Two Muslim Teens On Navigating Girlhood And Islamophobia In Their America

5994935f1400001f002c31b7Welcome to ”The Story We Share,” a series of Q&As that profile two people with similar identities ― but who live in very different places. As part of HuffPost’s Listen To Americatour, we’re exploring how people’s lived experiences overlap and diverge depending on their zip codes. What is the “American Experience?” It depends where you look. 

***

Along with the growing pains that typically mark the transition from girlhood to adulthood, American Muslim teen girls also face the challenge of dealing with discrimination because of their religion.

This added layer of vulnerability became apparent during Ramadan this June, when a 17-year-old teen girl named Nabra Hassanen was abducted and killed while walking near her Virginia mosque. The tragedy hit close to home for many young Muslim girls. Like their peers around the country, Hassanen and her friends had left their mosque to eat suhoor, a pre-dawn Ramadan meal, at a fast food restaurant. The joyful nature of that treasured Ramadan ritual was shattered that Sunday morning in Virginia ― and the effects were felt across the country.

Hundreds of miles away, in Florissant, Missouri, 17-year-old Salsabel Fares learned about Hassanen’s death through her friends and from her parents ― and not through social media, where she typically gets her news.

The murder stunned her. She told HuffPost she nearly broke out in tears when she heard about it.

“I was so incredibly upset,” she said. “It just scared me reading it. Because of my religion, I fear for my safety and I fear for my life.”

MOHAMMAD FARES
Salsabel Fares is a 17-year-old from Florissant, Missouri.

In Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Arshia Hussain, another 17-year-old Muslim girl, echoed Fares’ words.

“That could have happened to any of us, to any Muslim girl,” Arshia told HuffPost. “There are so many Muslim girls thinking that it could have happened to them.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Advertisements

The five most feared buzzwords associated with Islam in the West, and what they really mean

We need to change the way we talk about extremism to strip the alt-right of its audience, which has been brainwashed into thinking my faith is synonymous with terrorism.

jakarta-istiqual-mosqueThe post-9/11 era has been rife with Islamophobia, populism and the growing support for the far-right across Europe and the US – most notably in recent years.

Hostility and discrimination against Muslims in the UK has peaked, resulting in 1,260 hate crimes in the year up to March 2017. A culture of fear, capitalised on by so-called terrorism experts and pundits, has created a vehicle for all types of extremists to target anything associated with Islam. Here are some of the most commonly misused buzzwords.

1. Islam

When most people hear the words “Islam” or “Muslim”, their mind conjures up images of brown bearded men, burqa-clad women, Isis, Al-Qaeda, and all manner of other stereotypes. A Google image search will confirm these preconceptions, but there are 1.3 million Muslims in the world: we don’t all look the same or hold the same views.

The word “Islam” originates from the Arabic root word salaam, which translates as “peace”. For Muslims, Islam is not a political ideology but a way of life which involves adhering to the five tenets of faith: belief in God, fasting during Ramadan, making pilgrimage, giving to charity and praying five times a day.

Muslims are not a homogenous entity; they come in many forms, including different Islamic philosophies and difference levels of observance. Many Muslims believe that prophet Muhammed is a direct descendant of Abraham through Ismail, and that Islam has many parallels with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Islam should not be viewed in isolation, it is as much a part of our society as any other faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT 

How Muslim Americans are fighting Islamophobia and securing their civil rights

58cc424b2c00003b00fef053The past year has been a difficult one for American Muslims.

According to a July 2017 Pew survey, 48 percent of Muslims report experiencing at least one incident of discrimination in the past 12 months. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim advocacy organizations found these trends were particularly intense during the 2016 campaigns and the early months of the Trump presidency.

And while the survey shows that Americans report warmer feelings toward Muslims today than they did in 2014, Muslims continue to be the most negatively rated religious group – followed closely by atheists. In fact, about half of Americans (49 percent) believe that at least “some” Muslim Americans are anti-American.

As a scholar of religion and politics, I’ve studied how U.S. Muslim advocacy organizations have advanced their community’s integration in America. Their work reminds us that minorities in the U.S. are still struggling for civil rights.

Spikes in anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes appear to correlate with elections cycles. This is not a coincidence. In recent years, politicians have increasingly relied on anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilize voters. What was once considered unacceptable discourse by members of both parties has gradually been normalized, particularly among Republican candidates.

During the 2016 presidential primaries, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz called for law enforcement to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Ben Carson claimed that Islam was incompatible with the Constitution. And former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned that some immigrants were trying to “change our fundamental culture and values and set up their own.”

Muslim Americans are responding through organizations that represent their interests, and are increasingly visible, engaged and assertive. At the grassroots level, their presence is seen through the work of activists like Linda Sarsour, a co-sponsor of the 2017 Women’s March. At the policy level, Muslim advocacy organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations also work to advance the community’s legislative agenda.

There are an estimated 3.35 million Muslims in the U.S. A majority of them, 58 percent, are first-generation Americans who arrived in the U.S. after the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. As these immigrants began to settle in the U.S., they established institutions. In fact, most Muslim advocacy groups were founded in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but gained prominence in the post-9/11 era.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE 

‘Love Thy Neighbor?’

When a Muslim doctor arrived in a rural Midwestern town, “it felt right.” But that feeling began to change after the election of Donald Trump.

 The doctor was getting ready. Must look respectable, he told himself. Must be calm. He changed into a dark suit, blue shirt and tie and came down the wooden staircase of the stately Victorian house at Seventh and Pine that had always been occupied by the town’s most prominent citizens.

That was him: prominent citizen, town doctor, 42-year-old father of three, and as far as anyone knew, the first Muslim to ever live in Dawson, a farming town of 1,400 people in the rural western part of the state.

“Does this look okay?” Ayaz Virji asked his wife, Musarrat, 36.

In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Muhammad are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the antichrist.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

‘There is too much anger out there.’ Bombing of a Minnesota mosque leaves Muslims concerned

la-1501976924-wer1upgbbr-snap-imageTerror tore through a suburban Minneapolis community on Saturday after the bombing of a mosque, amplifying growing concerns among some Muslims who have felt targeted nationwide in recent months.

Law enforcement officials said the explosion occurred around 5 a.m. at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. Fire and smoke engulfed much of the red-brick structure, but there were no injuries.

The FBI is leading the ongoing investigation, along with local law enforcement. Authorities say they believe an improvised explosive device — also known as an IED — was to blame for the blast at the mosque, which primarily serves the area’s large Somali community.

Mohamed Omar, who has been executive director of the mosque for two years, said Saturday that he was relieved no one was hurt.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES 

Arizona senator defends Muslim opponent from online attacks

american muslimDemocratic candidate Deedra Abboud, 45, came under attack after she posted a campaign message on Facebook with an image of the US Constitution.

The post prompted an onslaught of cyberbullying, including comments about Ms Abboud’s religion.

Mr Flake, 54, expressed his support for Ms Abboud on Twitter.

“Hang in there @deedra2018. Sorry you have to put up with this. Lots of wonderful people across AZ. You’ll find them,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

The senator also posted a link to an op-ed in The Arizona Republic calling out the online attack on Ms Abboud, which came after she posted a message about separation of church and state.

“Almost 250 years ago a group of dreamers came together and sketched out a revolutionary vision. No longer would they be shackled to the whims of a distant government, nor bound to the religion of an idiosyncratic king. They set out to forge their own futures, determine their own destinies, and follow their own faith,” she wrote.

“In their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers decreed that this nation would separate church and state, and in doing so protect both institutions. Government would be free from religious overreach, and religion would be free from government interference.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC 

‘Secret Life of Muslims’: How video series took on rising Islamophobia in the US

WO14-US-SecretLifeofMuslims-1The online series — which features both high-profile and ordinary American Muslims sharing their personal experiences of being Muslim in the United States — has clocked up millions of views since it premiered in November

Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed found himself routinely typecast as a terrorist when trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood in the 1990s.

“I played a terrorist in the movie Executive Decision … I played a terrorist on the sitcom Rosanne … In a film called Steel Sharks, I played this evil Persian submarine commander,” says the 47-year-old in the first episode of the Secret Life of Muslims online video series. “All my lines are like, ‘I’ll kill you in the name of Allah!’.”

The hugely popular series is one of a number of projects harnessing the power of the internet to try to change the narrative about Muslims amid rising Islamophobia in the US. Others have launched on Facebook and Instagram, such as Muslim American Faces, where the photographer and filmmaker Heidi Naguib posts photos of Muslim Americans from all backgrounds, along with a caption sharing a little of their life story.

Secret Life of Muslims has clocked up millions of views since it premiered in November, a few days before the presidential election. In the intervening months, Donald Trump has been back and forth with the US courts over his plan to implement a travel ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries. And alongside this, the series has featured both high-profile and ordinary American Muslims talking about what Islam means to them and sharing their personal experiences of being Muslim in the US.

The series’ American Jewish director and executive producer, Josh Seftel, said his own childhood experiences with anti-Semitism made him feel compelled to do something to counter Islamophobia.

“As a Jewish kid growing up in upstate New York … I had experiences where I was called names, where people used to throw pennies at me sometimes and someone threw a rock through the front window of our home. And so, I felt a connection to the kind of discrimination that Muslims are facing in the United States,” he told The National.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL