Who speaks for Muslims? Every minority speaks passionately about ‘making it’ in America— be it in the #LoveWins movement, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, or any other related protest for basic human rights. It’s strange then, that Muslims seem to yearn for the same validation and solidarity that the LGBTQ+ and black communities have, and yet haven’t found a way of achieving it.
We may protest in every way we know, we may try to normalize Islam through whatever media we can, but many Americans are still uncomfortable with our existence. Minorities still call it ignorance, but in reality, it is apprehension and uncertainty. These qualities are impervious to information— impervious to data, facts, and pop culture. They are ingrained in us from childhood, and extremely hard to get rid of. America’s inherent unfamiliarity combined with Trump, whose campaign tactics center around the people’s fear, come together to give Muslims, the LGBTQ+, the black, the Latino/a, and any other communities, are making life in our country rather hard.
It is important to note that every single minority in America has been harassed, oppressed, and at times, thought of as literal trash. The Japanese, the Germans, and almost every other ‘foreigner’ in America has gone through the same things Muslims are now. However, these groups held their ground, and are now considered normal groups of people in our community. We must acknowledge that almost every ethnic group introduced to the United States has had to undergo the same type of harassment as everyone else. From the 1700s to the 2000s, nothing has changed in the way our melting pot of a country receives different people, and that must change with our generation.
Just like Obama fed off the people’s hope, Trump feeds off the country’s fear. We fear terrorists attacks from ‘radical Muslims’— completely oblivious to the fact that the term itself is vague, and that the majority of terrorist-motivated attacks are not perpetrated by Muslims. In fact, you are more likely to die from furniture accidents than you are from terrorist attacks of any kind (businessinsider.com)! The more the government spins stories like that of the Bowling Green Massacre, the more people are conditioned to hate those wearing a turban, hijab, or even those who have darker skin. Not only does the target Muslims, but it also throws other religions, races, and colors under the bus and proves that certain aspects of America’s xenophobia reach far beyond the likes of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. So what are people doing about it?
It is you who has to take stand. Beyond being Arab, Asian, Latino/Latina, Muslim, or any other minority targeted in today’s world, we are a people who believe in the First Amendment. We believe in liberty and justice for all, even when they may be different from who we are. Progress stems from passion, protest, curiosity, and empathy. If we don’t take a stand, then are we really Americans?
Multiple sources have shown that the country’s most popular news show, The O’Reilly Factor on FOX News, has approximately 3 million viewers per night (fortune.com). Meanwhile, the most watched cable TV show, Game of Thrones, has approximately 7.6 million viewers per night (businessinsider.com). It is much more important to normalize and include minorities in TV shows with higher viewer averages than it is to spend time debating these arbitrary issues on a show which skews too far left or right as well as has viewers who have made up their mind about these issues already. Comics like the Ms Marvel series are a perfect example of this-- the newest main character is named Kamala Khan, and is a Pakistani-American Muslim. She faces the same obstacles we do, and apart from being a shape-shifting superhero, she's just another teenaged girl. Quantico, a new show on HBO, also celebrates and normalizes diversity specifically within the government. The show follows a group of FBI trainees-- which include Muslim, Indian, black, and gay characters and normalizes as well as assimilates them into their communities. The challenges they face are the same as the ones we have because of our appearance, personality, religion, or political beliefs-- and through each FBI case we learn that each of these characters are valuable and loved because of their differences and not in spite of them.
It’s us— the new generation, the “millennial snowflakes” who have to go off of these positive examples and make a difference. We are the ones voting in the next elections. We are the ones who are going to influence society for the next couple of decades. Although there are many older people who celebrate and value diversity, our efforts would be better spent focusing on the demographic which will be of the most impact in the next couple of years. With whatever tools we possess, we need to stand up and make a change for ourselves. Simply sitting and complaining about our terrible standing in society will do nothing except harm our reputation even more. Even if there isn’t a protest nearby, a large event you can organize, or any other massive platform available, you can still write. You can still sing, speak, and draw. Everyone has a voice, and it’s up to you to use it wisely. Use your talents to your advantage, and get recognized as a Muslim for them. Whatever you do, do it 110%. If you are going to get involved, involve yourself with the top positions. Walk in the footsteps of Fareed Zakaria, a groundbreaking journalist and CNN correspondent, Sal Khan, the creator of Khan Academy, like Dave Chapelle or Aziz Ansari, the hilarious yet simultaneously thought-provoking comedians, and so much more. The more Muslims there are out there doing good for the sake of doing good in the world, the more the rest of the world will understand that we, just like them, are inherently good people.
Progress is extremely important to take note of, because the more we acknowledge and learn from the progress we've made, the more room we make to improve it. We've got a long way to go, but many organizations have come together to support the cause of all the minorities feeling marginalized in today's America.
As a minority, I wonder and write about who speaks for Muslims-- who speaks for any minority anymore? The answer has always been right here. I am speaking for us right now. You can too, and we all should. You don’t have to be Muslim, Asian, black, gay, Latino/Latina or anything else to believe in what’s right. We all speak for Muslims, and we all speak for America.