#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.

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.

Ramadan Log DAY 6: Fireworks

Happy Independence Day!

This is the first time I have ever fasted on the 4th of July. All day I was having nostalgia of going to 4th of July barbeques and seeing the fireworks display with my cousins. As I get older and older, I think I’m over fireworks, but every year I go see them anyway and still get that same rush of awe and excitement when I see the colors in the sky.

This year however, while I heard my neighbors lighting fireworks and firecrackers all day in their backyards, I couldn’t help but have some really chilling thoughts. Lately we have been bombarded with story after story of people in the Middle East, particularly Palestine and Israel, being attacked and killed. Today as I heard the commotion going on outside my house, I couldn’t help but feel for the people around the world who hear those same sounds, only they come from bombs and gunshots. With every crack and boom, my heart broke for the kids who hear these sounds daily, and think of fear rather than celebration.

This made me think of a song I heard years ago by Kareem Salama, called Prayers at Night.

When I was young on the Fourth of July
I’d go outside and watch the show in the sky
But little Fatima in Lebanon this July
Went outside and watched the fire chase her life
I’d laugh and play and make my parents smile
And she’d run for her life, that poor little child
So what do I do with these fond memories
When I wake up from nightmares and she lives bad dreams?

The lyrics are just heartbreaking, because what he sings about is such a true reality today. While we in America look forward to that one day a year where we watch a show of colorful explosions in the sky, kids exactly our age see these same images, but are filled with terror.

Now I don’t usually post my opinions related to things going on in the Middle East, mainly because I try to stay away from negativity on my social media sites. I particularly stay away from the Palestine/Israel conflict because I feel like no matter what I say, the only thing people will think of me is that “She’s obviously on Palestine’s side because she is Muslim.”

Let me make something clear. I couldn’t care less what religion the people in that area follow. Whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Atheist, when innocent people, children, are being killed, I sympathize with them and I pray for them.

All day today I was praying for my fellow humans around the world, who on a daily basis face their life being threatened by bombs, gun violence, murderers on the streets, or political persecution. May God protect these people and stop the senseless violence. Ameen.


On a happier note, I’m getting pretty far in the Qur’an! I am in the middle of the 9th juz, almost finished with Surat Al-A’raaf (Chapter 7, “The Heights”).

I am also loving the Martin Lings book. Today I read the story of the marriage of Prophet Muhammad’s (S) parents! I learned for the first time that it was actually a double wedding, of the Prophet’s (S) parents and Abd Al-Muttalib to another one of his wives. Lings describes it as a very festive and exciting day, which I can imagine it was.

The quote I want to share today is from a description Lings gives of the life of the Arab nomads at the beginning of one of the chapters. It is really poetic.

Nobility and freedom were inseparable and the nomad was free. In the desert a man was conscious of being the lord of space, and in virtue of that lordship he escaped in a sense from the domination of time. By striking camp he sloughed off his yesterdays; and tomorrow seemed less of a fatality if its where as well as its when had yet to come. But the townsman was prisoner; and to be fixed in one place, – yesterday, today, tomorrow – was to be a target for time, the ruiner of all things.

(Lings 23)

This could totally relate to how things are today. I’ve heard this before in my psychology classes, but humans, particularly here in the U.S., are slaves to time. But by living in the style of a nomad, we may be bound to nothing. I’m not saying everyone should go become a nomad, but it’s just something interesting to think about.

I love finding paradoxes like this.

So…funny thing about iftar. I don’t have a picture of the day for you. We just quickly broke out fasts and then went to watch the fireworks, so I didn’t really eat dinner. Hopefully that won’t affect me tomorrow. InshaAllah. (By the will of God)