… who people are should not be based on where they are from …
As a kid, I didn’t see the supposed differences in people. Race, religion, and ethnicity never really mattered to me; I don’t even think I realized that they were there. But when I walked into school one day, a week after 9/11, my best friend also happened to enter, as he always did, at the same time as me. Instead of greeting me as he normally did, he told me that we were different, simply because I was Muslim. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t even religious; the only thing that mattered was that I was technically a Muslim, and Muslims had killed all of those innocent civilians and heroic rescue workers at the Twin Towers.
Over the years, I came to realize that my religion seemed more important to other people than to me. I realized that it wasn’t the smartest thing to reveal that I was Muslim. Others tended to be overrun by prejudice. They seemed to feel that the nation’s biggest tragedy was my fault, or that I seemed to cause 9/11. But in truth, every Muslim is not a terrorist. I began to withdraw, and even my parents started to tell me, “You don’t have to tell others what your religion is. If they ask, ask them back. Why does it matter?” For years, I didn’t understand why my religion mattered at all.
Then, one day, I walked down the street and I saw hundreds of people, all walking together. Nobody seemed to care who was what; they just minded their own business and kept on walking. I noticed that people only see what they choose to see. If they want to see a Muslim, then that’s what they’ll see. If they want to see a black, a Hispanic, a white kid, or anything else, then that’s what they will notice.
People still scream “Allah” at me at times, as if because Allah means God to Muslim people, it’s mean-spirited, but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. If people ask me what I am, I’ll tell them, “I’m Muslim,” with no regrets and I feel perfectly fine about it. If people want to see me as a possible threat to national security, too bad for them. I know that I’m just like everyone else, and who people are should not be based on where they are from, what they believe in, or any hereditary trait.
People should be judged by their decisions, and the actions they take. I am myself, and will be accepted as myself.