Dear Fellow Muslims:
A newsflash. No matter how much you complain, no matter how much you reason with your fellow citizens, no matter how much you ask them to recognize the threat you live under, in the end you are on your own. Until someone starts forcing you to wear crescent-moon-and-star patches on your shirts, nobody is going to take you truly seriously- other than your own fellow Muslims- that you are just one act of terrorism away from your lifestyle being in grave, grave danger. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they’ve got busy lives, and nobody likes to dwell on bad news.
And neither should you.
That means you have one of two choices. 1) you can go grab a tissue for your issues and whine and pine away in a sad, sorry corner of your home as you begrudgingly eat your falafel, or 2) (and this is where I get a little crazy) look at what’s happening around the nation in a different way, and recognize the positives in every piece of lunacy that’s currently going down.
That’s right, I’m offering you 5 reasons to be THANKFUL for Islamophobia.
1. The Profiling & Surveillance
Yes, they’re watching. In American society, only Muslims seem to know how much they’re actually watching- everyone else seems to think it’s a myth. But you’ve probably encountered it. The strange, unrecognized face at the mosque who doesn’t seem to know exactly what to do. The surprisingly personal, probing questions at the airport. The unknown preacher at the door supposedly divulging some controversial thoughts and trying to get you to follow suit. Yes, all of these have happened to me- though you’ve probably got your own stories. But the fact is, so what? Let them watch. Let them be bored to tears as you don’t drink your sorrows away every Friday. Let them yawn as you don’t lie, cheat or steal your way through difficulty. Let them snicker incredulously as you never seem to pick up any guys or girls to bring home. The truth is, if you’re a practicing muslim, you at your moral worst is a “normal” person at their moral best. Here, on this day, I am giving you permission to be proud of it, and to not apologize for it. There will always be people who take your morality as a judgment on theirs even when you’re not opening your mouth. Don’t ever lose sleep over the thankless.
Let’s face it- you’d be the most boring show on the Showtime network.
It’s just the fact of it, and you should be proud to be an example that gets recorded down in those Homeland Security surveillance records for posterity. Let them learn from you, instead of the morons who fly planes into buildings. Did you know most of those guys were busy getting hammered at strip clubs in the days before the 9/11 plot? Muslims my ass- they were no Muslims. Drinkers, beardless and murderous. We’ve been torpedoed by impostors, my friends, and there’s nothing you can do about it now but let your life be an open book for all to see.
2. The Quran Burning
If there’s anything that sends shivers up the spine of the general population, it’s the burning of books. Just a quick glance at American history on this topic reminds us why the subject of burning any book has become almost taboo, and it’s a part of American culture that, like burning the flag, almost never happens within our borders any more. So when a crackpot (who has barely read the Bible much less the Quran) decides that he’s going to have an ‘International Burn a Koran’ day, rejoice that it’s a crackpot doing it, rejoice that it’s happening in the American south (where this behavior is almost expected), and rejoice that he got a lot of air-time to make a fool of himself in public. Who wants to be on that guy’s side? If this was high school and he was picking his team, even the gangliest of nerds would be happy to be picked last.
3. The Protests & Other Loony Behavior
Look at the picture on the left. Then look at the one on the right. Back to the left. Now back to the right.
One is from somewhere deep in the 1960s south, and one is from New York city in 2010. There’s only one type of person who looks at these pictures and sings “America! F*** Yeah!” (re: Team America movie). Most everyone looks at it and says, dear God, 50-some years later and we’ve learned nothing. You can’t pay for this kind of anti-endorsement. The protester on the right even used the word “integration” – it doesn’t get much more definitive than that. Rejoice in his or her ignorance, he is doing you a favor. Goodness, I hope it’s a him, not a her. I have so much more faith in the fairer sex. But then again, there’s that lady from Alaska, and I’ve heard she isn’t that keen on minorities and has quite a following. Am I right, minorities in the house?
4. The Physical Threats & Violence
It’s the worst-case scenario. Throughout history, all of the above situations eventually lead to it. Physical violence. It’s apparently controversial to say, but beyond all the victims of 9/11, in the planes, in the towers, the responders, the cancers and diseases the followed, there is another set of ignored victims of that September in 2001.
There. I said it. And quite frankly, anyone who even looks like a Muslim- in the eyes of the kind of guy who probably can’t tell the difference- is in this particular 9/11 victim zone. The Sikh who got taken down because he wore a turban, for example. The perpetrator probably couldn’t tell us dark folks apart so it’s safe to assume that he wouldn’t be able to tell turbans apart either, because, as you know, a Sikh turban is quite different from an Afghani turban which is quite different from a clerical turban. And forget the fact that the general Muslim population world-wide doesn’t even wear turbans, and a Sikh is almost as far from a Muslim as you can get. Hint- call a Sikh a Muslim and see how he reacts.
But I digress. Here is the sad but real fact. It’s coming. This country is a powder keg, waiting for some moron to light a match and toss it in. My sincerest wish is that if is to happen, that it happen to Muslims at the hand of someone like a Timothy McVeigh, and not by another moron terrorist claiming to be a Muslim. Why? Because we will inevitably just swallow it, but in the opposite scenario- well- I shudder to think. Depending on who controls the House and Senate this November, who’s going to stop the re-creation of internment camps were a sizable terrorist attack to happen? Two “parties” are running on platforms of bigotry and xenophobia so it can be safe to assume they will happily support it, and the third party is often a party of cowards, and will be too frightened to stop a new potential Executive Order 9066. Yes folks, it happened in America, and it can happen again with the right recipe. And right now, we’re only an ingredient or two away from the pièce de résistance.
What I’m saying is that it’s only a matter of time where some of these loons we discussed earlier take it upon themselves to take it to the next level. If they’re going to make a sign about “segregation” – it’s not crazy to think that the next illogical step is to repeat the church bombing of Birmingham, Alabama, but with a mosque. Mosques around the country have already been threatened. In recent history, at least one of them was set ablaze. Shortly after 9/11, a guy had collected a slew of artillery and was planning on mowing down a mosque in South Florida. Thankfully, he got caught, but isn’t it strange how he was never branded a terrorist, and almost nobody has heard of the case? Suffice it to say, there have been hundreds upon hundreds of documented and undocumented post-9/11 assaults, beatings and sometimes killings. You probably haven’t seen many of them covered in the news, have you? No, they usually only cover the stories where the alleged Muslims are the bad guys. So of course most Americans have a distorted view- why wouldn’t they?
But that’s the way the world works I suppose, and we, as Muslims have to get used to the double standard for the foreseeable future. And we have to steel ourselves up for the eventuality that someone is going to initiate a devastating act of terrorism against Muslims within American borders. And if and when that happens, if nothing else, it will be an opportunity for Muslims to show the rest of America what turning the other cheek is actually all about. While some of the right wing pundits are hammering away, telling America that we’re all dark and villainous and ready to pounce, what they’ll see instead is most likely going to shock them. A response not of violence, but rather of ardent political and social engagement, bolstered by an outpouring of support from fair-minded citizenry. But it will only be shocking to those who have become victims of our stereotyping; I can tell you it won’t really be shocking or surprising to me.
I suppose what’s terribly sad and pathetic is that I’m standing here, yelling to the gods of misery, that if something bad is to happen, let it happen to us. I never, ever thought words like this would ever come out of my mouth.
I wish nothing horrific on anyone, and am not volunteering anyone for the excruciating pain and misery that would follow. My greatest hope is that the violence has ended, on all sides, and with our wars drawing down, we’ll have time to focus on the true injustices and causes of the enmity around the world in the first place. But my realism streak tells me a storm is coming, and I would much rather we be the victims of it, because if we’re not, well quite frankly, we’ll be the secondary victims of it anyway, but with no sympathy or quarter from most of the population to boot.
“If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I suppose the only question now is, who will be our Martin Luther King?
5. The Ostracizing
For Muslims who have been abroad to supposedly “Muslim” countries, they’ve most likely noticed a dearth of actual Muslim-like behavior. Half the time it seems the practitioners of the faith are simply performing lip-service and blindly following the path trodden by their fathers and mothers, because it’s easy. Two cases in point- Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Both supposedly Muslim countries, but just look how they operate. Where’s the Islam?
But for the Muslims in America, it’s a different story. The simple act of performing all the duties required of a Muslim in daily life is so much more difficult. The food you eat, the beverages you drink, the company you keep. It is a non-stop assault on your pillars of faith, and now, with the politics involved, a non-stop assault on your sense of self-worth. Let’s face it- the only reason you’re still a Muslim in America is because you damn well want to be, not because it’s easy. In that is the most empowering aspect of life for Muslims in the west, and the reason your faith is likely to never die. You’ve fortified your spirit and steeled your reserve while at the same time softened your heart. It is a juggling act no ordinary person performs, but you do it because you have found something worth the effort. Nobody can take that from you. Nobody.
And, irony of ironies, within this nation, the ostracizing provides the foundation for a unity and tolerance that has so far escaped the post-colonial nations that are so vilified today for their disunity and intolerance.
Consider it triumph in adversity.
So that’s it. 5 reasons for you to loosen your self-imposed shackles. Are we good? Good. Now go dig your feet in, stand tall, put away your thousand-yard stare, and above all else, never forget to smile.