be a sense of ‘othering,’ to prove myself capable.

One incident was in high school when someone wrote in the bathroom stalls ‘F*** Muslims,’ with a list of Muslim students. The principal was an African American woman, and immediately called the parents and sent a school-wide notice that this was unacceptable, and steps would be taken to rectify the problem.

Another was during a history class in college, when a student asked why Muslims were ‘so violent’ and ‘unwilling to condemn terrorism.’ The problem with news is it heavily skews our perceptions.

A study at Media Tenor showed that 80% of news involving Muslims in the media is negative. The difference between how much Muslim perpetuators are covered versus white terrorists is stark as well – so it leads to this idea of an inherent link between Muslims and violence, because this is all we see.

With the election and our president’s perception of Muslims and ensuing travel bans, I witnessed a polarization of people I’d never seen before. On one hand was a man in the highest office validating such unfounded claims, but on the other were thousands of people who left work to peacefully protest with us at work, who reached out to local mosques and communities and were pushed in the direction of positive change.

In the future, I hope that people continue to work on the ground by initiating even small steps towards change. Change doesn’t have to be big and often doesn’t start out as such – but hopefully, will unified efforts. I’ll get to a point where someone doesn’t have to be Muslim or American, but can be Muslim American.

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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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