Addressing stereotypes against Muslims

Aniset Idriss

My name is Aniset Idriss and I am Muslim. 

Most people don’t understand that. I don’t wear a hijab. I’m white. I dress like other kids. Looking at me from the outside, it doesn’t even cross people’s minds that I could be Muslim. 

Once people find out, they immediately start making assumptions about mesuch as that I’m not American, or that I don’t wear a hijab because its oppressive to Muslim women. 

I get the same reaction every time someone finds out I’m Muslim: their eyes widen, their mouths drop open, and then they go, “Oh, really?” It wasn’t until I was 10 when I started to understand why people were so shocked.

My mom had hired a babysitter for the day to take care of my younger sister and me while she was at a work conference. It was almost Christmas, and at one point the babysitter said, “So are you guys excited?” My sister told her that we didn’t celebrate Christmas, because we are Muslim. The babysitter proceeded to say, “But you’re white!” 

You can’t assume someone’s religion just based on how they look, and if you do it without realizing, it’s best to contain your shock when you find out you’re wrong. The color of someone’s skin does not determine if they’re Muslim. Neither does wearing a hijab. 

A hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women in order to be more modest, and to bring them closer to God. It is not a curtain meant to hide them from the world, nor is it a form of oppression.

I’ve heard people refer to the hijab as a veil—and not only that, but something oppressive that Muslim women must fight back against. What did they mean? The answer, I learned after talking to my dad, is complicated. 

There are some countries, like Iran, where the hijab is mandatory. That would make the hijab a veil and a form of oppression for the women there but only because of laws put in place, not because of Islamic beliefs. Following purely Islamic beliefs, wearing a hijab is a religious choice, and one that people make freely.

  Another stereotype is that Muslim women are victims of a patriarchical religion. Some people think Muslim women aren’t given equal rights because in some predominantly Muslim countries (like in Saudi Arabia where until recently, women couldn’t drive), women aren’t given equal rights. However, this does not substantiate the stereotype that Muslim women are victims of a patriarchical religion. 

Rather, it has to do with the country’s government, and what laws are put in place there regarding women’s rights. These laws are not based off the Quran (the Muslim book of worship), and in fact many of them go against it.  

  If someone were to read a Quran not only would they realize that Islam does not foster sexism, but that it is a religion of peace.

When I was in sixth grade, we were studying Islam in our history class. While working in groups on a project, one of my classmates said, “Why are we even doing this? We shouldn’t have to learn about Muslims.” I was confused, so I asked him, “Why not?” And he went on to inform me that Muslims were terrorists and killers. 

I was shocked. How could someone think that? I’ve never killed anyone. My family has never killed anyone. 

That evening, my parents and I had a long talk. I learned that there have been terrorists identifying as Muslim who led attacks, such as the ones on 9/11, and because of that, many people believe that all Muslims are terrorists. 

That’s like saying someone wearing a blue T-shirt likes pasta, and therefore all people wearing blue T-shirts like pasta. It’s just not logical—and I can guarantee that the people who believe this have never picked up the Quran or met someone who is Muslim. If they had they would realize that the terrorists who led these attacks were extremists, and do not represent Islamic beliefs.

So the next time you meet someone who is Muslim, I encourage you to read back though this article. Do some research. And above all, don’t make assumptions.