Aspen Ideas Festival: Being Muslim and American in 2017

Rabia Chaudry and Haris Tarin at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival.
Rabia Chaudry and Haris Tarin at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival discussing what it's like to be Muslim in America.
Dan Bayer | The Aspen Institute

Like any group, the experiences of American Muslims are varied.

Rabia Chaudry is an immigration and civil rights lawyer, founder of Safe Nation Collaborative, and daughter of Pakistani immigrants. She arrived in the U.S. at 6 months old and was raised to be patriotic both for the country where she lives and the country she came from.

"I kind of tend to say that I feel like Pakistan is the mother that birthed me but America was the father that raised me," Chaudry said. But that's not everyone's story, she added.

Haris Tarin is the son of refugees from Afghanistan. He is senior policy adviser in the Department of Homeland Security and former head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington. As a ranking education professional, Tarin's father had a choice of what country to move his family to. He chose America because he believed it was the only place his children would be able to find acceptance.

While Chaudry and Tarin have what some might consider typical American stories, they are still viewed as "other," Tarin said.

"What people don't realize is that we haven't gotten to where we are today in a vacuum, it hasn't happened overnight," Chaudry said. The truth is anti-Muslim rhetoric has always been present, it just hasn't been in the public eye until recently, she said.

It wasn't until President Trump first attempted to implement a travel ban from Muslim-majority countries that Chaudry said she really saw people realize how bad things were.

Muslim-American children growing up in the shadow of 9/11 often feel they can't be American because it's a label that rejects them, Chaudry said, they feel left out of their own community.

That's why it's so important that American Muslims have a voice in politics and public conversations today.

"So the idea is, we need to also get out of our comfort, little comfy zones, and engage folks. Because when we do that I think that's a part of being honest to ourselves and communities," Tarin said.

To listen to their conversation, click the audio player above.

More from Aspen Ideas Festival

Can DNA help us grapple with the past?

Living in the surveillance economy

What your interactions with robots say about your character

Prescriptions for a better health future

Rural realities, problems and opportunities

Stopping the violence in America's cities

Has democracy run its course?

StoryCorps founder David Isay on the importance of listening

Bill Bishop on why we live with people just like ourselves

David Brooks on 'The Second Mountain'

How presidents prepare for Armageddon

Why millennials work the way they do

The social downside to technology

Listening to America

Examining the Rule of Law

What you need to know about Martin Luther King

Conservatism in the Trump era

American values and the Constitution

Spotlight on health

More from MPR News Presents

MPR News presents offers speeches, documentaries and debates — airing weekdays from noon to 1 p.m.

Volume Button
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News