A white, American mom who converted to Islam as a young adult is speaking out amid a surge of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.
Kate Downing Khaled, 33, told BuzzFeed News that she is just your average mom of three young boys living in Minnesota. She also happens to be Muslim.
Khaled was raised in Canada and the Midwest by her father, an American, and her mother, a Canadian American.
She said her father's family can trace their roots back to the Mayflower and President John Adams.
"I could literally register as a Daughter of the American Revolution," she wrote on Facebook.
Khaled was raised Methodist, but converted to Islam at age 25 after many years of curiosity and study.
Khaled told BuzzFeed News that one of the things that drew her to Islam was Muslims' frequency of prayer.
"I was looking for a more meditative practice," she said.
She also met her husband Taqee, who is Muslim, in graduate school.
She told BuzzFeed News her husband was born in the U.S. but his parents are immigrants from Bangladesh. It's been an amazing experience blending their families, Khaled said.
"It's beautiful to see my parents, who grew up in America, and my in-laws build this beautiful relationship," she said.
But recently, Khaled said she has been deeply disturbed, as many have, by a surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric in her home country. She said she is most worried that her sons will be affected by the hateful speech.
She worries her children will not be accepted or kept away from friends' houses because of the rhetoric.
"It would break my heart if they weren't accepted," she said.
So, Khaled decided to speak out on Facebook. She wrote a powerful message about how awful it has been to see her fellow Americans fear and hate her religion.
In the post, Khaled explains that she feels like her "people," or Americans, are turning on her other "people," or Muslims. After explaining her background as a proud member of each group, she delivers a powerful message of acceptance:
I am a stark example of 'us' and 'them' living in one body. I shouldn't have to share these private parts of my identity, but I'm not sure what else to do. Muslim Americans, like me, need your help and support. The way I see it, the 'us' that I love is hurting the 'them' that I am. And I really need you to start understanding: The 'them' that you see is actually a beautiful part of what makes 'us' great.
Her message soon spread throughout Facebook, and has been shared thousands of times. Many people wrote messages of support, and said her family shouldn't be treated differently for what they believe.
Khaled told BuzzFeed News she decided to write the message in the hopes of being a positive online face for her religion.
"I thought maybe if I was lucky a couple of my friends from high school who may have some fear of Muslims may read it and be less scared," she said.
Khaled said she has received messages of support from all types of people, and she hopes to spread a message of acceptance and peace.
"People need to understand that Islam is as diverse as America, and part of what makes America beautiful is that we can all practice what we believe in peace together," she said.
Stephanie McNeal is a social news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Stephanie McNeal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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