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This is Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Visit United States (From A Muslim American!)


Shervin Abdolhamidi •  Jan 12, 2018


Animosity towards Muslims has existed in the U.S. since 9/11 and intensified with the rise of ISIS. However, this hostility and persecution took an official form with the election of President Trump and the subsequent Muslim travel ban. Credit: giphy Yet, despite the seeming surge of hatred, America is still a beautiful, diverse, and multi-cultural country laden with amazing places to visit! It is also home to many Muslims (myself included!) who live across the country. So from a Muslim American himself, here are 8 reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to travel to the United States of America?
1. Americans are some of the friendliest people on Earth
“Why are Americans always smiling?” I’ve heard this question more than once from my non-American friends who have traveled around the U.S. They hailed Americans for being some of the nicest and most welcoming people they ever met. For example, when someone asks you "How has your day been?", they ask because they genuinely want to know.
Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr There may be racists who spew hatred at Muslims wearing the hijab but be rest assured that they are a minority! In fact, I have a best friend who lives in a small, white town in Indiana—a reputably redneck, Republican state. I visit her often and as a young, male Muslim, I have encountered nothing warmth and hospitality from her family and friends, despite clearly not being a white Christian, as evident by both my name and my dark-tan skin color ?
Ultimately, go to the US with an open mind. Wear a big smile and greet others with a nice hello or howdy! You’ll find that even in the Bible Belt of America, southern hospitality trumps bigotry☺️
2. There are millions of Muslims living all over America
It’s very easy to develop a skewed impression of a country from what we see on the media. We do it every day - we see frequent drug-related violence in Mexico or Colombia and assume that they are representative of the country, we hear stories of pick-pocketing in Italy and assume that the whole country is fraught with thieves. Similarly, we read stories about hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. and assume that the country is dangerous for Muslims as a whole.
Credit: @lsarsour on Instagram But what we need to consider is that there are 3.3 million Muslims living all across the country (not just in major cities) and they go about their day to day lives, coexisting with their Christian, white neighbors. Yet, you never see that part on the news! Trust me when I tell you that in reality, there are many Muslim communities who live alongside their neighbors in peace and harmony. So unless you head to the most rural part of Utah (there really isn’t anything interesting to see there anyway), chances are there is a Muslim population who lives close by ?
3. In Major American Cities, you find people from countless backgrounds and religions living together
You are planning your first visit the United States and chances are you are not planning to hitchhike across North Dakota (not saying you shouldn’t though ?). Like most tourists, you are probably planning on visiting the major cities such as NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Credit: @lsarsour on Instagram Major cities tend to be more liberal, open-minded places where people from various races live side by side. Such cities even have neighborhoods where immigrants from a certain ethnic group live, such as Little Italy, China Town, and Korea Town—which are common across all the major cities!
Credit: @hautehijab on Instagram With Muslim neighborhoods in these major cities, there's really no reason to feel wary or unwelcome!
4. Islamic Center in Universities make Muslims feel right at home
Even if you're not heading to the major cities, there's at least one Islamic Center in all American states. That's because there are Islamic Centers in almost every major university. They help cultivate a sense of community for the Muslims living on campus. Many of centers organize programs not just for the Muslim students, but also for other Muslims living nearby. For instance, New York University’s Islamic Center hosts iftars every night during the holy month of Ramadan and everyone is invited!
Credit: NYU Muslim Students Association on Facebook If nothing else, such programs are a place to meet locals, talk to fellow Muslim sisters and brothers and learn about life as a Muslim in their town.
Credit: Islamic Center at New York University on Facebook The best part is that you are able to congregate in worship with other Muslims ? Really, there is no feeling in the world that can beat that!
5. Trump’s Travel Ban has spurred an outburst of support towards Muslims
For every one American who supports the travel ban, there are many more who are strictly oppose it. After each version of President Trump’s travel ban, thousands of protesters have flocked to airports across the country - most of whom are not even Muslim!
It's heartwarming stories like these which are filled with unity, support and tolerance between Muslims and different religions that show how ultimately, love and compassion for one’s neighbors prevails.
6. New York City —the multicultural cesspool of America
With citizens from virtually every country from around the world and over 200 languages being spoken in New York City, standing out as a Muslim foreigner is not something you need to worry about. In fact, it's such a common sight to see a Muslim woman in full hijab all around the city that no one looks twice!
Credit: @hautehijab on Instagram From Manhattan to the Bronx and Queens, Muslims live all over “the city that never sleeps”.
Credit: @thehalalguys on Instagram The best part: with over 770,000 Muslims living in the city, there are plenty of mosques and a plethora of halal restaurants and eateries to choose from, making life easy for any Muslim traveler looking for a halal meal and a place to pray ☺️
7. Subvert the stereotypes against Muslims
Many Americans have an adverse impression of Muslims, which stems from terrorism and what they see on the media. But how many of them have actually met a Muslim? Less than you would imagine! I believe that part of our duty as Muslims is to subvert the negative image of us and portray ourselves, and our beautiful religion for what it truly is. I think traveling around the U.S. does exactly this! But how can we imprint a positive image of Islam if we ourselves do not travel there?
Credit: @sagaleeyaa on Instagram One of my best friends comes from a very Republican family, and while some of her family members may support Trump’s travel ban on Muslims, she is strongly opposed to it. Why? Because when she thinks of a Muslim, she thinks of me and it makes her realize that most Muslims are decent, peace-loving citizens.
Credit: NYU Muslim Students Association on Facebook But none of this is possible if you are afraid to travel and bridge these gaps!
8. You can find a reason for lots of countries why not to travel there
Mexico: Cartels; Morocco: thieves and hustlers; Western Europe: Recent terrorist attacks; The Caribbean: Potential, devastating hurricanes. When it comes down to it, you can find a reason to be afraid of travelling to virtually every country on the map. The funny thing is we are less afraid of living in our own country than we are of the ones we see on the news—even if our country is on the news too! I remember how astonished I was when my French friend mentioned he is afraid to travel the U.S. because of all the shootings. I responded by mentioned how scared my mother was when I was travelling through France in wake of all the terrorist attacks!
But as a local even though tragedies do happen, we know that they are so infrequent that we do not go about our day to day lives living in fear. For each of the countries where people are afraid to visit, there are locals who live their day to day lives there, and the United States is no exception ? I hope this article sheds some light into the U.S. and allows you to realize how incredibly diverse my country is! We have amazing food, breathtaking scenery, a fascinating history and kind, down-to-earth people. While the recent political and social atmosphere might not be conducive in making Muslims feel welcome, I strongly believe that Muslims will still thoroughly enjoy their time in the States. And who knows, maybe you will change a few impressions about Muslims along the way! [iframe seamless="seamless" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" height="450" width="100%" scrolling="no" src="https://pollbuzz.co/frame/1992?type=poll"][/iframe]