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Stand Up For What You Believe In This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

There are some experiences that have such an impact they change your life forever. The tragedy that occurred on September 11th was certainly one of those.

After the bombing, my mom and brother forbade my grandmother to leave the house because of all the discrimination against Muslims. We were scared for her because she wears a scarf. Then the question of how she would attend my brother's wedding became an issue. My brother asked her to take off her scarf during the wedding. I don't blame him for asking because he had good intentions, but I still feel that he should have let her decide for herself.

My grandmother, who lived in Iran for many years, is a very simple, but intelligent woman who has her principles. "Take off my scarf? Are you crazy?" was her response. My grandmother has been wearing her scarf since she was a child when the Shah ruled in Iran. The Shah forbade anyone to wear a scarf and would order his police to take them away. It was very difficult for her to go out because of that. To think, she has been through so much and still managed not to take off her scarf - at least until now.

The wedding was marvelous. The band played, people danced and happiness set the stage for the momentous day. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, except one miserable old woman. She sat at the far end of the room with no scarf to cover her short hair, no sense of pride, and not a drop of happiness in her. She was hiding in a place where no one could have eye contact with her. Her expression revealed her discontent. It looked like her heart was shattered into many pieces. She was cajoled into doing this, and even though I had not participated in persuading her, I still regret not having done something.

With this incident in my mind, I recently visited the mosque with my family. As I peered out the window of the car I saw police cars. I was told they were there to protect the mosque from harm, and a strange feeling came over me. I knew why the police were needed, but the thought of people trying to harm us because some lunatic and his whole crew of idiots were Muslim made me furious.

The assumptions people make can be so naive. I remembered my former social studies teacher who taught us that in World War II the Japanese were discriminated against. They were placed into internment camps with no outside contact. They were considered a threat, spies even. I can finally relate to their situation.

Discrimination, although not in the same form, has taken over like it is king of the jungle. It has become more difficult for Muslims to become pilots and those with Arabic names are questioned and scrutinized when they board a plane. How dramatically life can change in one day is unbelievable.

As I sat in the mosque, Azam, a well-known lady of character, gave a speech about what had occurred. She spoke of the tragedy and how we could help. She was gathering money to help the children who became orphans as a result of the bombing. The thought of these children broke my heart. She calmed us and told us not to be pressured to take off our scarves. I don't wear a scarf, but only because I made that decision myself.

Azam is the bravest woman I have ever met. "America has accepted us once," she said, "and it will accept us again." She stated this with firm conviction. She helped me, as well as many others, with this awkward situation.

Before hearing her advice, I was lost. I didn't know what to do when I went from class to class, with each teacher talking about the news. Many who teach in my school are unaware of Islam. Some made false accusations and expressed their opinion to the class as if it were fact. This is unnecessary and should not be tolerated. I feel that there should be freedom of speech, but assumptions and rude comments should not be allowed.

I was scared to correct my teachers or classmates when they were steered the wrong way. One teacher made it sound like observing Hejab, where women cover themselves, was ludicrous and wrong. This hurt me because they didn't take time to understand the reasons behind it. I didn't know how to react. There may be some things that people do and others don't - but to make others feel inferior because of their differences is simply wrong. I could have just as easily criticized other religions, but I knew better. I regret not having said anything, and I promise to stand up for myself, as well as my beliefs, the next time I have the opportunity.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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VoxVal said...
Jul. 16 at 5:19 am:
It takes a long way to have all Americans withdraw their prejudice. Some certain races are never truly accepted, though they kept friendly faces all the time. We don't demand acception, we just want understanding and sincerity.
 
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