Islam and America
I had booked a recent trip with my family to visit some relatives in USA recently and was anxious regarding the trip as I was concerned how we would be treated in America as Muslims. Would they call us names, would they hold us at the airport because our names sounded 'Arabic like'? Given the medias view as to the united states of America as being very anti Islam with violent clashes in new York when the Muslim community centre (also known as the ground zero mosque) was going to be opened near ground zero. We can all also remember the reverend that was going to burn copies of the holy Koran. The media made me have the perception that America was not going to be welcoming to Muslims and I was going to have to grit my teeth and get through this trip.
Upon arrival into the US airport from UK after an exhaustive 8 plus hour flight with two kids both under 3, it is suffice to say that we were ready for bed. We went through immigration customs like everyone else and it was as smooth as could be with the officer making small talk and welcoming us to the country.
Let me tell you that all the hype of anti Muslim America is just that, it is just hype and I struggle to see where they got that from. I can understand some people being ignorant in some parts but I have found quite the opposite myself, in fact most surprising of all I actually found America to be more tolerant and respectful to Muslims than many other countries I had visited in Europe. I know that may be hard to believe but I can only speak from personal experiences. I remember the stories of men in America shaving their beards for fear of reprisal from citizens but in reality I found countless Muslims openly walking with beards and women in hijabs and not one person made a comment or even stared. We found fast food shops like Pizza Hut that were halal and an entire food court of a massive shopping mall as big as Westfield in Stratford that served only halal meats within each of its many food outlets. I asked my relatives don't the American non Muslims mind eating halal as I know there are some in UK that do. They looked at me puzzled and said why should they mind, the majority they said had no feeling one way or the other.
On a Friday I went for Jummah Friday prayers to what I believed would have been the local masjid. I went with family in Virginia and we were staying quite close to DC, the capital of the USA. We drove into the parking lot of a fire station. We were in their fire station praying while afterwards the imam spoke of the virtues of charity and brotherhood. It was well organized and well staffed outside.
I asked my cousins what racism or prejudice they experienced and they said none directly but during the time directly after September 11 there was this feeling all around which was different but nothing else. I have to admit that there were similar reactions here too in the UK directly after September 11 and the July 7 terrorist bombings. This usually happens as the media in its race to gain ratings is quick to put Muslims under a spotlight which would invariably focus negative attention upon us. What I found was quite unexpected and very eye opening as I had always considered that the USA would be a difficult place to live if you were Muslim but I can say that it may easily be one of the better places to live as Muslim.