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The Mass Media

My experiences as an American Muslim

In early December 2021, I wrote a mock article for an English class titled “‘Jihad Squad’: Attempted Humor Shows American Islamophobia is Alive and Well.” In it, I detailed Representative Lauren Boebert’s continued targeting of Representative Ilhan Omar on the basis of the latter’s religion. I said Boebert’s actions reflect a broader American society that doesn’t realize the true prevalence of Islamophobia within itself. 

I was right then, and since Oct. 7, I have been proven right tenfold. An anti-Arab and anti-Muslim mania has swept the nation since the Hamas attack on Israel. Anything even similar to a khuffiyah has been branded an “Arab terror scarf.” Wearing actual khuffiyahs has been deemed an act punishable by assault, proven by the father and son attacked in New York and the three young men shot in Vermont, reported by NBC. [1] [2] The hijab is once again the identifier of a terrorist. 

Of course, none of this is new for me. I was born on Aug. 1, 2001, 41 days before Sept. 11. Since then, I’ve known nothing but the fight to prove that I deserve the right to exist. That I’m not a “barbaric terrorist”—a product of whichever radical group they want to paint me as.  

And this has only been my experience as a Muslim man. I am in a position where Islamophobia cannot find its way to me unless I out myself. There are no defining articles of clothing I have to leave the house with that betray my religious identity. I can “blend” into a non-Muslim crowd and no one would know. Because of this, my experience with in-person Islamophobia has mostly been through my mother, and the glances she gets as a woman who wears the hijab. 

I know my mother’s experience isn’t the only of its kind. Muslim women all over the country are victim to these unwelcome glances—and sometimes even barely-disguised looks of disgust—that make one thing clear: Muslims aren’t allowed. 

For me, there has always been a nagging voice in my mind about how easy it is for me to escape this bigotry. Sure, I’ve had online arguments spurred in the name of defending my religion, but in my day-to-day life, I know I can’t be identified as a Muslim unless I put it out there myself. 

But that’s just it, isn’t it? The people who hate me for my religion want me to hide it as best I can, don’t they? By hiding my identity away, I simply allow them to win. When we display our faith with pride, they have no idea how to react outside of violence. The hope is that if they’re violent enough with us, we’ll back down and away. This is a realization that has only strengthened my resolve. 

I have had conversations with people in my life about wearing a khuffiyah. Some people think I’m painting a target on myself, and perhaps I am! The khuffiyah that I wear is one made in Palestine, with the distinct black-and-white patterns and everything. It speaks all my words of allegiance for me. It also gives free advertising for anyone who would wish to harm me. 

My reasoning, however, is that I have unearned luxury. I can remove myself from all worries about being discriminated against. But my family members who wear the hijab don’t get to escape that. Ilhan Omar couldn’t escape the derogatory “jokes” made at her expense. The men, women and children of Palestine don’t get to remove themselves from their discrimination. Why should I be any different? 

 

SOURCES: 

[1] https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/woman-sought-in-alleged-hate-crime-after-throwing-hot-coffee-at-father-on-playground-nypd/4850864/

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/live-blog/rcna126704

About the Contributor
Adam Shah, Contributing Writer