The M Word seeks to elevate, amplify, and celebrate the contributions of Muslim Americans to our country’s varied and inspiring cultural landscape. To help us, we are inviting audience members, online followers, panelists, and others—both Muslims and non-Muslims alike—to share their personal experiences with what it means to be Muslim in America. 

Today, we share Sana Khan’s story on being a Muslim American. The piece is Khan’s response to The M Word’s questionnaire


Do you identify as a Muslim? Or have you been identified as a Muslim? If yes, please tell us about it.

Yes, I grew up in a Muslim household and identified as Muslim my whole life. Although I have not always actively practiced Islam or felt connected to it, I’ve always felt culturally Muslim.

Describe what it means to be Muslim in America.

Being Muslim in America means belonging to a diverse group of people in regard to race, beliefs, careers, and backgrounds. This is a beautiful thing because Muslims contribute to the country in so many different ways. However, it also means being stereotyped or prone to discrimination, whether in the workplace, social settings, or being criminalized. There is a sense of unity but also confusion about being pulled between two worlds–being American or Muslim. It would be ideal for these two to never be mutually exclusive, but given the current climate this is often challenging.

Given the current climate and public discussions about Muslims in America, what responsibility do you feel you have to the larger conversation?

People often don’t guess that I’m Muslim, so I feel a responsibility to let others know that Muslims come in all sorts of forms. We aren’t confined to one image or definition, but are complex individuals with a variety of beliefs. I have the responsibility to inform others about customs specific to Muslims and bring a positive light to the religion and culture.

We want to hear your stories! For the chance to be featured by The M Word, submit your own video story with us on Facebook or submit your story in writing here. By submitting your story, you grant PEN America the right to use all still and motion pictures and sound recordings you provide in furtherance of its nonprofit charitable mission, including the right to advertising, promotion, and future marketing of PEN America and its activities via radio, television, video, DVD, the Internet, podcasts, PEN America publications, or any other use, by any means now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, throughout the universe. 

The M Word is generously supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges program.