American Muslim Women Struggle With Increased Animosity
Illustrative picture. (Photo: © Reuters)
According to a recent Huffington Post editorial written by Salam Marayati, the president of Muslim Public Affairs Council, 2015 was a banner year for American Muslim women. But given the recent ISIS attacks in the Western world, is this actually true?
Maira Salim, a 21-year-old American Muslim college student, reveals the new hostility she has encountered living in Wichita, Kansas, her home city.
“One day [I] was at a traffic light when a woman rolled down her window and screamed, “Go back to your own country.” Nothing like that had ever happened before. The woman drove on while Maira sat there, scared and then angry, wishing she had yelled back that she was in her own country.”
After the attacks in Paris, a Sedgwick County commissioner in Wichita showed a crowd a slideshow of criminals named Muhammad after declaring that he had been politically correct for too long.
Young women like Maira not only face hostility in America, but also uncomfortable and offensive situations caused by negative stereotypes that permeate. A friend of Maira’s, also an American Muslim woman shared her frustration and disgust regarding “‘problematic white boys’ who express interest in having a submissive wife, saying, ‘I’m going to marry a woman like you.’”
This hatred and contempt Muslims feel is directed towards them is what inspired Rana Abdelhamid to create The Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment, “an organization which provides Muslim and Jewish women with training in self-defense, social-entrepreneurship, and leadership.”
For Rana, self-defense is a good way to empower women because it gives them agency over their own bodies.
During one of her self-defense workshops, she remarked, “It’s disheartening to hear how almost every single woman in that space felt insecure, felt she had to be way more careful walking out of her home, doing mundane day-to-day tasks like going shopping for groceries, or taking a bus.”
With all of this being said, it is true that there are members of ISIS in America, with investigations taking place in every state, often the result of persuasive usage of social media. So, the seemingly irrational fears that many Americans have are frequently based on an understandable fear of terrorism.
But, while there is certainly reason to be cautious, it is wrong that those Muslims in America who are not extremists must endure the undeserved hate and prejudice caused by fear, and feel unsafe and unwelcome in their own country.