Writer/Editor in Chief: Misaal Irfan
Islam. Most people that have been swayed by biased news sources who hear this word immediately begin to think of bombs, death, ISIS, and terrorism. The power of the media has formed my faith into a monster that is now unrecognizable. The world thinks that Islam represents fear, promotes hate, and embodies extremism. But to me, it is a religion of peace. Islam embodies love, community, and unity.
There are approximately 1.8 billion muslims in the world. So, why is it that even when Muslims make up such a significant part of the world population, we are still discriminated against? This question is not entirely unanswerable. Terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban have used the Islamic Faith to obtain power and in the process have obliterated the true message. Consequently, this has distorted the image of Islam in the eyes of the rest of the world. Why did the actions of these evil terrorists write the fates of every other muslim? There are undoubtedly many different types of Muslims, and we cannot judge all of them based on the actions of one. Though what I am saying might make perfect sense, I think fear can mess with our rationale. That is exactly what has happened with the American people and most western societies. There are people who I know will never trust me or try to understand me.
It seems like the root of this issue is society itself. It is impossible to understand someone different from you without discussion. With obstacles such as fake news, biased media sources, and inherent racism and islamophobia, we aren’t going to be able to have a proper conversation. This article is just a first and very important step. Just by reading this, you are being exposed to the harsh realities that are attached to being a muslim. It is important we value the lives of every individual, and encourage everyone to learn more about the wide range of cultures and religions that make up the American mosaic. Because in the end, we are all American.
Though I consider myself an American, I still have yet to feel as if everyone else sees me as one. Americans come in every size, shape, and color, but it seems as though a brown muslim girl still might not fit the criteria.
Along with doubting my inclusion in this nation, at times, like most young confused teens, I have definitely been weak in my faith. Being a strong advocate for women’s rights and self proclaimed independent young woman, it feels as though the media says Islam and Feminism do not go hand in hand. Imagine someone telling you that your faith does not support what you want to do with your life. I know in my mind that I want to be a strong woman and a strong muslim, defying the stereotypes that have been placed on me. People need to understand that I am not oppressed or suppressed in any way. Islam, as a woman and as a person, has actually given me the empowerment and confidence to do good, stand up for myself and be a voice for the voiceless. Knowing this, being a strong muslim and strong woman go hand in hand.
Islam has undoubtedly been an enormous aspect of my life, influencing what I wear, what I eat, what I do, and who I am. My parents, two Pakistani Muslim Immigrants, grew up with Islam from a young age regularly attending mosque, eating halal (meat prepared as prescribed by Muslim law) and celebrating Eid (the holiday of feasting and sacrifice after Ramadan). Islam was a normality in Pakistan, but unfortunately for me it is not the same. Islam has always been something that makes me stand out, and not always in a good way.
After years and years of countlessly trying to explain why I cannot eat gelatin, pork, or wear very revealing clothing, most people have not been able to understand. It has been rare to meet someone who actually knows much about my faith. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is always a challenge. Imagine sitting in the heat, not being able to eat any food or drink any water from sunrise to sundown, and your sweet friend continuously offers you their snack. Even though you have told them many times that you are fasting and have even explained why and the purpose of Ramadan, they persist. The struggle of being muslim. In all seriousness, many people do not know anything about Islam, and it doesn’t seem like they are going to take the time to learn about it. Let’s end that cycle today. Talk. Ask questions and discuss misconceptions you might have, we all do.
In recent news, we have seen rampant Islamophobia consume French media and politics. Laws and rules have been in place to suppress muslim women who wear hijabs and now there are new methods being enacted to further surveilance muslims. I don’t entirely know what to say when I hear of islamophobia attacks and instances on social media and first hand, but I know exactly what I need to do. I plan to dedicate myself to teaching others about my faith and opening there eyes to it’s simple and good message, so that I and millions of muslims around the world can practice their faith without fear.