How I deal with Islamophobia in the US

Published: December 27, 2015

A group of Muslims take part in a rally in front of Trump Tower December 20, 2015 in New York. PHOTO: AFP

Mass shootings in the United States have become a frequent occurrence. Every time I find a breaking news story flashing on my cell phone that mentions a mass shooting, my heart skips a few beats. My first concern is not the number of casualties or the setting of the tragic event, but the name and religion of the shooter.

Unfortunately, in this part of the world, those factors define how the news media provides coverage of the event. It was a nightmare come true when I found out that in the recent shootings in California that claimed 14 lives, the shooters were a Pakistani Muslim couple. Although the motives of the killers are not known yet, this Muslim involvement immediately made we worry about the repercussions on my life and that of others around me.

As a psychiatrist, I became interested in the relationship between mass murders and mental health in the United States. While at Drexel University, I did extensive study on the topic and gave a presentation to the Psychiatry Department about my research. Usually people with mental health issues are victims of violence themselves. Some conditions, such as paranoid schizophrenia, can make people violent at times.  Most of the time, the perpetrators of mass murders in the US have been young, white males with access to assault rifles. In some instances, people belonging to minority religious groups, cultural or ethnic divisions were the victims of violence because of the bigotry and intolerance of the killer. However, unfortunately, many incidents have involved Muslims and that fact is often highlighted by the news media.

In 2012, the American Civil Liberty Union found that the New York Police Department (NYPD) had a program that involved security profiling of Muslims, simply because of their faith. The NYPD singled out Muslim religious and community leaders, mosques, student associations, businesses, and individuals for pervasive surveillance.

In the spring of 2013, I was preparing to run my first ever 10-mile race in Philadelphia. A couple of weeks before the run, the tragic bombing happened at the prestigious Boston marathon. In the first images, the bombers looked Caucasians and I felt a sense of relief that no Muslim was involved. I was wrong; the culprits behind the bombing were fundamentalist American Muslims. This incident led to heightened security at my run. I ran with an anti-drone attacks message on my shirt, along with a Boston Strong sticker and joined many of the other runners in wearing red socks — the Boston baseball team is named the Red Sox— to show solidarity with Boston. It was an attempt on my part to give a message to my fellow 35,000 runners that even though I condemn American drone attacks, I stand by you when terrorism hits this country.

I have never personally experienced any prejudice or racism, except at airports. I am frequently pulled out of line for minor interrogation, body and luggage examination including body search and some chemicals testing of luggage with the help of sniffer dogs at times. There is no denying that my friends and I frequently feel uncomfortable. One friend told me that she was changing her job because of the on-going ‘Muslim bashing’ around her at work.

“I am so tired of hearing about Muslims as terrorist that I am resigning from this job,’’ she said.

The challenge for us is what we can do to counter this general Islamophobia in the US. Social media campaigns such as #NotInMyName are effective tools for young educated Muslims to condemn Islamophobia-inducing terrorist attacks across the globe. However, most of the Muslims in America are well integrated in society and are found contributing at many different levels. It is in the context of their daily lives and through their personal stories and not statistics that they and I can help Americans to not fear Islam.

At a recent event on Islamophobia, lawyer and activist Rabia Chaudry said,

‘’We need more writers who can spread the message of peace and tolerance to others.”

Community engagement and integration into in the social fibre of American society is more important than narrating the facts only. Deeds before words, was her message.  She quoted a study that stated that introducing yourself as an American Muslim rather than a Muslim American has a huge impact on the perception of you by other Americans.

For myself, I have recently started studying the history of Islam to increase my own understanding and to be better informed in discussions with others. But for me, demonstrating my commitment to peace and religious toleration by taking good care of my patients, establishing healthy relationships with my co-workers and involvement in art and cultural activities in my town are the simple but important ways I can best help counter Islamophobia.

Hassan Majeed (MD)

Hassan Majeed MD

The author is working as a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, NY. He is a marathon runner and his interests include art, culture, travel, gender, human rights, mental health, and education. He tweets @HassanMajeedMD (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Gullu

    Great article. Precise and concise. Kudos to the author.

    A note to Hindu Trolls: This article is for Muslims. See if
    you can keep your toxic hate comments to yourself.
    That would be wishful thinking.Recommend

  • Jayman


  • Sami

    Well you can learn from your fellow Pakistanis that how to deal with these Phobias. Just contact any Pakistani Christian, Hindu and Ahmedi etc and then ask them that how they deal with the hatred imparted by the Muslim majority on the daily basis. Their experience can then be used in US by the Pakistani Muslims.
    But atleast according to the American constitution you are considered equal citizen with full rights. And you should be thankful for it. In the Pakistani constitution the Non Muslims even have a different color of vote and their Parliament seats are selected by the Muslim majority. Moreover they are banned from Preaching. The worst part is that Election commission of Pakistan have opened the names of All Non Muslims with their addresses so that extremists could locate them easily throughout Pakistan.

    Believe me American way of life is a heaven for the Muslims compared to the miserable life of Non Muslims in Pakistan. That is why despite all these problems you will see long visa lines outside the US embassy as that majority wants to leave Pakistan for the Scandinavia, Dubai, America and Canada..Recommend

  • Minority Report

    Doctor..Appreciate your positive comments..Based on what you wrote, you accepted that you have probably only recently started describing yourself as an American Muslim instead of Muslim American…While I appreciate your change of stance even though it seems superficial just because the chips are down…Don’t you think this is the essence of the problem plaguing Muslims that rather than keeping religion as a personal choice, majority Muslims treat religion above anything else even their country…Isn’t it important to reflect that it is not unfair for the rest of the world (read West) they see Muslims not integrating with the locals specially in the West as they consider religion above the country they call Home. And also please shed some insights why Muslims when in minority usually talk about separate land and rules for them…Please read in today’s ET news from Philippines where 10 Christian civilians have been killed by minority Muslims…Its really sad that some Muslims are bringing disrepute and spreading fear.Recommend

  • wb

    Thank you Hassan Majeed MD for explaining.

    Now, do you care or do you dare to explain to me how you deal with Islamofascism that’s burning the whole world? Do you care to or dare to raise your voice against Islamofascism? Do you care to or dare to do that openly on the streets instead of hiding in blogs, which is not read by any of your Mullahs?

    Or your love care is only one-directional?Recommend

  • Singh

    When you wear Islam on your sleeve then thing bound to happen.Recommend

  • Chopra TP

    Islam is full of hate towards non-muslims or Kuffars as Koran derogatorily calls us. And it is not an obscure thing just written somewhere, its actually practiced by a large number of Muslims resulting in terrorism, terrible persecution, anti-social behavior and acting like 5th column in non-Islamic countries. This is just one of the reasons muslims are so hated. Pedophilia (as in grooming gangs in UK & Kasur rapes and Bachbaazi), inbreeding and subjugation of women are other. In nutshell Islam in not compatible with civil society of this day and age.Recommend

  • cautious

    Your a Doctor at an American Jewish Hospital – and have not provided a single personal example of where you have been picked on for being a Muslim. Not sure your the best candidate to write an Islamophobia article.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    Dear Author you are presenting good examples.
    Regarding ‘’We need more writers who can spread the message of peace and tolerance to others.”

    Make sure you also include allegiance to nation about faith when discussing it against Muslims in west. Further encourage people to leave West and go back to their native lands or ME, if they want to live in 7th century and impose such ideologies on others.Recommend

  • Allah hafiz

    I will give u a suggestion as an Indian first and religion last…

    Dont bring your religion on roads….keep it at home…hence u will not be discriminated once everybody look same…if u wear arabic clothes being a pakistani on streets of america…u are fooling urself..if u wear a saari…that will be good…since that will show your true culture…not the converted one…shed black clothers….world is too colorful….shed conversion practice..see world as one multicultural place….full of beautiful people….Recommend

  • rationalist

    The author, like most Muslims seem to be totally oblivious to the fundamental reasons why Islam is looked upon with suspicion and fear in western countries.

    This referenced quote by the author is an example of Muslims defensively and in self denyal burying their heads in sands: ‘’We need more writers who can spread the message of peace and tolerance to others.”. The author like others seem to believe the issue is lack of counter “propaganda”.. Such counter Propaganda will not work anymore. It is because, after 9/11, most westerners and non-Muslims have taken the effort to study the Quran, Hadiths and the Sunnah and find it discomforting read the many violent passages against unbelievers and the many anti-human teachings such as “don’t take Christians and Jews as your friends”, a relatively milder admonition.

    The fact is that Islamic terrorists, unlike the schizophrenics that the good doctor refers to, are motivated by the teachings of the scriptures. They believe they are carrying out Allah’s orders in the footsteps of their prophet. They do derive inspiration and command from the scriptures.

    The solution to “Islamophobia’ lies not in educating the non-Muslims but in the moderate and peaceful Muslims accepting the fault that lies in the scriptures themselves and work to reform the faith getting rid of anti-human and violent teachings. It is not enough to say the terrorists are not Muslims and that Islam teaches peace.Recommend

  • Gautam

    Spot on. You tell ’em.Recommend

  • Rohan

    You can stop playing the victim card,denounce sharia and jihad for startersRecommend

  • Eric Kumar

    I wish I had better words to tell my Muslim brother how much it hurts to be Non-Muslim in so called Pakistan —-The land of pure. Sami has hit the nail by telling Muslims are still treated much better in US the Non-Muslims in Pakistan. No wonder in Japan , Australia etc. Muslims are not welcome because Islam fanatic, extremist, zealot and radical behavior towards other human being like in Pakistan and Saudiarabia.Recommend

  • hendrikush

    You started studying the history of Islam just now?

    How about also studying the history of the koran, the sunnah, the hadith, the sharia?
    Don’t be afraid.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “At a recent event on Islamophobia, lawyer and activist Rabia Chaudry said,
    ‘’We need more writers who can spread the message of peace and tolerance to others.””

    That’s the problem… Not writers but Islam urgently needs thinkers who can interpret th religion in line with modernity, reform the religion and be the guiding light to the rest of their co-religionists. The writer can do as much as his/her thought process. Plus people (non-Muslims) maybe fooled for a while by a gifted writer, who masks his extremism behind clever arguments. Reform your thought process and watch Islamophobia go away… Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists exist across countries in the world… including Muslim countries. Despite the restriction on their freedom of worship in Muslim lands, you would rarely see them blowing up innocents or seeing other practices/culture as a threat to their religion – all because their faiths have been made vibrant and flexibile by the thinkers in their religions.Recommend

  • Milind A

    If everything is fine for Hindus in Sindh, why do we see reports of Hindu girls being kidnapped and forcibly converted there. Why did 5000 Hindus/Sikhs seek refuge in India. If they’re doing fine, its due to the goodwill of the Pakistanis around them. However it remains a fact that they (and other minorities) face discrimination constitutionally… the blasphemy card tilted against them. Pakistanis may not be with extremists as you claim, but what explains the support of the masses and donations (donation boxes in shops) to all the terrorist outfits in 1990sRecommend

  • LS

    Yes, blame Soviets, US, Afghanistan, India, Mossad, RAW, CIA for all your problems… It is always someone else’s fault — Easy right? Pass the buck for your own failures?

    ” Moreover, in CSS exam non muslims are given special quota system. So, I score double but will get a mediocre allocation of job”

    Yes that is called affirmative action implemented by Sindh Government. I am sure you don’t like and if they had the resources that you have they would score more than you…Recommend

  • LS

    To them whole non-Muslim world can go to hell as long as Muslims are comfortable but if a Muslim is facing a problem, hell breaks loose. If 20-25% of Muslims implicitly/Explicitly support terrorism and say that Sharia Law is the way to go (Prefer Sharia Law over local government or say Islam is above the local constitution).. This will continue while other 75% of Muslims does not say anything since they are not impacted. Their organizations issue a summary condemnation and they are done with it.Recommend

  • LS

    A note to Muslim Troll: There are no Global Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Christian Terrorist in the world killing and murdering people. There are no religions in the world Except Islam which says religion is above everything. None of the followers of any other religion is killing across the world in the name of religion to “Protect” the religion.

    Islamophobia is real – If you don’t like it stay in your cave. Don’t demand Sharia in the other countries and respect their laws.. Its not much to ask for if you go there.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    If it was published on CNN or any the western media.You would had probably got the same from Christian or Jewish trolls.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    To add to what Millind A has said, every hindu/christian girl, almost all of them minors, who were kidnaped from their homes were first taken to the family homes of muslims of Pakistan where they were raped, converted, forcibly married off to a muslim man of their family. The muslim families do not allow her to meet with her parents and even courts support this. No of these girls have been heard from ever again. What happens to them? Watch videos of Rinkle’s conversion and forced marriage and see how many thousands, many in suits and ties, came out with their guns demanding Rinkle be handed back to them. The courts even handed back the 12 year old girl, Anjali, to her kidnapers. Where are the girls like Rinkle, Asha, Latha and Anjali today. Why we do not hear anything from them and why the entire Pakistani society, not just in Pakistan but even those who have moved to USA and such other countries do not ask to find out where these girls are now and how long they remained married to the muslim who kidnaped, converted and married them. Government’s own NADRA records have all details of the present status of these girls. Would you ask for these details of any Pakistani TV channel to bring these girls as tell us everything that happened before and after their conversion and marriage?
    Maya Khan had a live conversion Eid Special program on TV to increase TRP ratings of her channel because these are so popular in Pakistan.
    Hindu and Christian marriages are not recognized, even today, in Pakistan because it facilitates the muslims to kidnap, convert and marry hindu and christian girls who are already married and their hindu or christian husbands cannot file any complaint or claim that they are their husbands.
    Why do you think Imran Khan ditched Sita White and also disowned his daughter from her? May be, because Sita White would not convert to Islam like Jamaima. It was Jamaima who took care of Sita White and Imran Khan’s daughter whom he disowned. He is the head of a party that wants justice for all !!!!!!!!!
    Afghan President Asraf Ghani’s wife is still a Christian. But can you find one Pakistani family, either in Pakistan or that has moved to USA that has a hindu or christian daughter-in-law or son-in-law?
    In short, a huge section of the Pakistani muslim society,including those who are now living in USA and such other countries practice these practices and the remaining section support these practices with their silence.Recommend

  • Ram

    where were you when Muslim Jihadist killing Kashmiri Pandits, let me guess in pakistan among your muslim friends praising freedom fighters. You now work at a Jewish hospital in US and needs to face people from all parts of life and you want play a victim card. a jewish hospital in US hired a Muslim doctor this should be enough to prove you that America is not racist, we have black president named Hussain, yes you will face some average joe making some remarks getover with it and preach tolerance to your fellow muslimsRecommend

  • Sami

    Well I would have to agree with you as far as the tolerance in Internal Sindh is concerned. I have visited Internal Sindh and I really want to appreciate Sindhis that they are very tolerant to the Hindu minority. Infact Hindus are richer in some regions than Muslims. But since i belong from Punjab and also i am talking about the general majority in other major regions.
    But i would like to disagree with you that Pakistani constitution is equal for all. KIndly note that you have to declare your religion for any government job. Also you are not allowed to keep the field of religion blank in Passports or ID Cards. This practice is discriminatory in the West.
    Moreover Banning of Preaching by Non Muslims, Blasphemy laws, Sharia Courts and Ordinance XX is the clear cut discrimination. In our neighboring India we have the Muslim president, But in the Pakistani constitution it is clearly written that Non Muslim Pakistani has no right to attain the highest office.
    Kindly see the situation with an unbiased eye. We do have discriminatory laws and we have to raise our voice on this issue.Recommend

  • Sami

    I have commented here and I am not Hindu. I am a Muslim Pakistani. I just observe the situation with an unbiased eye. Introspection is the key for our future progress. We must accept our mistakes. Everything is not right with us. But Yes there are some positives too in our society.
    So kindly appreciate the difference of opinion. No one becomes a troll by pointing out that we are living in a glass house and then we are throwing stones at others at the same time.Recommend

  • Jor El

    what about non-hindu trolls ??? can they type their toxic hate comments here ???Recommend

  • Ravi

    Please answer the brilliant and valid points raised by the commentators instead of spewing more hate you moron.Recommend

  • SVSS

    The parents of the Tsarnaev brothers came the United States on tourist visas and applied for asylum like scores of Muslims do in all the Western countries. Sir these people were not American Muslims. They were from Chechnya. You are no different then other Muslims, blaming non-Muslims for Islamophobia. Do you remember On November 5, 2009, a mass shooting took place at Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas. Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    What a insecure guy you are!

    Next time give up non-Muslim “English” and start commenting in “Arabic”, so the “Hindu” trolls won’t comment (for now). You know they are adamant, they will learn Arabic and still challenge every blogger and commentators like you!Recommend

  • siesmann

    The first thing they need to do is reject mullahs.You name a terrorist attack and you will find A Mullah behind it.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Have Muslims considered the fact that Japanese were the worst Anti-Americans there ever were(I am not talking about American -Japanese) ?They are the only ones that that decided to take on US directly.But they accepted their error and now are one of the most advanced countries in the world.Recommend

  • rao amjad ali

    Was it in Sindh that a mob lynched a man, falsely maligning him of storing cow meat in his refrigerator?Recommend


    Wrong, wrong and wrong. Discrimination is institutionalized in Pakistan. A non muslim cannot become Prime Minister, or head of armed forces by law and thats the difference.Recommend

  • Islam means peace

    Brother , the original islam preached by the Holy Prophet is pure Islam and is lost with the passage of time…….. The Arab fascis groups have ruled over rest of worl in the name of a strinent Quraish tribal culture or Arabic culture… .EVen the Hadith was compiled some 300 years after the passing away of the Prophet.. so you know how things were backdated by the then caliphs/ rulers to support the Arabic culture over all other kuffar cultures….

    Its important to stick to Quran and not look for a HAdith on every thing. You cannot have a hadith on how ot handle a computer…. coz it did not exist then… So would be artificial intelligence…GO BACK TO the ORIGINAL TEACHINGS of Prophet and not listen to the fasicst Arabic culture spreading mullahs wh oare funded by salafi money from the badlands of Oil monarchies….Recommend

  • Milind A

    Don’t latch on to a single incidence to prove your point.. The culprits from the mob have been arrested and tried. How many abductors have been arrested or tied? Trust Pakistanis to exhibit their typical lack of logic during arguments.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “Finally, I feel so sad that based on some news or sample you people blame entire nation for something, its just ironic.”

    I agree… But isn’t it true that the majority Pakistanis who you say are tolerant, silent on the outrages against minorities, Ahmadis.. Communal incidents occur in India too, but the majority community (Hindus) is on the forefront while denouncing them. We don’t see that leadership/responsibility by the majority community in Pakistan.. Hence the perception…Recommend

  • Parvez

    What worries the ‘ gora ‘ when he sees you is……that when you are in a minority you are an American – Muslim but when you are in a majority then you are a Muslim – American.Recommend

  • Gullu

    Sinking to guttersnipe level. As expected, from a hindu troll.Recommend

  • Gullu

    Speak for YOURSELF only. Walk down the Mall in Lahore and read
    all the banners and wall slogans. From Le J, Jundullah, Le Taiba,
    Le Islam, Ahrar ul Hind,Jamat Dawaa, all supported by sanctimonious
    people like YOU. In Punjab. And the ‘chanda boxes’ set up by these outlawed outfits. Gleefully drained each week. Same CM, ….Little Shahbaz, who made deals with these outfits to leave the Sharif Family, their sugar mills, their factories their businesses and Punjab alone.
    And can go plunder the rest of the country. At will. Until the Army
    stepped in. And started the war on terrorism. YOU remember that?
    And look in the mirror, while you are at it.Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    Those 50,000 were killed because the talibans/terrorists considered them to be non-muslims. When talibans started to behead shias, they would claim that shias are non-muslims. Then when they started to kill sunnis, they would first proclaim that those sunnis are “Kufars” and kill them. Syed Munawar Hassan, former Amir of JI even refused to condemn talibans for killing Pakistani army men and also said that the Pakistani army men who get killed cannot be declared “shaheeds” or be honored because they were supporting kufars and so have become kufars themselves. Every vice in Islam, whether islam teaches this or not but as is actually practiced by muslims of Pakistan, starts with conversions and it is the root cause of all evils. To come back, those 50,000 who were killed, which includes the shias, sunnis and armed forces of Pakistan, were killed only because they were considered as non-muslims or kufars and also because those who killed them considered them as those who cannot be converted to their islam.
    Please note that it is not the mullas who are the problem or those who started it. It is the educated, those who write the constitution, those who are judges and lawyers in courts, those media anchors who are all educated in UK and USA, those Pakistani muslims who are well educated and living in USA, UK, etc., it is the moms and dads, grandpas and granddads in the families who teach these principles and practices of islam to the younger ones in their families, who are the problem. Why is it that Pakistani muslim families do not allow the converted hindu and christian girls to meet with their families? Even the courts do not allow this? Why? Why? Why? Why is it so if the girl has converted on her own. Will it not be an inspiration to others for the girl to share with others the reasons that convinced her? Can you or anybody reading this provide an answer to this specific question, if not for all other questions that I have asked?
    It is not that others are hating muslims. It is the muslims who hate all others, irrespective of anything written in the book. Again, it is the muslims who hate their own fellow muslims who belong to other sects the most. Almost all killings of muslims have always been happening and still happen today within islamic countries and are also done by muslims themselves. Can you deny these facts?Recommend

  • Rajiv

    You are not the owner of this website.Recommend

  • wb

    It was actually in Maharashtra where a Muslim man lynched an innocent police as a “revenge” for banning beef, instigated by the Mullah.

    Now, your turn.Recommend

  • Raj – USA


    Please note that Rana Baghwandas was never the Chief Justice of Pakistan, even for a day. When the Chief justice of Pakistan went on vacation (I think it was Hajj Pilgrimage) Rana Baghvandas became the ACTING Chief Justice for a few days to fill the post during the time the Chief Justice of Pakistan was out of the country. However, I would admit that Rana Baghwandas rose to become the 2nd most senior judge.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Why make laws that don’t make sense?Blasphemy law is another one.Recommend

  • LS

    I am not talking about past. There is no point in bringing past here … Since last 2 decades none of those things that you mentioned had a role in it. Do you think all the Islamist terrorist attacks in 2015 were done because of that?

    You failed to understand my point. A poor person does not have resources or time to devote to studies because he is probably expected to work and contribute to home income to support his family. You don’t have to do that… that is why that affirmative action exists…Recommend

  • LS

    Pakistan was in Afghanistan with a team of subversive agents in 1972 (on orders of ZAB) way before USSR attacked Afghanistan. So Pakistani innate need to control Afghanistan was the reason why despite Russian departure Talibs they still exist. Do you think still exist without a reason despite having served their purpose? That is why discussing that reason is irrelevant because they exist due to some other reason which you are well aware of. They are not there today due to cold war or USSR attack on Afghans. The reason they were created does not exist anymore.

    As far as reading your comment there is nothing in it to comment. Sindh is no more tolerant than Punjab or any other place in Pakistan. There are more poor Hindus than Muslims and there are more rich Muslims in Pakistan that there are Rich Hindu industrialists. So your complain that Sindh government provides quotas is unjustified in the light of persecution that minorities have to suffer in Sindh. Where thousands are forcibly married or converted.Recommend

  • LS

    I am saying one region is no more tolerant than other region. I am not saying either against Sindh or Punjab.

    India was in Afghanistan but wasn’t there for subversive reasons. Why is that Pakistanis get riled up if India is in Afghanistan? Isn’t that internal matter between India and Afghanistan? If Afghanistan wants India gone we will go away but the Pakistani agenda in Afghanistan is subversive till date. Pakistan has been accused by Afghan government countless times to that effect. Not India. In-fact India has spent billions of dollars helping Afghanistan develop hospitals, Roads, their parliament building, dams.

    I have been the one telling you that you are living in the past and gave you examples to prove that past does not impact the current situation anymore and you come back and accuse me of being in past.. Nice…

    India under Modi is about development… One Muslim dies and Media in our country is up in arms and people are returning awards and 150,000 Muslims in Malda cause terror and kill many hindus.. there is no pipsqueak, the news itself can he hardly seen or talked about no one is returning awards now.. That is India for you…

    So before you complain about Majority Minority remember Minority in your country is disadvantaged for the most part lastly Muslims forming 25% of population in India is NOT a minority by any definition.Recommend