“I am you.” CNN Profiles 5 Stereotype-Defying Muslims

The hijab-wearing hip-hop artist.

The Muslim student at a Christian college.

The only Muslim family in an all-American town.

The father of aspiring inventors.

The suburban Texas mom.

Recently, CNN profiled five Muslim-Americans. Their stories reveal a beautiful diversity among the nation’s 3.3 million Muslims. But each story also highlights a common struggle against prejudice and fear.

There’s Alia, whose parents grew up in Mississippi and converted from Christianity to Islam. Today, she teaches elementary school while pursuing her rap career. Alia uses her music to cast light on the realities of being black and Muslim in America.

“I deal with the struggles of Islamophobia and the prejudices against black people.”

There’s Madiha, who studies medicine at Liberty University in Virginia. “I’m not a Christian, but I share the same values as this school,” she says.

Practicing her faith in a Christian setting has led to awkward moments, but it’s also created opportunities for conversation.

“When I’m around people who are unapologetic about their faith…that is how I want to be. It has made me a better Muslim.”

There’s Hamid, raising his family in rural South Carolina and teaching his four kids that being a Muslim doesn’t make them any less American.

“I am you. Your neighbor, your teacher, your friend, and a fellow American.”

There’s Syed, whose children want to become inventors. One of them aspires to build a jetpack. Thinking about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Muslim boy who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, Syed worries how people will respond to his own children—and how it will impact their desire to invent things. 

“I don’t want them to be afraid.”

There’s Mehnaz, the suburban Texas mom who reads bedtime stories about strong Muslim women to her kids.

“I want them to be seen as strong, good human beings.”

Each has encountered anti-Muslim prejudice. Hamid was threatened while burying a cousin who died of cancer; during the funeral, shots were fired as a truck drove past. As a child, Syed was derisively nicknamed “Ayatollah.” Mehnaz has been called a terrorist to her face.

But each exudes a message of peace, cutting through fear and prejudice. Alia denounces violence through her music. Madiha embraces every opportunity to inform her Christian classmates what it’s like to be Muslim. Hamid speaks at his children’s school, dispelling myths and answering their questions about Islam.

Listening to the stories of others can cut through our fears and prejudices as well. They remind us that America’s 3.3 million Muslims are every bit as unique, diverse, and peace-loving as their neighbors.

Read the full story on CNN.

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