The Reality Of Being A Muslim-American In A Hostile Society

Nadine Zaiour is Lebanese and Latina
Nadine Zaiour is Lebanese and Latina

Editor: A student participating in a  NAHJ (National Association of Hispanic Journalists) student project, Nadine Zaiour, a senior at Florida International University, is Lebanese and Latina. Following a newsroom discussion on Islam in America, she wrote this column for the NAHJ student newspaper  about her personal experiences. 
Nadine Zaiour
Special to
An acquaintance shared a story around the dinner table last Tuesday that really struck a nerve with me.
“I almost missed my flight from New Jersey to Fort Lauderdale; I had to request an Uber three different times until I felt comfortable with my driver, but luckily the third time was the charm.””What was it that made you uncomfortable?” I asked.”Well, the first one I got was named Ahmed, then Mohamed. Finally, I got a Steven, so I was good to go.”He chuckled as he said this, thinking laughter would follow his charming story. It didn’t.
Do we really live in a time where a name causes fear just because it fits a certain profile? Where a piece of cloth wrapped around someone’s head makes us feel overwhelmingly uneasy on a plane? Why is it a huge deal when someone burns an American flag, yet vandalizing a mosque fails to make it on primetime news? When did it become okay to suspend and detain a 14-year-old student on suspicion of a handmade bomb when it was simply a clock?9/11 changed everything. Suddenly, society felt empowered to marginalize Muslims just because the attackers claimed to be representatives of Islam.
I am a Muslim-American. I put Muslim first because I am proud of who I am and what my religion stands for. I’ve had enough of this uneducated judgment to last me a lifetime. Unfortunately for us, extremists have used our religion as a crutch to proclaim their acts of terror. Islam is defined by the declaration of faith, prayer, giving and most importantly, peace.I don’t know why they (jihadists) have taken upon mocking and using Allah’s name in vain, but I know that they are cowards. Cowards because they don’t have the courage to take responsibility for their atrocities without having something to blame it on. Just as expected, the nation is guilty of being gullible to the lies jihadists continue to spread.
As a result, I, along with the rest of the Muslim community who come in peace, have been oppressed without fault. My intention of writing this is not to claim victim status or gain sympathy, but to show that this negative perception of Muslims has gone on for far too long.
After having an unpleasant experience traveling to and from Lebanon this past December, I realized it was time to speak my mind. Passing through security and customs, I was frowned upon at both Miami International Airport and Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport. I was extensively checked and questioned for an absurd amount of time. “Why are you coming to Beirut?” Lebanese officials and guards surrounded me as they flipped my luggage inside out. “When are you leaving?” I sat in a cold metal chair, scared and overwhelmed, as I thought to myself: Why am I being treated like an outsider? I have done nothing wrong yet I am being accused based off assumptions. “What were you doing in Beirut?” Again, I was escorted to a private room to be interrogated, except this time by American guards.  “How often do you travel to the Middle East?” Tears began to build as I watched them tear apart my suitcase, searching for evidence to satisfy their need to point their finger at yet another Muslim.
I am just as American as I am a Lebanese Muslim, yet I don’t feel accepted by either community. I have been pushed aside by a society that establishes their opinion of me based on someone else’s actions, but they should know that the only person I represent is myself. I am a strong, hardworking, passionate Muslim-American student and I want my voice to resonate.
Nadine Zaiour is a Florida International University senior. She is a participant in the Hispanicize News student journalism project at the 2016 Hispanicize conference in Miami.