Being Muslim in America, discusses religion, breaks down stereotypes

Students discussed being Muslim in America and broke down stereotypes imposed on Islamic culture and religion at the first Muslim Student Association meeting on Oct. 3. 

In the United States, there are 3.4 million people practicing Islam. The expectations are different from one community to the next, which inspired Muslim students on campus to define what being an American Muslim means to them.

Some students were raised in communities where the number of Islamic people was scarce and were often misunderstood and ridiculed by their classmates.

Omar Mallat, a sophomore biology major, shared a moment from his childhood where he did not have a place to pray during the winter before returning home, so he had to pray at school.

“This was the first time I started being ostracized,” he said. “That’s when the insults started coming in. I started getting insulted all the time.”

Muslims in America face difficulty maintaining their religious lifestyle in areas without the resources or community like Islamic nations.

Abdel Ruhman Yusuf, a student earning his masters in athletic training, has studied in different Islamic nations that normalized Muslim culture.

“You have people overseas where it’s so involved that everybody does the same thing and it’s universally accepted,” Yusuf said. “Over here, even though diversity is such a big thing, people have a hard time accepting other religions.”

While gaining acceptance in America is not easy, some American Muslims still feel like an outsider in Islamic nations. 

Hala Daghlas, a Kent State graduate, feels like she doesn’t fit in her Islamic nation of Jordan or while living in the United States because of her Muslim American lifestyle.

“When I went to school in Jordan I was the American girl, but when I’m here I’m not the American girl,” Daghlas said.

While expectations change from one community to the next, some Islamic laws are left open to interpretation while other ideas are definite in The Quran. Still, the Muslim Student Association dove into topics such as clothing, LGBTQ Muslims, tattoos and hair.

Slsabeil Ayad, a Educ/Health/Human Service Gen major, shared her experience in finding her identity while still living up to religious standards.

“It’s very different depending on how your parents raised you and the boundaries they set,” she said. “It’s very hard to please everyone and still be comfortable with yourself.”

Ayad still believes there is a middle ground for people to be true to themselves in their identity through religion, clothing and sexual orientation.

The Quran states that if someone is caught engaging in the act of intercourse with the same sex they would be stoned to death, but only if four people witness the act. Since the 1400s, no one has ever been stoned unless they decided to come forward and demand it as punishment. 

This year, the Muslim Student Association participated in its first pride festival. While the Quran forbids the act of gay marriage, Kent State Muslim students feel like it is important to let people be themselves.

“It’s none of our business,” Mattal said. “They are human beings too. We have no right to attack them.” 

The Being Muslim in America event gave students a safe space to talk about their religion and ask questions without judgement. Reem Holozadah, a graduate student and president of the Muslim Student Association, felt like she learned a lot from the conversation.

“It’s really important for us to have these discussions and to connect with one another,” Holozadah said. “It really opens your eyes when you see that people feel the same way you do.”

Contact Sydney Ford at [email protected].