In lieu of the awful tragedies in France, Beirut, and Afghanistan (but really France cuz white people care about that more), I want to share this with you.
If it happened to me, it can happen to you.
Last night, my father knocked on my bedroom door. My dad usually comes to me with reminders about car maintenance, to let me know dinner’s ready, or that I have bills I forgot to pay. My dad is a quiet man who’s taken a pretty lenient approach to raising my sisters and I. So I expected another “maintenance” talk last night. But instead, I got this:
“Listen Madinah. I’ve been watching the news, it’s not good. I’m hearing things and it’s a very scary time right now. Please be careful. This is the worst time to be a Muslim. If they ask what you are, you don’t have to respond. If they ask what you think about the attacks, you say you’re disgusted by them. Make yourself as familiar as you can. I know you are proud of your identity, I know you’re vocal about our people. But please, I just need you to be safe. It is better to be safe now. I don’t want to bury you”.
Normally, when my dad comes at me with a lecture, I give him the “ugh” and “ufffff Aba jaan, baassss” treatment with my eyes rolled. But this time, I nodded. This time, I agreed, and patiently let him finish. Because this time, I am afraid.
I’m here to tell you, that if it happened to me, it can happen to you.
The “it” I’m referring to is an Islamophobic hate crime. Now I wouldn’t go as far to say my experience can be defined as one, but if the security guards didn’t intervene, I might not be here today.
I’ve written about this experience before, on this blog. It is not by any means my only Islamophobic event – no way. As a post-9/11 teenager, I experienced Islamophobia weekly. But this incident was probably the most threatening to my life. It’s one of the first posts, and it’s titled, “Because You’re a Sand Nigger”. In summary, I was on vacation in the Dominican Republic, when a couple I socialized with at a nightclub found out I was Muslim. And when they did, they began to verbally assault me, and came inches away from my face, ready to break their beer bottles over my head. A friend I made at the club had to shield them away from cutting my face open, and finally, the couple was kicked out by security guards. And I was in a dress, speaking fluent English, looking as “Western” as can be.
So if it happened to me, it can happen to you.
Just this week, a Muslim woman was pushed into a train in the UK. Just this week, a Muslim family home was shot at in Florida. Just this week, a friend told me she is afraid to attend class because her classmates have posted Facebook statuses supporting a Muslim genocide. If it happened to them, it can happen to you.
I am not an orthodox Muslim. I am Muslim by birth and because of that I will be lumped into the same demographic as ISIS by the average American. Even though my values, my morals, my lifestyle is worlds apart from that of an Islamic extremist, I will suffer repercussions for their actions. Even though I pay taxes and celebrate the Fourth of July and pledge allegiance and speak fluent English and have never stepped foot in a Middle Eastern country, I will be asked why I am not apologizing for what happens thousands of miles away from me. I will get stopped by the TSA, I will be asked why my name is exotic. When I say I am from California, I will be asked where I’m “really” from.
This is what it is to be Muslim in America. So for my brothers & sisters who are Muslim, by name or by choice, who wear hijab and who don’t, who pray 5x a day or who haven’t stepped foot in a mosque, I am BEGGING you to be careful. I am pleading with you to take preventative measures and to be extremely cautious at this time. I suggest you carry mace, I suggest you stay under the radar. Please educate your babies on how to respond to any Islamophobic remarks. I am not suggesting we disappear or we lie about who we are or we lay down and “take it”. But I do believe, like my father believes, that it’s better to be safe than sorry. So if you’re around a hill-billy confederate flag-touting Tea-Partier, why offer yourself up as target practice?
Today, a coworker asked me what my background was. I hesitated and strategically replied, “Central Asian”. I am reliving the trauma we experienced post-9/11, and tonight, I am sending positive vibes and prayers to you all. For those I have not met, for those I have, for those who look like me and have names like mine and will be subjugated to the same experiences I have. For Sikhs and for Hindus and for Middle Eastern Jews and Christians who, because of how they look, may be victims of Islamophobia as well. Be safe, be healthy, and be smart. We are being vilified in every corner, so I pray you all stay protected.