i am a muslim and darn proud of it

dear heather,

I’m a Muslim and darn proud of it. The problem is after 9/11, people turn sideways and look at me with hate. I feel as if few people understand what it’s like to be different. Any tips on how to deal?

I imagine it’s a rough time to be a Muslim in the United States (which I assume is where you live). Some people have enough trouble with “difference” under normal circumstances, and it sounds like you’re dealing with one of many ignorant reactions to the events of September 11, 2001.If you’re in an area that’s mostly white or another race or religion, it can be especially hard to come up with ways of coping with people’s intolerance. But there are a few well-worn tips I can suggest.

The first thing I would advise is that you find a way of letting out your feelings when the “hate” gets you down, whether that means reacting directly to people in a confrontational way or choosing a more peaceful channel such as talking about what’s going on with them or somebody else and/or writing down your thoughts. (The letter you wrote me is a great start!)

If there are other Muslims in your community (or online), staying in touch even in the most casual way can be reassuring. Especially because the pride you seem to have in your religion or culture may itself feel under attack.

Talking to people facing other kinds of intolerance could be helpful too. The experience of feeling on the outside and “different” is much more common than you may think. These resources could give you some perspective on that as well.

One last thing: If you do decide to confront someone who looks at you in a hateful way, I suggest that you first make sure that’s actually what they’re doing and then that you don’t expect to change their mind. You’re definitely entitled to try…but it’s also good to remember that it’s not your responsibility and that they’re the one with the problem!

take care,
heather


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