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Being Muslim This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

People are afraid of me.

Why are they afraid of me, you might ask? A rare disease? Hideous scars? Vile breath? I reply, with a smile on my face, that it puzzled me at first, too. But now I know. People think worse about me than that. Much worse. But I've learned. And I know that it isn't me. They're just scared of differences.

You know, I do have the freedom of religion. Created by of two clauses, granted by the First Amendment that says the government can't trump one religion over another. Equality, right? Okay, I guess most people get that. Or do they?

Well, the second clause allows people do whatever are the requirements of their religion. I would think most people got that, too, until terrorists from halfway across the world planned these horrible attacks that threw Americans into fear. I was scared, just like any other person might be. And suddenly, the translation of terrorists became Muslims. Because the terrorist group who planned the attacks was Muslim.

I mean, the whole nation wasn't hating. Just some people. I was five in 2001, but I still felt the discrimination. And there really wasn't any explicit reason for it. If I didn't wear it, then people would have probably ignored me. It was another way for them to label me. Now you'll ask me what that “it” is. And I'll tell you.

A hijab. Otherwise known as a headscarf or veil, and of course, the derogatory terms, like towel head, ­diaper head, turban, and whatnot. Whatever it's called, it has a very important place in my life. For some, it's a choice: Yeah, I'll wear it when it's the right time, or I'm getting to the age when I think I should. But those who do wear it are viewed as suppressed women forced to wear it because the sexist, fundamentalist men who rule their household say they must. Not true, people. Totally not true.

I'm a Muslim girl who was born and raised in Brooklyn. I'm turning 16 and starting my junior year in the fall. My parents are from Bangladesh. So, that's pretty much my bio. But there's a lot hiding behind that bio. The first thing people see is the Muslim part of me. Some of the stereotypes include that I don't speak English, don't know how to dress like an “American,” am a terrorist, and eat smelly foods. Well, the last one might be true. But other than that, stereotypes have degraded me to no end.

I'm a practicing Muslim. I pray five times a day, stick to the rules, fast when it's time, and wear my hijab. This is how my life as a teenager is led. (And possibly will be, depending on choices I make in the future.) And I can do all that because of the freedom granted by the First Amendment.

That brings me back to that question. Why are people scared of me? I'm as harmless as a fly, even though I may not look it without makeup. Honestly, I think people are not scared of Muslims as a whole. They are scared of ­differences.

I'm pretty sure all of us have met at least one Muslim who ­wasn't a terrorist. Hey, you're reading the work of a non-terrorist Muslim right now. And let me tell you something else – those terrorists made their interpretation of our sacred book, acted upon it, and live in a whole different hemisphere. So why put all Muslims in the same group?

People think that the ideals presented in Islam are very different from American ideals. Actually, they aren't. And let me tell you something else. Muslims are all different races. They have different backgrounds but share the same book and abide by its rules. And isn't that true for Americans too? And I'm not talking about the book-and-its-rules part here. This American I speak of isn't a race, but to some, it's simply one classification. People need to face the fact that America is made up of many different ethnicities and customs.

And it hurts me to see that even those in my community, who are so diverse, are prejudiced against me. Me, my religion, my hijab. And those are all my choices. The choices I made because I had the freedom. You can see that I'm not doing anything to hurt people.

You know, that may be the choice of those narrow-minded people, but I hope they change their minds. They have the freedom to befriend and understand – as I, among many other individuals – had the freedom to make my choice about religion. These choices can decide the future of generations. These choices affect everyone, because who knows when hatred among people accelerates into other actions? Making the right choice is not only about us, it's about everyone. The way someone thinks and the choices they make are so important.

Who knows what the future holds? I already made my choice. Now it's your turn.

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

Join the Discussion

This article has 76 comments. Post your own!

EchelonProdigy said...
May 2, 2013 at 7:46 pm:
I am not Muslim, but this writing does speak to me on an extreme level. A buddy of mines is from Somalia, and everyone makes jokes about him and I am one who stands up for him. He is critisized, and on one occasion, they called him the Marathon Bombing suspect's brother. It really pisses me off, as a not-Muslim, that people are critisizing people of your cultures and beliefs and people who have similar cultures and beliefs. I really feel as though this writing is so powerful, It has impact... (more »)
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SimranRazdan said...
May 2, 2013 at 9:58 am:
This article has clearly taken birth from deep thoughts and wounds. I have muslim friends too and inspite of that, I had prejudice against the community to some exent (the veil for example). I truly respect your choice , indiviuality and thoughts. But as much as it saddens me, the truth remains that majority of terrorists have been muslim. We love our families too and though everyone in the comunity is not to be blamed, the fear still remains and I'm afraid it will take a lot of ef... (more »)
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm :
I understand where you're coming from, and I agree to some level, as well. But I want to tell you two things: 1) Even though many of the terrorist attacks were done by Islamic fundamentalists/extremists, there are a lot of non-Muslim terrorists out there as well. 2) When someone tries hard enough and gets enough support from the people that agree with the person, then the person and those people can change this distorted, crazy, prejudiced world in which we live in. And j... (more »)
SimranRazdan replied...
May 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm :
look honey, firstly on your comment of being peesimistic. not all your readers are going to have hunky-dory things to say about your writing. what you call being "pessimistic" is called a critical review in the world of literature. get used to it. secondly, even though there "many non -muslims " as well, they don't go around blowing people up because of mis intepratation of their religion. this problem has existed for quite somewhile now. i don't see a solution from y... (more »)
SimranRazdan replied...
May 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm :
pessimistic, i mean
amoamare replied...
May 4, 2013 at 7:35 pm :
@simranrazdan I just feel the need to say, I'm fairly certain that the author who is reponding isn't taking issue to any literary criticism you offered (I don't think you did, given that you did no speak to the story-telling itself). It's the ideological critcism he/she believes you implied based on your commentary (the "pessimism"). Your comments have spoken only to your ideologies about Islam in the world, and you should be the one who should be willing to accept ba... (more »)
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 4, 2013 at 7:59 pm :
Honestly, I didn't see any constructive criticism about my work in your comment. You offered your opinion about the topic of my work. I said you were pessimistic because you said it would take a lot to change things. And what you just said in the last comment was actually really offensive.  
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm :
So basically what I'm saying is that all Muslims aren't good, but all of them aren't bad either. The purpose of writing this was to show readers that labels and stereotypes aren't right. I hope that essentially explains everything. 
SimranRazdan replied...
May 5, 2013 at 6:12 am :
one last question. according to you, it wouldn't take a lot to change the way things are currently. so why haven't they changed yet?  
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 5, 2013 at 9:10 am :
Maybe because when people are trying to make ignorant people understand something, they just don't want it to listen. BTW, I never said change was easy. You just have to try.
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 5, 2013 at 9:13 am :
Typo: no "it" after "want"
SimranRazdan replied...
May 6, 2013 at 6:43 am :
"I never said change was easy" whose being pessimistic now ? And hey! that's according to your own judgement."change not being easy" is exactly what I meant by "it will take a lot of effort". It was just phrased differently. Kindly do not accuse someone of being pessimistic when they offer honest opinion. Do think before you call someone something. :) This discussion is closed from my end.
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YasminB. said...
May 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm:
I really love this!  I'm a Muslim too and I know exactly how you feel. Just plain amazing!!!!  : )
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 1, 2013 at 6:41 pm :
Thank you so much! I know a lot of people have similar feelings, but I just needed to write it down somewhere.
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LeighFreyre said...
May 1, 2013 at 10:20 am:
I loved this article. It is ironic (and infuriating) how all Muslims are stereotyped for something a few "Muslims" did. 
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 1, 2013 at 6:40 pm :
Thanks! I honestly used to lose my temper when people told me really stereotypical things about Muslims, but now I understand that people are ignorant and need to be enlightened about differences in religion and religious extremism.
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