Being a Muslim Woman in America in 2017
As we welcome 2018 and I look back on the events of the past year, it is impossible not to acknowledge the adversity that Muslims faced last year, not just in America but around the world.
Being born a Muslim and living in a non-Muslim country where the holidays and traditions are ones I don’t celebrate and most of my neighbors and friends are of different religions than me and have little idea about my beliefs, can sometimes be challenging. Differences can lead to bullying and exclusion, that’s why it’s necessary to educate people about our differences in a positive way. Such is the state of being a Muslim in America today.
As an adult, I have learned that we are all ambassadors of ourselves, and what we represent, which in this case is religion. What we put out there and the examples that we show are what people see and relate to our religion. Islam is a religion that has taken a beating in past years due to world events that honestly has little to do with Islam and everything to do with misguided individuals. So the more good examples we show to the people we interact with on a regular basis, the more others will realize that we are no different than them.
Muslim women are easy to identify by our attire and that of course can make us a target, and in Donald Trump’s America it has been even more difficult.
For the past year that he has been president, his careless tweets and nonchalant stance on equality has given license to all forms of bigotry and racism. And Muslim women have faced the brunt of the backlash.
In April of 2017 a Muslim woman in Milwaukee, WI was beaten walking home from the mosque by a man who was driving alongside her. Also last year, according to the Huffington Post, another Muslim woman wearing hijab was attacked on August 19th in Barcelona, Spain by a group of young men. The attack came days after the terrorist attack in Catalonia, which killed several people and was claimed by ISIS.
Again, the misguided efforts of people I refuse to acknowledge as Muslims. These rashes of hate crimes have been proving that people are becoming bolder in their efforts to humiliate and condemn Muslims.
Incidents like these have been a cause for concern for many, including me. Living in a city like New York, it’s hard to look over your shoulder when you’re surrounded by eight million other people.
It’s also impossible to know the thoughts and motives of the person sitting next to you on the train that is where your faith comes in. Islam is that faith for me and 54 million other Muslims that live in America. This is why even with the state of the country today and the risk that some people think is involved by being easily recognized as a Muslim, I still will not change.
In this world we need something to hold onto, to ground us, belief does that. That is what I have in common with the 54 million American Muslims, despite the fact that simply practicing our faith makes us a target; we continue to do so because of that faith. That is what takes away the fear and makes everything else worth it. So even though I may get mean looks from strangers and have people think the worst of me without even knowing me, I hold on with both hands to my Islam, because in the end that is all there will be.
THE WRITER: MALIKAH AQUIL
I am a Caribbean American Muslim girl from Trinidad. I have lived in Brooklyn, NY for the past 20 years and I studied journalism at the University at Buffalo. I am currently a social worker and I love to write anything from poetry, to short stories to opinion pieces. Any form of creativity sparks my interest.
For more stories like these, get your free copy of GAYA Magazine here.
At GAYA Magazine, we champion the voices of today's Muslim women living through the complexities of today's social climate. Our doors are always open to new and exciting voices so if you're interested in becoming a contributing writer, hit this link!