WASHINGTON – A small but growing number of American Muslims are buying guns as they worry about their safety at a time when hate crimes against Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of 9/11 attacks.
“I don’t get looked like as a normal person who’s just trying to protect themselves,” said Sheima Muhammad, 25, who emigrated from Turkey as a baby with her family, The New York Times reported.
Muhammad, who wears a hijab, was referring to funny looks she gets when she takes her Glock pistol to her local gun range once a week in central Ohio where customers are mostly older men.
The Kurdish Muslim girl explained she decided to buy a pistol after a frightening encounter with a stranger in the parking lot of the grocery store where she worked in Columbus.
“People stare at me and look me up and down, kind of like: ‘What are you doing owning a gun? We know what you people do with the guns,’” she said. “I walk into the place and I feel like an alien.”
She is one of the cases highlighted by Egyptian documentary photographer and filmmaker, Amr Alfiky, who spent days with Muslim gun owners in Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Virginia to document their experiences.
“I tried to shed a light on a group that is often marginalized and have faced hate and discrimination. Muslim Americans are stereotypically seen as a violent threat to the USA,” Alfiky expressed to the Times.
“I came across two major lawsuits that were filed against a gun range in Oklahoma and a gun store in Florida. Each declared itself to be a “Muslim-free Zone,” he informed while talking about finding out about two of the main subjects of his story: Hassan Shibly and Raja’ee Fatihah.
“I believe that the group of people I met had different reasons and motivations for owning guns, but they all shared pride in being Americans defending their Second Amendment rights. For most of them, guns emphasize their American identity and give them a sense of liberty,” the Muslim filmmaker believes.
Hassan Shibly, a son of Syrian immigrants, is another American Muslim who said he “became a handgun owner reluctantly.”
“It got to the point where people I know who are in law enforcement actually recommended that I take some means to make sure that I can protect myself and my family,” said Shibly, 32, who lives in Tampa.
Shibly, the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national civil rights group, has received death threats because of his advocacy on behalf of Muslims and mosques he attends have also gotten threats.
“I’m not a reckless gun enthusiast. I’m somebody who reluctantly owns these tools for purposes of self-defense while recognizing the great burden they come with. They’re not simply for sports, or entertainment, or for culture,” he said.
The CAIR official added: “The solution to the problems we face is not more violence or even more guns. It is engagement, education, service, community organization, political involvement.”