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US Muslims’ Portraits Counter Islamophobia

NEW YORK – An American photographer shot a portrait series featuring US Muslim of all walks of life to offer a clear image for the religious minority and counter rising hate rhetoric during election campaign.

“Now more than ever, we, as the American public, are faced with images and propaganda of ‘the other’ – be it Muslims, Mexican immigrants, the African-American community, the LGBTQ community, the list goes on,” photographer Mark Bennington said in an email to The Huffington Post.

“I found this to be a crucial time to start a project that focused on the everyday – what do ordinary lives and aspirations look like?”

Instead of turning on the television to watch Trump talking about Islam, Bennington decided to sit down with some of the three million Muslims in America and get to know them.

Taking photos for some Muslims, he launched a new series entitled “America 2.0” in which he features photos and stories of Muslim young adults in New York City.

According to Bennington, these young people are a crucial contingent of the next generation of American leaders, and their stories need to be heard.

The series was shot between July and October, asking participants about topics like school, friends, dating, music and more.

The conversations frequently veered to the subject of identity formation, including what’s been going on in the political arena over the last year’s election cycle, Bennington said.

“I love life, but as an American citizen, I have never been so disappointed in America,” Mosammet, a 17-year-old who participated in the series, told Bennington.

Facing negative narrative during election, many American Muslims found themselves having to actively push back on these negative depictions.

“When you are deprived of a chance to share your voice, you have to yell louder. And not just yell louder for yourself but for the several others who feel the same sentiments as you do,” Sadaf, another one of the subjects, is quoted as saying in the series.

Whenever the topic of the election arose, Bennington said he asked the young people about their voting plans, and he quickly discovered that they were largely disappointed with both candidates.

“Almost everyone passionately wanted Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic candidate. Between Trump and Hillary however, there seemed to be this tacit feeling that Hillary was going to win, so not to worry too much,” he said.

After election, Bennington said many have expressed that they are “not only disappointed but fearful of what a Trump presidency will bring.”

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