My name is Marwa Balkar. I am a 22-year-old born and raised in this beautiful country. I am also an American Muslim, which is a difficult thing to be in this moment in America’s history. Between the rise of terror threats of people claiming to follow the same religion as me, and the dehumanization of Muslims by most GOP candidates, a lot of animosity has been created within our society. I can thank this rise in hostility to America’s top GOP candidate Donald J. Trump. Trump’s recent comments have attacked multiple demographics that represent the melting pot that is America.
When I initially heard of Trump’s comments on mosques, my first instinct was to protect my religion. I wrote a Facebook post simply telling my story. I am your average American girl. My religious beliefs do not make me any better than you, nor do they lessen who I am. I wore a peace sign on my shirt because that’s what my true religion represents. Choosing the peace sign was an easy choice because it’s universal and already defined.
My post went viral within hours. I started receiving messages from current military men, former military women, people looking for clarification on what Islam is, and countless others. Muslim children in America reached out to me not knowing who else to turn to about the discrimination they encounter in their schools. Shockingly though, in the best way, most of the feedback I was receiving was from non-Muslims. My post quickly began to reach an international level. People from all over the world were sending me messages and thanking me for sticking up for them. Imagine this: people in different countries were feeling victimized by Trump. It’s not only Muslims that are hurt and threatened by his comments. The people in South America feel just as dehumanized by his ignorance. Instead of building bridges with our neighboring countries, he is burning them, proudly.
Unfortunately, the only thing Trump is consistent with is recklessness. His latest statement on banning Muslims from entering the U.S. promotes Islamophobia and is creating a division in a country that was created to be indivisible. He embeds fear in the heart of his supporters so he can then paint himself as the hero. Ever since he began his adamant effort to spread this hatred, America has become a dangerous place for Muslims. I personally have experienced an exponential increase in discrimination since his most recent prejudiced remarks. Coworkers who I considered my friends no longer speak to me. I have started to get violent messages and death threats. Women who wear the hijab are frightened to leave their homes. They are openly discriminated against when they do. Muslims fear attending their religious prayers at the local mosque. Parents fear sending their children to school. This cannot be what America is in the year 2015.
What Donald Trump does not realize is that Muslims in America are just as fearful of terrorists as he is. After all, we are all American. These extremists have slaughtered thousands of Muslims since their origination. Muslims in America are backed into a corner by our fellow citizens who choose ignorance and the falsifiers who misrepresent Islam. How can we rationally condemn an entire religion — 1.6 billion people — by the actions of a few? A few, who twist the message of a peaceful religion and use it as a justification for their heinous actions. Instead of being the America that protects the tired, poor huddled masses that come to this country for the freedom that it represents, it has become an America that casts doubt and scorn on that of which it does not understand. But I do not believe this is the America that resorts to alienating a body of people due to fear. Have we forgotten that this is the land of the free, home of the brave?
I never thought that “making America great again” would mean to regress into America’s embarrassing, discriminatory past. Donald Trump is America’s antagonist. Having him as this country’s president would be a threat to our national security. His statements provoke old enemies and will create new ones. Consider this as well, if he leads us into war by taunting dangerous enemies, would you trust someone with no military background to be the commander and chief of our great army? Instead of using what we have learned in discourse, such as the Socratic Method, we have become a nation that retreats to emotionally charged allegations that have no factual basis. America, do not be worrisome of the unknown. Be curious of the unknown. Ask the questions you need for clarification. Exercise your First Amendment right. You have a voice, a powerful voice. Use it loudly and proudly. Peace be to you.
Marwa Balkar is a college student in Southern California. ATTN: highlighted her recent comments in response to Donald Trump’s proposed plan that all Muslims in the U.S. should wear identification badges.