Coming from a Muslim family, I worried about going to the States for my junior year of high school. But that wasn’t always the case.
In early March of 2016, my father told me he received an email from the boarding school that I had applied to regarding my application. He wanted me to open it myself – as I clicked on the email with my parents huddled around me, their faces full of anticipation, I began to scream of joy after reading only the first word: “Congratulations.” My adrenaline was pumping, my grin was so wide that I felt that it was about to rip my face– I was ecstatic.
Then came June. I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw my friend who was already in the States post a link about an assault on an American Muslim girl on a school campus. I began to worry about going, and my parents became afraid to send me off.
Earlier this month, on April 3rd 2018, a day known as “Punish a Muslim Day” occurred in the UK. And this same calling to harm Muslims was also circulated in certain areas in the States.
A place that’s so far away from Michigan should not affect the students here, right? Wrong. A sophomore that lives in the girls’ dormitory shares a text between her and her mother the week of April 3rd:
According to an article by The Atlantic released in mid-2017, a survey conducted shows that the percent of Muslims in America that have been directly confronted because of their religion has not changed significantly compared to past years. However, there is a larger proportion of Muslims that feel as if they are being “treated with suspicion” in 2017 compared to 2011. They feel “dread, hostility, and discomfort” living as a Muslim in the States.
Here’s a short clip from HuffPost on “What Is It Like Being A Muslim In America?”:
In the heat of Islamophobia, I have talked to several Muslim students on campus that at times, feel slightly uncomfortable in their learning community. Although the school should be a safe space for all, there have been times when the students felt that others made ignorant remarks about the religion or themselves. This is detrimental to the students’ well-being as it causes more stress, and lowers their self-confidence. Some felt that in order to not stand out, they had to be more assimilated in the “American” ways, thus, breaking their own individuality. Some also felt afraid and were sorry to their parents for making them worry constantly.
Unfortunately, there will always be people out there that will be against others, even if the targeted person or group have not done anything to harm them.
Fortunately, there will also always be people that will be by your side to fight the attackers.
How Can We Make the World a Better Place for Everyone?
After I arrived in the States, my junior year roommate thought that it was so cool that I came from a Muslim family. She was so intrigued and constantly asked questions regarding the religion, and soon, my parents’ worries and mine slowly dissipated. I know that even when someone might look at me negatively because of my religion, my friends will always be there and protect me.
April 3rd started off with “Punish a Muslim Day,” but people around the world united and created an even more powerful movement: “Love a Muslim Day.” Many from all around the world came together and showed support for the Muslim communities using #LoveAMuslimDay and other similar tags.
— Community Support Foundation (@DrcWales) April 5, 2018
Positive relationships, one of the five key aspects of positive psychologist Martin Seligman’s Well-Being Theory, plays an important role to combat the challenges that Muslims in the western world face. Humans are social creatures, and when we feel alone, that’s when we begin to believe that some obstacles are impossible to overcome.
Too often, people are being put into undesirable positions because their faith and beliefs are being attacked by others. In these times, it’s important to remember that there are always people to support us.
A Call to Action – No Matter Who You Are! No Matter Where You Are!
Practicing gratitude is one way to ease the hardship faced by anyone.
- I asked a group of Muslims on my campus to write a gratitude letter
- Take the time to think of the people that you might not always have the time to show appreciation for.
- Thank them.
- Writing a gratitude letter will help you feel less alone as you think about the people who truly care about you, and everyone likes feeling appreciated!
- Click here to learn how to write a Gratitude Letter!
“Writing a gratitude letter brings back the memories and when you start thinking and internalizing them, that’s what makes you really cherish the person even more.” – Student 1 from Muslim students’ focus group
“It makes me feel less alone.” – Student 2 from Muslim students’ focus group
Share your knowledge. Or do research.
- Often times, problems stem from ignorance. When people do not understand the unknown, it’s common for us to dislike it.
- The article mentioned earlier from The Atlantic found that “’half of Americans say Islam is not part of ‘mainstream American society,’ and 41 percent say Islam encourages violence more than other faiths.” Share with others that most Muslims are just trying to peacefully practice their religion.
- In fact, according to Pew Research Center, there were about 3.45 million Muslims in the US alone in 2017, and the numbers keep on increasing every year. If “Islam encourages violence more than other faiths,” then the world would be in a lot more chaos.
- Don’t feel afraid to ask questions.
- If you see a fellow Muslim, don’t be afraid to approach them. Who knows, you might even meet your new best friend that way!
Create a supportive community.
- No one likes to feel marginalized, no matter who they are. Spread the love! 😀
- If you see someone being harassed because of their headscarf, their long beard, or anything in general, Be Their Hero and stick up for them.
- Sometimes, a simple compliment might just make their day.
- I interviewed a girl on campus that wears the hijab (the Muslim headscarf). I asked if anything significant has happened to her, she responded,
“There are times when someone might act cautiously around me or say something that puts me in an uncomfortable position, but the moments I remember best are when people are simply being the awesome people that they are. One time, there was this lady that was walking her dog, and she stopped by me just to say that my hijab was beautiful! It definitely made my day so much!”
Let’s Start With Making a Change Here! 😎
Share with us your experiences or write some encouraging words to the Muslims that are struggling. Together, let’s all make a positive difference!
Foundation, Community Support. “From Punish a Muslim Day to #LoveAMuslimDay Love Unites Pic.twitter.com/UnEfWdbgdZ.” Twitter, Twitter, 5 Apr. 2018, twitter.com/DrcWales/status/981769363165470720.
“Gratitude Letter .” Greater Good in Action, University of California, Berkeley, ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/gratitude_letter.
Green, Emma. “How Much Discrimination Do Muslims Face in America?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 26 July 2017, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/american-muslims-trump/534879/.
HuffingtonPost, director. What Is It Like Being A Muslim In America? YouTube, YouTube, 5 Apr. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or68ISGdLQM.
Joseph, Yonette. “’Punish a Muslim Day’ Letters Rattle U.K. Communities.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/11/world/europe/uk-muslims-letters.html.
Kayaken. “Fresh Diversity Clipart Search Photos Cartoon People.” KAYAK WALLPAPER, WordPress, 5 Sept. 2017, big5kayakchallenge.com/diversity-clipart/fresh-diversity-clipart-search-photos-cartoon-people/.
Mohamed, Besheer. “New Estimates Show U.S. Muslim Population Continues to Grow.” Pew Research Center, 3 Jan. 2018, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/03/new-estimates-show-u-s-muslim-population-continues-to-grow/.
“PERMA – A Well-Being Theory by Martin Seligman.” Executive Coaching | Life Coaching | Career Coaching | Mindfulness Teacher | Mindful Self-Compassion Student, www.habitsforwellbeing.com/perma-a-well-being-theory-by-martin-seligman/.
Seligman, Martin E. P. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Atria, 2011.