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My Experience With Islamophobia As An American-Muslim

In the 5th grade, my best friend, who is a hijabi, was called a terrorist by a boy in our school. She didn’t know what that meant at the time because she was only 11 years old.

At the time, neither her nor I understood the significance of the fact that we brushed off this accusation. We didn’t understand the significance of the fact that our principal told us to “leave it alone” and to just brush it off.

We didn’t understand that we were willingly succumbing to our oppression as minorities.

We’re now both in high school and not much has changed. Off handed comments about my religion and all eyes turning to me and my friends in class during a presentation about 9/11 are not rare occurrences. While I am privileged enough to live in a very accepting and open-minded town in northern New Jersey, this doesn’t mean I’m blind to cases of Islamophobia. Provided that many people in the Muslim community don’t like to acknowledge Islamophobia as some of them believe that it will just make them a bigger target to stereotyping and oppression, perhaps even sticking them with the “aggressive Muslim” trope, it is rare to hear about these small everyday instances of Islamophobia especially since  the media hardly covers them.

The prospect of Islamophobia began to flourish after the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. With the aftermath of 9/11 came accusations and, essentially, the rapid intensification of Islamophobia. Given the fact that the attacks were conducted by Islamic extremist group Al-Qaeda, many people decided that this meant that ALL Muslims were evil. It seems now that one attack one group of people did 15 years ago accounts for the entire history and future of Muslim intent.

Here we are 15 years later and people still seem to be unable to disconnect this event from Muslims as a whole. Given the fact that hate crimes and micro-aggressions towards Muslims have only flourished ever since Trump’s initiation into office, and that I’ve yet to see any lead Muslim characters in mainstream television and media in my 16 years of life, further proves the fact that we as a people are still not entirely comfortable with the prospect of casual Muslim integration into society.

“I just want to feel represented in my school and community. Is that so much to ask?”

This is what my best friend had to say about the misrepresentation of Muslims in our community and the media, as well as the ignorance of many towards our religion and cultures.

We as a people need to work on educating ourselves on not only Islam but the many different countries and cultures the followers of Islam come from as well. Because I swear, if I have to hear one more person ask me if I’m “Arabic” or if I speak “Islam” I might just explode.

In conclusion, we’ve really gotta work on removing the stigma from Islam and the Muslim community, people. It’s 2017; the first thing you think of when you hear the word “Muslim” should not be bombs.

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