September 1, 2015
As a young Muslim, living in America is a little more difficult than it is for the average teen. Having to prove that you are "one of the good ones" can get frustrating, and often depressing. Sometimes we as Muslims have to just deal with the ignorance of the ill informed and just try our best to educate them, but when it comes from our peer, it's even more frustrating.
Seeing ignorant posts about your faith, skin color, or even lifestyle hurts. This isn’t solely because it’s offensive, but it's also because, being a teenager I have always thought of my generation as the one that would change things in the world- a generation whose people truly want to extend love and kindness to people of all ideologies, nationalities, and values. Sometimes these rude comments make me doubt our capabilities of advancing as a coexisting society.
We are the ones who have the whole world at our fingertips and every resource in the world at our disposal. We can use this advantage of technology as a way to advance the way the world thinks for generations to come, but not many people are ready or willing to take up this challenge.
However, those who are not respectful are only a minority. I am always ecstatic to see people standing up for people from all walks of life and treating each other as brothers and sisters, but some of us could still use a peek into the lives of a certain groups of people they may not know much about, as a way of gaining some perspective.
You may hear horrible things about Islam in the media and believe them. But why not do your own investigation and find out the truth? You may even hear horrible things about people from another race in the media and believe them. But why not do your own investigation and find out the truth?
Here are some things I, a teenaged Muslim living in America, want you to know:
Steer Clear of Generalizations
Going back to a point I brought up earlier, having to prove that you are “one of the good ones”, is quite repetitive and exhausting. This all boils down to two main issues: ignorance and generalizations. I could quote multiple verses from the Qur’an to prove that Islam is inherently peaceful, but if you truly want to learn and understand Islam at a deeper level, you will have to look that up all on your own. If you are not willing to put in the effort to learn about a faith (or anything for that matter) from reputable sources, you shouldn’t be criticizing it. For instance, if you don’t know much about Islam, you should not just assume that it’s a violent faith because of ISIS or the Taliban. All Christians aren’t represented by the Westboro Baptist Church or Ku Klux Klan, are they? The same is true about Muslims.
Keep An Open Mind
Many Muslims preach acceptance of other faiths, but what about accepting different sects of their own? Ahmadi and Shia Muslims are both targeted religious minorities in many Muslim countries. They are persecuted for their beliefs which hardly differ from those of mainstream Muslims. We all need to understand that before we completely block out an idea, we should learn about it first. Just like non-Muslims who criticize Islam aren’t well educated about Islam, many Muslims are not well versed in the beliefs and values of these minority sects. I urge everyone to keep those of different branches of their own faith in mind when discussing movements for peaceful coexistence of religions.
We are All Unique
Finding your individuality is a difficult task, especially when there are stereotypes thrust upon you. Every teenager is different, including their passions and goals. Just because they belong to a certain group does not mean that they are all one and the same. When you hear multiple people say ignorant things about your faith or skin color, it makes it more difficult to use those things as a way to find your identity. If we could come together and support one another regardless of what our backgrounds are, we could find ourselves with a more diverse and confident population than we have ever seen before.
Showing compassion could make all the difference in the world. One thing I am personally very passionate about is defending human rights. I realized that as I learned more and more about different cultures and lifestyles and their struggles, I grew to become much more open minded than I was before. Something small you could do is, pick an issue you feel passionate about, learn all about it, and spread the word. Yes, it’s that easy!
All it takes is little steps to change the way we go about living our lives. If you are tolerant and respectful, your family members, colleagues, and friends will slowly learn to do the same. We don’t have to do something crazy to change the world. All it takes is some perspective, compassion, and a little love.
Areej Khan is a junior in high school who lives in the Northern Virginia area