Living as a Muslim American is not easy — especially since 9/11. Muslim Americans are routinely discriminated against not only be individuals, but also by the very institutions and organizations designed to keep the rest of us safe. System racism and xenophobia affect everyone — not just African Americans or minorities. The painful consequences radiate outward toward the rest of society, too.
That’s why most Muslim Americans want you know a few things more than anything else.
At the top of that list is that they are just like you. They want to be able to worship freely, of course, but they also live in America because they believe in the pursuit of happiness — an inalienable right not afforded to them in other countries. They watch the same TV at night, often on the couch eating the very same meals that everyone else does. They grab McDonald’s every once in a while. They listen to American music.
Do they remember their own culture? Sure. But when someone asks you what your ethnic makeup says, chances are you don’t say “I’m a mutt.” You probably say something only partially true, like “I’m one-quarter Cherokee, one-sixteenth French, and one-third Irish.” We all like to know about the places where we come from.
Another thing important to Muslim Americans? It’s that you don’t lump them all in the same category as radical Islamic terrorists, who they frown upon just as much as you do. They’re Americans. When someone attacks America, they probably get even more frustrated — because justified or not, they take part of the blame.
John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed co-authored the book What a Billion Muslims Really Think to explore the idea. Mogahed says of their findings: “Muslim Americans were the most ethnically diverse, as well as the youngest, faith community surveyed. They face similar social challenges as other American faith communities….Now, they are less politically engaged, but they are equally invested in the country’s welfare.”
This was after conducting a survey of a number of different faith communities living in the United States.