My Muslim Identity

The preposterous accusations against Huma Abedin, a deputy chief of staff at the State Department, are too familiar to Muslim Americans like myself. Eleven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, xenophobia persists, even at the highest levels of society.

Representative Michele Bachmann and the four other Republican members of Congress falsely connecting Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood are not alone in their association of Muslims with terrorists.

Louisiana Rep. Valarie Hodges recently withdrew her support for Gov. Bobby Jindal's school voucher program when it was revealed that funding could be diverted to Muslim schools, in addition to Christian ones.

"We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools," Hodges said. "There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana."

It should be understood that in our global world, religious association does not always define individual beliefs. And it's a falsity that Muslims in America wish to impose our religious beliefs on others.

In 2003, during the height of islamophobia following the Sept. 11 attacks, I was pregnant with my daughter. As a feminist, I wanted her name to reflect both her father's and my heritage. But as a mother, I worried that bestowing upon her my Muslim last name would expose her to discrimination and hardship in life. In the end, we gave her both last names, along with a first name rooted in Arabic and Ki-Swahili that translates to "aspiration" and "peace." She's being raised -- not only by her Muslim mother and Christian father, but also by her Jewish step-father and Buddhist step-mother -- to respect all religions equally.

I have made a conscious choice to self-identify as a Muslim, despite my secular upbringing. I believe it's important to lead by example to shatter the preconceived notions that Muslims are anti-Semitic, that we are opposed to gay rights or that we don't share the same values as other Americans.

I am a Muslim American and yet far more multi-faceted than that. I am a feminist, a lawyer, an art lover and a foodie. And I am an immigrant from Bangladesh doing my part to promote equality for all Americans, irrespective of our race, religion, gender, national origin or sexual orientation. I am also a mother struggling to raise an 8-year-old in a world that may view her with suspicion. I imagine that's a challenge that Abedin already anticipates with her 6-month-old son.