Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Blog

By Vieshnavi Rattehalli

2012 Fall Intern

Arab Americans and American Muslims contribute daily to American society and U.S. security, some even up to the point of risking their lives for their country. Take the example of Arab American and Muslim Staff Sergeant Muna Nur, who was born in Somalia and raised in Minnesota.

Currently on the sixth year of her military career, she has already deployed twice to Iraq. She is on her third deployment, this time to Afghanistan, where she is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Troop Medical Clinic, 10th Sustainment Brigade, Task Force Muleskinner. As a practicing Muslim in Minnesota, she remembers the negative comments directed at her family, and especially at her mother, who wears a hijab, following 9/11. Nur decided then that she wanted to fight to change the common perception that people have of Arabs and Muslims, stereotyping them to be terrorists. In addition, she wanted to help heal people, and both of these resolutions led directly to her decision to join the United States Army as a medic.

Staff Sgt. Nur recognizes that a lack of education fuels the anger and misperceptions on both sides of the rift: Even among her rather well-educated colleagues in the military where she feels discrimination is less pervasive than in the civilian world, she hears the occasional less-than-sensitive comments. Nur feels that these comments are fueled by anger at the terrorists, rather than at a blanket hatred of all Arabs or Muslims. Nur has also had to teach herself how to approach prejudices held by traditional Afghans, most of whom are illiterate and learn the Qur’an through recitation, instead of through reading and direct interpretation as she did. 

As one of her medics, Air Force Senior Airman Natasha Whitten, explained, "More than anything, she educates us. Like when the Qurans were burned (in February), she let us know why people were so upset and what would have been (the proper thing to do)."

The actions and decisions of Arab Americans and Muslims Americans like Staff Sgt. Nur have a significant impact in dispelling many negative preconceptions held by the public about the role of these communities in American society. The efforts of both Arab and non-Arab American Muslims to educate their coworkers and community members on their positive impacts in society will bridge the divide that threatens to isolate and vilify an entire subsection of American society.

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