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

July 20, 2012
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 81 comments. Post your own now!

halvi said...
Dec. 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm
As a young Muslim, I'd like to thank you for writing this beautiful and accurate piece. My parents have discouraged me from wearing hijab and speaking out about Islam. However, I will never be ashamed of my religious identity because I believe in the goodness of people and the truth about this very peaceful but misinterpreted religion. I love how you incorporated humor into your article as well :) I submitted an article about Muslims to TeenInk but am still waiting on its approval. I think TeenI... (more »)
ScarletCity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 20, 2015 at 11:15 pm
I have no problem with Muslims. You are right, everyone has a right to the religion that they choose. But, when they try to kill me, that's when there is a problem. I, personally, do not put all Muslims in a box. I do not think that every Muslim that I pass on the streets is going to kill me. And, I respect you for writing this article. This probably took a lot of guts.
iman123 said...
Oct. 30, 2015 at 5:46 am
when i had that full long dress and hijaab on for my grandmas funeral, because it was a predominately english area, people shouted out terrorist as a joke and others actually thought i had a bomb. i hate this
Elaclass24 said...
Sept. 30, 2014 at 8:13 pm
I read this article in my english class and it seems like you have a strong opinion about this topic. And I agree that not all muslims are terrorist.
Blue said...
Sept. 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm
I'm not a Muslim but they should be treated fair like the rest of us because ever since 9/11 people think all Muslim are dangerous but there not and we all should treat them equally like just coexist with each other and I respesct Muslims
AuthorArsh said...
Jun. 9, 2014 at 3:56 am
I am a Muslim, too. I know from where you come! I recently started wearing a Hijab and everyone around me made so many assumptions about my head-scarf that it was overwhelming. A liberal nation and a prejudice free nation is fiction according to me. In all honestly I am still viewed as some "vile disease" as you said just because of a Hijab. They don't want to listen, they don't want to talk, they don't want to understand. Just go ahead and make assumptions! A very well... (more »)
Watnobye said...
Mar. 2, 2014 at 9:42 pm
I'm a Muslim from Bangladesh and I see where you are coming from. It gets really tiresome when people make that assumption, "All Muslims are Terrorist." No! They are not. Personally, the group Al' Qaeda are not true Muslims if they killed millions of people. Didn't they read the Quran where it clearly states Allah given us the freedom of choices?
bofobob said...
Sept. 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm
This is a very well made piece and sends a strong message. I enjoyed reading this. And also, with the whole discrimination, it's because most muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists are muslim.
Felicity said...
Aug. 25, 2013 at 10:46 pm
Your article is well-written and I'm sorry that you had to deal with this. It is something that people have do deal with, more so the more different and those who are unfortunate to be claimed as the 'reasons' for horrendous acts. I do have somes questions about hte Hijab though. What does the Hijab stand for, exactly? Is it different to each wearer? What exactly does it represent for Muslims who choose to wear it? Thanks to anyone for answering these questions. :)
Jack Smith said...
May 29, 2013 at 9:21 am
Not all Muslims are terrorists, but the majority of terror attacks in the US are done by Muslims.  Islam teaches the murder of Christians and Jews are good, and other nonbelievers are good. Quran (8:12) - "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" There are tons of other verses too.  Not all Muslims are evil, but the religion of Islam is.
Sofia replied...
Jan. 5, 2014 at 7:08 pm
I am not a scholar of Islam, but that means the people who do not believe in God; Christians and Jews believe in God. In fact, we believe that not just Muslims can go to heaven, people who follow their holy books can as well (ex. the Bible and the Torah).
TanazMasaba This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 24, 2013 at 3:11 am
I'm a Muslim and I'm from Bangladesh too and I totally get what you are trying to say here. And I'm glad that this piece got printed in the magazine because apparently nobody really knows the difference between being religious and being a murderer.
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm
Yes, exactly my point! It just irritates me so much when people put labels on everything.
RainyWriter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 23, 2013 at 12:00 am
I love how unashamed you were in this article. I am not Muslim myself, but my relatives are from Indonesia, where (surprise, surprise, because it's not in the Middle East) the largest population of Muslims are. Funny enough, everyone there is Muslim there as everyone is Christian here. People seem to realize there are differing levels of Christians or Jews, etc, but don't seem to realize the same applies to Muslims. Much how like not everyone in the United States, or even the South, is a... (more »)
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm
I love your extremely positive tone. I hope there are many more individuals out there who share your same view!
JRaye This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm
Really really well written! It's so true - when it comes down to it, we're all split up because of our differences. Beliefs, race, appearance...real messed up. Awesome job, keep it up! :)
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm
That is so true! Thanks for the feedback!
SunballSunny said...
May 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm
i luv this one i read it in the TI magazine :)
writingrocks This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 21, 2013 at 6:09 pm
Thanks so much for actually coming online to post a comment! Most people just read things and move on. Thanks again!
Read2Live said...
May 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm
Shalom! Your writing speaks to a great universal truth and I appreciate your strength and courage to share it with the world. I, too, have a Book & following its rules are the foundation of my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to share this world with you & hope that those who read your story will be part of the change that makes room for all of us to live with respect & peace.
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