I would like to share with you all a recent experience I had in the Dominican Republic. I have been inspired to share this because of the escalating conflict in Gaza-Israel. I think it explains my flood of pro-Palestine FB links, pictures, and comments.
I was extremely eager to visit the Dominican Republic. Aside from its clear waters and tropical temperatures, I wanted to visit the first colony in the New World, I wanted to experience the rich culture of the island, its blending of European, Taino (indigenous), and Afro history. I am vehemently opposed to occupation and imperialism of any sort, and after visiting the first cathedral, the Columbus palace, historic Santo Domingo, and Columbus’ grave, this opposition within me grew even more, and I silently mourned the loss of indigenous life. My heart ached for the millions of natives killed, and the perpetuation of the African slave trade, which no doubt was facilitated by Columbus’ occupation.
Upon my last night on the island, my cousin & I decided to go to the local nightclub. I befriended a young gay man from Kansas, named Chris. He explained how hard it could be for him, being homosexual and from Kansas, a place highly intolerant of gays. I gave him my support, to which he responded,
“I support Afghans too! You know, we just want to help you guys, because the Taliban are so bad! We just want freedom for you”.
I wasn’t sure which was funnier, his extremely ignorant rhetoric, or the fact that he collectively referred to Americans as “we”, without acknowledging that I too am an American citizen, born and raised in Los Angeles.
I told him my beliefs about the conflict; that the US is establishing a presence in the Middle East to gain a monopoly over the resources there, and that tactics of “divide & conquer” were used to pin not only Muslims but all Middle Easterners against each other, which is needed to further Islamophobia in the West, which will allow support for more occupation. This boy from Kansas was in shock that I could speak so “unpatriotically”, and commented that he read that Islam was a violent religion. When I told him the fact that not only was Jesus mentioned in 75% of the Qur’an, but that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believed in the same God, his demeanor changed and he said, “We didn’t learn that in Kansas”. We continued the night in friendly joking exchanges about the conflict, and he told me he would go back to the States and learn more about Islam. I felt happy that I shared positive qualities about my religion.
Chris told me he had met a couple from Texas that night before I arrived, and eager to sit with other Americans, he suggested we join their table, I agreed. Upon sitting with them, Chris introduced me:
“This is my beautiful new Afghan friend! Isn’t she gorgeous?”
I shook hands with the couple; the woman looked about my age, with dark hair and dark eyes, I assumed maybe she was Middle Eastern or Hispanic. Her boyfriend was dark haired as well. Chris continued:
“We just had a debate about the war on terrorism. Madinah thinks we’re there for resources”, Chris & I began to laugh. I know his conversation was meant to be friendly.
The girl looked at me and said:
“No, it’s because you’re a sand n*gger.”
I felt the vodka come back up my throat. Chris looked mortified. She continued.
“You barbaric Muslims bomb and kill each other all the time. We had to come in and save all of you uncivilized sand niggers from doing that. I’m half Muslim, I know the Qur’an says to kill everyone. You people make me sick, all of you disgusting, backwards, towelheaded sand n*ggers.”
I’m usually someone who throws the first punch when someone looks at me wrong. But this woman’s complete, outright, unabashed hatred of me left me shell-shocked. There I was, in a short dress, with a drink in my hand, looking as Western as can be, speaking with no accent, with no scarf on my head, and as if God spoke to me there and then, I realized no matter what I said to her, I would always be a dirty sand nigger in her eyes, a reminder of those backward people over there. So I sat back in awe, and the hatred continued.
But this time she and her boyfriend stood up and cornered me, yelling the same rhetoric, now with their fingers pointed so close to my face, I was terrified they were going to hit me, yelling,
“uncivilized dirty Arab”
“you should be happy we’re there to save you all from killing each other”
I did nothing but cry. I could not control my tears. I sat there, while the DJ blared, while Chris yelled at them to leave me alone. They were screaming other things, I can’t even remember now, in my mind I just went somewhere far far away. Thankfully, security guards spotted the harassment and quickly escorted the enraged couple out. Curious club goers huddled around me to hear what happened, and a group of black girls from New York consoled me, simply saying, “we know you’re not a sand n*gger. Dont mind them.” My cousin ran over to me and wiped my tears, and almost as if on queue, the lights turned on and it was time to go home.
I cried the entire cab ride home, in our hotel room, and even a little bit on the plane home. Even reciting the story to friends, I get choked up, remembering how much hate was in her eyes. She wanted me dead. She wanted me and my uncivilized, sand n*gger towelheaded people dead. It didn’t matter how old they were, how smart they were, whether they had personalities or not. We were sand n*ggers. My cousin consoled me the whole way home, and said, “It happens”.
The altercation probably lasted less than a minute. But it changed my life forever. Now I know how African-Americans felt harassed on busses and schools and at their places of employment and at their churches. Now I know how Hispanics feel in the face of discrimination and stereotyping, how Jews felt during the Holocaust, how Armenians felt, how any minority who did not fit, lived their daily lives. I have met intolerance since 9/11, but nothing like this. The hatred in her eyes still burns my heart today.
This is why I am giving my heart to the Ummah. For those of you who dont know, this is the collective term for the Muslim diaspora across the globe. I have usually kept a silent opinion on the Israeli occupation, for a number of reasons. I am neither Arab nor Jewish, and the situation seemed so messy to me, I decided that my religious identification was not enough to encourage my solidarity with Palestine, I have always been for a two-state solution.
My experience in the Dominican Republic may not have anything to do with Palestine. I am not bashing Jews, I am not calling for the obliteration of Israel, I am not supporting Hamas. After all, it was not a Jew who yelled at me in that club. I am not giving leverage to one human life over another. If and when that day comes, I hope to God I cease to exist.
But when I see members of my Ummah disproportionately suffering and being killed, yes, I am more inclined and compassionate towards them. Because they’re “sand n*ggers”, just like me, and I will support and stand in solidarity with my “uncivilized, barbaric towel-headed” brothers and sisters. Because I hear this rhetoric aimed at Arabs living in Gaza and the West Bank, and it reminds me of the hate in the girls eyes, and I feel nothing but genuine love towards the Palestinian people, and I undeniably support them in the face of occupation. Because I know, if anyone from the West Bank was teleported to that club with me on that night, even if they were Christian or Jewish Arabs, the couple from Texas would have the same words for them.
Because all Muslims and even non-Muslim Middle Easterners are fighting a battle every single day to deny and prove the Western media mechanism wrong, that we are NOT “uncivilized”, that we do NOT want infidels dead or blown into pieces, that we are NOT looking forward to 72 virgins in Heaven.
You see, the increasing Islamophobia I witness on TV and on my FB feed and now in PERSON has changed me forever. I will stand in solidarity with the Ummah because, it seems to me, they are the only ones who will look past my dark hair and my tan skin, to see something more than a “Muslim”.
Afghans are not even Arab. Arabs only comprise 20% of all Muslims across the globe. It’s so dumb I have to even differentiate between the two. But the Western media mechanism has grouped all of us towelheads together, whether you’re a Punjabi Sikh from India, a Pashtun from Afghanistan, or a mullah from Indonesia, or a hijabi from Bosnia, or from Syria or from Sri Lanka or from any of the 49 densely Muslim populated countries. All 1.6 billion of us are dirty towelheads, we’re all sand n*ggers, oil-having jihadists.
No we didn’t discover Algebra while Europeans swung on trees in the dark ages, no we didn’t rediscover ancient Greek philosophy and share it with the world, no we didn’t discover America before Columbus, or coffee, or the first flying machine, or soap or quilting or the windmill. You see, we didn’t contribute at all to the human family, because, according to homegirl from Texas, we were too busy blowing each other up!!
So much so that now, there’s 1.6 billion of us, and we’re the fastest growing religion on the face of the Earth!
I do not look forward to teaching my nieces and nephews how to defend themselves. I do not look forward to the curious looks people give me when I tell them I’m Afghan or Muslim. I do not look forward to the looming uproar against Muslims across the globe, or the disproportionate “journalism” about how backwards my people are. Even the statements I am making here can look like I am being “radicalized”, or I am building some kind of resentment or hatred towards the West.
I am so sick of Islamophobia. I am so sick of trying to prove people wrong. I am so sick of being labeled anti-Jewish when I support the people of Palestine. I am so sick of being labeled “un-American” when I explain my beliefs on American occupation in the Middle East. It’s getting realllyyyy old. I don’t want to hide my opinions because I’ll end up on an NSA watchlist, or I’ll lose friends, or I’ll be viewed as a radical. Those are all social constructs that have been imposed on Muslims and Middle Easterners because of the media, so you know what, I welcome them. I’m a sand n*gger, I’m a towelhead, I really am. If my American degree or my taxpaying or my mastery of the English language or my lifetime residence in California do not prove that I really am a freaking American citizen just like everyone else, then I welcome every single backwards and hateful remark made against anyone brown, ever.
And I will never, ever, calm or quell my opinions on the Middle East, a place from where I hail, where people look like me, and although we don’t speak the same language or eat the same foods or practice the same religions, we will always be backwards towelhead sand n*ggers to the Islamophobic apparatus, and for that, I will forever stand in solidarity with my Ummah, and I pray that they stand with me the same.
As-Salamu-alaykum. No it doesn’t mean “lets kill infidels”.
It means “Peace be Upon You.”