Muslims in America are facing sharp backlash in the days following the mass shooting that left nearly 50 people dead in a gay nightclub in Orlando.
The man who perpetrated the attack was a follower of the Islamic faith.
Since news of his religion came out, elected leaders across the nation — including the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. President — have decried the Islamic faith.
Donald Trump earlier this week suggested Muslims across the country are complicit in the attacks in Orlando, according to a report from NPR.
We wanted to get an idea of how these sentiments are affecting younger Muslims, so we talked to some.
Photos by J. Tyler Franklin
Kutmah said some people try to push the idea that Islam doesn’t mix with American values, but she disagrees.
“Islamic values are American ones. The whole idea of freedom, of peace, of tolerating others, of compassion, these are all American values. So I don’t see them conflicting at all. Even as I grew up, I faced conflict in regards to me being Muslim, but I never even thought of Muslim and American being different things, because I always thought of myself as a Muslim-American.”
She said negativity towards Islam has allowed her to strengthen her own faith, by forcing her to search for the root of her beliefs.
Kutmah said her hijab serves, to some degree, as a conversation starter. Sometimes the conversation is constructive, other times it can be negative.
“When the public asks us more questions, it didn’t bother us. We asked people to ask us questions. We want people to learn from us. We want people to ask us questions to learn. We want people to understand our religion, we don’t want them to make up their own things, we want them to ask questions. And when they yell at us, it made us stronger.”
She said education can help eradicate the stereotype that perpetuates a sense of anger towards Muslims.
Adam said one of the biggest struggles for young Muslims is the need to constantly explain themselves.
“We’re not given, or we’re not allowed the time to focus on the faith aspect of our religion because we’re so busy with defending and apologizing and over-explaining our religion. We’re constantly in a battle with juggling our faith and our identity.”
Adam said stories of “everyday Muslims” are rarely told. If those stories of doctors, teachers and soccer moms got told more often, he said, people would be able to find similarities rather than differences.
Kahloom said Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is magnifying hatred towards minority groups, specifically Muslims.
“I think it’s really because of him. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that afraid of being a Muslim. With Donald Trump running for president, I will say, I fear. And I fear for my friends that are easily identifiable, people who have beards or girls who wear the hijab. I truly worry for them, for their safety, because now I feel like people who don’t accept Muslims, they feel it’s acceptable to go up to them and say something to them or attack them because they feel they now have this backing behind them.”
Kahloom said she wants people to see beyond differences and see how we’re all humans, striving for successful lives.
Shareef was born in New Jersey and has lived across the eastern United States. Despite this, he said his identity is still called into question due to his beliefs and the way he looks.
“With the constant bombardment in the media with negativity and the negative associations with Islam and Muslims, I’m trying to go about my daily life. But I’m getting weird looks everywhere I go, and it’s almost like I’m considered foreign by my name and my beliefs and practices. I think everything I believe and hold to be true is very integral to the idea of being American.”
He said it’s easy to project hate towards people who are different, but it’s not always easy to enact real change and break down hurtful stereotypes. One way to start doing it, he said, would be to make an effort to get to know people in your daily life.