“Are you Muslim?” “Does it matter?”

This past weekend I was at the 2015 Hunger Walk benefiting the Atlanta Community Food Bank. I’m there through my internship, a non-profit that works with the Hizmet Movement (AKA the Gulen movement)–a peaceful civic interpretation of Islam that fosters understanding and dialogue between all faiths, based on the ideas of Turkish scholar Fetullah Gulen.

In such an environment I wasn’t expecting to have the conversation that I did. Before the walk begins, I was speaking with a middle aged woman who, upon learning I’m at the walk through my internship, asked: “Are you Muslim?”

I told her, “No.” I’m not Muslim. I din’t tell her I’m Jewish because I distrusted her.

She attempted to backtrack but didn’t apologize because she didn’t realize she had done something wrong. She then told me, “I know not all Muslim girls wear a headscarf.”

This is true, but it doesn’t justify her question. If she had to ask if I was Muslim it meant she would view me differently based on my answer. She needed to know to satisfy her own curiosity and prove her own goodness and accepting diversity. It’s the same way that by telling me she knew not all Muslim women wear hijabs, she was really telling me was: I’m a good liberal woman, I swear. I’d accept you even if you were Muslim.

And I’m sure she’s a good person, but she didn’t need to prove how liberal she was to me. I talked with her throughout the walk and found out she routinely does walks for Breast Cancer, that she supports gay marriage and that she’s aware of issues of race. These conversations came up naturally and we were having a discussion. I felt more at ease because she wasn’t trying to prove anything.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with one my friends lately about the “good liberal on the street” who thinks that listening to NPR, voting for the democrats and supporting gay marriage or having a gay friend makes them radical and leftist and somehow helping the world. But if this is all a person is doing, if this is all a person sees as making a difference, and if a person is willing to stop there and congratulate themselves on their good liberal lifestyle they’re still part of the problem.

NPR is tame. Gay marriage is the tip of the iceberg.

As long as liberal people feel the need to prove how liberal they are with questions like “Are you Muslim?” then we’re stuck in an unfortunate definition of liberality. We’re stuck with liberals but not activists.  I’m not saying these “good liberals on the street” are bad people, or that being radical somehow makes someone more moral, but we need more than surface level change. We need to arrive at a day where the answer to the question “Are you Muslim?” is “Does it matter?”

Advertisements

Coloring While White

I was at an event at my college, hosted by the South Asian students association, the Black Student Association, and the Muslim Student Association and they had whole tables of pictures to color, most of which were of women of color. There was a brilliant picture of Princess Jasmine, from Disney’s Aladdin, waving a flag that read:

nobody’s free until everyone is free!

And when I went to color her in, I had to stop and think and remember to reach for a brown crayon to color her skin. I had never thought of this micro aggression against people of color before, but it’s so obvious now that I think about it. As a person perceived as white and benefiting daily from white privilege, regardless of how I choose to identify, even things like crayons cater to me. I can reach into a Crayola crayon box and pull out a “flesh” colored crayon, which tells me, even as a child, that this is the natural color of a person’s skin.

flesh

I feel oblivious and ashamed that I never noticed that until last week. But until we notice and address the micro-aggressions against people of color, we’ll never move beyond them to address the blatant issues of racism. Because, nobody’s free until everyone is free and nobody’s free while we ignore white privilege.

Islamophobia: Stop the Racism masked as Homeland Security

My grandfather sends me chain emails he gets from his friends. These emails are sometimes funny, sometimes worthwhile, but more often than not they’re offensive. Yesterday I received a particularly racist gem that I couldn’t just ignore and send to my deleted items folder.

Under the guise of being pro-American and religious, the email spoke about how a leader in Prison Ministry had to undergo diversity training and attend a lecture by representatives of Catholicism, Protestantism, and the Muslim faith. The email begins with a subtle racism, but blatant Islamophobia:

The Muslim religion is the fastest growing religion per capita in the United States , especially in the minority races!!

As if the exclamation points don’t voice their concern enough, the speaker needs to dirty his language further by referring not just to those who identify as Muslim, but identifying a connection between minorities and Islam. There is a fear and hatred in these words directed at the Muslim religion and those who might be converts- i.e. those who are not white. The speaker fears minority representation taking away from the dominant white vote.

In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President! I think everyone in the U.S. Should be required to read this; but, with the ACLU, there is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on!

If minorities get the vote, who knows what will happen to our precious country, right? Where will our country be without the strong leaders of white male America to lead it away from the hatred of Islam, right? Everyone in the US should read this, but because it is eye opening about how easy it is to shove our own hatred of others onto them hating us.

The anecdote the email’s author shares is that while attending this lecture series, he asked the Muslim speaker about the holy war and how Muslims are guaranteed a place in heaven if they kill an infidel. He asked the Muslim speaker to define an infidel and the Muslim man said an infidel is a non-believer.

According to the author of this email, the Muslim man “held his head in shame” when his beliefs were brought to light. According to the author of this email, the truth about the Muslim religion was out. What truth? That Americans generalize about the beliefs of others? That Americans hate based on race and religion while preaching tolerance? Those are the only truths I see.

The email ends with a call to action:

This is your chance to make a difference…

FOR SAVING OUR COUNTRY, AS WE KNOW IT,

IN SPITE OF IT’S WARTS AND MOLES, PASS ON THIS MESSAGE. IT IS OUR COUNTRY, WITH LIFE, LIBERTY, AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, THAT WE ARE TRYING TO PRESERVE! THE INACTION IN   EUROPE, MAKES THEIR FUTURE VERY MUCH IN DOUBT. WHAT DO WE WANT FOR OUR CHILDRENS’ FUTURE? A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL
AMERICANS, AND NOT A RETREAT TO THE HATE, MURDER, AND DARKNESS AS ESPOUSED BY MUSLIM-ISLAM!

I’ll end with a call to action of my own: we need to get the word out that Islamophobia is real and has an active audience. it is our country, but that does not mean it is a white country. The liberty and justice for all will be best preserved when the doctrine is followed through. Good luck preaching justice for all when you espouse hatred. Good luck educating children, when you raise them on a diet of white supremacy. Good luck, because the “hate, murder and darkness” you attribute to those of the Islamic faith are just reflections of your own ignorance and fear.

All minorities and oppressed groups need to take a stand and  act out against this! Hatred against one fuels hatred against all.