War on terror should never be a war on religion

I won’t pretend to have some memorable reflection on 9/11 and the weeks that followed. In fact, mostly all I can remember is the same footage being aired over and over again on CNN.

However, I can remember my parents shaking their heads as if to say “What have they done?”

I was scared, shocked by the horrendous nature of it all, uncertain how to perceive an event that was supposedly done in the name of my religion.

My parents were quick to remind me that these people were extremists; I can remember them having uncomfortable, scared expressions as they watched the smoke hang over New York City for days, a smoke that promised to scar a religion forever.

I wasn’t raised very religious, in fact I’ve never done the holy month of fasting, nor do I go to the mosque on Fridays. However, my parents have raised me to respect our religion, they taught me to appreciate its relevance and its cohesion with my culture. I suspect Islam has always been a second identity for me, albeit a somewhat quiet identity.

After it all happened, I was afraid to acknowledge this second identity. I avoided questions about my religion, danced around the idea, pretended to know little about Islam in general.

I wasn’t ready to own a religion that had suddenly become tainted. Growing up in a lily white suburb, I was the diversity at my junior high — me and this other kid who was half-black.

I didn’t want to be “that Muslim girl.”

I look back on that naivete and can’t help but feel like I’ve contributed to the fear and negativity that have surrounded Islam.

I haven’t become any more religious in the past 10 years, but I have acquired an unwavering desire to protect a religion that means something to my family and so many other good people in our country.

This is a war on terror, NOT a war on Islam.

I shouldn’t be afraid to be a Muslim in my country, but the ideas we’re fueling have made it difficult for Muslims to feel like ordinary Americans.

In the past 10 years, our attitudes toward Islam have become increasingly negative. Young Muslim Americans are growing up in an environment that is toxic, one that promises to look at you differently and question your nature in a way that is denigrating.

People have called Obama a Muslim as a strategy to incite fear in the public; the underlying problem here is that we’re suggesting that there is something wrong, something deplorable about being a Muslim.

Some of our leaders have said they support the freedom to practice, but they believe that the Ground Zero Mosque should be built elsewhere. It’s sort of like saying yeah you have the right, but you should exercise that right somewhere else.

America is not a place where you should have to worry about your mosque being burned down, your brother or sister being bullied at school for their religion or your rights being tip toed around.

It became that place when we fed the idea that all Muslims are militant, that all Muslims are fundamentalists, that all Muslims are terrorists.

As a nation, the past 10 years have pushed us back to a time when it was acceptable to associate wrong or inferiority with one group of people. Perhaps, as people, we find it comforting or easier to demonize an entire religion rather than acknowledging the reality that every faith has its faults and virtues.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we should be mindful of our role in furthering the prejudices and hate crimes that have been inflicted on Muslims.

We should be conscious of the fact that we’re painting in broad strokes when we choose to hold an entire group of people representative of the crimes that were carried out by a select few.

_Nishat is a senior in LAS._