"Now I have to have these conversations with my kids," said Judeh,
39, who lives in southern California. "That's what breaks my heart -
to tell my kids that a choice I made to stand up for my religion
could make me unsafe."
As anti-Muslim sentiment swells following the Dec. 2 massacre in San
Bernardino, California, by a young Muslim couple inspired by Islamic
State, many Muslim parents and their children say they fear for
their safety and are struggling with their American and Muslim
Judeh, for instance, said she has told her children that their
actions may face extra scrutiny because they are Muslim.
She teaches her 8-year-old son to never utter the words "blow up" at
school, regardless of the context, and to never pretend he is
playing with guns, even if his friends do. Her son has asked if
people hate him and his family, Judeh said, a question she can find
difficult to answer after receiving hateful comments and threats
because of her hijab.
The problems have gathered pace since gunmen loyal to Islamic State
killed 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13.
But even before the Paris violence, anti-Muslim sentiment was on the
rise, swept along by rhetoric from U.S. presidential candidates -
from Republican Ben Carson's comment in September that Muslims were
unfit for the presidency to billionaire Donald Trumpís recent call
for a ban on Muslim immigration.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a Republican whose presidential
campaign has struggled in recent months, has said the United States
should only allow in Syrian refugees who can prove that they are
Christian - a tiny fraction of the millions driven from the
Some Muslim families say they fear a rising tide of hate crimes
directed against their faith, such as when a pigís head was found
outside the door of a Philadelphia mosque on Dec. 7, an incident
that made national headlines. Pork and pork byproducts are haram, or
forbidden, in Islam.
Some discrimination goes largely unnoticed, such as when a woman
threw hot coffee at a group of Muslims praying in a park in
California on Dec. 6. The Council on American-Islamic Relations,
which tracks such incidents, says the scale of vandalism, damage and
intimidation at American mosques this year is the worst in the six
years it has kept records.
Since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, there have been at least 37
suspected anti-Islamic hate crimes in the United States, including
11 in the week after the San Bernardino shooting, compared with an
average of 12.6 a month over the past five years, according to a
study by California State University, San Bernardino, which cited
Federal Bureau of Investigation data.
Many of the country's 2.8 million Muslims say they fear such
tensions may become uglier during a presidential race that is
already tapping a vein of anger and bigotry.
DEFENDING THEIR IDENTITIES
Young Muslims said they often feel the need to prove how American
they are to distance themselves from radicals.
For some, such as 27-year-old Sara Haddad, that means reminding
people that they watch football or listen to pop music.
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"I love the Dallas Cowboys," she said, referring to the popular
Texas professional football team. "We have Thanksgiving with my
parents. It's almost like you have to do this thing where you say,
'I'm so American,' but at the end of the day, what is American?"
said Haddad, a cancer research scientist in North Carolina who has a
She said she has not decided how to explain militant Islamists or
anti-Muslim rhetoric to her daughter when she is older. She likens
the predicament to parents wondering when to tell their children
Santa Claus does not exist, hoping their innocence will stretch for
as long as possible.
"9/11 destroyed my childhood innocence," she said, referring to the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "I donít want to believe that in five years
it'll be this bad or worse."
In Baltimore, Arif Khan said he does not want his sonís childhood
defined by conversations about shootings or other attacks.
He said he and his wife, who wears a hijab, take precautions when
leaving the house. They make sure no one is following them and
carefully choose public places to pray when not home. He said he and
his wife want their one-month-old son to be vigilant as he gets
older. But they also hope to teach him that his Muslim and American
values are complementary.
"We donít want his world to be focused on how we combat negative
stereotypes against us," said Khan, 29. "We want him to be a person
indicative of what true Islamic and American values are."
Jinan Al-Marayati, a 15-year-old Muslim who attends a Catholic
school in Los Angeles, said she often feels pressured to defend her
religion when Islamic State comes up in class discussions.
She encourages questions from teachers and classmates, she said, but
sometimes tries to downplay her Muslim and Palestinian background
when she is with her American friends.
"I feel like I have two identities," Al-Marayati said. "With my
Muslim friends, I feel like I'm not Muslim enough. Around my
non-Muslim friends, I don't talk about stuff that's going on because
it'd make them uncomfortable."
(Editing by Jason Szep, Ken Wills, Steve Orlofsky and Leslie Adler)
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