Being Muslim Indian In America

Sehar and her mother

This article was shared with permission from the account owner. The original article can be found here

My mom immigrated to the United States before 9/11. When she told me her story, I could see her eyes tearing up. My mom has always tried to tell me to be strong, to not let the hatred get to me. “They aren’t worthy of your tears,” is something she told me throughout my childhood. To see her show weakness at that moment ached my heart.

My mom was 20 when she immigrated to the US. She came to the US for her future children. She wanted me, her daughter, to be independent and pursue my own career. These are the reasons she came to the US. But islamophobia and racism tried to turn a whole-hearted effort into something evil.

After 9/11 my mom started noticing the stares. These weren’t stares of curiosity, rather of rage and disgust. When my mom was pregnant with my older sibling, she remembered a women passing her by, looking at her belly, and saying, “that kid’s going to be a bomber.” The only thing she could do at that moment was gasp in shock, she couldn’t believe what the lady had just said about her unborn child. The worst part is she couldn’t reply to the comment because she knew if she did, she would be attacked, physically and mentally. All she cared about at that moment was the safety of her child.

After moving to the US my parents had a difficult time financially supporting themselves. My dad was desperate for a job. Because of this, racially motivated workplace discrimination is something my dad has experienced. His workplace was dominated by caucasians, leaving only a small percentage of minorities. These minorities were always under the fear of losing their job due to their race. My father was one of those people.

I remember he would always put in so much effort into work. One day he came back from work in a panic, he was going to be late for his shift at home. My dad is a software engineer so he can work from anywhere. In fear of losing his job, my dad would volunteer to take over some peoples shifts. My dad was terrified of losing his job because his only Indian co-worker lost his job at that time. He was as hardworking as the other workers, yet always got picked at due to his race. My dad told me that during meetings, his boss would randomly call out my dad and his co-worker and make a racist Indian joke. My dad’s coworker wouldn’t take it which ultimately led to him being fired.

My dad tried to stay as “American” and as compliant with the racism as possible due to the fear of losing his job. But
because of my fathers Muslim Indian identity, he had to keep up with the constant terrorist jokes and disgusted looks from co-workers. It’s a lie to say he wasn’t affected by it. Everyday my dad would dread going to work. He didn’t understand why he deserved any of it. But he had to keep up with it in order to financially support our family.

Hatred is something people tend to gravitate towards. Once people find a weakness, they want to attack. Why? Because they want power over you. This is something I kept in mind when I was being picked on because of my identity, something I can’t control. But, even if i could control being Indian or being born Muslim, why does it matter? Minority groups deserve respect regardless if you agree with their views or not.

Ethnocentrism, the inability to see other cultures from outside your own cultural view point. Yes, Caucasian Americans eat pork frequently and like to go to the club. In India that’s not normal because we have a different culture. What racists and islamophobes fail to see is that their race and religion isn’t the best and isn’t normal, because we all have different beliefs and cultural values. They’re entitled to theirs, and we are entitled to ours.

This article was shared with permission from the account owner. The original article can be found here

Sehar Sarang is a writer, founder, and activist. Her blog, Open Your Ears, focuses on bringing awareness and justice to solved and unsolved crime cases. She is also the Assistant Editor in Chief of SeaGlass Literary, a youth literature magazine focused on amplifying the voices of younger people. As a freelancer, Sehar specializes in writing about social issues related to women, people of color, and other marginalized communities. Outside of writing, she is the founder of two non-profit organizations, and is currently running a campaign to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in India’s impoverished communities.

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