I am an eighteen-year-old female Muslim American who has been the subject of hate, discrimination and hostility since the seventh grade because of the religion I follow. Five years ago, I decided to wear a scarf on my head as a symbol of modesty and to promote a female’s role and value in society. What it rendered was being called "taliban" on the streets of Boston and "ISIS" in school; being spit on by passing cars on every 9/11 anniversary and not being allowed to walk home from school due to my parents' concern over my safety.
I never really thought this could get worse. However, during the presidential election of 2016, it surely did. I witnessed an increase of hate speech, became targeted by half of my own country, and even encountered hostility at my local grocery store. In just the past year, there were 35 incidents where mosques were targeted or vandalized. No longer am I safe to attend to my local mosque in fear of someone storming in to commit one of many hate crimes.
The current president of the United States made radical statements against Latinos, women and the disabled during his campaign. The most radical, however, was his public statements against Muslims. Not only did Trump propose that America should tag Muslims as to distinguish them from others, but he also proposed the "eradication of all Muslims from America." I never in a million years thought anything he said would be taken seriously, but when our nation elected a misogynistic, racist individual as president, my disbelief was again challenged.
Just a week into his presidency, Trump instilled the Muslim travel ban. And things just got a whole lot worse.
Life as a young hijabi Muslim in Trump America, in summation, involves a whole lot of fear. Staying out past dark is no longer a pleasure I can enjoy. If I do sometimes indulge in this pleasure (like going out to dinner in Boston on a Friday night), I am often prone to verbal assault. I get men calling me a “rag head” and the ISIS theme song playing as I walk by a sport's bar (I never even knew ISIS had a theme song until that incident). I’m told to “go back to your country” more times than I can now count.
The worst part of all this is I can never tell my parents. I deal with it alone and try brushing off the insults, shoving them to the back of my head. If my father knew half of what I encounter on a daily basis, it would tear his heart apart. My mother would never let me step foot into Boston again, trying to shelter me from the burning hatred and bigotry.
Right before I leave home every morning, my mother and father tell me, "You're wearing a scarf on your head. Be careful."
My hijab and what it means to me has changed over the years. Wearing the hijab was my rite of passage. It marked my transition from childhood to maturity. Wearing it meant that I took hold of a very important role; I would be representing Muslims, and I had to be the best person I could ever be because of it.
Now, every day I wear the hijab, I am an open target. I am a punching bag and I must stand tall and confident no matter how much I am beat down. Wearing my hijab every morning feels like rebellion, opposition. Wrapping it on my head every morning means I will not succumb. I refuse to be torn down. I refuse prostrate to fear.
Life as a hijabi in Trump America means I’m prone to racial and religious profiling in airports and suspicious looks at baseball games. I'm used to jagged insults cutting deep, stinging wounds into me. I'm used to the mundanity of hate and ignorance.
But despite all this, life as a hijabi in Trump America has made me a stronger, more resilient Muslim woman than I ever thought I could be.
Lead Image Credit: Jerry Kiesewetter via Unsplash