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Transcription: [00:14:03]
[Speaker 1]:
Thank you Saber. Sanjana:

[Speaker 2]:
Alright hello everyone. Lemme just get this a little closer. Alright.

So unsurprisingly as you may know was mentioned 9/11 was a significant event in the development of the Muslim-American community and similarly it had a very significant impact on our individual identity development.

While I was aware that I was Muslim growing up, that identity was reinforced after 9/11.

Up until then, most people saw my ethnicity, which was perceived to be as Indian, although I was Bengali as my primary identifier, and then when I was in seventh grade 9/11 happened and suddenly there was a shift in how I was perceived.

This hijab which I chose to put on when I was ten no longer was just an expression of my worship, but it became a statement and a flag that screamed "I am Muslim."

So being 12, my religion, while it was important, it wasn't something that I had really engaged in because I was twelve, but now I was asked to speak for this entire group.

So, 9/11 for me really catalyzed the development of my Muslim identity and it also made me so much more aware of my own "Muslimness."

On the one hand, it led to a lot of discomfort.

You know, I got called a terrorist. I got asked if I had a bomb under my scarf.

I probably got a lot more weird and angry looks then the average American got, especially when they were twelve or thirteen.

But on the other hand, it also cemented for me the importance of a psalm in my life.

I knew that whenever people saw me, the first thing that they would think is a Muslim woman, so I felt the need to rise to that occasion, and to be the best version of myself because I knew that I had to actively fight the Muslim stereotypes that was inundating society.

So it also forced me to learn more about Islam than I probably would have at twelve,

And it really required me to navigate that intersection my identity.

So in terms of the question "what it means to be an American-Muslim?" I have a really hard time answering that question because the term "American-Muslim,"

it really just lumps together two things that I am: it's an American and a Muslim.

America is the only home that I've ever lived in. I was born and raised in Maryland.

I grew up trading Lisa Frank stickers, going to Sunday school, obsessing over 90's boy bands, learning the Arabic alphabet, you know, catching fireflies with my friends in the summer time but at the same time, learning about the stories of the prophets.

There was no end point and middle point. All these activities bled together. There was no Muslim activity and American activity. This was simply who I am.

So really to me, you know, I am an American who just happens to be a Muslim. They aren't mutually exclusive. American-Muslim is simply my existence.

While there is so much emphasis put on one over the other, it's really just two parts and it's intersection of who I am.

Those are two different layers of my identity.

They're just combined together.

And that's kind of, a little bit, you know, my response for that first question.

[Crowd applause]

[Speaker 1]:
Alright, Naziyah.

[Speaker 3]:
Alright. Hello everyone, I'm Naziyah. So post 9/11. Honestly, I learned about 9/11 when I was in fourth grade. I didn't even know it happened.

I was actually shocked when it happened. Like I heard about all these things like oh like this happened, there was this, and I'm just like "whoa this happened."

I was two and a half when 9/11 happened. So i-i like when I found out about it was like, "oh okay it's just another part of history. Whatever" and moved on and played with my toys.

But this question you know, what it means to be an American-Muslim, to me it just means being an unapologetic Muslim-American who just lives the American life. You know?

For me personally, you know, it's a constant battle for me is just finding out what values I believe in as an American, and what values I believe in as a Muslim. You know?

And that's just something I'm constantly struggling with, but as a Muslim American, you know, when you, I think being an American in general is just being who you are and just being who you want to be, regardless of what anybody says. You know?

And that's what I love about America and that's what being an American is, just being proud of who you are and just being you, you know?

And I think living in American, you just live with so many different types of people. A diverse community, and I think that's what I love about it because if everyone believed in the same thing and wore the same thing, and like everyone was just the same, we would just be boring. You know?

We're amazing. People love America why? Because we're so different and we're, we stand out.

Like the other day, I was buying some supplies for Fourth of July and some of my friends were like,

Yo Naziyah, why are you buying supplies for a party, like for America, for a country that doesn't love you?

And i was like you're wrong. There's some people in this country that don't love me, but this country gave me the opportunity that I would not have if I lived back home in Bangladesh with my parents.

And it just wouldn't have worked out. And I am who I am because America has given me the opportunities that I have today, and I am a very proud, unapologetic Muslim-American Bengali teen.

And, that's just who I am.

[Crowd applause]

[Speaker 1]:
Great, thank you Naziyah. And then last, we'll do Azeez.

[Speaker 4]
Alrighty. So I mean kind of piggybacking a little bit off of what everyone said, but kind of adding my own twist to it.

To me, being an American-Muslim is embracing my individuality and my differences while at the same time, being an American.

And kind of what everybody said, but America is a place where everybody, no matter your differences, or who you are, it's a place where you can be who you are.

I don't think there is a place where I would be, or any of us would be able to practice our religion the way we could here in America. With its freedoms and with the civil liberties that we have here, there's definitely not a place where we could be proud Muslims.

And i think that just goes, in this day and age, I mean we have people who pre 9/11 and in the 9/11 era, and I guess me and Naziyah in our post 9/11 era, we have our own challenges in 2017 with the different things we have to deal with.

But I don't think there's a better time for me to being an American-Muslim, seeing as though although we have the hate on end, we have so much support and love for us. Just by-

[Audience applause]

[Speaker 4]:
Just by being who we are, unapologetic and being Muslim, we can, I mean we're just as American as anybody else.

I mean I think that's what makes me an American-.

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