Students reveal what the media doesn’t show about Muslim Americans
By Sean Minton
Alaa Ibrahim spends most of her free time at school socializing and relaxing with her friends in the Student Center. Never could she have thought that her peaceful time could turn into a battleground of hate.
Ibrahim is like any other teenager her age. She loves to dance, sing, swim, free-write and socialize. “Socializing with people makes my day,” said Ibrahim. However, her encounter with another student did not make her day, but instead ruined it.
One day in the Student Center, Ibrahim had a run-in with a student who happened to be an acquaintance. He harassed her by throwing pork at her over her Islamic religion. She later told him that if he continued to harass her, she would get the police involved.
The scenario described is considered a hate crime. Many Muslim women are easy targets for incidents like this because of the headscarf they wear. “Even though we dress differently, wearing a scarf does not mean that we are threatening your life. We are actually really nice people and exactly like anyone else,” said Ibrahim.
Since Muslim women are an easy target for hate, many of them fear for their safety. “I used to feel safe in public, but now it’s like I cannot even leave my house,” said Ibrahim.
18-year-old Muslim American student Adam Kader is not easily targeted like Muslim women, but he still has concerns for their safety. “I don’t really look Muslim because the men don’t wear anything like the headscarf, so I don’t worry about myself, but in public I worry for my mom. When she and my sister go out, I don’t know what is going to happen to them or what to expect,” said Kader
The harassment is not only at school. It is more common for criticism to occur for these teenagers outside of the learning environment. “Usually, most of the racist remarks come from older generations, but they aren’t to blame because they grew up in a different time,” said 18-year-old Sarra Krichi. However, Krichi feels that racism is not inherited, it is taught.
These teenagers have concerns for their well-being, and they hope for change. The best way for change is to educate other Americans on what Islam is. Islamic extremists do not represent Muslims the same as the Klu Klux Klan does not represent Christians.
“We are not what the media shows us as. We are normal people with a different religion. The people you see off the media aren’t Muslims. One of the major sins in the Quran is killing another,” said Kader.
All three students agreed that some of the misconceptions about Muslims and Islam stem from what the media displays. The major one is assuming that all Muslims are a threat.
According to the Huffington Post, “the average American is more likely to be crushed to death by their couch or television than they are to be killed by a Muslim.” Based on that fact, the real enemy in America may be household items rather than Muslims.
This country is a melting pot full of millions of different citizens. “When people see my headscarf, they automatically assume I’m not from here. I was born and raised in Pensacola,” said Krichi.
As much as some do not want to face the facts, these students would like to get their message across any way they can. “I would really enjoy for a gathering so people can come together and learn about Islam because people don’t know about Islam. I just want people to treat us like humans and with respect. If I treat you with respect I deserve that respect back,” said Ibrahim
Hank Shiran, campus Chief of Police has advice for anyone experiencing harassment. “Report it to the campus police department. The college has a policy which states that it will not tolerate harassment based on race, color, creed or sexual orientation, and we totally support that.”
If you are being harassed or stalked, it is serious. If you call us, we’ll look into it. We will do an investigation and see what we can find out because the college is not going to tolerate harassment, and the law enforcement is not going to tolerate it,” said Shirah.
If one experiences an altercation like this or knows someone who is facing discrimination because of his or her religion, they should seek justice instead of ignoring the problem.
An organization that Muslims can use to seek help is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). They help protect civil liberties and promote an understanding of Islam. More information on CAIR can be reached on their website at cair.com.