Changing Visions of Ourselves > From Generation to Generation

Los Angeles

Nagwa Ibrahim

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Former Outreach Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council

We get so caught up in politics that we forget about our community and how we’re dealing with it. After 9/11, the first thing that happened was that kids started asking, “will they put us in camps?”

Kids are talking about the Patriot Act on the playground. They’re asking, could they torture us? Could we be locked up just for being Muslim?

Lots of kids are changing their name from Muhammed to Mike – they are ashamed of where they come from and who they are. They’re afraid of interacting with other people, because they’re wondering, what if they knew I was Muslim?

A kid in one of our workshops told us that he said his name in school, and added “I’m a Muslim and proud” – and  the response from the other kids was, “look out, he has a bomb.” Young Muslims are being informed about Islam and Muslims through the media – from “experts” spitting out racism and hate.

So much hate is directed against me as a representative of the Muslim community. People bring up issues about the Armenian genocide. Or they say, there’s so much poverty and tyranny in the Muslim world – isn’t that what Islam promotes?

That’s what is being taught to students, Muslim and non-Muslim. Muslim students are afraid to speak up – if they ask questions, the response is, they’re not asking in order to learn but in order to attack.

Many schools have also welcomed us. After 9/11 we’ve received so many expressions of support – there have never been so many coalitions. With groups like the ACLU or the AFSC, or bringing different religious groups together – Muslims with Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, and Christians.

All the different groups, with no reason to stand beside us. It always amazes me. The Japanese American community has been standing with the Muslim community. 

Whenever there is darkness, you can always see some light. It’s hard to remember, because we are being bombarded with so much negativity.