#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?)

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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?)

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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)

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

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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?)

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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.)

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

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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)

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

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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?)

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(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.)

Ramadan Log Day 7: All of the Victims

It was hard to go though today without feeling sad. I woke up, checked my phone, and one of the very first things I saw was news about the Orlando shooting.

My hurt is manifold. When I first saw the story, I very initially brushed it off. Another shooting. What else is new? I live near Chicago; that happens on the daily.

But when I think about what that nonchalance really means about the society in which I live and how it has permeated my thought-processing and reactions, it makes me sick to my stomach. And that’s not from the fasting.

Then I looked into the story, and learned that it occurred in a club. I saw screenshots of texts the victims sent their moms when the shooter had made himself known. I thought about the death of Christina Grimmie, which happened only yesterday, in which a singer the same age as me was shot to death after one of her concerts as she was signing autographs. I’ve been to concerts before. The people going to a club or concert don’t ever expect to find a gun in their face. They go to enjoy themselves and forget about the serious troubles of the world. So many of them are kids simply trying to find themselves, and use these places as a safe space. It gives me chills just trying to imagine what that whiplash must have felt when the victims went from carefree joy to the gut-wrenching fear of a very real weapon.

My heart just felt so heavy today. So before I sat down to read Qur’an, I had a moment of silence in which I ached for the deceased and prayed for the surviving.

For those moms who continued to call their kids long after they had already been shot. For the parents of the kid who snuck out, not comfortable revealing where he was going that night, and thus didn’t get a single goodbye. For the parents who now have to cope with their surviving kids who lost their best friends and will wake up to nightmares of bullets.

For the people who went to that club, believing that it was the one place in which they didn’t have to deal with others imposing their beliefs on them, and then found out with horror that the hate followed them there. For the kid who was already out of his comfort zone before the gunman even entered the building. For the people living near by who heard the usual music replaced by gunshot after gunshot.

For the ex-wife of the shooter, who thought she was done with the man who abused her, but is now forced to relive that trauma so publicly, who may feel even the tiniest bit of guilt for cutting herself off from him. For his parents and family members, who may very well have had no idea about his motives, but who will now be known by most as the kin of a killer.

For the innocent immigrants who will now have an even harder time finding refuge from their countries because government officials will ignore the fact that the killer was a US citizen since he happens to have family members who are immigrants. For my fellow Muslims who will be hated even more for absolutely no reason other than another person who has a name with the same linguistic origin as them killed people somewhere. For the young American men who are struggling to balance their faith and life in a healthy way, but are bombarded with headlines saying that they are dangerous people. For the young American women who are thinking about starting to wear Hijab, but are now turned off completely because of all of the newfound backlash against people who outwardly look look Muslims.

For my fellow Americans, who already live in so much fear, and will now be reminded of that ever present fear. My friends in Florida who now feel that nowhere is safe for them. The regular mosque-goers who have to have their happy Ramadan high interrupted by random police investigations. My non-Muslim peers who are conditioned to see a beard and pull their kids a little bit closer.

And for me, the American who watches with horror as more and more of my peers are being inflicted with violence and the Muslim who hurts knowing people think it was the religion that gives me life that inspired these deaths.

I pray and pray that all of these victims can feel a moment of peace and sakina, even if it’s just for tonight.

I learned today that one of God’s names is “Al-Fattaah” or “The Opener.” The description of this quality was actually exactly what I needed to read to ease my heart:

“There are states and problems that are tied in a knot. There are hardened things that one cannot see through and pass through… Allah al-Fattah opens them all.”

The circular debate of either restricting gun laws or “evening out the playing field.” The pull of kids to Islam while American society pushes against any organized religion. This cycle of media attacking a minority and the weak of the minority falling into the character depicted for them. They are all knots that Allah can open, and when we get into that frustrated mindset that nothing is working, we have this quality of God to remind us that only He can truly solve everything.

#AtoZChallenge Day 26: Zenith

Z is for Zenith

Z.jpg

Zenith:

The point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer.

It got to a point where I had to do a google search of “words that start with z” because I had absolutely no idea what to write about for the last day of the A to Z Challenge. Then I found this word, and I wondered…what would someone at my zenith see if they looked down?

What if this someone was following me for the past few years, looking down and watching me? Seeing where I started and how I got to where I am today.

From up there, I feel like I’m unrecognizable.

Five years ago, they would see a timid girl never straying from her comfort zone, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life and no idea how to get to said “life.”

Now, they would see an emerging adult, embracing her role as the authority in charge when put in the right situation, venturing into unfamiliar territory that prior she would deem as too scary, and making strides in developing a career. Even though five posts ago I talked about how much uncertainty there is in my life, I at least now have solid aspirations.

So much of my growth I attribute to my internship and subsequent job. Through working in a nursing home with severely disabled clients, I finally learned how to appropriately talk to strangers. I can talk to adults now and not feel like a kid. I can see someone I’ve never met and give them a genuine smile. We still have a ways to go when it comes to asserting myself, but I have definitely come a long way in my interpersonal skills. And I am quickly learning that interpersonal skills have equal or greater value to education and qualifications in the professional world.

The best part about it all is that the being at my zenith is Allah, and he isn’t just an observer. He’s been with me through it all, watched me grow, and made it happen. When things start to get uncertain, I may feel frustrated or disoriented or angry, but never alone. Because I know that He has helped me get to this point, and He will continue to stay with me and help me grow even more.

#AtoZChallenge Day 25: YouTubers

Y is for YouTubers

Y

YouTube channels seem to be turning into my generation’s new form of TV. I definitely have my likes and dislikes in the YouTube universe, but every now and then I find a gem among the mediocre. I am here today to share with you one of those gems. My favorite YouTube channel.

Dina Tokio is a Muslim fashion blogger and YouTuber. A couple of years ago, she started a YouTube channel with her husband, Sid, and together they film vlogs of their life as well as the occasional advice video. In the last year, they had their first baby, and have been documenting the process of their journey as new parents.

MashaAllah, they seem like two very good people. In a world of bad role models taking over entertainment, these two are the exceptions to the trend. If you’re interested in checking them out, I would recommend the following two videos to start.

#Goals

#AtoZChallenge Day 24: X-Men

X is for X-Men

X

X-Men has always been one of my favorite movie series, and in fact it was one of the first series I ever really got into. Back when there was only one X-Men movie, my parents let me watch it as my first ever PG-13 movie. I loved it, and since then have absolutely loved every subsequent sequel and prequel.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and less intensely in love with fictional series anymore, or if long series just aren’t that special anymore, but since the end of the Harry Potter era, there hasn’t been a movie release that has gotten me as excited.

With the exception of X-Men.

(and recently, the Maze Runner series ❤ )

And a month ago when I went to see Zootopia (decent, but not worth the hype in my opinion), I saw a poster for X-Men: Apocalypse and I FLIPPED OUT. I don’t even know what this one is going to be about or which time period it takes place in, but I don’t care.
Contrary to most other multi-chapter movie series, the X-Men movies keep getting better and better for me. And I can’t wait for this one.

(Sidenote: I don’t know how I missed this, but I actually haven’t seen Deadpool yet. I honestly didn’t even know it was part of the series until just now.)xmenstorm.jpg

I mentioned this in passing in another post this month, but for those wondering, my favorite character is Storm. While I really love the whole Wolverine storyline, ever since I was 8 years old watching the first X-Men movie, I wanted to be her. Loyalty, dedication to a cause, and possession of one of the coolest powers in that world. ❤