To my Muslim best friend,
I remember the day you hesitantly told me that you started wearing a hijab. You were afraid that it was going to change something between us, while the only thing I was worried about was that you had just made a lifelong decision at only 18. It didn’t change anything, though: you continued to be the most exhaustingly hyperactive person in the room, and I continued loving you despite that.
I’m writing this very open letter to you, to thank you for being everything I want to see in the world.
You are easily the best young person I know. You are kind. You are loving. You are more generous than 75 percent of the people I know combined. You are smart. You’re committed to your religion in a way that I’ll never be able to commit to anything in my life, which is so impressive for a 21-year old. And most importantly, you’re incredibly tolerant.
You are so accepting of things that you don’t agree with, and it amazes me every time. We often say that you are my daughter, and in this weird dysfunctional family that we created, your brother is gay. At our parties, we will oftentimes eat pork, and you will eat halal. When we drink alcohol, you drink juice. It’s a wonderful concept to play drinking games with a Muslim who drinks soft drinks she hates while we drink alcoholic drinks, which our livers hate. You have never said anything about this, though. Never once complained, never once asked us to stop, never once judged us, or told us you wouldn’t come to the party because we’re a bunch of alcohol-drinking, pork-eating, gay-loving atheists.
You describe yourself as being African. You’re the only Moroccan person I’ve ever met who thinks that we’re “all simply African.” There doesn’t seem to be that “sub-Saharan vs. North Africa” distinction in your mind. There just seems to be a big African continent that we’re all a part of. And that’s simply beautiful, in the divided world we live in.
Because this divided world is fucked up. I often say that Muslims are the new blacks, because, yes, black people continue to fight an endless battle against racism. We keep being killed, being denied rights, being discriminated against, and many other horrific things; but at least people seem to know that saying things like “Ban these Blacks from Europe, America, etc.” is unacceptable. And that acting on these ideas is even less acceptable. Sadly, your community is not as lucky. It is now acceptable to hate Muslims in the western world. Apparently, you are all terrorists and you all have to take accountability and apologize anytime a Muslim does something wrong. But a white man went to a Mosque last week and shot six people, and nobody asked white people to apologize for this terrorist that they have created. With him, people understood that he alone didn’t represent his entire community. With you, however, this concept is too hard to grasp.
And I am sorry. I’m sorry that this is the world you have to live in. A world in which Belgians won’t accept you as one of theirs, but in which you’re also just a bit too Belgian to be considered 100% Moroccan in Morocco.
I have seen you lose hope, as people were treating you differently, based solely on your religion and the external way you express it. Never mind that you’re a Belgian born of Belgian parents, that you speak three (or is it four?) languages; that you have perfectly completed your bachelor in commercial engineering quicker than it took me to finish two years of law; that you’re smart and hardworking. I can only imagine what it’s like to have to explain to people that, no, you will not “simply take off your headscarf” to work in their companies. But I am so proud of you for challenging their narrow-minded views. So proud of you for having been able to change some people’s minds. So proud of you for not giving up.
And I also lose hope every day. But I am lucky to be surrounded by people who work toward making the world a better place ― good people like you, who help me find the strength it takes to be hopeful again in this mess. And I just want you to know that you’re not alone. That you shouldn’t lose hope either, and that if you do, there are reasons to also be hopeful again. That a lot of us are fighting to be in a world that is as accepting as you are. That a lot of us are fighting against the prejudices and the hatred that break our hearts. That, even though things are really crappy right now, people from all over the world are uniting for your right to believe whatever you want to believe, dress however you want to dress, and be whoever you want to be.
The world is lucky to have you in it.
And I hope you feel lucky to be in it, too.
Sabrine is a 21-year old writer, follow her here.