America is the Land of Liberty, Unless You Are a Muslim

That famously persistent term Islamophobia is having its moment in contemporary political life. As our nation nears presidential elections in November, self-serving politicians are frequently irresponsible with their words about Islam and Muslims. Shamefully, Islamophobia only exists in the United States due to a lack of understanding and mismatched information—it’s an unfortunate reality, poisonous, and wrong.

Indifference and hatred can be infectious and is often spread by too few people taking a stand, remaining silent, or occasionally indulging in prejudice rhetoric. American culture tends to highlight the importance of individual liberty, but to be a Muslim in the U.S. often means suffering bigotry and hate on a daily basis. Check out the Center for American Progress’s Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, or Gallup’s Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the West. To remedy this negative and growing pandemic, it is important for people to acquire greater knowledge and understanding. 

I was once told the following: There was a man living in a small town, and he was a Muslim. He worked a job where on a daily basis he came into contact with another man, a Christian. After many visits, the Christian asked if the Muslim if he could borrow his Quran. He agreed, but only if the Christian promised to treat the Quran with the same respect as he would a Bible. The Christian swore to the Muslim, his friend, that he could trust him. A few weeks later the Christian returned the Quran and asked if the Muslim would be willing to attend his church on Sunday because there was sermon that he thought the Muslim should hear. They agreed, trusting each other as friends, and went on Sunday to church. At the end of the sermon, the Christian went on to introduce his Muslim friend sitting on the front row, to everyone at church. He explained that he had recently read the Quran cover to cover, to understand and learn about Islam. He thanked his friend for expanding his knowledge of the world and said, “I concluded after reading the Quran that it is very peaceful, and that if I were not a Christian, I would make a very good Muslim. Again, thank you for coming.”

True story. The Muslim was my father, and the Christian was a Pastor at a Bible Baptist church in Oklahoma. This example simply and comprehensively highlights how learning about something new could help you and those around you make this world a little better for someone else. American Muslims should not have to get used to being scrutinized and stereotyped because of their faith and practice of Islam. Simply understanding where Islam comes from, and helping those around you to understand it as well, can make all the difference. Remember, it is not always necessarily what you do, but how you do what you do. Muslims are approaching the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr will occur this weekend. It is the perfect chance to go out, talk to Muslims, and get a new perspective on life. 

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Jamilah Al-Harake

Jamilah, an American-Lebanese originally from United States, lives in the Middle East. She received a B.S. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, studied professional development at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and received a M.A. in International Affairs from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. She is an avid activist and writer, and has worked with the Carnegie Middle East Center, ILO, and UNHCR on numerous research projects in the region. She shares an unique interest in Lebanese, Syrian, and Iranian politics. She is educated and proficient in English, French, and Arabic.

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