Wednesday, September 14, 2011

After 9/11, Muslim Americans More Assertive Of Their Identity

By Omar Sacirbey
Religion News Service

...While many Muslim Americans sought invisibility after 9/11, others did the opposite: growing beards, donning headscarves and skull caps, and making sure people knew they were Muslim.

The point? To be visible, and to challenge the notion that Muslims are oppressed, uneducated, dangerous or extremist.
"There's nothing wrong with being an outwardly devout Muslim, and a proud loyal American," said Hassan Shibly, who was in 7th grade on 9/11. As a teenager, he was taunted by classmates who called him "Osama" or "terrorist."
But when Shibly began his studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he grew out his beard and started wearing a kufi, or skullcap. Sometimes he wore a jubah, a traditional Arabic gown, when he chaired meetings of the student senate.
"People got to know me and like me in regular clothes, and then they'd see me in something they wouldn't expect, and that would really help break down the stereotypes," said Shibly.
He went on to law school and worked for judges over summer break. And while he opted for suits instead of the jubah, he wouldn't let go of the beard or kufi. People were "astonished," he said, to see him "chilling with the judge."
Shibly said Muslim Americans have a lot to learn from Sikhs who wear turbans or Jews who wear yarmulkes without a sense of shame. If they can do it, he says, there's no reason Muslims can't.
"Why are other groups not afraid to show their identity, and we're so afraid?" he asked. "If we're so ashamed of it and we're trying to hide it, people will respect us less. I really believe that when you're proud of your identity and you stand-up for your culture, people respect you more." [Read Full Article]

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