Muslim – How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?


Once in a fleemarket, a woman showed me photos from her son’s wedding, proudly telling me that her new daughter-in-law was smart, beautiful and a dentist. The bride looked great, as brides usually do, her black curls spilling down over her chrystal white wedding dress.

“She’s Iranian”, the woman said, apologetically. “But she’s born here in Sweden, and she’s not a fanatic Muslim.” The woman’s friend chimed in: “Oh no, not fanatic at all!”

I always find such comments sad, because for me the bride could have had any religion, she could even have been a fanatic, as long as she respected me for who I am (and shared a fair amount of respect for others in general). I have a friend here in Sweden who supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which I don’t, and there are many things we might never agree on – but we don’t try to change each other. She has never tried to convince me about her belief, and I would never ask her to go with me in a bikini to the beach, or go clubbing. Yes, I have met religious people that have made efforts in making me convert to or gain interest in their religion; but most people I have met during my lifetime have not tried to press their religion on me, and respect work both ways.

Especially being a Muslim or Arab in Europe or US can be such a stigma, discussed in the book “How does it feel to be a problem? Being Young and Arab in America” (Moustafa Bayoumi 2008), and Europe might need a similar study the way intolerance is setting the agenda here. I also believe that by reaffirming that someone being a Muslim is “not a fanatic” reinforces the stereotypes.  What if someone is proud of being a conservative Muslim? Why is it a problem?

If I was the bride in the photos I once saw, I wouldn’t want my mother-in-law to describe me as a not-fanatic-Muslim. And if anyone asked my mother-in-law if I was, I wish she would answer: “Well I don’t know. But she’s still smart, beautiful and a dentist.”

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14 thoughts on “Muslim – How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?

  1. This conversation could have easily taken place in the U.S. except the mother probably wouldn’t have admitted that her daughter was even Muslim at all. The climate of fear that exists for Muslims in America or anyone of Middle Eastern descent is sad beyond words. Instead of learning from their ancient culture we have demonized it in the West. Thanks for sharing this timely essay.


    • really? it’s hard for a non-American to know how social interaction works due to politics over there… do you yourselves know any mixed couples Muslims/non Muslims?


      • In the US there are a number of people who make a lot of assumptions about people based on being Muslim or from a ‘Muslim’ country. In fact right after the bombings in Boston there were people blaming it on Muslims. It kind of sucks that they were actually right. Though there are also a lot of very tolerant people in the US. We are not all the same. You see the intolerance a lot because those people are so outspoken.


  2. Thank you for sharing this piece of writing:)
    I am a revert and I am always asked: Why did you convert to a religion that oppresses women? Why would you throw away the freedom you had before? I realise that, it is really hard for people to break this limitation and sometimes I don’t blame them because most people are just brainwashed by the media.
    Here I am, saying that being a Muslim is my way of life. Hijab is my honour. And I am not oppressed. I am freer than a woman who shows off her body and advertises it inviting men to their intimacy. That is what I call oppression of the body. Covering in my abaya and hijab is what I call freedom. It is about changing perspective. But how can we change perspective so easily if we are “bombed” by one world view – the American one?
    I personally don’t feel threatened by society. It is my honour to be a Muslim and to spread the voice of peace and love among people – any people. Not only Muslims. We care about people so much. We pray 5 times a day and appreciate what we have. We thank our creator for what we have and we pray for the entire humanity.
    The Qu’ran does not mention to kill people. Those who kill in the name of Allah ain’t Muslims. They are terrorists and murderers.
    And they are not the only ones. America bombs innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan….can we also call them fanatics? Or fundamentalists? Terrorists? They don’t kill in the name of Allah, but they do kill in the name of “oil”!
    I thought, I’d drop a few lines about Islam and what it really means to be a Muslimah. I hope you like it and feel my love about sharing insights. Keep posting interesting stuff. yay. Salaam dear.


    • That about sum’s up most moderate normal (yes we can be normal and Muslim at same time) Muslim people’s feelings and views. Why exactly also we have to cave in the American and European ideology of freedom, culture and modernization. I live in the EU, I don’t pretend this country, region to adapt to my way of life that is obviously Pakistani, but I don’t need to drop my clothes and get naked, drunk in discotheques to prove to so-called modernized westerners that am liberated, confident and normal. West imposes its values by droning, bombing and playing dirty games in Africas and Asia but its for oil and resources, hardly anyone’s buying the trump card “we have to bomb to save the native women from the cruel barbaric Muslim men.”
      No thank you, we know how to save ourselves and we don’t need WEST teaching it to us because moist of us know and utilize our culture and also our religions instead of completely rejecting them like most westerners.


  3. Hi Jenny, Thanks for stopping by my blog. Immediately, I was drawn to the title of your article an I get it and I empathize. I know a several Iranians here who become petrified any time the word terrorist is mentioned because everyone starts looks at them suspiciously. I know what that feels like! No one should have to apologize for the actions of others whom you can’t control.


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