To my fellow Americans:
I recently decided to make my story public by agreeing to an interview with the Boulder Daily Camera, and I must say that I am not ashamed.
The facts have been clearly laid out, and I do not dispute them. On Dec. 1, I went to the jail on my own accord to pre-book for their work-crew program, as had been stipulated by the court for my DWAI (driving while ability impaired) sentence.
While I was there, I was repeatedly asked to remove my hijab, and I refused.
I am aware that as an American citizen, I have been blessed with the right to religious freedom, and as far as I am concerned, this includes my right to adorn my hijab in any photograph taken for a public record.
I will be the first to admit that I made a mistake. I am trying to remedy this situation by completing all of the necessary requirements, and this situation does not indicate any lack of desire on my part to complete what I have been assigned to do.
I would have gladly completed my work crew requirement, had I been allowed to be photographed with my hijab on.
As this was not the case, I stand in the awkward predicament now seen. I have every intention of completing the outstanding requirements placed upon me in a timely fashion; my goal is to be neither obstinate nor difficult.
What people seem to forget is that this story is not about how I got to the jail. This is about what happened after I arrived at the jail, and the constitutional infringements that then occurred.
For the record, I do not dispute that I operated my 49cc motorized scooter on the day of Aug. 1. I was at a party, where I was served alcohol without my knowledge. I admit that when I discovered I was being served alcohol, I made no attempt to curb my intake.
I am 19 years old and a junior at the University of Colorado. This is far from a unique story in the college experience. For those who are in, or were at one time a college student, you will understand what I am saying.
The issue at hand revolves around my First Amendment rights as a United States citizen to freely practice my religion as I see fit.
As a Muslim-American woman, I feel let down by my country. I love America. This incident, however, has raised such doubt for me.
I understand that the topic of Islam is a tricky one to address in today's political climate, but if America wants to see global unification and peace amongst the nations of the Middle East, we must start at home. We must start in Boulder, Colo.
Do not ignore the real issue here. Islamophobia is alive and well in America. This cannot be denied.
I am a Muslim as much as I am an America. I was born in Boulder. In fact, if one heads due east on Balsam Avenue, along which sits the hospital where I was born, one will end up at the Boulder County Jail in a matter of minutes.
I am neither a fundamentalist nor an extremist. I am not trying to bring Shariah to Colorado. I am just a college student who still believes in the American dream.
I am just a citizen who is crying foul at the ignorance surrounding Islam, and the injustices of our legal system.
My fellow Americans, I pray that you take pity on Islam and on the Muslims who call this country home as much as you do. All we ask is for an acknowledgement of our tradition andr eligious freedom.
I am an American, I am a Muslim, and I love this country.
Maria Hardman is a student at the University of Colorado.