On a windy fall afternoon, the members of Muslim Student Association (MSA), at Queensborough Community College met for their weekly meeting. Fatima Faisal, 20, the MSA president shared her story of the struggles she faced while being Muslim in America.
Adapting to the American culture can be difficult for many people especially if they are born in a different country. But for Faisal, the adaptation was a smooth transition. However, facing racist commentary and the negative portrayal of her religion in the media made it difficult.
Her first interaction with a racist American happened at mall near her home. Faisal was wearing traditional Pakistani outfit called shalwar khamiz which includes a hijab, the headscarf. This individual was tailgating her through the mall and she accidentally bumped into him.
“Watch where you are going you dirty Muslim,” said the man. As she tried to move away from him, he again proceeded on tailgating her and bumped into her. “I told you to move dirty Muslim,” he said.
Despite the negative experience, Faisal decided to approach it with integrity and kindness. “I simply smiled and looked him in the eye and told him that if he wouldn’t stop that I would report him,” said Faisal.
Faisal was born in Pakistan and came to the United States when she was in fourth grade. “I grew up in a Muslim household where we prayed five times a day and had restrictive clothing,” stated Faisal. “It was a struggle every single day. I wear a hijab because God commands me to do it and I had to act differently. When I was younger, sometimes I wanted to take it off.”
Although she had struggles with her wardrobe, Faisal embraced her culture and had no issues adapting to the American lifestyle. “Being American is like being Muslim,” said Faisal. “I define myself as a hijabi, feminist and student.”
Faisal has a positive outlook despite the fear that was caused by the result of the presidential campaign, as Donald Trump, president-elect has promised to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “Avoid people’s negativity and smile, kill them with kindness and show them we are different,” said Faisal. “As a leader, I have a lot of people who look up to me and I will continue wearing my hijab, despite the fear that is being caused by the media. My only fear is that girls will take it off.” She also advises student to seek security if they feel that they’re targeted in anyway.