My American identity often gets called into question, my right to be here gets disregarded. I am constantly being pushed around. I am told I should look up to Ayan Hirsi Ali. I am told that Islam isn’t the right path and that if I follow her footsteps by abandoning my faith, I’ll be a real American. Do not tell me she’s my savior.

Muslims and non-Muslims alike tell me what to believe, how to behave, and what to think, but they don’t know the reality of what my life as an American Muslim is like.

I step outside knowing perfectly well that someone, somewhere will be scared of me. Someone only has to say the word “terrorist” and I think that they are talking about me. Yes, me-the Jiminy Cricket in my friend group. The media has done a great job portraying Muslims as terrorists that even I start thinking that the word could apply to me.

Since the age of 10, I’ve been told that I am evil.

I’ve been told that I will hurt, possibly kill, people. But I wanted to do nothing more than watch Arthur or finally learn to play Double Dutch.

Those hateful words had a major impact on my child psyche.

People like to assume that I have no free will. Let me make it clear: I’m not oppressed. My parents let me do as I please, that’s simply how my house runs. This could vary from home to home; regardless of race or religion. I’m sure someone will still bring up something with regards to Saudi Arabia or insult Prophet Muhammad. Do your reading. Don’t equate culture with religion.

The reality is, many men around the world are patriarchal and oppressive. Even in America. Let us be reminded of the objectification of women in media. Watch Blurred Lines. Better yet, turn on Fox News. Are some Republicans bitter about wage equality? Are men in America still feeling entitled to decide on women’s health issues, such as birth control? This is not a religious issue no matter how many men bring up Bible verses. This is cultural. This is a men issue. This is found all around the world. Don’t bring religion into it.

Another frequent assumption is that Muslims love ISIS. Good one. Muslims totally love getting barbarically killed, their religious artifacts destroyed, and increasing Islamophobia. Just no. Want to know my feelings? How dare a group use my religion to carry out so many atrocities? How dare they? Trust me, non-Muslims may be mad at ISIS.

Muslims, however, are beyond angry at ISIS.

So, to the fear mongers, the ones who tell me to “go back to where I come from,” I say, you practice freedom of hate, not freedom of speech. Life was simple in elementary. If someone said something mean, he or she wasn’t applauded for practicing freedom of speech. He or she was told to apologize and never say such things again. I don’t understand why anti-bullying campaign begins in elementary and ends in high school. Anti-bullying campaigns are necessary in the real world.

A lot of adults want to name call, accuse, threaten, belittle, even kill. Many like to create blanket statements to stereotype a community or make assumptions about a person’s beliefs.

This country belongs to those who want freedom, equality, and justice. This country is all I’ve known. Don’t think for a second you can kick me out of the country that I belong to because you think you know what is best for me.

America is my home.

  • Kanza Khan is a storytelling and civil rights leader. Khan graduated from James Madison College at Michigan State University May of 2014. Kanza believes in tackling injustice through sharing narratives and by creating a space for dialogues. During her time in school, she raised awareness on social justice through her work in theatre and spoken word.