IN FOCUS Discussion: Growing up Muslim in the U.S.

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Pew Research estimates there are between three to four million Muslim Americans that live in the U.S. They are our neighbors, friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and more. Yet, Islam is still one of the most misunderstood religions. Following devastating events such as 9/11, identity navigation became difficult for young Muslim Americans who saw their religion being portrayed in antagonistic ways in media and society.

Some explained they would conceal their background from peers at school, work, and in their community to minimize the possibility of discrimination, hate, and harassment. Others shared that they would refrain from engaging in religious practices, such as fasting during Ramadan or wearing any clothing or accessories in public that identified them as Muslim to avoid offhand comments, such as being called a “terrorist.”

These types of experiences can be isolating and conflicting for Muslim American youth, who are navigating it by themselves and struggling to internalize that they are the victims of bias. It can be even more intense for those living in a community where there are not many other people who practice the same religion. 

Satin Tashnizi, executive director and co-founder of the Emerald Project and Ali-Abbas Sial, ambassador for the Emerald Project and lead organizer of the Muslim Youth Conference joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. They explored some of the challenges faced by Muslim Americans, especially as a youth as they explore, navigate, and embrace their identity and explained what their organization is doing to help them.

Tashnizi and Sial shared what makes up their own individual identity, how “Exploring the Muslim Identity” became one of their organization’s five goals, what identity means to them and why it’s so important, what are some events that have shaped their identity, whether parts of their identity are determined by themselves or society, how identity navigation impacted their experience at Emerald Project, and what they wish they knew about their identity when they were growing up.

Emerald Project will be holding Utah’s first annual Muslim Youth Conference to help attendees explore, internalize, and share these experiences. It will take place on March 29, 2022 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University of Utah. The event is open to Muslim American students in high school and college. Registration is free and interested participants can sign up here.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Tashnizi and Sial, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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