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The first time I experienced Islamophobia was when I was in middle school, a few months after I emigrated from Bangladesh. One of my classmates approached me and asked, “Are you sad that Saddam Hussein was hanged?” Confused by her question I said, “Uh … no?” My classmate replied with, “Well, isn’t Saddam Hussein the Islamic leader who teaches Muslims to hate and kill Americans?”

After 9/11, scores of young Muslims around this country were held responsible for something they did not do. I personally experienced my fair share of insults that ranged from “terrorist” to “Go back to where you came from!”

Earlier this year, the death of the three Muslim victims in the Chapel Hill shootings was a dark reminder of how much Islamophobia remains alive in this nation.

The arrest of Ahmed Mohammed in Texas is just another reminder of how ignorance breeds Islamophobia.

Ahmed is an aspiring engineer who built a homemade clock. While it’s hard for most 14-year-olds to sit down and do their homework, Ahmed aspired toward innovation. Ahmed built a clock on his own time and brought it to school as a science project.

Yet, due to the ignorance of his teachers, he was accused of bringing a bomb to school.

What is unnerving about this situation is that his school teachers accused him of bringing a bomb, yet they never evacuated the school. The bomb squad was never contacted and Ahmed was interrogated as if he was a terrorist.

The incident in Texas forces me to ask the question: Would Ahmed have been accused of bringing a bomb to his school if he were a white boy named Jesse?

There wasn't a legitimate reason to accuse Ahmed of bringing a bomb to his school other than racial profiling. He does not have a history of violence, murder or waging jihad against the United States.

While the outpouring of support toward Ahmed is heartwarming, it should not take away from the bigger issue of Islamophobia. At a recent New Hampshire rally, a Trump supporter asked Donald Trump, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. ... When can we get rid of them?”

Trump validated this question. Dr. Ben Carson openly defended his statement when he said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of the U.S.”

Either Donald Trump or Ben Carson could be the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, which means a significant political party in the United States views Islam and its followers as the enemy. This type of rhetoric is dangerous as it creates animosity and fear toward Muslims.

It is up to us as Americans to educate one another about the beauty of Islam. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

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Rezwan Haq is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.

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