N is for “Non-Muslim” vs. “American”
“They go to an American school.”
“One of my American friends…”
“That is so American.”
I don’t like it. It doesn’t sound right. I am American. How can we refer to non-Muslims as American when we ourselves are also American? That goes back to my bi-cultural issue I posted a couple of weeks ago.
What really bugs me is when American is used in a derogatory way. “Only Americans do that.” “That is something those Americans do.”
As I have gotten older, the phrase “white” has replaced “American” in this context – as in “Why are you being so white?” or “My white friends don’t understand how…” – but the problem is still the same.
For most of my mature years, Muslims seem to be trying really hard to get America as a whole to understand that we are just like you. So many movies and plays and spoken word pieces all stress how normal Muslims are and how everyone should accept us because there is nothing wrong or strange with us.
We keep trying to promote the “we” when the language we used behind closed doors promotes a “them.” Calling ourselves American in public, but referring only to non-Muslims as American in private, needs to stop. How can we expect non-Muslim Americans to accept us as American when the only time we actually identify ourselves as American is when we want sympathy, and all other times reserve the term only for something that conflicts with Islam?
Of course, not everyone does this, but we all know the game. We know what is meant when the term “American” is thrown around in reference to an other, and only rarely do I hear it corrected to non-Muslim. And I find it offensive, to myself, as an actual living, breathing, Islam-practicing American.
It is offensive, and frankly, inaccurate. It is okay to make a point, that non-Muslims have a different mindset than Muslims, but let’s keep the language accurate. The “other” is non-Muslim, in a grammatical sense. However anyone born in America, or permanently residing in America, is American, regardless of religion.