Stop asking me to condemn terrorists just because I’m Muslim

A friend who has committed herself to bringing interfaith communities together and who has never shrugged off a question about her identity as an American Muslim woman who wears hijab spoke to me of a paralyzing fear she feels every time she leaves the house. In a country that cherishes religious freedom, countless other women are sincerely questioning whether they should remove their hijab for the safety of their children.

Sadly, as Muslims, we contribute to our own oppression by erroneously believing that if we just apologize, then the anti-Muslim rhetoric will end. And it never does. Condemnation becomes our admission of guilt, and we indirectly concede that terror is borne of us, and, therefore, we must atone and condone policies that criminalize us to prove “we have nothing to hide.”

But these calls for condemnation serve only zealots who will never be satisfied. They thrive and profit off of the fear-mongering, hate and violence generated by othering and silencing an entire community who has lived and contributed to our nation since its founding. The first Muslims in the United States were brought over bound as slaves, not immigrants. Muslims fought in every war starting with the American Revolution and have contributed to every facet of society — law, education, medicine, government, fashion, music, architecture and sports. And while some American Muslims have prospered, many face challenges — poverty, unemployment and undereducation — often overshadowed by foreign policy and compounded by pervasive discrimination in our country.