“Iqra”. This was the first word of the Quran revealed to the Prophet Muhammed. It translates to “read”. Read to obtain knowledge. Read to avoid harsh stereotypes and misconceptions. Read to educate and protect yourself with words, not violence.
The basis of Islam is not to fill the streets with terror, rather positivity. Making the best out of the most difficult situations and deriving a meaningful lesson. This is what Muslims are taught. It is painful, as a Muslim, to see current society behave with hostility towards Muslim Americans. The automatic assumption is that a person of the Islamic religion is evil, a frankly stupid stereotype. What a shame it is that we work with such diligence to receive the acceptance letter from the college, yet many are too lazy to look into the heart of a human being before labeling them based on their exterior.
As if religious discrimination was not enough, let’s shed some light on the ladies. Why is it that women with grand ideas and strong beliefs are characterized as aggressive in society? The feminist movement does not promote female dominance, but rather gender equality. Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are all women who have influenced the world through their brilliance and perseverance to fight the double standard set on women. I have found these harsh stereotypes applied to women of today are very similar in nature to those of muslims. Filled with hatred, oppressive groups target women and muslims, whose stories throughout history have been those of the lesser people.
Now imagine what the world is like for the community of Muslim American women. Me. Being a Muslim woman is dealing with the sum of Muslim stereotypes and female standards, as well as additional assumptions. The confusion lies in the differentiation of culture and religion. It is commonly believed that Muslim women are oppressed in Islam. The horrific actions done against women are not due to religion or culture, but upbringing and character. Islam is not about oppressing the women of this religion. The only injustice done to American Muslim women is the treatment they receive from the rest of society. This treatment is based off the stereotypical assumption of Islamic culture.
Please realize that Muslim women are just as competent and emotional as any human being. Desires, aspirations, dreams, and interests are all included. Look at Ibtihaj Muhammad! She is an African American Muslim athlete and is the world’s top sabre fencer. Alia Sharrief is a rapper and wears a scarf just as Ibtihaj Muhammad does. Shirin Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to achieve a Nobel Peace Prize and also a Chief Justice status in Iran. Yet, with all their success, these women are not recognized for their contribution to the world. The truth of the matter is that if attention was brought to Muslim women, we would live in a different world with more acceptance and less sneering arrogance.
The lack of recognition causes feelings of self doubt among the female Muslim community. The question becomes: Is the fight worth it? Do I want to subject myself to hatred and dirty looks for a simple desire or goal? Today I want the women to know the answer is yes. It is worth it because there exists enough support to help the prejudicial people in the world to open their eyes; it is just a matter of looking for that support in the right place.
Although being a Muslim woman in America comes with its hardships, it also comes with its blessings. The ability to observe the community and make a change is one of those. Though sometimes silenced, the Muslim woman is made to absorb her environment and think. Analyze the situation and cleverly form a course of action that can make an impact with love. Faith in God helps her reach her goals and attract people for who she is. Most importantly, she has the ability to change the stereotype in a person’s mind by simply smiling and saying “hello”. She can be caring and generous and the association of a terrorist with a Muslim is wrong. She can be the top of her class and the association of a housewife is archaic. The most judged have the power to make the most impact by showing the world otherwise.