This week, Moshe Kasher brought an all-Muslim panel to the stage — religious scholar Reza Aslan, ABC News anchor Amna Nawaz and comedian Maz Jobrani — where they discussed their experiences with Islamophobia and the lessons they learned from them. As you might imagine, those include some things no child should have to learn.
TO PROTECT YOURSELF, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO HIDE WHO YOU ARE.
In the midst of anti-Muslim and Iranian sentiment in America during the Iran hostage crisis, Aslan spent a good chunk of the early 80s telling everyone he was Mexican — even “[walking] around going, ’Órale’” (in the worst Mexican impression Moshe’s ever heard.) But this bit of deception reflected a real fear: “I was seven years old, and my very identity was being seen as the enemy.”
9/11 DEFINED ISLAM FOR MANY AMERICANS.
Prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks, many (white) Americans only knew of Islam in the abstract. Raised in an all-white neighborhood, Nawaz says that her faith was never something she had to explain until 9/11. “That was when, all the sudden, people were aware that being Muslim was a thing, and I was that thing,” she remembered. Aslan agreed. “Before 9/11, we were demonized for our ethnicity,” he said. “After 9/11, it was, ’You’re Muslim.’ Not Iranian or Arab — you’re just Muslim now.”
The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj also took the time out to chat via satellite about a traumatic childhood memory.
IN ORDER TO END HATE, YOU HAVE TO CALL IT OUT.
On September 12, 2001, Minhaj’s family was subject to a hate crime. Following a threatening phone call, his family car (“Toyota Camry, car of choice for immigrants,” according to Minhaj) had its windows smashed in. Instead of retaliating, his father simply cleaned up the glass, saying, “This is the price we pay for being here, so we lucked out.” And while some days Minhaj finds himself agreeing with his father that he should keep his head down, he thinks we can do better to help eliminate racism and Islamophobia everywhere: “Maybe it’s our job — our generation — to push the needle forward little by little and make it better for all of us.”