#AtoZChallenge Day 13: Misidentification

M is for Misidentification

M

I used to work in a nursing home. One of the residents there talked about coping with the death of two of her cousins. They were in Israel, and according to her, they were killed “by some Arabs.”

Then she turned to me and said, “I know you’re Muslim, so I mean no disrespect.”

Um.

 

Okay.

First, “Muslim” does not equal “Arab”.

Second, even if I was Arab, I am still in no way sympathetic toward the people who killed your cousins.

Obviously, that’s not what I said. I didn’t say anything because the incident simply left me speechless.

She is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. She had dementia, and so I could never take personally any of the negatives she had to say because I had to reintroduce who I was to her every single day. On the days that she wasn’t refusing to associate with me because I was Muslim, she would tell me how beautiful she thought my scarf was or what a lovely girl I was for pushing her wheelchair to wherever she needed to go. She would point out to me all of her favorite staff members in the facility and ask each of them how their kids were doing as she did so. She encouraged her fellow residents to stay cheerful and hopeful, even when she had no clue how they got to be her neighbors.

It wasn’t her. It was the idea she had been primed with before her disease took away her ability to remember her context.

I wore a scarf on my head. And so she identified me as a potential sympathizer to the killers of her relatives.

 

#AtoZChallenge Day 2: Bright Side

B is for Bright Side

B

There are a lot of reasons to support the perception that this is a particularly low point for Muslim in the United States. We had a person show in several ways an extreme dislike of Muslims (and pretty much anyone different from him), and 63 million people used their right to vote to choose him as our president. He has since exercised his power to target Muslims around the country and world, and the rise in hate crimes against Muslims has increased, which means it’s not just the politicians who hate us. We’re hated by our very own people.

Things are pretty terrible, and with no end in sight.

And yet.

I have never seen so much support for Muslims in my life. The day after the election, I didn’t just hear distant stories of non-Muslims holding protective hands around mosques; I felt within my bones solidarity from my non-Muslim American peers. I watched girls from the ethnic majority shed tears for what I and those like me will be going through for the next few years. I had people around the world tweeting words of sympathy and encouragement to me because they knew that I was a Muslim in America facing a Trump era.

To this day, after I go to sleep crying after reading about another step closer the government has taken towards removing my safety, I wake up the next morning and discuss with my classmates how disgusting they see the racism in our country. I see others, who have no need to be invested in this struggle, getting just as riled up as I am when we talk about the double standard mainstream media has in reporting crimes by ethnic minorities and majorities.

The conversations that I, for my whole life, have only been exposed to in the echo chamber of the Muslim community are now taking place right before my eyes in groups in which I am the only American Muslim present.

People are talking about Muslims with love and support. 

I was in elementary school when 9/11 happened. All I’ve ever known is people in power preaching fear of Muslims and Islam. This year’s unwavering support of us goes against everything I ever thought to be a norm in this country.

It was meant to be a joke, but Hassan Minhaj’s piece about being Muslim in this era is so spot on. Things are terrible, but things are also surprisingly beautiful and, frankly, refreshing.

#AtoZChallenge Day 1: Awkward Moments

A is for Awkward Moments

A

Being asked “How do they do this in your culture?”  (uhm, which one? Muslim? Indian? American?)

.

The imam makes a mistake in recitation but you don’t want to correct it because suddenly you’re questioning every ayah you ever knew.  (it starts with “qul huwallahu ahad,” right?)

.

You eat non-zabiha meat and realize the person you’re eating with doesn’t (or vice versa).  (Frantically tries to recall all of the meat products I’ve ever eaten in the presence of this person)

.

He asks why you’re not praying.  (you might as well be overt and ask if she’s on her period.)

.

She assumes you’re not going to wear Hijab at your wedding.  (I wear Hijab every other day of my life; why would I stop on that single day?)

.

Your friends/coworkers make endless references to drinking, not realizing that you’ve lived a pretty decent life without a dose of alcohol in you.  (seriously, I don’t get it.)

.

Being asked “How do they say it in your language?” (Honey, you and I speak the same language.)

.

They complain about not being represented enough in mainstream entertainment when you’re still waiting on that fictional Hijabi character to show up. (never once been represented accurately and still living)

.

He’s Muslim and offers to shake your hand. (can I even use a religious excuse with this one?)

.

You accidentally let a “salaam” or “inshaallah” slip when talking to a non-Muslim. (I’m genuinely trying to figure out whether I can just let this one slide. It’s no different from Jewish people saying “mazeltov” or Latinos referencing their “abuela,” right?)

.


(Disclaimer: I’m not saying any of these are “good” or “bad” things to do. They’re just moments in life that make me laugh.)