A few years ago, my beloved child was kidnapped by a cult, which made a monster out of innocence. I was deprived from mourning this loss, showing off cute childhood pictures and flaunting my love. I did not dare express my tears in bright sunlight, and could not wait to hide an erupting volcano of tears in the darkness of the night.
Everyone blamed me, from pediatricians to teachers for raising a monster. All around me, stares spoke paragraphs of blame: there must have been parental neglect, passing of some corrupted genes, perhaps even purchasing toys with the wrong themes. On top of imprisoning my tears so I am not ever caught mourning, I was chained by enormous guilt.
This is how I feel about ISIS and the like, they kidnapped the perception of the Muslim-American identity, its narrative, and Muslims at large have been mourning since!
Muslim-Americans have been suffering in silence without the courage to admit to others that our psyches have been bleeding, because we have been busy apologizing for crimes we have not committed. I am writing this article because, the bleeding has soaked the thickest bandages, and it became impossible to conceal our pains.
I want to describe how Muslim Americans feel after cults and professional imposters kidnapped the perception of our identity. Here are some of the growing pains of the Muslim American identity:
1) The most painful is the inability to mourn
When lives are recklessly and haphazardly (ISIS kills Muslims and non-Muslims) lost, we want to mourn with the rest of our fellow Americans. Our hearts are squeezed by the realization that such inhumanity exists. Instead, fingers of blame are pointing at every Muslim everywhere. I could be standing at an airport, surrounded by screens displaying the latest news of ISIS, my stomach turns, but instead of seeking consolation from my adjacent fellow American (who have now moved), the number of stares increase, all saying the same thing, as though they have rehearsed it for months "YOUR PEOPLE DID IT".
2) Stabs at the core of Islam (The Qur'an) are direct stabs at Muslim-Americans
Hatred has soared so high that there is a general attack on Islam and not extremists. Quranic verses taken out of context and propagandized by a reporter/entertainer whose knowledge about Islam does not go beyond the hummus s/he ate for lunch. It is painful for Muslims to witness the dissection of their element, of their most basic indivisible and grounding unit: the Qur'an, a book of peace and beauty for all (Muslims and non-Muslims). Such sacrilegious actions make the best materials for comedians, entertainers and show hosts. But, while their audiences are drenched in tears of laughter, our pains have numbed our tear glands.
3) Traveling while Muslim has become a test of how low our prides can go.
I get so anxious before traveling (as a public speaker, I do a few trips a year) over what I know will be humiliating: excessive checking of my baggage, randomly being selected (one time I was randomly selected twice in a row!) for patting down my entire body, secondary inspections in secluded rooms (they make you wait, just to make you very nervous). I am most humiliated not because this condescending treatment is happening in public, but when it happens in front of my children. You see, I am the world and more in their eyes.
4) Being stuck in the defensive role takes up so much energy.
From Islamic institutions to individuals, we have been stuck for a long time defending our belief system. So, we were instructed to make sure to over-smile, to over-love our neighbors, to over-appreciate being American, to over size all our positive emotions. But, we are fatigued! This is a very exhausting way to live. The media has cemented a link between Islam and terrorism, my over-positivity is not strong enough to break it.
If someone views Islam as irreconcilable with American culture, i.e. a clash of civilizations, I invite them to examine what intolerant culture they belong to, because religious freedom is one of the cardinal pegs that stabilized the American mosaic culture .
I am not going to apologize for being Muslim, or for any crime I did not commit, no matter how seasoned and convincing the imposters of Islam have become, because an apology for a crime I did not commit, is insulting to my intellect and yours. I will not allow anyone to 'hummusify' my Muslim identity, no matter how creamy their recipes are. I intend to not waste my energy on apologizing; I would rather harness my uniqueness in adding to the American success narrative.
Until a DNA test is available to confirm that these extremists are not related to the Muslim genome, I have a small request to ask: Next time, the media is showcasing one of ISIS's horrifying beheadings, take a minute and ask ME how I feel.
Peace be upon everyone.