In March, President Obama’s address was criticized by Muslims in particular because of the lack of applause on the part of Congress when the President talked about rejecting stereotypes and closing Gitmo. I watched it a few times and I saw people clapping at certain points. Granted, the point some are trying to make is that our elected officials don’t seem to care about the Muslim population in this country. As a Muslim woman, I say it is the job of the moderate and progressive Muslims and a responsible media to make them care.
Post 9/11, everybody brown was Muslim and a terrorist. Not only were the planes hijacked, but the narrative of an entire religious group was hijacked as well. Of course, the media will jump on that because it’s intriguing and draws people in. With ISIS and more terrorist attacks exacerbating fear and Donald Trump feeding Islamophobic hysteria, the focus is drawn away from Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafsai and Muslim clerics worldwide who publicly denounce Islamic extremism. “Muslim terrorist” instead of “Muslim peace activist” is a far more provocative headline that will attract an audience.
What the mainstream media chooses to ignore is that some of their readers want to know the reality of a situation. The reality is that the extremists make up less than 1 percent of the Muslim population. Different factions and different levels of practice are prevalent, just like any other religion. Within those factions the majority of Muslims just want to be free to live their lives like anyone else.
However, it is not just the media’s job to show who Muslims really are. It is the job of Muslims ourselves. We need to be involved in our communities and not sit quietly in our esoteric bubbles. The newly arrived need to stop looking down on American culture and the need to keep their children away from its corrupting influence. If you’re going to live in America, be a part of the American experience. Khizr Khan highlighted this brilliantly at the Democratic Convention when talking about the Constitution and the ultimate sacrifice of his son. Ghazala Khan pummeled Donald Trump’s baseless intimation of a forced silence with dignity in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. After the Orlando shootings, Muslim groups organized fund drives to help victims and their families. We need to keep being positive, visible forces within our communities.
Elevating ourselves from the margins of society and history is not an easy task. The Muslim community needs to educate themselves to related to the issues that affect us to become more active members of American society. We must actively take our own destinies into our own hands and rewrite our own story.