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Brentwood School

Column: What it’s like being Muslim in America

“I thought people from the Middle East were tan?!” 

“Your religion is violent, so you must also be a terrorist.” 

“You can not be Muslim and also be a patriot of America.” 

These are the hateful phrases that have filled up the vastness of my entity. From the soles of my feet that stabilize me, to the blood that runs through my veins, providing me with existence, to finally my brain where all my power and knowledge is stored, these idioms are instilled and carved into my soul that torment me.

I have spent my whole life running away from being Muslim, adamant to prove that I was something I was not, and to convince others but mostly myself that I was just like everyone else in my bubble. However, I sit here today struggling to keep up this facade.

I want to let go of these chains that hold me from embracing the true me. A multitude of emotions is bundled up inside of me in juxtaposition, ranging from the fear of rejection to the excitement of being reborn. 

Diversity is what has shaped America. From the working class, to the people just trying to make ends meet, to the CEOs of major companies, we all rely on each other to keep America running. I propose an answer to the question of how we are all so unified and separate simultaneously. It is because of the mistrust which is fueled by the stereotypes inculcated within each one of us. This leads humankind to ruin. 

Everyone has a story, none of the same, but I am here to share mine.

I was born on July 22, 2003, at Cedar Sinai hospital at 5:57 p.m., to two immigrant parents from Iran. I have brown hair, hazel eyes, and fair skin. I do not wear a hijab as most of you would assume, but I pray and celebrate Ramadan.

I go to a predominantly white school with a lack of racial diversity and religious diversity. I spend my days trying to conform, trying to make myself assimilate; however my duality is too complex for this notion. I go to school, hang out with my friends in the cafeteria and eat hamburgers to come home to Kabobs and Ghormeh Sabzi.

I feel isolated and alienated in both worlds, pretending to be one thing. I do not want to be one thing anymore, and why should I have to be. 

To fully understand my Muslim heritage, I needed to debunk the two myths persisting within me with facts. 

One: “your religion is violent, so you must also be a terrorist.” With every religion, there are extremists. In Christianity, they call themselves the Ku Klux Klan and Proud Boys. In Judaism, they are the Sicarii, and in Islam, the al-Qaeda and ISIS. However, they fill up the minority.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, people substantially declared negative views of ISIS. After researching, I have learned that it is crucial to note that Islam, among with other Abrahamic religions, has a large pond with different translations of their holy scripture, interpretations, and traditions. 

Two: “you can not be Muslim and also be a patriot of America.” Islam is the second-largest religious group with 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, according to 2015 data from the Pew Research Center.

A 2011 Gallup poll found that the majority of Muslim Americans say that they are loyal to the United States, even though they are more likely than other religious groups to experience discrimination, according to the New York Times.

You do not need to pick one side of your identity between your nationality and your religion, and it is OK for there to be a middle ground. These identities can exist within you simultaneously. Instead of assimilating to be Muslim or American, I am learning to embrace both sides of my identity without them coming into contrast with each other. 

In the current political climate that we live in, full of hatred and conflict, I refuse to let the social predisposition define my existence and control my future. I utilize these myths to make me more robust, and they now fuel me to be and do better. I can not control what others think about me. Still, I can fight against these stereotypes within my bubble to eventually help ameliorate these feelings that spread the shrapnel of mistrust in America.