Privacy SOS

Ralph Markey (a pseudonym) is a community college student and convert to Islam.

“When people look at me, they just see a white guy. My name is American too.  They don’t know I am a Muslim right away. Once they find out I am a Muslim, then they treat me differently. I can only imagine how other Muslims are treated. One guy called me a ‘white Osama bin Laden.’ My teachers treated me differently at school, especially during Ramadan. It is tough being a Muslim in America. But not as tough as being a Muslim in countries such as France. I don’t want things to ever get to that point here. I don’t want Americans to suspect or hate law-abiding Muslims. We should not be made outcasts.”

Once he was in downtown Boston at prayer time. He went to the corner of a sidewalk and was just about to start praying when two police officers came up to him. They asked him questions and wanted to know what his name was, and where he was from. They asked to see his ID, and asked him if he had a criminal record.

At one point he told the officers, “Let me just pray” and began to do so. By the time he had finished his prayer, there were five police officers circling him. 

He explained to them that he had just wanted to pray before the time expired, but they kept asking him the same questions over and over again. They told him they had to check his bag. He was studying Arabic and had an Arabic text book in his bag as well as his other school books. 

The police officers asked him what the book was about. “What does all this funny writing say?”

While he stood surrounded by the five officers he noticed a group of five young men across the street who were looking intimidating in what he thought was “gang” attire. “At that point I realized that the police think that Muslims are a bigger threat than gangs.”

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.