This is the first of a series of videos we will be linking on this page produced by American Muslims to counter the distortions they are forced to live with in an age of Islamophobia (click on pic for video)
I have been in America for the last 37 years.
Initially when people learned I’m Muslim it would trigger curiosity about Islam and eastern cultures. Sometimes I would encounter misinformation in the mainstream media, but mostly Muslims in America were under the radar.
Since 9/11, I’ve found more interest in learning about Islam and at the same time seen spike in misinformation and hate groups. Myths are behind the misunderstanding. I’d like to tackle a few of those here:
Myth: Muslims are relatively newcomers in America. • Historians trace first Muslims in America towards the end of 15th century. African-American Muslims, who have been here for centuries, make about quarter of the total U.S. Muslim population. A recent estimate in 2016 placed the nation’s Muslim population at over 3.3 million.
Most of the American Muslims who immigrated in last century probably came from
South Asia, Middle East, and Africa in 1960s, when The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 was enacted. This law changed the immigration policies from being nation-based formula to one that lifted restrictions against immigrants from Asia and Africa. It gave priority for relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
It also gave preference to professionals and other skilled workers. Most of Muslims came here for the same reason that brought the majority of non-Muslim Americans: opportunity.
A new survey from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, or ISPU, offers a rare look at this changing community. The report covers interviews with nearly 2,400 American residents from diverse religious backgrounds, including roughly 800 Muslims. The data suggest that this rapidly growing group is strongly shaped by a few factors. U.S. Muslims are younger and more liberal than their neighbors. They tend to be fairly religious. And they are extremely anxious about what’s happening in America.
Over the past decade, the Muslim community has grown significantly. According to the Pew Research Center, their share of the U.S. population more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. The group now makes up roughly 1 percent of the populace.
Muslim identity has evolved along with their population size. George W. Bush-era conventional wisdom held that Muslims were a natural constituency for the Republican Party. By the 2016 election, that had radically changed: ISPU found that only 15 percent of Muslims in their survey wanted Trump to win over Hillary Clinton in November, including those who are not eligible to vote.
By Mohamed Abdulkadir Ali
Wednesday saw a significant blow to the Trump administration’s attempts to institute a Muslim ban. A Federal Judge in Hawaii struck down a revised travel ban, saying it was driven by “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” as evidenced by comments made by the administration and Trump himself. As a Somali-American living and working in a large refugee community, this animus has long been apparent and has deeply affected me and those in my community.
Since the launch of his presidential campaign two years ago, Donald Trump seemed to have a particularly virulent animus toward us Somalis. In stops in Minneapolis, and Lewiston, all home to large Somali refugee populations, he referred to Somalis as a “disaster” to the communities they moved to, as a dangerous threat to their neighbors, and as potential terrorists. This was underscored by repeated calls to prevent Muslims from entering the country, warnings of the dangers of Muslim refugees, and denunciations of Islam as an enemy of America. Many in our community called it hate.
Why does he hate us” was an often repeated question.
When the executive order was announced in January, it was clear to many of us that its creation was driven by this hatred. Statements of securing our nation and preventing a terrorist threat, many of them baseless, could not cloak that this order was an amalgamation of Trump’s unique brand of cheap jingoism, xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia. We were being targeted, because of our nationality, of the color of our skin, and of our religion. When the second version of the order was released, despite attempts to “water down” language targeting Muslims, it could not sterilize the intent. Two years of anti-Muslim speeches and rhetoric are well documented and videos of him railing against refugees and Muslims can be easily found on Youtube.
Facing increasing hostility from the administration, the religious community also has to cope with its own internal tensions.
When weary Muslims gathered in Toronto in December for an annual retreat, marking the end of a tumultuous U.S. election year, they probably didn’t expect the event to turn into a referendum on racial tensions within the American Muslim community. But it did.
One session was led by Hamza Yusuf, a well respected white scholar who co-founded Zaytuna College, which claims to be America’s first Muslim liberal-arts college. At the end, he was asked whether Muslims should work with groups like Black Lives Matter. “The United States is probably, in terms of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world,” he replied. “We have between 15,000 and 18,000 homicides per year. Fifty percent are black-on-black crime, literally. … There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police, but nobody ever shows those videos.”
He went on. “It’s the assumption that the police are racist. It’s not always the case,” he said. “Any police now that shoots a black is immediately considered a racist.”
The backlash on social media was swift and immense. “For black Muslims, hearing this from somebody we’ve all come to love and trust—it was a cold slap in the face,” said Ubaydullah Evans, the executive director of the American Learning Institute for Muslims, who is black. He said he saw Yusuf’s comments as a way of perpetuating myths about “black pathology” and blaming African Americans for violence. Yusuf’s statements were indeed somewhat misleading: While a greater number of white people have been shot by the police compared to black people, that statistic doesn’t account for population size. When that adjustment is made, historical data shows that black people are more likely to be shot by police than white people.
SAN JOSE — With signs that read “Ask me anything” and “Meet a Muslim,” dozens of young Muslim men and boys in the Bay Area and beyond stood in public places Saturday in hopes of combating Islamophobia simply by talking with people.
The first “Meet a Muslim Day” was held in at least 50 cities and 120 locations nationwide. In the Bay Area, Muslims participated in San Jose, Antioch, Mountain View, San Francisco, Pleasanton, Berkeley and Pleasant Hill. The event was organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA, a Maryland-based group that works with an estimated 5,000 Muslim boys and men spread across 70 chapters nationwide.
It was something Iftikhar Khan had never done in his life. The 38-year-old San Jose resident brought his son, Rizwan, 10, and neighbor, Raees Qadir,14. The trio stood on Paseo de San Antonio near the Fairmont Hotel downtown.
“A large percentage of America has never met a Muslim before. And the perception of Muslims is that we’re violent and dangerous — and people are afraid of us,” Iftikhar Khan said. “It’s not surprising, to be honest, that people have that perception because there is a lot of violence in the world, and a lot of it is perpetuated by Muslims. But the vast, vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are peaceful. Our religion means peace. Literally, the word Islam means peace.”
Note: This is from a blog I just discovered challenging stereotypes about Muslims and other minorities. Good place to visit often.
“What do you think of ISIS?” Smile. Be calm. Be gentle. “Don’t Muslims believe you’re supposed to kill Christians and Jews?” They don’t mean any harm. They don’t know any better. “Do you shower with that on?” Laugh. Take it in stride. “Does your husband make you wear it?” It’s ok. It’s just a question. “I’m not islamophobic. After all, I’m friends with you!” Smile, laugh. Be quiet. You have to give a good impression. You’re the token Muslim, whether you like it or not. These are my thoughts when my dignity is taken away.
It’s so tiring to always be representing 1.6 billion people from all over the world. As soon as people find out I’m Muslim, which generally is pretty quickly because I wear the hijab, they think they have the right to ask me invasive questions. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about friends who ask sincere, curious questions hoping to learn more about me and my faith. I’m talking about random strangers who interrupt my meal in a restaurant to demand information in an accusatory tone. There is a huge difference between the two.
A good example of this is my friend K. She and I often have conversations about faith and culture. She asks a million questions, and they’re all sincere and respectful. She often reminds me that if I don’t feel comfortable answering, that’s ok. THAT is actually wonderful. She wants to understand me. I love answering her questions.
On the flip side, there’s an incident that happened yesterday. I went to a local gyro joint for a nice Arab meal. The cashier, who I later found out was the owner, asked me why I was wearing a headscarf. I told him I was Muslim. He said he was an Egyptian Christian. I said “Assalaamu alaikum,” and he said “wa alaikum salaam.” We exchanged smiles. I took my food and found a seat. I dug in. A few moments later he pulled a chair up to mine and my husband’s table. He started by asking me why I converted, and I gave him the condensed version of the story. He proceeded to tell me I didn’t understand Christian theology, I didn’t know God and couldn’t know Him or love Him. He told me that ISIS were Muslims, the Quran teaches violence, and Islam is a cult. I patiently gave him simple but logical refutations to his horrible comments. He went on and, during our entire meal. My husband, I should add, stood up for me and told him off. But I knew I couldn’t say anything.