My father is an immigrant from Egypt and my mother an immigrant from Lithuania (but at the time she grew up it was all the USSR). Living in an affluent American suburban society, I do not necessarily fit in. Often mistaken for Hispanic, or “mixed,” people cannot determine my ethnicity. Here, I do not look “white”. When visiting extended family in Egypt, I do not look Egyptian. When visiting my grandparents in Lithuania, I do not look Lithuanian or Russian for that matter. I do not fit in anywhere because I do not look like I do. In today’s political climate, the Islamic religion is continuously feared. Coming from an Arabic and Muslim background I’ve made it a personal duty to educate others on the misconceptions about the religion and culture. However, because that is not my sole background, people do not find me a credible source to be offering such information. Yet, I grew up with Muslim influence from my father and his family so I promise, I know what I’m talking about when I say it’s MuSlim or ISlam and not MuZlim or IZlam.
The difference between the S and the Z, how my father explained it to me, is that Muzlim becomes synonymous with the Arabic word for darkness, while Muslim means light and peace. In written Arabic, the two words look completely different. The “Americanized” version of the word is simply disrespectful to many.