Like any college student, I walked into the local Starbucks like I had normally done to grab a cold coffee and study for the upcoming Biology exam. I made my way to the counter and stood there with a smile on my face, waiting for someone to acknowledge me and provide service. With at least five different people behind the counter, I expected to be greeted within the few seconds of me standing there waiting. As I looked around the cozy shop, one of the employees closest to me continued to do what he had been doing, refusing to acknowledge me. I found this rather strange. I had encountered him previously few weeks ago and had received similarly odd acknowledgement from him. Using terse words, he had addressed me as if I was nothing. As if I had done something to him when this was only the first time I had seen this person who had this cold, stern look on his face. I was greeted with this same behavior a second time as I stood there waiting. Having dealt with this ignorance before, I knew what the cause of this was. A fragile scarf I wore on my head every day for almost three years now, had gotten strange remarks such as “terrorist” and “towel head” as well as some comments such “Someone call security!” or “Go back to your country.” I continued to smile as if nothing was happening, as if my rights were not being violated.
7 scores and 9 years old, Abraham Lincoln stood in front of a grieving crowd and addressed the injustices that had inflicted a group of 4 million African American slaves whose rights are being abridged by a group of supremacists. By a group of people that thought they had the right to take a group’s God given rights away because they thought themselves superior. 2 scores and 7 years ago, an African American by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. in the name of non-violent direct action took a stand against this injustice again, and helped this group of 4 million gain back what was rightfully theirs. They were granted equal rights in the eyes of many. America, for the first time in years, made its way towards progress. 11 years ago, a group of radical extremists hijacked four planes in the name of my religion and my Creator because they felt that was their only option. Not only did they hijack these planes, but they hijacked my identity, they hijacked my religion, and most importantly, they hijacked my rights as a Muslim American. As I walk around campus, around my hometown, around shopping plazas, I am given hateful looks. I am blamed for what happened 11 years ago. I am used as a scapegoat for years of bottled up emotions that are ready to be unleashed. All progress made for equal rights was lost when innocent people were detained by the government because of their Muslim “terrorist-like” names. The word terrorist was redefined as “Muslim male with beard.” War was started against an invisible enemy known as “Terror” and millions of civilians lost lives to this enemy. The war continues on foreign land but what people don’t realize is that this war is taking over our country too. This war continues to eat away at the progress we had made in the name of “equal rights for all.” The words “American Muslim” are seen as a paradox and my rights as an American are abridged on a day to day basis. Would our founding fathers be proud of the values we hold dear to our hearts today such as “Equal rights for those who fit a certain profile” or “Hatred for all”? Would our founding fathers approve of this unconstitutional hate for people of other religions? It’s time for us to make a change. It’s time for us to accept our difference and move towards a better future in which our children can enjoy the liberties that this country was found on, liberties which have been taken away and given back to those who have been oppressed by hatred, in which we can walk into a Starbucks and expect the same treatment as someone of a different religion or color. In which, we can all, no matter our color, religion, socioeconomic status, enjoy the liberties granted by our Creator and reiterated by our founding fathers.