Muslim In America: We Must Understand and Combat Islamaphobia

With the recent rise of Daesh, more commonly known as ISIS, it’s hard to be an American and not have an opinion about Islam and Muslims. If you are anything like my friends, you have many questions and nobody to ask. As Huffington Post points out, only a quarter of Americans have a Muslim friend. 

Here’s where I come in. My name is Ayat and I’m going to try and answer all your questions about Islam, Muslims and Middle Eastern politics as best I can. My father is a devout Muslim, while my mother is a wildcard. I do not identify as a practicing Muslim, but I am part of the Muslim community. My aim is to promote better understanding of Islam and the Middle East overall.

Since the emergence of Daesh, the hatred and fear of Muslims in America has worsened. Hate crimes against Muslims in America have risen threefold, specifically since the San Bernardino attacks, according to NBC news. These aren’t abstract crimes happening far away. They are happening right here in San Diego. On Nov. 20, a Muslim student at San Diego State was assaulted in the school parking lot when a man pulled off her headscarf while calling her a terrorist, reported the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

On Nov. 13, posters appeared at multiple locations on UCSD’s campus calling the Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine “terrorists,” according to a student’s Facebook post. These incidents occurred even before San Bernardino, which resulted in an increasingly unsafe environment for Muslims in America. Muslim students explained in a co-written letter that prior to the posters, Muslim students were still subjected to harassment from other groups and bullied via social media, where their pictures are frequently taken without consent, posted online and labeled “terrorists.”

Defaced posters are only the tip of the iceberg. My family and friends are afraid of retribution for being Muslim. However, it’s important to note that combating Islamophobia would be beneficial to more than just Muslims. Dalia Mogahed, who works for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, went on the Jan. 7 episode of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” explaining how the same politicians that are against Muslims also support policies that harm blacks, Latinos, women, labor movements and gays. Donald Trump is a clear example of this. On its website, ISPU has a time-worthy data visualization supporting this statement. In addition, hate crimes against Muslims often target “Muslim-looking or Arab-looking” non-Muslims as well, such as Sikhs, Latinos and Arabs of Christian and Jewish faiths. This in itself demonstrates a deeper level of misunderstanding regarding the very diverse communities of Muslims. 

Donald Trump’s recent comments regarding the banning of Muslims entering the United States promotes a deeply problematic intolerance. While many oppose Trump’s remarks, some have echoed his prejudice. My goal is to fight hate with understanding. It’s hard to hate a human you can empathize with. I’m not here to convert you. I’m here to befriend you.