The Collegian
Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Politics and Personhood: The constant pressure of being a "Muslim American"

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul/The Collegian</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul/The Collegian

Muslim Americans are human before we are either of those things. Not a separate, elusive species that cannot be understood.

The way Muslims are talked about in the media is extremely harmful, as it sends a degrading image of a people who are already a small minority in the United States.

If I had the will to argue a point I knew few would concede to, I would reprimand the phrase “Muslim American” altogether, as I have never heard the phrase “Christian American” anywhere in the news.

A terror attack committed by someone claiming to be Muslim gets 357% greater media attention, despite the number of Muslim perpetrators in the United States being only 12.5%.

But it is the Middle Eastern and South Asian countries -- most with a high Muslim majority -- that have the highest number of victims to terrorism. Despite this, there is ongoing slander against the Muslim community.

We have all seen politicians on television arguing about whether Islam is good or bad. Donald Trump once remarked that the problem in our country was Muslims. Even those who claim to condemn Islamophobia often subtly link terrorism and Muslims, such as when Hillary Clinton asked us Muslim Americans to help America keep an eye out for incoming terrorists.

I do not think of myself as less American because I am Muslim, and I do not have a connection to terrorism because of my religion, either.

This portrayal, that there is something innately wrong or evil within Muslims -- that we all either quietly sit and plan America’s demise or are the “good” ones, brave enough to break away from the rest of our bigoted community -- is simply untrue. But the accusations are so baseless that I do not know how to disprove them.

There’s something terribly unfair about us being portrayed in such a negative light, with everyone refusing to understand that Islam is a religion followed by more than a billion people. That the people committing these crimes have chosen Islam as a tool to justify their horrific actions. I wish they had used a different excuse because I do not see my faith reflected anywhere in their actions. No Muslim does.

I understand that fear exists when we do not know something -- when we cannot put a definitive stop to terrorism, cannot even fathom how people could ever justify such extreme violence -- but what one billion Muslims around the globe keep screaming and the rest of the world refuses to hear is that evil people do evil things.

The same way someone doing something wrong in the name of Christianity does not say anything about Christians, but rather the person, someone doing evil things in the name of the Quran speaks badly about that person, not all of us. Or any of us. We continuously separate the terrorists from us, keep saying that we do not believe what they believe, but our voices are silent over theirs.

I understand that this influx of Islamophobia does not echo the sentiments of the majority of Americans. I understand that most of us would agree that this kind of rhetoric betrays core American values. 

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But despite the knowledge that there are many who understand, the mistreatment of Muslim people has not stopped. The Muslim Ban exists. Our government truly thought there was nothing wrong with stopping immigration from certain countries based on religion.

Yes, I understand that the argument is not technically based on religion, but rather on the fact that, supposedly, too many terrorists are coming from those countries. This claim is not only bigoted, but simply untrue. 

However, if we would have a problem with someone stopping Americans from traveling to other nations because of our mass shooting statistics, then we should definitely have an issue with this policy.

It should be understood that the actions of a few do not represent an entire group of people.

I am wholeheartedly Muslim and still American through and through. Yet, I turn on the television and see arguments about the possibility of me harboring terrorist thoughts against this nation. I am both infuriated and heartbroken.

Contact columnist Reda Ansar at reda.ansar@richmond.edu. 

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