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I'm With You

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As a Muslim-American, the growing Islamophobia across the nation has been especially unsettling. While those seeking our country's highest office fan flames of suspicion for political gain, some people have acted on their fears and attacked Muslim-Americans. This year we've seen sixty-three reported acts of harassment and vandalism at Islamic centers, a three-fold increase over last year. Arson at a mosque in Coachella. Assaults on hijab-wearing students in the Bronx. Shots fired at a woman leaving an Islamic center in Tampa Bay. Incidents like these fuel increasing fear within Muslim-American communities, and many Muslim-Americans are afraid to speak out.

I'm scared too. But my family and friends give me strength. When my wife (who is non-Muslim) vociferously denounces intolerance that she encounters online, she tells me, I'm with You. When my friend relates how her family escaped communist China to come to Florida as refugees, but her new classmates called her a commie gook, she tells me, I'm with You. When my father calls to make sure I came home safely from work, he tells me, I'm with You.

You may not know many Muslim-Americans. We number only 1% of the U.S. population. I grew up in Milwaukee attending a small mosque with a handful of Bengali and Pakistani families. I remember pizza parties after prayers, playing football in the parking lot, and cramming to memorize my lessons before the teachers found out I didn't study. But I do not remember ever feeling afraid for my safety.

The atmosphere now is different. Many young Muslim-Americans feel unwelcome and isolated. How can they overcome bigotry? How can they feel safe? How will they find their place in America? I don't know how to answer these questions.

To my friends in Muslim-American communities in Milwaukee, Coachella, the Bronx, Tampa Bay, or anywhere people are feeling alone and vulnerable: I can't tell you Islamophobia will go away. But I can tell you that I'm with you, my family and friends are with you, and we are not going away.

With a Perspective, I'm Rajib Chowdhury.

Rajib Chowdhury is an entrepreneur and financial analyst working in San Francisco.


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