The New York Times recently interviewed gun-owning Muslim Americans in a piece that evokes strong feelings. It is empowering because the story shows the importance of having the Second Amendment. Yet, it is frustrating because it highlights the bigotry and prejudice many Muslim Americans have to face on a daily basis. Still though, the article does a beautiful job showing the similarities amongst American gun owners, regardless of religion. Most simply want protection for themselves and their loved ones.
The full article is well-worth the read and much better than this post, but here are some key quotes from the article entitled, 'Make Sure Not to Talk Any Arabic’: American Muslims and Their Guns.
Many Muslims, like 25 year old Sheima Muhammad from Ohio, face discrimination at gun ranges for target practice. Ms. Muhammad bought a firearm after a potentially dangerous encounter in a parking lot left her feeling "defenseless."
“I don’t get looked like as a normal person who’s just trying to protect themselves,” said Ms. Muhammad, who emigrated from Turkey as a baby with her family, who are Kurds, and is a naturalized American citizen.
“People stare at me and look me up and down, kind of like: ‘What are you doing owning a gun? We know what you people do with the guns,’” she said. “I walk into the place and I feel like an alien.”
Gun owner Raja’ee Fatihah was asked to leave Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range in Oktaha, Okla. because of his religion. That gun range had actually posted a sign stating they were a "Muslim Free Establishment." Fatihah decided to stop by to try and change their minds.
“I thought that visiting that gun range would be a good way to build a bridge with those people, who I knew already had some animosity toward Muslims,” he said. “That wasn’t the case. As soon as they knew that I was Muslim, they wanted me to leave the establishment.”
Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range is currently beig sued for discrimination and could not respond.
But, this kind of Islamophobia should not deter others from buying guns, says Broward County, FL deputy sheriff Nezar Hamze.
“I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it,” he said of the Second Amendment.
“Muslims have a victim mentality, or immigrant mentality, when it comes to gun ownership,” said Mr. Hamze, 41, who lives in Fort Lauderdale and whose father emigrated from Lebanon. “They’re afraid that they’re going to be put on some sort of list if they purchase, or if they go to a gun range and shoot.”
He added: “They’re diminishing their rights for themselves. They can practice their Second Amendment, just like every other American does.”
Some interviewed in the piece practice their Second Amendment right because they feel like they have to in order to truly protect themselves against hatred of their religion.
“It got to the point where people I know who are in law enforcement actually recommended that I take some means to make sure that I can protect myself and my family,” said Mr. Shibly, 32, who lives in Tampa.
Mr. Shibly has received death threats because of his advocacy on behalf of Muslims, he said, and mosques he attends have also gotten threats.
“I’m not a reckless gun enthusiast,” he said. “I’m somebody who reluctantly owns these tools for purposes of self-defense, while recognizing the great burden they come with. They’re not simply for sports, or entertainment, or for culture.”
“We’re not gun owners because of Islam,” Mr. Shibly said. “We are gun owners because of the violence perpetrated in this country against minorities.”
He added: “The solution to the problems we face is not more violence, or even more guns. It is engagement, education, service, community organization, political involvement.”
Janice Rigsbee and Ahmad Akbour, however, appreciate gun culture and their constitutional rights because their family or historical appreciation.
“My father was a very conservative Republican,” said Ms. Rigsbee, wearing a hijab emblazoned with an AR-15-style rifle. “He always told me to protect my First and Second Amendment rights at all costs. He taught me how to shoot and taught me gun safety.”
Akbour recognizes that guns are essential for liberty.
"This nation’s founding principles were about self-determination and independence and the right of self-defense,” [Akbour] said. “Owning firearms is not just this playing toy soldier or having some weird obsession with guns or violence, or whatever it may be.”
He added: “They allow you to have a sense of liberty that not many others can afford. And I think that’s something truly remarkable.”
There is a certain sense of sadness felt throughout the piece. The Americans interviewed should not have to feel such fear throughout their country. But, as some scapegoat all gun owners as "terrorists" and others demonize all Muslims as "Islamic extremists," perhaps this New York Times article can be used to unite Americans in thanks for their God given right of self-defense.