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21st century: Living as a Muslim in America


My experience: Having always been surrounded by my family (pictured above is my extended family on my mom’s side), I felt nervous to study alone in the States after hearing about attacks on Muslims based solely on their religion.

 

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:

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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.

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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.

 

 

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!”

 

Lets 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!

Made with Padlet

 

Works Cited

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.

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COMMENTS: 9
  1. April 26, 2018 by Abdullah Abuomar

    Absolutely loved the call to action comments! I think they pretty much sum up all the possible ways we can combat Islamophobia in a clear and a very nice manner. I was an exchange student in the US myself, but I barely had any problems or moments when I felt uncomfortable. This makes me think how different treatments could be and on what basis – Skin color? Accent? Name? etc.

    • April 27, 2018 by Miza A. Ridzuan

      Thank you! I think since the US is very large, Muslims can be treated very differently based on where in the States they live. In certain areas, others might regard them as their friendly next-door neighbors, whereas in other areas, Muslims can be looked at as outcasts or even terrorists. Skin color, accent, name, even nationality – they all often play a part. I know someone that decided to go by a different name because his name was “Ahmed,” and he was bullied a lot because of it. After changing names, things actually turned better after time.

  2. April 28, 2018 by marisa

    Thank you for sharing such a positive way to approach some horrible things in the world! Your project can truly make a difference!

    • April 29, 2018 by Miza A. Ridzuan

      Thank you! I really hope it does make an impact on other people to spread more love!

  3. April 28, 2018 by Selma Ahmed

    Great job Miza! I’m often aware of how much I stand out based on my faith, but your call to action has proven effective in my experience- getting to know the people around me breaks the barrier of ignorance for both sides and reminds me how much support I still have despite what’s going on.

    • April 29, 2018 by Miza A. Ridzuan

      Hey Selma! First of all, I just wanted to say thank you not only for supporting me by viewing my project, but also for inspiring me to tackle on this issue in the first place. The conversations that we had over the past two years was what first sparked my idea of tackling Islamaphobia through this conference. I’m really happy to know that the call to actions really do impact people positively!

  4. April 29, 2018 by Mai N.

    Miza! I have learned so much about the Muslim community in the US. It is very helpful! Thank you for spreading the positivity. We all need to stop the hatred and show some love. 🙂

  5. April 29, 2018 by Abdullah Muzakkir

    Great job Miza. Wonderfully written and it was nice to read something that is familiar yet from a different perspective. Truely an eye opener. Keep up the good work

  6. April 30, 2018 by Sara

    This page is really good! I love that your Call to Action is so inclusive and so accessible––it’s very inspiring! I am heartbroken that you have felt so much fear and that your community has undergone so much hate, bullying, and harassment because of your religion, and I plan to follow your call to action to help.

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