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#tolerancemeans that I won't be scared to wear my hijab anymore.

Updated: Apr 8

Ferida Osman, Graduate, Hofstra University


Tolerance. Webster’s Dictionary defines tolerance as “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” This is the definition most people veer towards when speaking of tolerance, especially religious tolerance. But Webster’s dictionary provides additional definitions, such as “capacity to endure pain or hardship,” “the allowable deviation from a standard,” and my personal favorite, the “relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor.” Growing up as a daughter of Muslim Afghan immigrants in a post-9/11 world, these are the definitions of tolerance that I have understood to be the true meaning. After 9/11, Muslims have become the deviants of a standard and have had to learn to thrive in unfavorable environmental factors. 


Ferida Osman, Graduate, Hofstra University


Tolerance. My father shaved his beard to be more tolerant. My brothers changed their names to be more “American.” My sisters ran from the beautiful and inspiring words of Islam. 


I was called Bin Laden’s daughter. I was accused of a bomb threat in the third grade because I was the only Muslim in my grade who fit the description of wearing “a pink sweater and black pants.” I grew up in Suffolk County. There, tolerance was more of a fallacy that people used to cover their true intolerance, hiding behind their belief in the First Amendment. 


Tolerance. I once wore a hijab. I started wearing it when I was 16 years old. Then one day, in Penn Station, in the center of one of the world’s most “tolerant and diverse” cities, I was spit on and told to go back to my fucking country. This is my country. I was born and raised here. I only knew this to be my home. But that day, as I stood looking down at the spit on my chest, tears were slowly streaming down my face, and tracks were being called; I no longer felt this was my home. Every day since I shook in fear putting on the hijab. Tolerance—that is what made me take off my hijab. 


Tolerance. My favorite definition, as I stated earlier, was the “relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor.” I hope to live in a world where this definition of tolerance won’t be my favorite. A day where I can put my hijab back on without the fear of assault. A day where a Muslim Ban, a terrorist attack, or a war on terror doesn’t have to equate to the social persecution of my beliefs. A day where I do not have to say, “I’m Muslim, but I’m not a terrorist.” A day where I don’t have to defend my beliefs because two minutes of inaccurate reporting from FOX News and CNN force me to. For me, tolerance is a fallacy I’m subjected to live under.


Tolerance. Sometimes, just like the definition, everything is not the way it seems.

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