The Atlantic

Raising My Kids to Be Unapologetic American Muslims

Growing up, I practiced my faith quietly. Now I want my children to be loud about theirs.
Source: Ping Zhu

This article is part of Parenting in an Uncertain Age, a series about the experience of raising children in a time of great change.

Growing up in North Dakota in the 1980s and 1990s, there was nobody who shared my family’s last name. “Husain? Hoooooo-sayn? You’re not related to … ?” teachers would sometimes ask.

No, I would explain, I wasn’t. My name was spelled differently from the then-dictator Saddam Hussein, and, either way, it’s a very common name in the Middle East and South Asia. Sometimes teachers would half-laugh; sometimes they would just look me over with a hint of skepticism. If they had taught one of my brothers before me, I could guess I was pretty much in the clear. But, if the Husain family was unknown to them, I never knew which way it was going to go. My best bet was to lie low and be a good, diligent student.

I was entering 10th grade at Central High School in Grand Forks, North Dakota, when the first Gulf War broke out. I was one of the only Muslims and brown kids there (save for my older brother, who was a senior in

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