Muslims in America: Beyond Stereotypes

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Khan, Raqshan. “I Belong.” The Tam News. Accessed 19 July 2018.

About Raqshan Khan

Raqshan Khan was born in Hyderabad, India in 1999. She came to the U.S. with her family in 2000. Raqshan currently studies Mathematics and Computer Science in San Francisco and has a deep passion for journalism and storytelling.

Student Handout: Lesson 2: Muslim Voices post 9/11 cases of Islamophobia
Islamophobia 2016
Case #1: Southwest Airlines Draws Outrage over Man Removed for Speaking Arabic
The account of a UC Berkeley researcher who was removed from a flight after a fellow passenger heard him speak Arabic on his phone has drawn condemnation and outrage for the airline, Southwest, about a perceived pattern of barring travel.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at the university, was removed from the Oakland-bound flight from Los Angeles international airport on 6 April. Makhzoomi, 26, was born in Iraq, and his family fled the country in 2002 after his diplomat father was killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime.

According to Makhzoomi, he was removed from the flight and questioned by the FBI after another passenger informed airline staff about his phone conversation, which was to his uncle in Baghdad. He ended the call with the word “inshallah”, meaning “God willing”, and said the passenger thought he used the word “shahid”, meaning “martyr”, during the conversation.

Southwest confirmed that it had removed Makhzoomi from the flight late on Friday.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” Makhzoomi told the Daily Californian. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

As Makhzoomi was being questioned by airline staff and police officers, the student complained he was the victim of discrimination.

“I told them, ‘This is what Islamophobia looks like,’” he said….“And that’s when they said I could not get on the plane, and they called the FBI.”

Makhzoomi said he was searched and his bag inspected. He wasn’t allowed to reboard the Oakland flight and had his ticket fare refunded.

“That is when I couldn’t handle it and my eyes began to water,” he said. “The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father….”

The incident occurred a day after Makhzoomi attended a dinner with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Makhzoomi said he is still waiting for a proper explanation for the decision to remove him….”

Source: Milman, Oliver. “Southwest Airlines Draws Outrage over Man Removed for Speaking

Arabic.” The Guardian. April 16, 2016.

Student Handout: Lesson 2: Muslim Voices post 9/11 cases of Islamophobia
Islamophobia 2016
Case #2: Why a Ninth-grader’s Arrest over a Home-built Clock Struck a Chord Across America
…Mohamed, a self-assured kid with thick-framed glasses and a serious expression, had just started at MacArthur High School a few weeks ago. He has a talent for tinkering — he constructs his own radios and once built a Bluetooth speaker as a gift for his friend — and he wanted to show his new teachers what he could do.
So on Sunday night, he quickly put together a homemade digital clock: “Just something small,” as he casually put it to the Dallas Morning News — a circuit board and power supply connected to a digital display. He proudly offered it to his engineering teacher the next day.
But the teacher looked wary.
“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’ ” Mohamed told the newspaper. “ ‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’ ”

During English class, the clock beeped, annoying his teacher. When he brought the device up to her afterward, she told him “it looks like a bomb,” according to Mohamed. “I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me,’ ” he told the Morning News.

But the English teacher kept the clock, and during sixth period, Mohamed was pulled out of class by a police officer and the principal, who, the teen said, urged him to sign a written statement or he would be expelled. They took him to a room where four other officers were waiting. When he entered, one officer leaned back in his chair and said, “That’s who I thought it was,” …
“They interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention,” Mohamed said. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”
But, he said, his questioner responded: “It looks like a movie bomb to me.”
Mohamed was taken to police headquarters, handcuffed and fingerprinted.
During questioning, officers repeatedly brought up his last name, Mohamed said. (His family is from Sudan and he is Muslim.)
When he tried to call his father, Mohamed said he was told he couldn’t speak to his parents until after the interrogation was over. They asked if he had plastic explosives.
…Asked why Mohamed was not permitted to call his parents while being questioned by police, Boyd, the police chief, said he did “not have answers to your specific question.”

Boyd said officers believed the clock was “possibly the infrastructure for a bomb” and that when they arrived at the scene, they were not told that Mohamed had shown the device to his engineering teacher.

Mohamed immediately told officers that it was a clock, but Boyd said the teen did not initially say more about the device.
“It is what appears to be an electronic homemade device with wires running through it inside a metal case,” Boyd said. “It was not immediately clear that it was the experiment he said it was.”

Mohamed was eventually released to his parents.

…“He certainly didn’t expect to be detained, interrogated, handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted and arrested at the end of the school day,” she [Linda Moreno his attorney] added.
But the school district and Irving officials remained steadfast in their belief that Mohamed’s arrest was a reasonable attempt to investigate a “potential threat.”


Phillip, Abby and Kaplan, Sarah. “Why a ninth-grader’s arrest over a home-built clock struck a

chord across America.” Washington Post. September 15, 2016.

Student Handout: Lesson 2: Muslim Voices post 9/11 cases of Islamophobia
Islamophobia 2016
Case #3: Professor: Flight Was Delayed Because My Equations Raised Terror Fears
An economics professor says his flight was delayed because a fellow passenger thought the equations he was writing might be a sign he was a terrorist.

American Airlines confirmed on Saturday that a woman expressed suspicions about a University of Pennsylvania economics professor, Guido Menzio. She said she was too ill to take the Air Wisconsin-operated flight.

Menzio was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday to give a talk at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. He was solving a differential equation, but said he was told the woman thought he might be a terrorist because of what he was writing.

American spokesman Casey Norton said the crew followed protocol to take care of an ill passenger and then to investigate her allegations. They determined them to be non-credible, he said.

On Facebook, Menzio recounted the “unbelievable” experience in the present tense.

“The passenger sitting next to me calls the stewardess, passes her a note.”

The plane, ready to take off, then returned to the gate and the passenger left. Menzio was then asked to disembark the plane and “met by some FBI looking man-in-black”.

“They ask me about my neighbor,” he wrote. “I tell them I noticed nothing strange.

They tell me she thought I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper. I laugh. I bring them back to the plane. I showed them my math.”

Menzio, who is Italian and has curly, dark hair, told the Associated Press he initially “thought they were trying to get clues about her illness.”

  “Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper.”

He told the Washington Post that he was “treated respectfully throughout” the process but remains perturbed by a system that “relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless”.

Passenger fears have prompted a series of problems on airplanes in recent weeks. Last month an Iraqi student who was overheard talking with his uncle in Arabic was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after a fellow passenger reported him, prompting anger from civil rights groups.

“Professor: flight was delayed because my equations raised terror fears.” The Guardian.

May 7, 2016.

Teacher Guide
Lesson 2: Muslim Voices
Teacher Directions
First 60-minute session

Ask students to take out a piece of paper and draw a box. Tell them that they are going to think about how they see themselves, what groups they are part of, what and write those things inside the box and then on the outside, write how people in society see them. This variation of an identity chart helps to illustrate the similarities and differences between the way we define ourselves and the way that others define us. First, have students draw a box on a large piece of paper. Inside the hand, have students write labels and descriptions they use to describe themselves. Outside of their outline, have students write labels and descriptions that reflect how they think others view them. In some cases, how the outside world sees us is the same as how we see ourselves, and in some cases, it is not. Words inside the outline and outside the outline may or may not overlap.

This was adapted from Facing History and Ourselves. There is much room for improvement in this section. I am calling it “under construction.”
Source for this is Facing History and Ourselves.

After this activity, follow these procedures:

—as an introduction to Lesson 2, students will complete an identity exercise that highlights the differences between the way people view themselves and how others view them, or how they see themselves and what stereotyped identities society imposes upon them

—students read Anchor Voice: Mohja Kahf

—teacher will model how to perform activity

—discussion and review of procedures

—students will be divided into six groups and each group will receive one Muslim Voice

(there are eight to choose from, and more may be added to make them appropriate for student reading levels)

—students will read Muslim Voice individually and answer questions on student handout

—students will discuss their answers in small groups

—students will share out to whole group in format to be decided

—whole class discussion

—teacher will explicitly teach about stereotyping, discrimination and Islamophobia

—teacher will share 3 cases of Islamophobia

—students will view the video from Pew Research Center: Being Muslim in America (18:18) from April 17, 2018.

—students will read Final Anchor Muslim Voice 10 for homework , highlight, annotate, complete student handout and come prepare for a whole class discussion the next day

—small group discussion about Final Anchor Muslim Voice 10

—whole class discussion about Final Anchor Muslim Voice 10

—students will write a reflection:

How has your understanding of Muslim Americans changes during this activity?

—students will watch 5-minute video A Land Called Paradise

These are the ten Muslim Voices. For information on these Muslim Americans, make sure to read the brief biographical information that is at the end of each excerpted text.
Ten Muslim Voices

1. Beginning Anchor Voice: Mohja Kahf

2. Mary Juma

3. Halima Touré

4. Keith Ellison

5. Shams Aljuwude

6. Ibtisam Barakat

7. Arsalan Tariq Iftikhar

8. Andre Carson

9. Haroon Moghul

10. Final Anchor Voice: Raqshan Khan

Useful background information for the teacher on stereotypes, discrimination and Islamophobia

“Stereotypes are oversimplified, unquestioned assumptions about an entire group of people. Though they are not necessarily negative and do not necessarily lead toward the mistreatment of other human beings, historians and other scholars of Muslim-American history are in wide agreement that the stereotyping of Muslims in the United States , like that of other religions and ethnic minorities such as blacks, Indians and Latin, is generally negative and harmful, leading to various forms of discrimination. Sometimes characterized by “Islamophobia” or the fear of Islam, anti-Muslim stereotypes have included the assumptions that Muslims are generally violent, fanatical, exotic, untrustworthy, and in the case of Muslim women, oppressed.”
A definition for Islamophobia: “ a social anxiety toward Islam and Muslim cultures that is largely unexamined by, yet deeply ingrained in Americans.”


Ed. Curtis IV, Edward. Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History Vol.2 Facts on File , 2010, NY, NY( 529)

Useful historical background information for the teacher.
Excerpted from Curtis IV, Edward. Editor, Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History Vol.1 Facts on File , 2010, NY, NY(xv- xvi).
The first significant population of Muslims to arrive on American shores came as slaves, abducted from West Africa in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Muslim slaves such as the 18th-century celebrity Job Ben Solomon (ca. 1701-ca.1773) were sometimes literate, fluent in the Arabic language that had been taught to them in the West African Muslim schools and seminaries. Their writings in both English and Arabic are among the most important slave narratives in existence documenting the history of the united states as a diverse, vibrant, and oppressive slave society in the 19th century. It has been estimated that at last 20,000 African-American Muslim slaves gave their labor to the building of American economy before 1865 . Like other West African slaves brought to the Americas, they also contributed their religious cultures, music, art, and agricultural know-how to the building of multicultural America.

Since the beginning of the republic, Muslims have also fought in every major U.S. war as members of the U.S. military—and they have sometimes been among the most vocal critics of war…Muslims served on both sides of the Civil war, and thousands of them fought in World War I and World War II. IN addition to serving in the Vietnam War, Muslim Americans such as boxing champion Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016) were among the war’s most vocal and effective critics. More recently, most Muslim Americans opposed the Iraq War that began in 2003, though many Muslim members of the U.S. armed forces have given their lives or been injured in the conflict.

Muslim-American History is also an essential aspect of the larger history of U.S. immigration. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period marked by a large influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, thousands of Muslim Americans were among those from Europe and the Middle East who came to the United States to seek their fortunes and, they hoped, to return home. Many did not, especially when travel to and from Europe was cut off during World War I. Some Muslim immigrants became dockworkers in the area around Boston, Massachusetts; others started out as peddlers in the Midwest; hundreds or more worked in Detroit’s burgeoning automobile industries. In North Dakota, Muslim immigrants from Syria and Lebanon applied for homesteads and busted the hard sod of the American Plains, often deciding, with other Dakotans in the 1930s, that such land was not meant to be cultivated. During this period, sailors from South Asia also arrived in the ports of New Orleans and new York City, where they often escaped from their work as steam engine stokers, married women of color, and remained in the United States.

After the Immigration Act of 1965 repealed the quotas that restricted immigration from Asia and Africa approximately 1 million Muslims came to the United States over the next three decades. These new immigrants, many of whom were from the Middle East and South Asia, made vital contributions to various aspects of American life, from poetry to politics. South Asian — American Muslims, for example designed some of the country’s most noteworthy buildings, including the Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago; they healed the sick as medical doctors in small towns and large cities; and some introduced Americans to Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam whose forms of meditation have become popular among millions of Americans, whether Muslim or not. Arab-American Muslims made similar contributions, and one of them, Ahmed Zewali (1946-2016), won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1999.

One of the consequences of the post-1965 wave of immigration was that the United States became the most religiously and ethnically diverse Muslim country in the world. In addition to South Asians and Arab Americans, the newly arrived Muslims included people from sub-Saharan Africa, Iran, Southeast Asia, southeastern Europe, and Latin America. They introduced their food and dress to Muslims and non-Muslims I the United States, often achieving success as small business owners who attempted to popularize some aspect of their culture among their fellow Americans.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many of these immigrants faced increasing discrimination, and their central role in controversies regarding immigration policy, civil liberties, and other aspects of U.S. politics showed how Muslims had a symbolic importance in American society that exceeded their actual numbers. In many ways, this pattern recapitulated an old theme. Stereotypes of Islam and Muslims…have been part of American culture and politics since the colonial era.”

Student Handout Lesson Three: Fremont, U.S.A. Vocabulary
integration the process of bringing different groups together
intolerance the opposite of tolerance
pluralism a condition or system in which two or more states, groups, principles, sources of authority, etc. coexist
segregation a system that keeps different groups separate from each other, either through physical barriers or . Are these freedoms or restrictions social pressures and laws
tolerance allowing other people to think or practice, other religions and beliefs

the ability or willingness to tolerate something in particular the existence of other opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with

Student Handout Lesson Three: Fremont, U.S.A. Brainstorm Questions on Freedom
Think about what freedoms groups have in society.
What are people allowed to make their own choices about?
Are these freedoms or restrictions something that they are allowed to make their own choice about? Or are these freedoms or restrictions determined by social interactions or laws?
Create a list of questions that could be used to determine what freedoms people in society have.
Think about how these freedoms are determined.
Are they freedoms guaranteed by law?
Freedoms determined by social interaction?
Or freedoms determined by something else?

Student Handout Lesson Three: Fremont, U.S.A. Questions for Discussion
Directions: In your small groups, discuss the answers to the questions below.
1. What were the names of the different religious communities in Fremont?
2. How were the communities of Fremont brought together?
3. How did the religious communities improve the Fremont community?
4. What divided the religious communities? Why do you think this happened?
5. What else struck you about this video?
6. How would you define religious pluralism in Fremont?
7. What is positive about religious pluralism?
8. In addition to religious pluralism, what other types of pluralism could occur in society?

Teacher Guide
Time: two sixty-minute sessions

Students will come up with a list of questions to determine what freedoms groups have in societies.

Students come up with individual lists.

Then in smaller groups discuss lists.

Then each group comes up with one list with 5-10 questions.

Students can post questions on big paper, or post in a digital document.

Possible questions may include:

Are there laws restricting certain groups from owning property in certain neighborhoods?

Are there laws banning groups from visiting religious scared

Are people allowed to speak the language of their choice?

Can people from different religions marry?
—Hold a whole class discussion:

How can we tell what freedoms groups have in society?

How are these freedoms determined and ensured?
—view Fremont, U.S.A., a documentary about religious pluralism in a Northern California suburb

—discussion following movie (need to make questions)

Documentary: Fremont, U.S.A. 57:18

Fremont, U.S.A offers a glimpse of religious diversity on the local level: Fremont, California is a city transformed by new immigration. A rajagopuram rises in a tidy suburban neighborhood, announcing the vital presence of the Hindu community. The diversity of the global Buddhist community is also in evidence, as Thai, Chinese, and Burmese temples—and a women’s monastic retreat center—dot the landscape. Fremont is home to Peace Terrace, where Muslims and Christians have built side by side, and Gurdwara Road, where a large Sikh community engages in creative forms of outreach.”

Video Link:
Mini-Unit Student Assessment Muslims in America: Beyond Stereotypes

You have spent about a week learning about Muslim American history, understanding Muslim American demographics, hearing Muslim American voices, thinking about freedom and learning abut religious pluralism in the United States.
Think back to what you thought at the beginning of this mini-unit. Howa has your thinking changed.


How has your thinking about Muslim Americans changed after learning about Muslim American demographics?
How has your thinking about Muslim Americans changed after hearing the personal stories in the video: Being Muslim in America?

Teacher Guide Final Notes and Extension Ideas

This mini-unit was formatted along the guidleines put out by UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project. Their website is:

Extension Ideas:
1. collect stories

2. reach out to Muslim communities in Fremont and Mill Valley and collect stories

3. use StoryCorps (NPR) for guidelines

Sometimes, when you listen to a story, you get an idea of what’s possible in the world.

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