The Muslim Narrative


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Summer Zehra | The Mad Mamluks

Since 9/11, Muslim Americans have gone through various stages that have been shaped by a largely reactionary approach to the mainstream narrative. Muslims adamantly proclaimed that all Muslims are not terrorists, followed by most Muslims love peace, then a flurry of reminders of Muslim accomplishments in the past (Al-Jabra and coffee!) . After this, Muslims have been constantly trying to bring modern accomplishments into the spotlight.  As if that wasn’t enough to prove that we are human beings with various strengths and capabilities, Muslims are now at the next stage:

Look, Muslims can integrate! We can run, jump, cook, write, be politicians, musicians, activists, designers and appear on magazine covers. It is crucial that there are genuine Muslim narratives being presented in the mainstream, but each of these things are often received with a condescending tone of awe and amazement. It’s anxiety-inducing, not only because there is the implied and unfair burden of representing an entire faith group of 1.3 billion people with your every action, but now it must also prove how American you are? Like Clinton’s remarks that Muslims are “on the frontline of fighting terrorism” or like Trump’s stance that all Muslims should be banned. Is there no middle ground, where we’re just people?

Why is there all this undue pressure to prove that Muslims are diverse? The practice of Islam as a religion varies from country to country, neighborhood to neighborhood and even from person to person. We know and readily accept that Christianity and Judaism have a spectrum. We’ve seen and lived with the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean a Nun has to put out a designer line at NYFW for us to value her or realize she is a complex person. Nor does an Orthodox Jewish woman need to promote her views on illicit magazines for us to accept different worldviews. Similarly, Muslims are all along a spectrum of faith and action.  In fact, the same Muslim person may hop around the spectrum throughout their lives, as their life experiences, worldviews change and they evolve.

The narrative and voices will continue to evolve to highlight what is important and relevant. But what is more critical than integrating with a particular country’s culture to seek acceptance in that country, is Muslims around the world just needing to be recognized as diverse, beautiful, flawed and mainly, just human.


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3 comments on The Muslim Narrative

  1. Irfan Shahid says:

    Salaam wa laikum Sister,
    I guess every minority has a desire to be accepted. Living in the west most Muslims expect to be accepted the country they live in. Afterall we pay taxes and obey the rules just like everybody else. The Constitution of country ensures life, liberty, and the pursuit of hapiness for everyone equally. But as Muslims we don’t form expectations from society based on our reality, desires and survival, rather we live our life seeking to fulfill objectives in the form of Fard (obligations). The purpose of these objectives is to please our creator, hence our viewpoint is the aqeedah of Islam. The aqeedah of islam is the collective of the quran and Sunnah. So I search the quran and the Sunnah and they tell me in Surah Baqarah what expectations I should have in Ayat 120: And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, “Indeed, the guidance of Allah is the [only] guidance.” If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allah no protector or helper. Id like to understand how we reconcile these two opposing expectations. I don’t expect to be accepted due to my understanding of the quran, regardless if I am accepted or not , I will do my best to uphold the obligations ordained upon me in the best possible manner in tradition of our beloved nabi.
    Id like to know your thoughts about this, Jazakallah Khair

  2. Sumaya says:

    I’ve tried to defend Muslims and I’ve tried not doing that and just focusing on myself. Either way, we’re gonna get treated the way that we do. I feel that it doesn’t make a difference. A decent human being will judge each person for their actions, and a non-decent person will believe whatever they hear. What do I do? I try to be a good person, and try to associate with good people. I’ve lost the energy and ability to care about what the entire world thinks, and now just focus on caring only of what my Creator thinks. My job isn’t to defend Islam to every narrow-minded judge out there, my job is to practice my religion the best way I know how. So I’m done apologizing. If anyone wants to get to know me they are welcome to 🙂

    Bottom line, I think it’s best that we do the things that we want to do and do them genuinely, and not because we’re trying to fit in.

  3. Amberlee says:

    . Wonderfully written. I enjoyed each moment with ease. I also took heed to the lesson being taught. You are an amazing woman I appreciate your kind words on Twitter! I’m so glad to have met you!keep me posted on your book.Talk to you sol;aN.i&#8217noah

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