I shouldn’t have to wake up in the morning trying to plan my day so I’m home before it gets dark. I shouldn’t have to look over my shoulder as I walk down the street expecting to be yelled at by aggressive strangers. I shouldn’t have to feel my shoulders tense up when someone stands too close behind me in line at the grocery store. I shouldn’t have to stare at the floor as I walk so I can avoid seeing people stare disdainfully at my hijab. I shouldn’t have to live like a fish out of water, constantly on the defensive about everything I do or say so that I don’t come across the wrong way. I’m always walking the wire you see, because for some reason there’s a certain spectrum I’m allowed to live in and that’s it. Suddenly I’m living my Islam as per what others expect of me. I have to live Islam based on what Non-Muslims think the right Islam is. I’m allowed to be Muslim, but not too Muslim. Just enough to warrant being labelled different, but not enough to be worth real change.
I shouldn’t have to constantly call or check on family when a global tragedy happens because for some twisted reason it’s too real and even though it happened miles away the uncertainty of their safety here eats me alive. I shouldn’t have to collect my scared nieces and nephews and explain to them that bad people want to hurt us just because they don’t want to bother to learn about our humanity. I shouldn’t have to stand up for or defend or make a statement on behalf of Islam and all Muslims in the workplace, at school or in public. I’m not a Muslim from Saudi Arabia so no I can’t give you an informed statement on Women’s rights there. No, I’m not a Muslim from Syria so I can’t explain to you why Muslim on Muslim atrocities is happening. No, I’m not a Muslim from Nigeria so I can’t condemn the actions of Boko Haram and explain why the Muslim community hasn’t taken them down there. I am a Canadian Muslim. I live HERE, just like you. I was born here, like you were. I shop for groceries at Superstore, I watch movies in the cinema, I study at the University of Alberta, and I’m working a minimal wage part time job. I know about US. I have maple syrup on my pancakes, and I cheer for my brother’s hockey team and I help old ladies with their grocery bags in parking lots. I have my good days and my ugly days, but at the end of each day I’m a Canadian and I’m so proud to be. As a Canadian I fight for women’s Rights around the world, as a Canadian I can urge my government to take a stand against regimes that hurt their own people and I can take part in rallies to garner support for communities against militant fighters.
My Islam is a way of life, a thread of who I am that has been woven into my character alongside my Canadian roots and morals. I am Muslim, but I am also more. I am Canadian, but I am also more. In the end I am HUMAN, in all my good and bad. I am accountable for who I am and who I continue to choose to be. But I am not accountable for the billions who call themselves of the same faith as me. Just as we cannot blame one nameless human for the pollution causing major climate change, just as we cannot blame one sick person for the cause of all plague. When you alienate someone, and box them to be something they are not then more often than not you are creating the monster you fear. How many people on the street resort to crime simply because people are assuming the worst of them and won’t extend a hand of help? How many kids from bad families grow up to other kids because they were labelled as something and not given a chance to prove themselves otherwise and break out of the deadly cycle?
So I urge you, do not see my scarf and hear my name and think you know me. Do not listen to the news and radio and think the story ends there. I understand how terrifying it is to be faced with so much tragedy which all seems to lead back to the same source. Do not let this world turn you into another pointed finger. The more divided, fearful and angry we become the more we play into the hands of those who want to see us suffer. I want you to look at me and remember that I love a cup of warm Tim Horton’s on a cold day. That I have to pick up my shovel and clear my driveway in the winter like all my neighbors. That I pay taxes and watch the same TV shows as you. I hurt when innocent lives are destroyed, and people are hurt. I’m afraid when threats are made and our safety is threatened. And like all of my fellow citizens I will stand up for what right and I will fights for justice and try to make my community stronger. I will fight the battle with words and not bullets, with love and not hate. Islamophobia is a disease. But it can be cured, eradicated from our society. But like all sicknesses it will be a slow process, and for some it will mean being brave and taking a stand. But I shouldn’t have to live my life ashamed of who I am and my beliefs. Nobody should.