A South Asian Muslim liberal vegetari-an Democrat from South Dakota. Not quite the South Dakota archetype, but that’s me.

I’ve been asked ridiculous questions about being related to terrorists and being personally responsible for Sept. 11, 2001, and I have had to deal with others’ parents and grandparents who gave me dirty looks and forbade me from entering their houses.

But here’s the twist. This is not another sob story of a young Muslim American persecuted by her small town environment, but the story of the camaraderie I felt after Sept. 11 from a certain population of Americans who made the negativity of others tolerable.

I love my home state, but after Sept. 11, I felt very alone in South Dakota as a young Muslim. I needed support, and I was just not finding it in the blind fear growing around me. I had to look somewhere else.

I thought the search would be difficult, but soon realized there was a much larger world of American politics out there than in my small town in South Dakota. I weeded through the conservative propaganda that was breeding hate in our land of opportunity, but soon encountered socially liberal and accepting Americans that made me feel proud to be an American.

I am not talking about politicians and the media – I am talking about real Democrats, real people across South Dakota and across the United States.

I traveled quite a bit during the summers after Sept. 11, and as any Muslim will tell you, I felt very unwelcome in airports and on airplanes.

But I found myself meeting people who were interested in my uslim identity and who wondered what it was like for me to live under an administration that suddenly was legislating against my faith. After hearing my story, they would encourage me to keep my head up and not to let fear-inducing tactics like the Patriot Act get me down. Even in South Dakota, I found individuals who were open-minded about my heritage and religion and were willing to accept me into their patriotic lives.

My hometown is conservative, yes. My home state is conservative, yes.

But there is a bigger picture – a picture depicting social liberals in this country who do not isolate the oppressed, but instead try to uplift and defend.

The social liberals in this country truly believe in preserving the equality and freedom of every citizen. That’s just it. If I am a person living in this country, I should never have to feel less free or less equal than anyone else.

This is how Democrats treat me in South Dakota and throughout the United States. I’m talking about ordinary people who are willing to talk to me, willing to talk to Muslims across the country and disprove the misconceptions allowed by social conservatives in this administration.

There is a reason why persecuted populations in the United States seek refuge in the Democratic Party. Not just Muslims, but Native Americans, women, homosexuals, African Americans, the poor, the disabled and countless other disenfranchised groups.

The Democratic Party reaches out to all segments of the population. Their commitment to equality has made me believe in the 14th Amendment again. I do not feel alone and I do not feel persecuted any longer.

My sob story has turned into a story of strength and perseverance in a time of adversity. I am proud to be an American and I am proud to call myself a Democrat.

Yashreeka Huq is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and is publicity assistant for the Georgetown University College Democrats.

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