Like it or not, Muslims struggle with stereotypes that sometimes strike close to home.
Last week's arrest of a young man charged with planning a bomb blast in downtown Portland inspired imams and other Muslim leaders to publicly denounce such violence. Privately, Muslims wondered how Mohamed Mohamud had slipped through the cracks in their own community, whether he'd been entrapped by law enforcement, whether they'd ever escape the assumption that all terrorists are Muslim.
The Oregonian photographer Torsten Kjellstrand found four young men willing to talk about the arrest, their own faith and the future of Muslims in Oregon. They agreed to speak with the caveat that they are not speaking for all Muslims, just adding their voices to the public discussion. Excerpts from his conversations are printed here.
Excerpts from his conversations are printed here.
Mika'il and Salahudin Ali, twins from California, third-year students at Lewis & Clark Law School and both second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps
Mika'il: “Being a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, I don't fear anything, as far as backlash or anything like that. I have been in training with people who've never seen a Muslim before and I've never had any problems. People say, 'Hey, you're here just like me.' There's only dark green and light green Marines.”
“When you look at this situation, you need to look at it in the same way that you see urban blacks and Latinos being recruited into gangs.”
Salahudin: “Being a young Muslim in America means taking Islam into the future … making Islam part of America in a good way, the same way pizza became American cuisine. … Our job is to … embed it in American society, so it's something normal, part of everyday normal American life — the firefighter, the cop. Hey, that's a Muslim, too. He may pray this certain way, but we're all part of America and we're all in it together.”
“I hope it doesn't turn Portland into a … lynch mob mentality here. I like the fact that people can approach you on the street — no matter what their view — and talk about it like civilized human beings and no one is going to come and yell and scream at you and try to think if they talk louder than you, that they're right. I don't want fear to overrun the city.”
Ghassan Mustafa, Palestinian, U.S. citizen, mechanical engineering student at Portland State University
Ghassan: “The best way to defend Islam or to represent Islam is just being a Muslim. Be a Muslim and you're fine. You don't have to give lectures to describe who you are. Just be a Muslim and it eventually will show. … Be yourself. Be as you are, with your mistakes even. You don't want to give this idea that you are a holy person. No, I am a human being. I'm a Muslim. I try to do certain things to please my Lord, I try to do certain things to improve society, and I'm a human being. I even do mistakes. I'm like you.”
“If he really had those bad intentions, well, I believe if he really was … OK with killing people this way, I think he's suffering for his crime. But if he was trapped, pushed into it this way and he's innocent, well, I hope God helps him.”
Yassar Arain, from California, a student at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine and co-founder of Students of Islam and Medicine Society
Yassar: “We plan on naming our baby boy Sufyan. It's a classical Arabic name. I've gotten feedback from other people in my community, from friends and family. 'Oh, no, no, no. Choose something that's very American. Choose Adam or something else. We don't want them to associate him, be biased toward him or be prejudiced.' I don't think as an American that's something I should have to sacrifice, the identity of my child.”
“I could be your physician when you come into the hospital and I will do my best to take care of you. … We're humans, too. … When a single narrative is given about Muslims, you are doing a disservice to them, dehumanizing who they are. If that narrative is negative, seek out other narratives.”
Source: OregonLive.com (includes videos)