Ten days into a presidency that I can’t fathom, I’m shattered and scared. Not only for myself but for millions of others. I’m afraid for the world.
I am an American Muslim.
I am a revert to a faith that I have adopted as my own. Since embracing Islam as my religion, never once have I felt less-than. Yet I now face persecution every day. Alongside my own fears, I recognize that there are others who are anxiously awaiting to be reunited with their families in the seven countries that are now banned from entering our great nation.
I was raised as a Christian and attended church service each Sunday with my father. The golden rule raised me: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and while my father was not a religious fanatic, he did impart on me how important my faith in God was.
Growing up through the years, I made friends who followed other beliefs. Built rapports with people who didn’t even believe in God, and I never thought twice about those friends and how I would treat them. How I regarded them as fellow humans.
What many don’t understand is that the blatant harassment that is occurring now in our country isn’t just limited to those who follow a certain religion. It extends to anyone who has always believed that every single person has a right to worship in their own way.
Perhaps I was naïve to think that others — especially my friends and family — would not turn their backs on me or shake their heads when they saw a picture of me wearing hijab for the first time.
I realized how over-trusting I was in regards to my fellow Americans view of me while shopping in a store. The Adhan, or call to prayer, went off on my phone while waiting in line to pay one day. Like everyone else these days my phone is usually in my hand and I can silence any notifications, but that afternoon it was tucked deep into my hoodie and my hands were full.
As I scrambled inside my pocket, “Allahu Akbar” repeated several times and I cringed. So many people associate that with the cries of terrorists and ashamedly I was in a hurry to silence it.
The woman behind me snorted and mumbled something under her breath to her companion. The other lady looked me up and down and I stood there, bracing myself for what was coming next.
“Isn’t that your cue to get on the ground to pray to your God?”
I stared at her with an open mouth. Time slowed to a crawl at that moment as the man behind her looked to the tabloid magazines while the other woman fidgeted with her wallet. Those surrounding the lady who had called me out were obviously embarrassed. Yet they remained silent. I paid for my things as she stood there smirking at me. She seemed so proud of herself. I then noticed the crucifix keychain dangling from her hand.
My God? I pray to the same God that I’ve been praying to since I was a child. Why did she believe that just because I call out to God as Allah, that I pray to a deity totally separate from the one she calls “Father” or “Lord”? They are all names for God.
One day before the election, my ex-husband tried to kill me over his political views. Screaming, “If Trump doesn’t take care of you, then I will!” I’ve been told by those who I thought cared about me that I haven’t been a minority long enough to be upset by what’s going on. I’ve received texts and phone calls from family members saying that I asked for this and that I have nobody to blame but myself.
Yesterday while sweeping my hotel room, the housekeeper noticed my Quran on the desk. She laughed and asked, “You’re not making bombs in here, are you?” She never even looked at me. This has become the norm, and it saddens me.
Often, I’m angry that my fellow Americans have become so comfortable with stereotyping those who are different from them. Forgetting these moments is not an option. I must remember the intolerance that besieges our nation now more than ever. I truly believe it is done out of ignorance and fear.
However, I can’t forget the ones who have extended their hands to me and certainly won’t forget my friends who have defended me time after time. If there is one thing that I want to tell my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, it’s this:
While most days are scary, especially seeing families separated or others being detained or turned away, we cannot give up hope. For every one person who criticizes, there are 10 who want to show us love. Continue to hold fast to what Islam is — peace, love, and hope. Remember the teachings of the Quran and do not turn from your fellow Muslim or anyone in need, for that matter. This is only a small part of what drew me to Islam, and I promise to do the same.
It is only fitting that as I finish writing this, the Adhan is calling me to pray. I will answer that call for as long as I live, until my last breath. I will not let shame or fear rule my life. Insha’Allah.