Muslim teen reflects on life since Sept. 11
By Emma Hulse, 15
May 19, 2002
Huma Ansari, 18, is like many American teens. She
lives with her parents and younger sister in Muncie,
attends Burris Laboratory School on the Ball State
campus, and plans to attend Indiana University in the
majoring in pre-med and biology.
Unlike most teen-age girls, however, she is Muslim --
one of about 200,000 Muslims in Indiana.
Ansari talked to Y-Press recently about her life as a
Muslim in America after Sept. 11.
In her own words
"In Muncie, there aren't any other Muslim youth my
age. We have about 90 kids in our Sunday school, and
they're between the ages of 3 and 14.
"My friends are mostly Christian or Hindu. I have a
lot of Hindu friends because my family is from India.
I went to a Christian -- a Baptist -- school, until
the fifth grade. And I think sometime like late in
elementary, like third or fourth grade, people were
like, 'Oh, well,
you're gonna go to hell because you're not Christian.'
". . . And so I would always ask my parents, you know,
and they were like, 'Well, they just don't
understand.' I think people don't realize how many
similarities there are, and they just try to
accentuate the differences,
and that really makes it difficult for me.
"(Islam) is a lot like Judaism and Christianity -- it
has the same roots. We believe in the same prophets,
like Abraham and Jesus. We believe in Adam and Eve and
that kind of thing.
"I think that a lot of times the Western world sort of
has this misconception that Muslim women are under
oppression. I think they interpret modesty as
oppression. In the Quran, which is like the Bible,
it shows that men and women are equal in everything.
Islam was the first religion to actually give women
the right to own land and have business, and be the
sole owner of a business, and to vote.
"In Islam, you can never justify killing another
person. They even say that killing one person is like
killing all of humanity, and saving one person is like
saving all of humanity.
"(On September 11th) I actually called home from
school, crying . . .because people were just joking
around and stuff. And my mom just told me to ignore
them, and if anything, tell them that I didn't do
wrong, so why are you discriminating against me or
making fun of me, because I'm just like any one of you
and we're all victims, I guess.
"People have a misconception that we're like fighters
and like brutal
people, and that's just not true at all. Like the week
11th, on campus, a couple of guys were walking, and I
was walking to
of my classes. And this guy said, 'Those damn Muslims
just like want to
take over the world,' or something like that. And I
was walking behind
them, and I got really offended. So I got up in front
of them, and I
like, 'What are you talking about? I'm Muslim, and I'm
a little girl
I'm not trying to take over the world or anything.'
"I think it (the media) definitely plays a big role. I
was watching, I
think it was CNN and Fox News and like all the other
all had these debates on about how to change the
"It was just all of these really negative stereotypes,
and a lot of
had Muslim guests on the show, talking about Islam.
And every time they
would say something positive, the host would interrupt
something, you know, like a misconception or say,
'Well, you're not
this is how it is.' So I think the voice of the Muslim
world is a lot
times just turned down.
"And I think Muslims only show up in the media when
they do bad things.
And I honestly believe that if a Christian or a Jew or
a Hindu or a
Buddhist does a crime, it won't be such a big deal.
Because now, I
Muslims are a target.
"I have a cousin who went to Harvard, and he is an
and he's working for an attorney in Washington. . . .
And he had a lot
trouble with people following him, just like that week
or two after
September 11th, and like being searched and that kind
of thing. And
he said, 'I work for a senator,' and the senator
didn't even help him
"The first week or so we were all afraid to go to the
mosque because we
weren't sure what to expect. And actually we had
friends come from a
church downtown, and they all sat out in our parking
lot while we had
prayer services and stuff just to make sure we were
safe. Then we just
back to our daily schedule, I guess.
"(September 11th) has made me more aware of who I am
people are asking a lot more questions, and people are
a lot more ready
learn, because I think in this world, like in this day
and age, you
to know about people.
"I've been giving talks about Islam and talking to my
friends. It was a
little scary at first because there was a little bit
people just seemed like, 'Oh, you're Muslim. Well,
they kill people,
"But I think it's a good thing the way that like the
responding and reaching out because I think
understanding between two
cultures or two religions, any two religions, is the
that can happen."
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