Muslim Americans: Identity Crisis

June 12, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , United States

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Ahmed Tharwat



Most Americans start their day facing a persistence of questions such as ‘what breakfast or coffee should I have?’, ‘what shoes or shirt should I wear?’, ‘what TV network should I watch?’, or ‘Darn it, where is my phone?!’ In America people identify by the brands they consume, iPhone or Samsung, Pepsi or Coke. Every morning however I wake up and ask myself, ‘who am I?’, ‘what identity am I wearing today? A time of anguish and doubt, an identity crisis in the making, as an Arab Muslim, my identity keeps on forming, evolving and regressing and is questioned every day.


When I left Egypt 40 years ago, I was a disgruntled, confused Egyptian, an Arab Muslim who was shopping around for a better life and better identity. Living 25 years of my life under a despotic dictatorship in Egypt, 15 in a small village and 10 in a Cairo city; these were the origin of all my nightmares. My personal identity was as a proud Egyptian; Arab or Muslim. That didn’t work well for me though, and following disappointments and defeat after defeat I left for America, the land of the free, and escaped to a faraway place, a place as glamorous as their movies and bottles of Coca-Cola.


Once I set foot in the land of the free, I was fascinated by the commercial freedom that America offered. As a consumer I was free, I was allowed to work and consume more. Instead of dictators promising me paradise if I followed them, now brands promised me paradise. A new stereo could bring me a beautiful girlfriend, a new car could bring me happiness. My political choices were replaced by commercial ones, battles of political competition waged in shopping malls and supermarkets; the choice moved from being an Egyptian/Arab or a Muslim, to between Nike or Adidas, between Coke and Pepsi.


The political dictatorship was replaced by the market dictatorship. The average American gets more than 10,000 such messages a day, yes a day. I was overwhelmed, consuming more than producing. My identity moved from being a citizen to being a consumer. I realized that in a capitalist system, a good citizen is the one who consumes and is preferably in debt. A good Muslim is a good consumer. Now the only people who are nice to me are either tilemakers or Jehovah’s Witnesses.


As a consumer, I blended in. Nobody asks me to go back to my ‘country’ at the shopping malls, they may ask me where I am from at the border, but salesmen/women don’t ask me where I am from at the checkout counters. In America, we are all equal consumers.


The most diverse place in America is the shopping mall. Mall security may kick minority kids out of the mall, not because they are a different color, but because they don’t have the right color, the green. Starbucks wants you to buy something before you can use their bathrooms. Lately with the election of Trump and the rise of racism and Islamophobia, normalization of the un-normal became the norm. Following this, white racists now call the police on blacks just for being black. The life of a Muslim has become a living hell. We are blamed for all sorts of vices, my religion and my prophet insulated and degraded with a daily dose fed to the hungry patriotic Americans.


Before Trump was elected, Muslims and minorities turned to the first black president, the darling of white liberals, Barack Obama, who was given a pass for his right-wing policy supporting Wall Street jihadists, giving trillions of dollars to failed banks and financial institutions, leaving millions of poor folk in debt, engaging in half a dozen wars abroad, killing thousands of innocents with his remote drone toys.


Muslims, and a lot of minorities, were disappointed and disillusioned, becoming politically homeless. Muslims have been trying to assimilate for years, toning down their Islamic identities, changing their names and using more skin whitening products. Women started wearing hats instead of hijabs or even wearing American flag hijabs. We have Muslims also adopting the #MeToo movement, even reporting sexual assaults in Haj.


All Muslims have also jumped onto the pop culture wagon, competing in American Idol, fashion shows for Muslims, drinking, eating pork at American restaurants, dating and having girlfriends and boyfriends, having more sex, and visiting shopping malls more often. They now even make movies that suit the American mainstream audience, with films like “The Big Sick”, the Muslim version of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, where Muslims, to be accepted and win the white girl, must denounce their religion and culture.


With all these assimilation attempts, Muslims are still singled out, assaulted, their mosques attacked, their religion degraded and insulted. According to a FBI report, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by nearly 20 percent, almost 79 percent of all hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity or religion.


Now in Trump-land, blaming Islam and Muslims for all problems in the world has become the policy and culture of the Trump administration. Officials in the current administration accuse Muslims and Islam of being anti-American. Foreign Policy magazine published an article with the headline “The Trump Administration’s Islamophobic Holy Grail.” Frank Gaffney, founder of the Center for Security Policy think tank, was quoted in The Atlantic that Trump uses the verminous anti-Islam/Muslim propaganda for his foreign policy and “that Islam is not actually a religion. It is a totalitarian political ideology. Thus, its adherents should be treated not like Christians or Jews, but like American Nazis during World War II.”


The more Islamophobic assaults and attacks on American Muslims that are ‘allowed’ in this country, make it hard for Muslims to be full citizens, Muslim Americans’ identities slowly veering more to that of a Muslim than an American. Ramadan Kareem/and God Bless!






Ahmed Tharwat

Ahmed Tharwat is the Producer and Host of the Arab-American TV show BelAhdan. His articles are published in national and international publications. He blogs at Notes from America, and his articles appear in national and international publications. Follow him on Twitter @AhmediaTV.

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