The Difference Between Muslims and Terrorists
By Mariya Younus

What is the exact definition of a Muslim? The ideology, the concepts, or the beliefs that Islam holds? If you see a man or a woman walking down the street with either a beard or a hijab, people are confused. This is their automatic reaction. It takes more than a "label" to define a person.
Since the September 11 attacks on America, the media has pointed the finger towards Muslims. None the less, Muslims are portrayed as "terrorists" rather than human beings. I myself am a Muslim sister. All of these accusations towards my religion and my culture have not only affected me, but the mass population of Muslims around the world. I am a Pakistani-Canadian Muslim.
In my household, we speak Urdu, eat Pakistani foods, and read the Holy Quran (which is written in Arabic.) Yes, one must have to be able to read Arabic in order to read the Quran. For Muslims, being a "terrorist" couldn't be far extended from the truth; Islam is a peaceful and loving religion. We believe in freedom, unity, and hospitality towards others.
I have been living in Canada since I was eight years old. I have observed many false accusations from the people that I'm surrounded by, and moreover, by the media. I noticed that in the west, racism against Islam has become a form of "free speech" and there are no limitations, as far as I'm concerned. All of this has had an influence on me, whether it would be towards making friends or walking down the street without being "labelled."
It was quite difficult for me to adjust myself to my new and ever changing environment. A lot of my friends are Muslims and also Pakistanis. During my elementary life, I met many people from various parts of the world; with different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, race, fashions, and of course different religions. I considered myself better than some of the other students and also worse than other students. During childhood, one faces a lot of pride about themselves, but also a lot of shame. Whether it would be towards a sport in gym class, who could burp the loudest, or who got better grades.
It would always surprise me how my fellow classmates would always be asking me questions about why I wear the hijab, and whether Islam encourages the killing of other people. I am always astonished as to how people are always reluctant to ask me questions about my faith. It's quite remarkable to see and feel the difference after the attacks of 9/11. I am not ashamed at all about my religion, culture or its traditions. I have never doubted even once as to why I am a Muslim and not part of another religion.
This affected me in many ways. I would always have to think before making new friends, if they would always be questioning me about my cultural and religious background. I didn't always want to answer to those questions. I was keen on making people realize "who" I am and not "what" I am.

I speak Urdu because I'm from Pakistan. I learned Arabic since childhood, because it's essential for all Muslims. I have also completed my pilgrimage to Mecca, known as "Hajj." This is one of the five pillars of Islam that a Muslim should perform, before he/she is granted a place in heaven.
I request the media to put a stop to ignorance, preconceived ideas and end cultural stereotypes. There are too many misinterpretations that portray Islam in a negative manner. The Muslim society faces many challenges because of contortion and deceptive information. I would also recommend that fellow Muslim brothers and sisters stand up, protest and let the media know that all of the false accusations are not going to be tolerated. As Helen Keller said ďAlone we can do so little; together we can do so much.Ē
Iíve learned to cope with the misinformed and enquiring minds that ask me about my culture and religion. It's better to correct their misconceptions rather than nurture them and let them grow. I've discovered my identity and who I truly am. Rather than letting these situations make me doubt my religion, I choose to let them make me spiritually stronger.

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