In the early 16th century, Islam arrived to America through Africans who were brought here as slaves. Many of these slaves were denied the freedom to practice their religion and were forced to leave Islam and take up Christianity. As a result, formal Islamic practice did not last long. In 1880, Islam again returned to America through the voluntary immigration of individuals from the Middle East. These immigrants were met with intolerance which encouraged them to cluster with one another and form Islamic communities. From the start, Muslims in America were not treated kindly and were left feeling isolated from others. They came into America hoping for a warm welcome, but instead, many simply found coldness.
This immigration of muslims ended in 1924 when the Asian- Exclusion act was drawn up, putting an end to all immigration from non-Europeans especially those from Asia.
Overtime Muslims began to feel more accepted within America as people began to embrace the First Amendment of the United State’s Constitution which allows people the freedom to practice Religion. Muslims were freely allowed to worship as they wished knowing that others would pay them no mind and let them be. However, this all changed on September 11th 2001 after Al- Qaeda, an Islamic militant network, took responsibility for the attack on the World Trade Center in NYC, bringing unwanted attention towards the Muslim community. Many Americans sought to seek revenge for 9/11, and so they assaulted anybody who “looked Muslim”. Women who wore the hijab were often the targets of these attacks since they were most easily identified as being Muslim. Many Sikh men, who wore turbans were regularly mistaken for Muslims and were also attacked. For many months following 9/11, members of the Muslim community stayed hidden for fear of being attacked. Their once beloved nation was no longer safe for them. The place where they came to find hope and salvation was now the one place that they wanted so desperately to escape from. The cold shoulder they had felt from Americans before had become even colder. Even today, the Islamic community in America is constantly targeted and discriminated against. Muslims are continually suspected and blamed for acts of violence and terrorism. Muslims have become the main focus of many racist jokes on social media sites, and are often ridiculed on comedy shows.
The population of Muslims in America has reached an all time high of about 5 million people, with the number rapidly increasing. Muslims account for about 2.11% of the total population. I believe that the fact that Muslims account for such a small percent of the population is why they are so heavily discriminated against. In a country 7,671 miles away from America, where Muslims make up over 96.3% of the population, the
situation is completely different. This country is a place where Muslims are safe to express their religion and where women can walk around in Hijabs and Burkas without the fear of being attacked. It is a country where Islam reigns and the beauty of the religion shines onto all citizens. Every single day, 5 times a day, the sound of the Azaan fills the ears of citizens, calling them to prayer. Men come together for these prayers at Mosques which can be found every two miles. Prayer is a time for the whole country to be at peace and unified in the name of Allah. Aside from prayer, Islam unifies the people of Pakistan in more ways. Every house is embellished with words from the Holy Quran, which bless the home and keep evil away. Every Friday, Juma, a holy day in Islam, the entire country has a holiday. Students are let out of school early, some do not even have school, and many adults are off from work. On this day, families come together, people go out and dressup, and in the morning everybody observes a Juma prayer together. In Pakistan, Ramadan, the month of fasting, is a time for all people to come together with one another and Allah. Almost everyone is observing the fast during this time, so there is a sense of unification. This is different than in America because those who observe the fast may feel isolated and different because there are not many people who understand or appreciate what they are doing. In Pakistan people are encouraged to fast, and if they do, others look at them with a sense of pride and respect. When the sun sets, the festivities begin. Families break the fast together, and spend the rest of the night going out and enjoying each other’s company. Shops are open all night, and anytime you look outside your window you are bound to see a group of kids playing and laughing. In Pakistan, Islam serves as a means of unification for the people, unlike in America where people have negative views on Islam, results in Muslims feeling isolated.
Even though America may not be as densely populated with Muslims as Pakistan is, it is essential for Americans to understand that Islam is not a religion of hate, but rather one of peace and harmony. If you look at Pakistan you can see how Islam works to bring a whole nation together. Islam serves to keep the people in Pakistan moral and just. They are reminded everyday to stay connected with Allah and the goals of Islam. If the people of America ignore what the media is saying about Islam and go and do their own research, they too would see the true beauty of the religion. Once people stop discriminating against Muslims and stop labeling the religion with hate, Muslim brothers and sisters may feel safe enough to go out and make public displays of their faith. Then and only then will America see the beauty of Islam with their own eyes.
– Written by Alina Paracha (redefy school representatives team)