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Doing Good as Muslim American and Being Shut Down



In the wake of this week’s terrorist bombings in Brussels and heated anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. presidential race, we read with interest Beenish Ahmed’s NPR essay,
Learning — And Unlearning — To Be An ‘Ambassador’ For Islam. In it, she describes being in an untenable position:

“Those of ‘us’ who are Americans and also Muslim feel trapped. Even so, we can’t help but wonder what we can say or do to make the madness stop.”

We invited Ahmed to speak more about her experience as a Muslim in America, trying to appear nonthreatening to an increasingly anxious American public.

“It’s not just that I want to seem non-threatening or that I want to seem polite and kind, it’s that I am,” she tells us. “That’s how I was raised by my Pakistani immigrant parents, and that’s how I learned to be — in suburban Ohio, where I’m from. But I am constantly questioned, and I am made to account for violence and pigeonholed as someone who might harbor violent ideas or be in line with a dangerous line of thinking. And that’s something that I think a lot of Muslim Americans face.”

Ahmed is a World Reporter for ThinkProgress and former grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. In this podcast, she explains why she no longer wants to be an ambassador for her faith, and why she feels it won’t make a difference to more forcefully condemn violence committed in the name of Islam. She also reflects on what it was like being a 14 year old in Ohio when the World Trade Center attacks occurred, and recalls how her high school principal shut her down when she wanted to educate her peers about Islam.

Featured image credit: Victoria Fleischer


Additional Resources

Ahmed on Twitter

Ahmed in the Christian Science Monitor: A Mosque in America’s Heartland

Ahmed in the American Prospect: Muslim and American

Maria Khwaja in Salon: The privilege of being “invisible”: As a brown Muslim woman, my visibility comes with my Otherness

The Alignest is a new media venture started by Ahmed, which brings “literature into conversation with current events”

NPR: Ted Cruz Criticized After Suggesting Law Enforcement Patrol Muslim Areas

Pew Research Center: Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world

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