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Muslim In America

Muslim in America – Voices

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“Hate motivates fear and lingers longer than love and peace.”
Rockland County, NY
muslim in america
There is a generally understood caricature of Islamic morals and Muslim culture that is relatively loosely based in actual Muslim culture. I think, in America, because there are so many cultures that we see and interact with everyday, people rely on the caricatures to understand the people they meet.

It is almost overwhelming to try to have a deep understanding of every culture. Also, with a culture that has been so villainized and presented with anger to the public, there is less of a desire to humanize and understand the ‘enemy.’

It takes time and patience to understand something as complex as the Muslim culture, and those are two qualities many people feel they don’t have to learn.

The fear of Islam fits really well into the visual based culture that has grown with technology. People who practice Islam look, sound, and behave differently than the classic born and raised American.

That, on top of the fact that the people who orchestrated the only major attack on American soil looked and behaved the same way as Muslims, created the perfect villain. Nobody could forgive the attackers because most people couldn’t understand what would drive someone to hate America so intensely.

Then, the media and politicians made the enemy not just these men who already died, but a whole group of people. This way there would always be a new enemy and a new reason to avenge the fallen.

They say that if you hear something enough, then you start to believe it. Also, if you’re never shown the commonalities between yourself and a person who you think you won’t like on first impression, you’ll never see what’s good and human about them.

Hate motivates fear and lingers longer than love and peace.

In the 17 years post 9/11, I personally felt like things were getting better and the raw emotions were starting to be left in the past. Then, ISIS happened and all of that progress just stopped.

Then, Donald Trump happened, and he stirred up all the mega racists and suddenly agreeing with anything Muslim, and being Muslim was really dangerous again.

Honestly, I really don’t know if things ever got better before all this. Going forward, I’m really scared for the future because of how powerful mob mentality is when there’s a common enemy.

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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
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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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