Peaceful Muslims Live in Fear of Being Labeled Terrorists

By Jasmine Baten, Opinions Editor

Terrorism isn’t a religion.

Following the terrorist attacks around the world on Nov. 13, people in all countries gathered to mourn and support those who lost their lives and those who lost loved ones. When ISIS claimed responsibility for the horrors, the universal kneejerk reaction was to blame Islam, the religion that ISIS claims to represent, and to blame Muslims.

However, the group really only represents terrorism and radical extremism. Islam is
represented by the completely average girl behind you in English
class and the boy sitting next to you on
the bus.

I am not a terrorist. I don’t sympathize with terrorist actions, and I don’t justify their intentions. Furthermore, I don’t consider myself associated with anyone under that title. I am a proud Muslim American. I often wonder if my community knows that I can be both.

Though politicians like Hillary Clinton have made a point to state that U.S. actions taken from this point on would target specific terrorist groups rather than Islam at large, there is anger and hatred directed at Muslims constantly. Regardless of where one lives, the discrimination is still there.

Adult members of the Muslim community warn their tech-savvy children and grandchildren of the dangers accompanying the prejudice that follows them everywhere.

“Be sure to say something nice about America before you hang up the phone,” is a popular piece of advice offered to the Muslim youth. It’s apparent that terrorist attacks have done more than instill a fear of bombs and explosions— there’s a paranoia among the Muslim community that society’s constant search for a reason to blame all Muslims will find something incriminating or treasonous even if one has nothing to hide.

I wish I could say that this paranoia is unnecessary—it’s 2015 and people are willing to accept American citizens as equals no matter what religion they follow. However, when a 14-year old Muslim boy gets arrested after bringing a homemade alarm clock to school, there’s not a whole lot to say in defense of society.

Members of the Muslim community perpetually advise other Muslims to stay calm and positive in the face of discrimination and lies.

For me, this is where it gets difficult. Being kind and courteous is one thing, but having to maintain that composure when someone rants about “all Muslims being terrorists,” or having to pretend not to be irritated by the fact that the media has disrespectfully declared Muslim and Islam to be pronounced “Muzlim” with “z”s instead of the correct pronunciation, “Musslim” with an “ss” sound, requires immense patience. Reactions can’t be taught quickly; young Muslims have to learn to react, deal with comments and present a polite personality through day-to-day experiences.

Social media provides a platform where those experiences can become very instructive very quickly. It’s the home of the most backlash and hatred, where Muslim teens are warned to watch what they say because aggressive statuses posted by a Muslim are interpreted as foreshadowing terrorist tendencies whereas another teen’s angst is seen as a bad mood.

But social media is also the tipping point for the spread of understanding and real information. Muslims of all ages and walks of life can not only provide insight into how Muslims interpret the Holy Book and texts, but show others through filtered photos and tweets that being Muslim isn’t chaotic or dramatic. It’s really quite normal.

Islam’s roots lie in preaching acceptance, something that AP World History and CHS students are surprised to learn, as it presents a stark contrast to the daily headlines.

But really, being Muslim is far from what the media has made it out to be.

While the media tends to condemn Muslims not in terrorist groups as uncaring or supportive of terrorist actions, in reality the opposite is true. As outlandish and controversial as it may be to say it, it’s the young Muslims who are the most impassioned about opposing terrorist attacks and mourning for those who are lost.

Why? Reeling from the horror of murders of innocent people is awful enough, but it adds another level when those terrorists claim to represent our faith, which couldn’t be less true. Scripture that terrorists claim justifies their intentions have been taken far out of context and their actions go against the acceptance and peace that Islam truly stands for.

Social media is a way to show the community the difference between Islam and ISIS, Muslim and menace.

Being Muslim means I live a pretty average, sometimes even boring, life. I can recite the Preamble because of Schoolhouse Rock and talk about this country’s amazing ability to provide its citizens with rights and freedom, but I can also read Arabic and fill in the “Islam” bubble when asked to indicate religion on forms.

I’m an American Muslim, and that’s really all there is to it.