Mona Eltahawy calls herself a liberal Muslim.
She doesn't wear a hijab or go to mosque. And she's constantly mistaken for a Latino.
While seated to her right, Malaka Elyazgi identifies herself as Arab by race, American by culture and Muslim by faith.
And to her left, Mohammad Daadaoui doesn't slug himself anything specific, joking that he is going through an "identity crisis."
He's not just a Muslim, he said. He's a human.
"There isn't just one way of being Muslim," Eltahawy said Tuesday night at the University of Oklahoma during the panel "My America, My Islam," where the three discussed being Muslim in the United States post Sept. 11.
"The Muslim American story is not a simple story. We weren't invented after 9-11 … We didn't just suddenly appear," said Eltahawy, a syndicated columnist from New York who moved to the United States from the Middle East.
But until two planes crashed into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Eltahawy avoided the Muslim community in the U.S., saying she didn't want her religion to solely define her.
But now, it's one of the first things strangers learn, as she greets them with "Hi, I'm Mona and I'm a Muslim."
"We really do need to talk," said Eltahawy, explaining why her religion has shifted to the forefront of her public persona. "People see [Muslims] as these simple people who only want to talk about religion and that really hinders us."
Daadaoui, an assistant professor of political science and Middle East studies at Oklahoma City University, expressed similar sentiments, saying that being confined to discussions about his religion has worn him thin, adding that he wants to talk about what defines him not as a Muslim but a person.
But when the Twin Towers crumbled to where is now Ground Zero, some Americans began questioning the intent of Islam, Eltahawy said.
"While I'm out there, I'm being asked, 'Who are you?'" said Elyazgi, chairwoman of Gov. Brad Henry's Ethnic American Advisory Council.
Oklahoma bred, Elyazgi said she initially braced for a local backlash, which she said never really came. But she was angry that her religion — which she interprets as peaceful — became seen as violent, adding that these "misconceptions" weren't her way of life.
"They're not really sure what a Muslim is," Eltahawy said of the general American view. "People don't really know who fits where because they don't fit with us, whoever 'us' is."
Daadaoui, however, said he doesn't want to victimize himself, adding that Muslims are just among the list of other faiths that have been persecuted, listing off Mormons, Catholics and Jews as examples.
"We're not the first," he said. "And we're probably not going to be the last."