Submitted by Sofia Nasaret Velasquez, Portland State student
I am Muslim. This is very apparent because I wear a piece of cloth around my head that says so. Riding TriMet has become perhaps the most frustrating thing for me to do, as I watch each passenger sit in every seat except the one next to mine.
It breaks my heart to see how the misrepresentation of Islam in media has corrupted my community’s mind. I am Muslim. I am not an extremist, terrorist or supporter of ISIS.
A professor once told me I make people really uncomfortable. Not because of what I say, who I am or what I do but because of what I represent. I never really understood what he meant until recently.
In the U.S., I represent perhaps what many people don’t want to admit. I represent the new America: an America that is composed of multiple identities, languages and cultures. I have come to discover the most harmful and most dehumanizing thing to do within our society is to make generalizations. The harm that comes from putting people into certain boxes and labeling them is far more complex than we often realize.
My identity, for example, is composed of many things. On my father’s side, I am Salvadorian and Brazilian. My father converted to Islam during the Salvadoran Civil War. My mother was born and raised in Michoacán, Mexico and has always practiced Catholicism.
As a practicing Muslim, I wear a hijab, speak Spanish, am an outspoken and strong ally of the LGBTQ+ community and consider myself an intersectional feminist. I know right—who would have thought? How could Muslims be anything but what is represented in the media?
We may be Muslim, but Islam does not construct the entirety of our identities. I have learned over the years at Portland State to challenge people to step away from stereotyping, and through multiple women studies courses, I can say I feel quite comfortable doing that.
I am thankful for the prayer spaces, the cultural nights and the overall desire of wanting to know and respect my religion. The best way to break harmful stereotypes however, is by getting to know the people these stereotypes are harming the most.
Viking Voices is an open platform, rolling submission opinion column open to all PSU students, faculty and staff. Submissions are voluntary, unpaid and not guaranteed to be published. Submissions reviewed, selected and minimally edited. Send 600 words or less to [email protected] with name, pdx email, major and/or PSU affiliation.