Through the Eyes of a Muslim in the US
As an international student, moving to the US was difficult for several reasons. I was leaving my home and family, going to a foreign country, to a state I had never visited, and to a school I barely knew a thing about.
However, what scared me the most was how Americans would react to my being a Muslim.
After 9/11, the perception of Muslims around the world became severely distorted so I was afraid people here would judge me for my religious beliefs. As orientation approached, I became more and more fearful. I imagined my roommate requesting a change in rooms after meeting me simply because of my background. When my plane landed in LAX, I was sure I was going to have a very uncomfortable encounter with a TSA official.
CMC is the best thing that has ever happened to me. The perfect weather. The perfect people. The perfect school. I am now certain I made the correct choice and my fears about Islamophobia at CMC are no more. People don’t care what religion I practice. In fact, they are intrigued by my background. I often spend hours telling people about Jordan, where I grew up. I would have never guessed that people would be so accepting of me. I never would have dreamed that I, a freshman coming from overseas, would be accepted to the extent that I would be elected Student Life Chair.
And now, I feel terrible. I have always protested against the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. Yet, I ended up unknowingly creating my own misconceptions about most Americans – for that I apologize.
However, despite the accepting and tolerant culture at CMC, Islamophobia is still prevalent in many areas of the US. What can be done do to help diminish its prevalence?
First and foremost, I believe Muslim Americans need to work on changing the manner in which they are perceived by other Americans in order to improve the perception of Muslims everywhere. To do so, they need to avoid isolating themselves and should demonstrate to other Americans that they share similar values and are equally patriotic. In doing so, American Muslims will make their true, loving and peaceful identity known. They can prove that “extremist Muslims” are not true Muslims, and that Islam does not support the killing and torturing of fellow human beings to serve political agendas. Instead, they will demonstrate that Islam promotes humanity, peace and equality between people of all races and religions. Once Muslim Americans are able to accomplish this task successfully, the foundations of Islamophobia will weaken, and this social disease will be on its way to recovery.
I came to the US with my mind set on repudiating any misconceptions anyone had of Muslims. Fortunately, the community I live within at CMC seems to be free of these misconceptions.
I hope that one day America as a whole will be more like CMC: a place where we are judged not by what race or religion we are, but by who we are as people.