My journey with Islamophobia

Illustration by Alan Gardner

Residential Life and Housing sent an email to students on March 30 about anti-Muslim social media threats that were supposed to take place April 3.

“We want our Muslim students and our community to know that we are actively engaged in their safety,” the email stated.

The anti-Muslim social media posts the email was referring to were the “Punish a Muslim Day” fliers which had been circulating in the U.K. and on social media. The fliers distributed were very similar to hate letters sent to mosques in the U.S. and have led to a counterterrorism investigation by U.K. police.

Hours after I received this email, a video of a man punching a hijabi teen in a hospital in Dearborn, Michigan appeared on my timeline on Twitter. I didn’t know how to react.

As a young Muslim woman myself, I haven’t known how to act since the murder of Nabra Hassanen

Nabra Hassanen was a young girl from Reston, Virginia who was brutally assaulted and murdered on her way back to her mosque. Her case sparked emotion in the Muslim community, including mine. This horrific crime affected me heavily, I was shocked. Hassanen and I lived in the same city, went to the same high school, attended the same mosque and, most importantly, shared the same faith.

When the police claimed Hassanen’s case wasn’t a hate crime, I, along with most Muslims in this country, refused to accept it. I refused because I knew how this country treated Muslims. I have seen the disrespect my mother receives for her accent and attire, I have heard the arguments against my faith from politicians and I have felt the word terrorist on my skin since the 7th grade. It has always been there and I have always known it.

After much thought I asked myself, has Islamophobia always been there? Have I ignored it and tried to push it to the side? Did I only see it on social media? My journey with Islamophobia has been a confusing one. It includes the events of 9/11, the Muslim travel ban, “Punish a Muslim Day” and the death of Hassanen.

When people attempt to push me farther from my faith, I am more drawn to it. Islamophobia in this country has a long and exhausting history, one that has been constant. It is an obstacle we have faced in the past, present and as a young Muslim, I hope to abolish in the future. I commend VCU for taking the steps to ensure safety of all their students. It is acts like these which will help us move forward. I pray this country overcomes its hatred and for the sake of my fellow Muslims, hopefully in the near future.

Amna Kayani, Contributing Columnist

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