SHAFAQNA-I fumble under my pillow to turn off the blaring siren noise I set as my alarm. It’s a Tuesday morning during midterms week, and I spent last night writing my 20-page engineering paper with a cup of black coffee by my side. With much difficulty, I open my heavy-lidded eyes. As I check my email, I am perplexed by the number of unread messages in my inbox. Expecting spam and Twitter updates, I’m shocked to find that the emails are not nearly as trivial.
My eyes groggily scan over phrases like “Brussels terrorist attack,” “explosions that killed at least 30,” “injured more than 100,” “ISIS claiming responsibility,” and “Would like you to write an article detailing your Muslim American perspective?”
Shit. Shit. Shit.
My heart is heavy for the innocent people killed. In those first few minutes, I think of them and their families — but undeniably, my mind is already wandering elsewhere. The upcoming weeks will be characterized by multiple calls a day from my parents, checking to make sure that I am safe and putting a hood over my Islamic headscarf to conceal my Muslim identity. There will be hateful stares, angry remarks, hate crimes directed at people that share my religion. There will likely be retaliation bombings and drone strikes by Western nations that will kill hundreds of innocent people in Muslim countries. This is almost always the aftermath for Muslims following events like September 11th, the Charlie Hebdo killings, and the recent Paris attacks. I know the drill by now — I’ve only had a lifetime of practice.
It is completely understandable that people are in pain, mourning, and anger. But the truth of the matter is, this backlash against the Muslim American community is not only immoral, it’s illogical. As a Muslim American, I’m tired of giving the same speech about how we can’t associate the extremist minority with the peaceful majority— I feel like a broken record, and my message doesn’t appear to be getting through. Maybe if people understood why there is nothing Islamic about these attacks, they would stop responding in this discriminatory way.
The upcoming weeks will be characterized by multiple calls a day from my parents, checking to make sure that I am safe and putting a hood over my Islamic headscarf to conceal my Muslim identity. There will be hateful stares, angry remarks, hate crimes directed at people that share my religion. I know the drill by now — I’ve only had a lifetime of practice.
We as an American society time and time again ignore the political and historical context of terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Ultimately, ignoring this creates a platform on which the marginalization of and discrimination against Muslims becomes justifiable. We conveniently blame Islam for terrorism (i.e. “Islamic terrorism,” “Islamic jihadism,”) and portray terrorism committed by Muslims as though these horrendous acts of violence are committed in accordance with the tenets of Islam. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump recently told CNN, “Islam hates us.” The hashtag #StopIslam was the number one trending hashtag on Facebook following the Brussels attacks.