By Marian Mumin
“I am sorry there has been a misunderstanding; because of your scarf, we can’t hire you.”
Those words are exactly what my older sister heard when she was denied a job because of the scarf on her head. She was told to take it off if she wanted an opportunity to work there. Telling a Muslim woman to take of her scarf is one of the most disgraceful things you can ask her to do.
“I felt like they are animals … I mean, what does my hijab (scarf) have to do with my talent,” she said.
Experiences like this are not rare; every day, Muslims across the country are suffering from prejudice and are denied basic rights simply because of their religion. Our new president, Donald Trump, has publicly created a path of hate which encourages others to lash out and target Muslims.
I am terrified about what is to come for my family and my people. As a child of Somali immigrants, I felt my heart drop as I heard the news anchor read “Somalia” off the list of countries where people are now banned from traveling to the United States. I felt worried for my people, who are being abandoned in their time of need.
My parents, like many other immigrants, came to this country with aspirations to provide a better life for us. With hard work and resilience, they managed to make a life for themselves while still instilling strong core values in me and my siblings.
Immigrating to a new place isn’t easy, especially when you have to become accustomed to a new culture, language and environment. It becomes even harder when you are taxed with religious discrimination that deprives you of opportunities to flourish in this new life.
When I go out, I notice that the way people look at me, react to me and treat me is filled with disgust for my faith. The dirty looks and the way they ignore me while I am talking feels like they are taking revenge on me for something I haven’t done.
“I think we should judge people by their character and not by their religion,” English Language Learner teacher Sarah McIntyre said.
McIntyre works with many of the immigrant and refugee students at Parkrose High School.
Even back when I attended elementary school, it was difficult to interact with anyone because students would refuse to be partnered with me. It wasn’t the fact that I mistreated them, or I had an attitude, but it was the fact that my hair was covered, unlike theirs.
Everytime I look at my younger siblings, I fear that they might go through what I’ve experienced from ignorant people who get pleasure from hurting others.
Why are the people who tell me to “be myself” when I tell them that I am nervous to present in front of the class or try out for a team the same ones who tell me I would look better with my hair showing? The truth is I am my most comfortable self when I cover myself out of love for “Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala” (Allah is the greatest).
The scarf I wear symbolizes the values I have for myself and the pride I have in my religion; however, others seem to use it as an excuse to put a target on my back.
The way President Trump feels about Muslims is not an uncovered fact. He himself has expressed it very openly throughout his campaign and interviews.
“I think Islam hates us…There’s an unbelievable hatred of us,” Trump said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Saying that his actions are to keep the country safe is just an an excuse to promote the xenophobia that fuels more hate. After Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven majority Muslim countries, a mosque was burned to the ground in Texas, and a gunman killed six innocent Muslims in Canada.
No one alone can carry the weight of a religion, but Muslims are targeted and made to feel like criminals, as if the wrongdoings of other people is on our shoulders.
Religion isn’t something that can be investigated as if it were a person. It’s something that is cherished and believed, or misused and tarnished. One person’s action does not represent a religion as a whole.
We don’t know how our lives are going to change in the next four years, but it’s hard for me to see that the person who occupies the most honored position in our country has no interest in keeping our freedom of religion intact. If in just one week of his presidency, Trump has inflected fear into the lives of millions of Muslims around the world, we can only imagine what comes next.