I was 12 years old when my parents and I befriended a kind French woman on an overnight train from Venice to Paris. She was funny and charismatic; I liked her, and I hoped that we would keep in touch. And then she - unaware of our religious background - blurted out bluntly, “I hate Muslims.” My dad, the blunt man that he is, immediately told her that we were Muslim, and asked her how she could say such a thing.
Flustered, she apologized and went to purchase her dinner in another cabin. We never saw her again.
I was 13 years old when a boy in my science class held a cross in my face in an attempt to exorcise my “Islamic demons.”
I was 14 years old when a friend jokingly called me and another Muslim girl her “favorite terrorists.”
I was 16 years old when I ran for student government in my high school. After a long and trying campaign, I won. Until a boy made a joke that I should be impeached and assassinated because I was a foreign-born Muslim.
I love America. I love our history, our constitution, our government. I love our authors, our newspapers, our movies. I love our helpful, friendly people, and the way that strangers smile at you at grocery stores. That doesn’t happen everywhere.
But this isn’t Religious Freedom.