In my sixth grade class, the presidential election was brought up for discussion, specifically concerning candidate Barack Obama. One of my classmates immediately raised his hand and said, “I don’t think he should be president because he is a Muslim.”
No one argued with him and no one told him his comment was inappropriate, not even my teacher. That was a defining moment for me because it was one of the first times I realized I was different.
Being a Muslim-American has had a huge impact on my life. Not only do I celebrate different holidays with my family and express myself differently culturally, but now, as a young adult, I’m in a constant battle to defend my roots, specifically my religion.
9/11 was just one of several instances that served as a turning point for many Muslim-Americans, as racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia increased. But more recently, the start of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has ignited a stigma against Muslim-Americans and the Islamic religion.
Most people know Trump for being outspoken, without a filter, and a businessman known for his appearance on “The Apprentice.” But what Trump is truly successful in, is provoking violence and hate for many already marginalized communities.
Yasmin Luqman, a member of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at the UW, witnesses the hate being spread by Trump, especially through social media.
“Every time I see a post on social media or a news article about him, the comment section is full of hatred about how America would be better off without Islam,” Luqman said. “I feel like it’s not even worth defending myself.”
Trump justifies his ban on Muslims as a way to reduce violent crimes in the United States, but little does he know that most terror crimes have been carried out by white, non-Muslim Americans. According to a study from the New America Foundation, almost twice as many people were killed by right-wing, radical anti-government groups in America than by Muslim extremists.
For example, 14,000 murders occurred in the United States in 2013, and only three were caused by Muslim-linked terrorism from the Boston bombing. In the same year, accidental shootings by toddlers caused more deaths than terrorists.
Osman Salahuddin, also a member of MSA, is one of many who fear for the Muslim community.
“Islamophobia is threatening the livelihood of Muslims all across the country,” Salahuddin said. “Whether it is political debates to stop Muslims from entering the country or threats at local mosques, I am afraid.”
Why does religion always come into the conversation? Whenever a white, non-Muslim individual commits a heinous crime, the media usually deem that they are suffering from mental illness, and that it is a tragedy for everyone involved. But, when the offender is identified as a Muslim, or Arab, people tend to take the “radical Islam” route, assuming it falls into the category of “Islamic terrorism.”
One example is the horrible massacre at the nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. The offender, Omar Mateen, tragically took the lives of 49 and injured 53 others.
Mateen’s racial and religious backgrounds were used as media tools, broadcast as a crime related to ISIS, regardless of this misinformation. His background was discussed more than the attack itself, showing evidence of how little the general media cares about the kind of misinformation that breeds more hate.
I don’t see why anyone should condemn a religion of 1.6 billion people for the actions of a few, like Mateen. Beyond that, there have been 561 mass shootings (a mass shooting being one with more than four people shot) since the beginning of 2015, and only two were committed by Muslim-Americans.
As with any religion or set of beliefs, people find ways of twisting and interpreting the truth behind it. Some people believe that if one person who identifies as Muslim commits a crime, it makes it OK to assume the entire Islamic religion is the same way, but that is wholly wrong.
There are terrorists who claim to be a part of every religion, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism. Would it be logical to condemn an entire religion based on the actions of a few radicals? I don’t think so.
Trump may be wrong about Muslims, but he is very good at convincing people he knows what he’s talking about. Since his rise in the presidential election, I have lost multiple friends because I am a Muslim. I have been blamed for terrorism by high school friends, and have been called vulgar names.
Losing friends is hard, but what is even more frustrating is the lack of knowledge about the Islamic religion. Very few people have done any basic research on Muslims or Islam, let alone opened and read the Quran. They rely on the media and what their parents have taught them, which is unfortunate.
Some verses in the Quran speak to people claiming that Islam provokes violence. One verse reads: “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land — it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one — it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”
Islam promotes nothing but peace from its core, and a few radical people do not define the entire religion itself. This situation doesn’t make me any less proud to be a Muslim-American. I just hope knowledge prevails ignorance in the long run.
Reach writer Nissreen Taha at email@example.com. Twitter: @nissreentahaha