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American Muslims Fight Stereotypes



Muslims around the world will celebrate the holiday of Eid-al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan, on Friday. Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast and focus on God.

For Muslims in the United States, it is also a time to reflect and fight misconceptions and negative stereotypes of Islam.

Muslims feel Islamic extremists hurt their community

Ahsan Mahmood Khan is the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Los Angeles East Chapter. He says the news does not reflect who Muslims are.

“You hear a lot in the news about (the Islamic State group) ISIL or ISIS and what is going on in the Middle East. It is just terrible, and we hear this in the news every day.”

He says it is very similar to what happened after the September 11 terrorist attacks against the U.S. in 2001.

Mohammed Zafarullah is the imam of the Baitul Hammed Mosque. He says Islam is a religion of peace. But extremism has led to misconceptions about Islam.

“Those people who are doing these kind of things, they say they are Muslim but according to our religion, they are not a real Muslim because that is … they have their own agenda, which they are using in the name of the religion.”

A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center showed that Muslims in the U.S. are concerned about the acts of Islamic extremists. The study explains how life became more difficult for Muslim-Americans after the September 11 attacks. Some Muslims reported that people looked at them with suspicion and called them offensive names.

More than half of the Muslims surveyed also said they believe government policies single out Muslims in the United States for increased monitoring.

Even more challenges for Muslim women

Muslim women in the U.S. face other challenges in their daily lives. People can notice them more easily because of their hijab – the head covering worn by some Muslim women.

Mozna Khraiwesh is a Muslim woman from Jordan. She and her husband came to the U.S. in 2002. They live in Washington D.C. with their two sons and one daughter.

“People right away, some of them of course you can’t generalize--not everyone is the same--but majority whenever they see you wearing hijab, they assume right away that you are a woman oppressed, treated unequally, with no rights, which is, unfortunately, it’s totally the opposite.”

She says sometimes people look at her differently at grocery stores.

“And it used to bother me a lot. Now I start to train myself how to deal with it. And sometimes I feel sorry for these people, because they don’t know. And maybe we have, as a Muslim, we have to do more to show who we are and to present ourselves in a good way, so maybe to get them in a better way.”

Edina Lekovic is the Director of Policy and Programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council. In an interview with Share America, she said American Muslim women in positions of leadership play an important role in fighting these stereotypes.

She added that it is important to show people that Muslim women are “not second-class citizens” and “are active members of the communities and society.”

Islam is already the fastest-growing religion in the world. And several studies have shown that the number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians by the year 2050.

Triwik Kurniasari wrote this story for Learning English with additional reporting from Elizabeth Lee and Adam Brock. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

stereotypes – n. often unfair and untrue beliefs that many people have about all people with a particular characteristic

fast v. to eat no food for a period of time

misconceptions – n. mistaken ideas

generalize v. to make a general statement

suspicion adj. a feeling that someone is doing something wrong

single out v. to treat someone in a different way that others

oppressed – v. to control

grocery stores – n. stores that sell food

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