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Challenges of Being a New Muslim in America Today

The peace and beauty found within the Islamic faith is nothing short of miraculous. No one knows this better than a revert to Islam, or someone who has left the faith of their parents and returned back to the natural state of all humans which is Islam.

After reverting to Islam myself, over 22 years ago, I still remember how every inch of my skin came to life and felt electrified each time I heard the call to prayer or stood to pray.

You’ve entered a whole new world that is overflowing with the mercy and blessings of God Almighty.

However, despite the newness of your faith, reality will sink in sooner rather than later. Muslims are a minority in America and a marginalized group that is maligned in the media regularly. There are many challenges that both reverts and born Muslims face in America today.

Rise in Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes

Hate crimes against Muslims rose by 15%, in 2017, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). This had a lot to do with the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign where the Islamic faith was put under a microscope and sullied in a bid to misinform the American people while also using fear-mongering to get votes on both sides.

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Today, Muslims are often considered to be the “others” in the United States with our contributions to the fabric of the nation ignored.

Negative Stereotypes

The media has always created and promulgated negative stereotypes against Muslims, in film and elsewhere.

Countless movies and television series have been created, to much fanfare, that depict Muslims as terrorists or otherwise backwards from the rest of society.

It’s a fact that sensationalism and fabrications sell much better than reality. If the true religion of Islam was ever presented, as a whole, and the simplicity of Muslims themselves depicted – it simply would not be ‘newsworthy’.

Western Values

Being a minority in any country is always a challenge. However, being a Muslim in a non-Muslim country brings with it a whole other set of challenges that range from dietary restrictions to dress code. It’s unfortunate that innumerable Muslims living in the West have forgotten their roots and instead adopted those of their new homeland.

For a new Muslim, this is one of the hardest obstacles especially if you were raised in the West. Differentiating between western values and the new ones you hold dear in the Islamic faith is truly a test of your freedom of will and tenacity to stay firm in your religion.

It’s easy to take the road that is most traveled. Traversing the road that is difficult and winding, will define your life as a Muslim and give you steadfastness.

Shortcomings of the Ummah

As a new Muslim, I was very heartened when I first heard about the Ummah, or Muslim community. However, I don’t think I have ever truly experienced it for myself.

As someone that chose Islam after being a Christian for my entire life, I did feel shunned by the Muslims I met in my first few years as a Muslim. “You’re a fake Muslim”, “You only became Muslim for marriage”, and “You do not understand Islam” are just a few of the things I was told by so-called ‘born-Muslims’ who were not very welcoming to me.

Over the years, I have learned that our Ummah is divided along cultural lines which is disheartening to say the least. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in his Farewell Sermon:

There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.

Yet despite this remarkable and beautiful sentiment from our Holy Messenger, the Ummah is not living up to its potential. Worst of all, it is the new Muslims who are being made to feel unwelcome and are at risk of becoming disillusioned by their own brethren in faith.

A Silver Lining

By the Grace and Mercy of God Almighty there is a silver lining to these challenges. If you meet them with patience and complete trust in God, you will find success in this life and the next. As God Almighty says in the Noble Quran:

Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you are now, until He distinguishes the wicked from the good. Nor will Allah disclose to you the secrets of the Ghayb (Unseen). (Quran 3:179

This life is full of challenges that can be risen to and tests that can be overcome. As a new Muslim, you’ve been given a chance at salvation that many others never get and that is worth weathering even the fiercest of storms.

(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)

About Sumayyah Meehan
Sumayyah Meehan reverted to Islam over 23 years ago. She is a Waynesburg University graduate with a BA in Criminal Justice. Sumayyah is a journalist, marketer and freelance graphic designer. She is also a single-mother residing in North Carolina with her children.