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What do you think when you look at me? A woman of faith? An expert? Maybe even a sister. Or oppressed, brainwashed, a terrorist. Or just an airport security line delay. That one’s actually true. (Laughter) If some of your perceptions were negative,I don’t really blame you. That’s just how the mediahas been portraying people who look like me. One study found that 80 percent of news coverageabout Islam and Muslims is negative. And studies show that Americanssay that most don’t know a Muslim. I guess people don’t talkto their Uber drivers. (Laughter) Well, for those of youwho have never met a Muslim, it’s great to meet you. Let me tell you who I am. I’m a mom, a coffee lover — double espresso, cream on the side. I’m an introvert. I’m a wannabe fitness fanatic. And I’m a practicing, spiritual Muslim. But not like Lady Gaga says,because baby, I wasn’t born this way. It was a choice. When I was 17, I decided to come out. No, not as a gay personlike some of my friends, but as a Muslim, and decided to start wearingthe hijab, my head covering. My feminist friends were aghast: “Why are you oppressing yourself?” The funny thing was, it was actually at that timea feminist declaration of independence from the pressure I felt as a 17-year-old, to conform to a perfectand unattainable standard of beauty. I didn’t just passively acceptthe faith of my parents. I wrestled with the Quran. I read and reflectedand questioned and doubted and, ultimately, believed. My relationship with God –it was not love at first sight. It was a trust and a slow surrender that deepened with everyreading of the Quran. Its rhythmic beautysometimes moves me to tears. I see myself in it.I feel that God knows me. Have you ever felt like someone sees you,completely understands you and yet loves you anyway? That’s how it feels. And so later, I got married, and like all good Egyptians, started my career as an engineer. (Laughter) I later had a child,after getting married, and I was living essentiallythe Egyptian-American dream. And then that terrible morningof September, 2001. I think a lot of you probably rememberexactly where you were that morning. I was sitting in my kitchenfinishing breakfast, and I look up on the screenand see the words “Breaking News.” There was smoke,airplanes flying into buildings, people jumping out of buildings. What was this? An accident? A malfunction? My shock quickly turned to outrage. Who would do this? And I switch the channel and I hear, “… Muslim terrorist …,” “… in the name of Islam …,” “… Middle-Eastern descent …,” “… jihad …,” “… we should bomb Mecca.” Oh my God. Not only had my country been attacked, but in a flash, somebody else’s actionshad turned me from a citizen to a suspect. That same day, we had to driveacross Middle America to move to a new cityto start grad school. And I remember sittingin the passenger seat as we drove in silence, crouched as low as I could go in my seat, for the first time in my life,afraid for anyone to know I was a Muslim. We moved into our apartmentthat night in a new town in what felt likea completely different world. And then I was hearingand seeing and reading warnings from nationalMuslim organizations saying things like,”Be alert,” “Be aware,” “Stay in well-lit areas,””Don’t congregate.” I stayed inside all week. And then it was Friday that same week, the day that Muslimscongregate for worship. And again the warnings were,”Don’t go that first Friday, it could be a target.” And I was watching the news,wall-to-wall coverage. Emotions were so raw, understandably, and I was also hearingabout attacks on Muslims, or people who were perceivedto be Muslim, being pulled out and beaten in the street. Mosques were actually firebombed. And I thought, we should just stay home. And yet, something didn’t feel right. Because those peoplewho attacked our country attacked our country. I get it that people were angryat the terrorists. Guess what? So was I. And so to have to explain yourselfall the time isn’t easy. I don’t mind questions. I love questions. It’s the accusations that are tough. Today we hear people actuallysaying things like, “There’s a problem in this country,and it’s called Muslims. When are we going to get rid of them?” So, some people want to ban Muslimsand close down mosques. They talk about my communitykind of like we’re a tumor in the body of America. And the only question is,are we malignant or benign? You know, a malignant tumoryou extract altogether, and a benign tumoryou just keep under surveillance. The choices don’t make sense,because it’s the wrong question. Muslims, like all other Americans,aren’t a tumor in the body of America, we’re a vital organ. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) Muslims are inventors and teachers, first responders and Olympic athletes. Now, is closing down mosquesgoing to make America safer? It might free up some parking spots, but it will not end terrorism. Going to a mosque regularlyis actually linked to having more tolerant viewsof people of other faiths and greater civic engagement. And as one police chiefin the Washington, DC area recently told me, people don’t actuallyget radicalized at mosques. They get radicalized in their basementor bedroom, in front of a computer. And what you findabout the radicalization process is it starts online, but the first thing that happens is the person gets cut offfrom their community, from even their family, so that the extremist groupcan brainwash them into believing that they,the terrorists, are the true Muslims, and everyone else who abhorstheir behavior and ideology are sellouts or apostates. So if we want to prevent radicalization, we have to keep peoplegoing to the mosque. Now, some will still argueIslam is a violent religion. After all, a group like ISISbases its brutality on the Quran. Now, as a Muslim, as a mother,as a human being, I think we need to do everything we canto stop a group like ISIS. But we would be giving into their narrative if we cast them as representativesof a faith of 1.6 billion people. (Applause) Thank you. ISIS has as much to do with Islam as the Ku Klux Klan has to dowith Christianity. (Applause) Both groups claim to basetheir ideology on their holy book. But when you look at them,they’re not motivated by what they read in their holy book. It’s their brutality that makes themread these things into the scripture. Recently, a prominent imamtold me a story that really took me aback. He said that a girl came to him because she was thinkingof going to join ISIS. And I was really surprised and asked him, had she been in contactwith a radical religious leader? And he said the problemwas quite the opposite, that every cleric that she hadtalked to had shut her down and said that her rage,her sense of injustice in the world, was just going to get her in trouble. And so with nowhere to channeland make sense of this anger, she was a prime target to be exploited by extremists promising her a solution. What this imam did was to connect herback to God and to her community. He didn’t shame her for her rage –instead, he gave her constructive ways to make real change in the world. What she learned at that mosqueprevented her from going to join ISIS. I’ve told you a little bit about how Islamophobiaaffects me and my family. But how does it impact ordinary Americans? How does it impact everyone else? How does consuming fear 24 hours a dayaffect the health of our democracy, the health of our free thought? Well, one study — actually,several studies in neuroscience — show that when we’re afraid,at least three things happen. We become more acceptingof authoritarianism, conformity and prejudice. One study showed that when subjectswere exposed to news stories that were negative about Muslims, they became more acceptingof military attacks on Muslim countries and policies that curtail the rightsof American Muslims. Now, this isn’t just academic. When you look at whenanti-Muslim sentiment spiked between 2001 and 2013, it happened three times, but it wasn’t around terrorist attacks. It was in the run up to the Iraq Warand during two election cycles. So Islamophobia isn’t justthe natural response to Muslim terrorism as I would have expected. It can actually be a toolof public manipulation, eroding the very foundationof a free society, which is rationaland well-informed citizens. Muslims are like canariesin the coal mine. We might be the first to feel it, but the toxic air of fearis harming us all. (Applause) And assigning collective guilt isn’t just about havingto explain yourself all the time. Deah and his wife Yusorwere a young married couple living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where they both went to school. Deah was an athlete. He was in dental school,talented, promising … And his sister would tell methat he was the sweetest, most generous human being she knew. She was visiting him thereand he showed her his resume, and she was amazed. She said, “When did my baby brotherbecome such an accomplished young man?” Just a few weeks after Suzanne’s visitto her brother and his new wife, their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, murdered them, as well as Yusor’s sister, Razan,who was visiting for the afternoon, in their apartment, execution style, after posting anti-Muslim statementson his Facebook page. He shot Deah eight times. So bigotry isn’t just immoral,it can even be lethal. So, back to my story. What happened after 9/11? Did we go to the mosqueor did we play it safe and stay home? Well, we talked it over, and it might seem likea small decision, but to us, it was about what kind of Americawe wanted to leave for our kids: one that would control us by fear or one where we were practicingour religion freely. So we decided to go to the mosque. And we put my son in his car seat, buckled him in, and we drove silently,intensely, to the mosque. I took him out, I took off my shoes,I walked into the prayer hall and what I saw made me stop. The place was completely full. And then the imam made an announcement, thanking and welcoming our guests, because half the congregation were Christians, Jews,Buddhists, atheists, people of faith and no faith, who had come not to attack us,but to stand in solidarity with us. (Applause) I just break down at this time. These people were there because they chosecourage and compassion over panic and prejudice. What will you choose? What will you chooseat this time of fear and bigotry? Will you play it safe? Or will you join those who say we are better than that? Thank you. (Applause) Thank you so much. Helen Walters: So Dalia,you seem to have struck a chord. But I wonder, what would you say to thosewho might argue that you’re giving a TED Talk, you’re clearly a deep thinker, you work at a fancy think tank, you’re an exception, you’re not the rule. What would you say to those people? Dalia Mogahed: I would say,don’t let this stage distract you, I’m completely ordinary. I’m not an exception. My story is not unusual. I am as ordinary as they come. When you look at Muslimsaround the world — and I’ve done this, I’ve donethe largest study ever done on Muslims around the world — people want ordinary things. They want prosperity for their family, they want jobs and they want to live in peace. So I am not in any way an exception. When you meet people who seemlike an exception to the rule, oftentimes it’s that the rule is broken, not that they’re an exception to it. HW: Thank you so much.Dalia Mogahed. (Applause)