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I am an ordinary American Muslim. I moved to the United States about 20 years ago. My husband came here for his medical training. After spending some years in the U.S., we decided to stay in this country, not for money or lifestyle — but for its religious freedom. This religious freedom was so important for us that we left our homeland, family, and friends and went through the struggle of settling into a completely different culture.

I was born and raised in a Muslim household in a Muslim country, but never had the freedom to introduce myself as a Muslim before coming to America.

When I was only 4 years old, in 1974, the Pakistani prime minister declared my faith community “non-Muslim” and sowed the seeds of religious hatred and intolerance in the country. Thus the Pakistani state took away my right to express my faith.

It was here in America where I called myself, without fear, a Muslim for the first time. I was standing in line at the grocery store when a lady behind me asked me looking at my headscarf, why I was wearing this “thing” on my head. I told her that I was a Muslim and this is my religious duty to cover myself. Regardless of her reaction, I felt like I was a new person. I was not afraid of expressing my belief. It was a day of independence for me and I felt the happiness that I never had before.

I spent my best years in the United States, made many friends, contributed to charities regardless of their faith, volunteered in the community, but never imagined that one day my American fellows would hate me because of my faith. I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that believes in the Messiah Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. Despite all the persecution our community faces, we always strive to spread the message of peace and love worldwide.

Every community has good and bad people among them. Muslims are no exceptions. Unfortunately the acts of bad Muslims are giving my religion a bad name all around the world.

Islam is not a new religion. It has been a peaceful religion for the past 1,400 years and nobody bothered to look at its teachings then.

Now that a bunch of extremists have started exploiting it for their own interests, people like Donald Trump have turned against Islam rather than respecting it. Now he wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. By doing so he would will not only be depriving America from good Muslims but dividing the country and spreading hate against Muslims who are a strong component of the American society today. This is not what good leaders do.

This is exactly what Pakistan did in the past by stigmatizing my faith community. Please don’t lead our country on this dangerous path.

My children are no less American than Trump. They are born Americans. They have the right to visit and invite their grandparents from overseas and celebrate Thanksgiving with them.

It hurts us equally as it hurts you when any American is attacked. We cried on the tragedy of 9/11, we cried for Sandy Hook victims, we felt as much pain for San Bernardino victims as any other American did. Islam is our code of life, but America is our country, and we will sacrifice anything to protect our country.

Fauzia Qureshi is a resident of Ann Arbor.

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