Young Muslims Just Wanna Listen to Tom Petty

Young Muslims Just Wanna Listen to Tom Petty

A Muslim teenage girl in the Bronx is studying while Donald Trump watches.

Photo: Sam Hodgson, The New York Times.


My favorite part of the above photo is what this Muslim teenage girl seems to be concentrating on (most likely, school studies) while paying no mind to the man in the background. Upon reading the piece "Muslim Youths in U.S. Feel Strain of Suspicion," a front-page story in The New York Times (December 15), I recalled Rockwell's 1984 synth masterpiece "Somebody's Watching Me": "I always feel like / somebody's watchin me / tell me it isn't just a dream."

As one 19-year-old Muslim explains, "I feel like it's them against us, that everybody's out to get you and you have something to prove." With American anti-Muslim sentiment on the rise, the author says, "Young Muslim Americans, on top of the usual trials of adolescence, have been forced to grapple with profound questions of identity, society, politics and faith in a country that has had an ambivalent relationship with Islam."

Unfortunately, many professing Christians have inculturated and exacerbated this "ambivalent relationship with Islam." In 2009, Baylor University historian Thomas S. Kidd argued that “we can see that much of the recent American Christian hostility toward Islam derives from a long historical tradition"; it is not merely the after-effects of 9/11. "American Christians,” Kidd writes, “have often [categorized] and stereotyped Muslims out of pain, anger, and fear."

Somewhere in the middle of the Times article, a kind of social empathy visited me in the person of Tom Petty and his heartland rock-n-roll. I really do love me some Tom Petty, particularly his classic hit "Runnin' Down a Dream." In fact, way back in the mid-2000s I used to enjoy that song like crazy as I desperately tried to find its rhythm via Guitar Hero.

Petty's songs, perhaps especially "Runnin' Down a Dream," seem emblematic of twentieth-century Americana or at least a large swath of the majority American experience. But, in one sentence, a frightening reversal of Petty's anthem suddenly appears in the exasperated voice of a Muslim college student in Brooklyn:

It feels like they’re trying to shoot down our dreams...simply because we practice a different religion.
— Shafiq Majdalawieh, 19

Tom Petty, dreaming of and living in America.


We Pass Through It Together

We Pass Through It Together

To Save Me From Tears

To Save Me From Tears