Growing up, I wouldn’t say that my family and I we’re ‘victims’ of Islamophobia
, but we still experienced it to some degree. I used to always wear a hijab and when I did, I would always get stared at.
I also got bullied a lot in school, not for just being Muslim or having parents who were Muslim, but for being Arab-American. This made me very conscious of how I spoke to my parents in public, and if they were speaking Arabic to me, I would respond back in English because otherwise, people would look at us suspiciously.
As I grew older though, I wouldn’t say that people prevented me but that I prevented myself. There were definitely jobs I didn’t apply for, and universities in different parts of the country that I didn’t apply to, because I didn’t think I would be accepted or I thought it would be difficult for me to assimilate because of people’s stereotypes of Muslims and Arab-Americans.
I do believe though that 9/11 has definitely shifted the entire mindset of our religion to being only terrorism. It has also made people even more so prejudice towards Muslims who are Arab like me.
Since 9/11, people have been conditioned to believe horrible things about Muslims because of what they see and hear through the media. In the news, speeches, war, and even television shows; Muslims are seen as ‘bad’ people who oppress their women, love to kill those who are not like them, and are abusive sexual predators.
However, when we condition the population to believe these things about Muslims, they naturally will start to believe them. Even though the news to me is the root of the problem in the way nations, especially ours perceive Muslims, I do think things can change for the better.
If in the future there is more understanding through educating the public about our religion, then people will hopefully be able to see who the majority of us truly are. Then, maybe there will a media shift to change the narrative and show the positive side to Muslims around the world.