Islamophobia has already been planted deep in many minds across the world, and Donald Trump’s remarks during this election about Muslim people haven’t helped at all. So photographer Mark Bennington took it upon himself, to show the incredible diversity of Muslim Americans in hopes to stop putting nasty labels on millions of people.
Mark is doing it with a portrait series called “America 2.0”, in which he features young Muslim adults in New York City alongside with stories from their daily lives, featuring the common topics like school, friends, dating, music and so on.
“Now more than ever, we, as the American public, are faced with images and propaganda of ‘the other’ – be it Muslims, Mexican immigrants, the African-American community, the LGBTQ community, the list goes on,” Bennington told the Huffington Post. “I found this to be a crucial time to start a project that focused on the every day – what do ordinary lives and aspirations look like?”
Hanan, 24, NYU Dental student: “I always tell everybody, there’s not just two parties [so] why don’t you break the system a little bit? … Sometimes I’m surprised at people, at who they’re voting for but I don’t push my views on anyone else.”
Mosammet, 17, Brooklyn Tech High School: “We are a nation of immigrants. I do not accept someone who calls my fellow brothers and sisters of color ‘murderers and thieves’. I do not accept someone who utilizes fear mongering to turn half the country against the rest. I will not stand my mother or my sisters being forced to remove their hijab and I will not stand my father and brother being called ‘terrorists’. I LOVE LIFE, but as an American citizen, I have never been so disappointed in America.“
Jiniya, 20, student of advertising and psychology at The City College of New York: “I can’t understand why we are always portrayed as either the good or the bad, the moderate or the extremists. Why can’t I be normal? Why do I have to be labeled as Muslim?… Why is my headscarf the first thing that you recognize about me? Why can’t we just be people?…”
Hagar, 22, Health & Science major at New Jersey City University: “I think it’s important to vote, but our options this year are … we didn’t have much choice! I’d have preferred not to vote but I don’t think that’s a better option either. I wanted Bernie, he just seemed kind of down to earth unlike the other two.”
Makinoon, 17, Student at Brooklyn Tech High School: “Sometimes, you kind of feel scared with all this Islamophobia going on. Like, what if my friends, not close friends, but acquaintances turn their back on me just because I’m a Muslim? There was a time when I actually thought about not following my faith because of social pressure. But, I identify as Muslim and want to show that Islam is a beautiful religion.”
Rayan, 23, student at New Jersey City University: “We went to an Islamic school here in Jersey City. We learned Arabic, we had Islamic studies, and then we had regular classes. We would always try to go against the uniform. Try to wear different shoes, anything to get us into trouble, basically- like any other rebellious teenager.“
Hany, 27, General Manager at Cairo Dental in Queens: “To be honest, I was for Trump. I’m excited about him. I love his passion to change the country, because it needs a lot of changing. But I must say that the initial step has to come from us. Us, the Americans in all shapes and sizes and all colors and religious beliefs. [They] must unite. This is the real American dream that my parents had came here for.”
Anika, 21, student in International Business/Finance, Accounting, Economics & Fashion, works at Marymount Manhattan college as a SAT coordinator: “If you fit in that realm of thinking in terms of whatever has been ordained for the religion – whether it’s praying 5 times or believing in one God, if you can except those two things, then yeah, you can consider yourself religious. But, in terms of truly believing your existence, that would be another question to ask.”
Shahid & Hanzalah
Shahid & Hanzalah, 18 & 20, College students (Information Security & Android Development): “So, we met initially back in Brooklyn Tech High School. … Shahid is the kind of guy I’ll message at 2 am with some strange insomnia induced epiphany and he’ll take two seconds to tell me the massively obvious hole in my logic and tell me to go to sleep. I’m amazed that we’ve known each other for so many years because in many ways it still feels like we only recently met – there’s a timelessness to it and honestly, it feels more like family.“
Syeda, 21, Math & Physics major at Hunter College: “I’d love to teach. It’s been my dream for the past couple of years to open a school actually, for [young] kids. I think the older we get the more we question things, the more we need rationales to explain things. But as kids, we’re willing to just take things and run with it and let our imaginations play.“
Abdelrazaq, 25, NYU Dental student: “The Muslim community, like any minority community, should show up and vote, not in the hopes of determining the winner, but to show our presence. We are part of this country, part of this community – a large part – and voting is a way for us to show those who run for governmental positions that ‘Hey, we are here.’”
Ariba, 24, applying for Masters in Public Health: “I remember the first time it happened… I was super new to the subway – commuting to Hunter College in the city. And I saw this old man, who looked so sweet, and he said, ‘Can I sit next to you?’ And I said ‘Sure’. He said, ‘Can ask your question?’ I said ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Who invited you?’… I didn’t understand. I was so shocked. And then I didn’t or couldn’t say anything! It bugged me for months and months. Why didn’t I say anything?“
Jannah, 19, student at Hunter Community College: “I did wear a hijab a long time ago when I was little, but people would tell me to take it off because I was too young (pre-puberty). Now I’ve just have gotten used to not wearing it. But, I still try to dress as modest as I can… In my house, of course, I wear whatever I want.“
Sara, 17, Student at Brooklyn Technical High School: “I never imagined so many people would vote for Trump, especially with the way he has targeted so many minorities. Being a Muslim it sort of gets me thinking about what it’s going to be like in the future. He makes violence ‘okay’… so should I walk out of my house in fear of being attacked for being openly Muslim (wearing my hijab)?“
Mohammed, 22, Environmental engineering major at City College of New York: “I’m trying to push myself into doing things that I’m not really comfortable with- like getting my photo taken!… I’m not really a social person, but I’m pushing myself to get involved socially.“
Sadaf, 17, Pre-med student at Hunter College student, Author and Co-founder/CEO of Media company REV 21: “When you are deprived of a chance to share your voice, you have to yell louder. And not just yell louder for yourself but for the several others who feel the same sentiments as you do… Unfortunately, regardless of America’s promise of equality, several groups of people feel cheated for their chance of achieving the American dream–of their chance to simply survive in America.“
Najwa, 16, Miraj Islamic High School: “My all time favorite subject is science! Learning about the different elements that make us think or act in certain ways fascinate me, that’s the main reason why I want to study medicine once I graduate.“
There are quite a few beautiful traditions among Muslim people, for example, the Hijab wedding dresses.